6 Dec 2017

Liberation Movement to remain voice of West Papuans - Wenda

8:19 am on 6 December 2017

The new head of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Benny Wenda, says the organisation's agenda will not change.

Mr Wenda has replaced Octo Mote, its former secretary-general, at the head of the premier organisation pursuing Papuan independence from Indonesia.

West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda.

West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda. Photo: RNZI/ Koroi Hawkins

The change in leadership came in Vanuatu where the Movement last week held its first major summit since its inception three years ago.

Members of the organisation's executive dismissed suggestions that there was a power struggle within the Movement. The move to a chairmanship structure, they said, reflected the co-operative nature of the organisation so that no one group or individual should dominate.

"We operate on a power-sharing basis, so that's why it's very important to maintain the unity and agenda. That's what the executive council has given us the mandate to continue," said Mr Wenda.

The chairmanship will be rotational, with Mr Mote to be deputy chairman. Mr Wenda said the Movement's new leadership structure would not affect the self-determination push.

"Now we have new leadership so we really need the people - the people back home in West Papua, and in the Pacific - we need you to be our voice, and to maintain the unity to campaign for our right to self-determination. We hope that Pacific leaders will continue to support our right to self-determination."

Benny Wenda has thanked Vanuatu's government for donating a building in Port Vila for the Liberation Movement to use as an international headquarters.

"The government officially handed over the key, and this is a key step for the Movement itself," he said, paying tribute to Vanuatu's ongoing support for Papuan self-determination aspirations.

Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu.

Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu looks on during the third Trilateral Defence Minister's Meeting in Nusa Dua on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on August 2, 2016. Photo: SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP

Meanwhile, Indonesia's Minister of Defence Ryamizard Ryacudu has called for members of the Liberation Movement who are based in Indonesian-ruled Papua to be arrested upon their return home.

However the Movement's Pacific regional diplomat Akouboo Douw described the minister's call as abusive, saying his organisation had every right to hold its meeting in Vanuatu, where it has official business as part of its role in the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

According to Mr Wenda, the United Liberation Movement's goal was not about dismantling the Indonesian republic.

Mr Wenda said he was not bothered that he has previously been branded a criminal and a fugitive by Indonesia's government which is opposed to the Movement representing Papuans.

"Indonesia will look at it that way, but we are fighting for our right to self-determination. We are fighting, not destroying the Indonesian unitary state of the republic," he explained.

"But West Papua... Indonesia is illegally occupying it. That is the problem, that's the issue."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs