Herman Wainggai - Many Thanks to the Garifuna International Indigenous Peoples Film Festival

Herman Wainggai and the West Papua Action Network would like to thank the Garifuna International Indigenous Peoples Film Festival for showing two films on West Papua. West Papua – Journey to Freedom by Erin Morris of the Melanesian Canoe Productions and Herman Wainggai: A Hidden Genocide by Sam Gollob and Josh Leong. The Garifuna Film Festival gives voice to Indigenous Peoples all around the world by creating this opportunity to screen original films, produced, directed and acted in by indigenous people, to the American audiences in Los Angeles. Genocide is a crime of silence and the Indonesian regime has attempted to keep their human rights violations from the scrutiny of the international community but denying access to West Papua by international aid agencies and journalists. The Garifuna International Indigenous Peoples Film Festival offers rare and valuable opportunity to tell our story. For this we are very grateful. Sam Gollob received an award for his work on documenting the West Papuan Genocide. Sam Gollob is a student at McLean High in McLean, Virginia. He is president of his sophomore class and a nationally ranked swimmer. His hobbies include history, photography, comic books, broadcast journalism and filmmaking. Sam was runner up in the VHSL state competition for his documentary geared toward protecting his school’s environment. Sam has worked closely with friend, Josh Leong, on several films since middle school. Their latest venture, “Herman Wainggai: The Hidden Genocide” is their first documentary together. Sam’s interest in human rights is inspired by his late great grandfather, Senator Millard E. Tydings, who was instrumental in helping the people of The Philippines gain their independence in 1935. Sam’s goal is to spread the word about the plight of the indigenous West Papuans to America’s youth. Josh Leong is an award-winning Asian-American filmmaker based in McLean, Virginia. Leong’s budding career was jumpstarted in 2014 by his first short film success: “Double Time”, of which received a nationwide premiere at the White House. His passion for cinema include many other award winning films, such as his sophomore attempt at a short-form, “Oblivious” – showcased at eight national and international festivals and venues. Dabbling in short documentary, (“My Pit’s The Pit”), as well as comedy (“Kurrency Ekschange”), Josh has been refining his skill set as a director, cinematographer, and editor. With international premieres from Greece to Spain, Leong is extremely fluent in Final Cut Pro, and is currently a freelance videographer producing media content for businesses, organizations, churches, weddings, and social events. “I should ultimately create work that resonates with me. Work that feels honest, authentic, and meaningful to my life experiences.” Josh’s latest project, “When Waters Rise”, is slated for release later in 2016. For those who could not attend, these films are available on line on YouTube:
West Papua – A Journey to Freedom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phrLc5dZGAw
Herman Wainggai: A Hidden Genocide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwbMgzej1k4


Every year since 2007, the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous people holds meetings to discuss issues that are important to indigenous people of the world. It is an opportunity for us West Papuans to express our views and concerns, and to remind the United Nations of what happened more than five decades ago in West Papua under the New York Agreement (NYA), which was signed on August 15, 1962, and continued on in 1969 under the sham election known as the ‘Act of Free choice’. The result of this betrayal is the colonial occupation of our people and the destruction of our lands and natural resources. Our people were denied the “One man one vote,” which was agreed on in the New York Agreement (NYA). It is our duty to remind the UN of this history when we get the chance. The UNPFIII focuses on three things that affect indigenous people across the world: conflict, peace, and resolution. It gives indigenous people from around the world a voice – an opportunity to raise their concerns about issues and conflicts facing them in their own countries. I and other representatives of our people in West Papua attended these meetings at the UN headquarter in New York city, urging the UN body to review the mistakes of the past and understand why we West Papuans have been fighting against the illegal occupation of our lands till today. And to recommend to the UN peaceful solutions based on international laws. We reminded them that as long as our concerns are not being addressed, the struggles against imperialism will continue, which means more human rights violations against our people will continue. For me, it was the third time I have attended these UNPFII meetings since its inception in 2007, working and lobbying hard to gain support for the struggle of my people. Most importantly, I took this opportunity to talk about the root causes of the conflict back home in West Papua and to remind the UN that all we want is freedom from colonialism. We want “self-determination,” which is our right to determine our own future; our own destiny. Our people have been fighting for their freedom for many years and even if they are outnumbered and faced military dictatorship, our struggle will continue; it will not stop until we are free. Words from the UNPFII Meetings “After three weeks of dialogue with indigenous peoples, Member States and UN entities, the Permanent Forum has today made strong recommendations to ensure indigenous peoples’ rights in times of conflict which is increasingly affecting them on their lands and territories,” said Mr. Alvaro Pop, the Chairperson of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He added that “the statements made during the 2016 session show a worrying trend of increased threats and violations against indigenous human rights defenders – and that there is an urgent need to ensure indigenous peoples’ access to justice and to address impunity.” There’s nothing frightening about adopting and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Tuesday at the UN. (Canadian Government). Meanwhile, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Canada’s Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould called on the United Nations to confront the “legacies of colonialism” around the world and to help rebuild communities for the world’s Indigenous peoples: “We had two world Indigenous decades, let us create an Indigenous century, let us make it a century where nation states and indigenous peoples work in partnership towards true reconciliation that supports strong and healthy indigenous peoples that are in charge of and in control of their own destinies,” she argued. At the closing of the session, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for indigenous peoples’ participation in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and said that “States must be held accountable for implementing the 2030 Agenda, with full respect for the rights and minimum standards guaranteed for indigenous peoples in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” The Member States should come to grips with the paradox that while they ratify human rights treaties that impose hard law obligations, they also enter into trade and investment agreements that render the fulfillment of human rights treaties more difficult or even impossible. To obtain clarity on these issues, should the UNGA invoke article 96 of the Charter and request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice? Reckon we’ll have to wait several years but think the opinion would specifically state that the human rights treaty regime must prevail over competing treaties. West Papuan right to self-determination must be recognized!

Herman Wainggai - Asking for international monitoring for the upcoming protest in West Papua.

Asking for international monitoring for the upcoming protest in Manokwari, West Papua. Can a protest peaceful march be banned? I am sharing this message to inform you all that we will stage another peaceful protest on March 18, 2016, in Manokwari, West Papua. The rally is held to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Dr. Thom Wainggai (Dr. Thom) , Father of the nonviolent struggle of West Papua who died in March of 1996. The protest is organized by West Papua National Authority (WPNA), West Papua Melanesian Women Solidarity (SPrMPB), West Papua Melanesian Youth Solidarity (SPMPB), West Papua Child (AWEPA), and the Federal Republic of West Papua. We ask the international community to call on the Indonesian government to urgently: First, permit a United Nations fact-finding team to enter West Papua to investigate and monitor the human rights situation there. Second, resume high-level talks with our West Papuan political leaders inside the country with the aim of setting a timeline for a genuine act of self-determination. We are calling for intervention in West Papua by the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), the Australian and US governments, and the United Nations to also intervene to stop this gross human rights violation in West Papua.

'Nelson Mandela' of West Papua in1996

In 1988, the Indonesian government arrested one of West Papuan most powerful and influential leader Dr. Thom Wainggai on 'Subversion' charge. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In 1996, the Indonesian government decided to execute him and tried to make it look like he died from natural causes. This is his story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxH4yY_ZHRk

WEST PAPUA - Remembering Dr. Thom Wainggai on the day he left us – March 12

28 years ago, I stood at the Mandala stadium in Jayapura in awe as if I was in a scene of a violent war movie. It was not a soccer event, rather it was the day I witnessed the beginning of the end of one of my heroes – a man revered by many, Dr. Thom Wainggai (known to many as Dr. Thom). That day, Dr. Thom and his wife, alongside 70 tribal leaders raised the West Melanesian flag (West Papua) and were brutally arrested by Indonesian police officers and soldiers. It was the last time he made a bold stand against Indonesian imperialism. I won’t forget that day. I grew up in West Papua in a land occupied by a strange by a different ethnic group – Indonesians. We were taught to read and write in the Indonesian language, speak Indonesian (Javanese) in public and in our communities. We learned to sing the Indonesian national anthem, learned Indonesian poetry, history, political and legal systems. We eat, drink, go to school, and learn to be faithful Indonesian citizens. We grew up believing and seeing ourselves as Indonesians – black Indonesians. Speaking native language at home was also discouraged; most people chose to communicate in secret, especially in front of Indonesian police. Not until Dr. Thom – my father’s elder brother – returned from the United States that a serious movement to revive West Papuan cultural identities began to take form. West Papuans like me realized for the first time that we were being occupied and that West Papua is not part of Asia. We West Papuans are Melanesians – part of the Melanesian family in Oceania (Pacific) illegally occupied by Indonesia since 1960s. We began to see ourselves as true Melanesians. People across West Papua began to take their Melanesian identity seriously, reading West Papuan poetry, writing about West Papua as part of the Melanesian family, and studying West Papuan history. He mourned the loss of West Papuan culture and did his best, as an educator, to revive it. He was the first West Papuan to get an advanced education from outside of West Papua. He just returned from the US after completing his Masters Degree at the University of New York at Albany and his Doctorate degree from Florida State University, Florida. What he saw after many years living abroad, broke his heart. After two decades of occupation, West Papuan cultural identity; the various elements that make up the identity of the West Papuan people were slipping away from the people through years of indoctrination and government aggressive anti-West Papuan cultures policies. The things that were extremely important to the West Papuans – such as language, history, social practices, and their religion – Christianity, were either absorbed by the dominant Indonesian culture, outlawed or discouraged by the Indonesian government.
In 1988, he and other tribal leaders began an aggressive move to restore West Papuan pride. They attempted to tilt West Papua toward its Pacific roots. They used the “Bird of Paradise” to describe West Papuan women – the women of Western Melanesia, and West Papuan men as the ‘Crown pigeon’ of West Melanesia. They also created a new flag bearing three unique colors signifying the struggles of our people. The black color represents our race – Melanesian race (dark skin). They also used color Red to represent the bravery of West Papuan warriors and the blood of their fallen warriors that spilled on our lands, and the Green represents the rich natural resources of West Papua. He reminded West Papuan people that they are indeed Melanesians, not Asians. He argued that West Papuan people are a part of the Melanesian family and that Indonesia had illegally acquired West Papua and forced them to adopt a new identity that contradicted everything their ancestors passed down to them. Dr. Thom also used the scripture “The Lord is my Shepherd” as the national motto of West Papua. On December 14, 1988, my uncle Dr. Thom reviewed the Rome Agreement and came to the conclusion that under the agreement, which Indonesia signed, Indonesia was only allowed to administer West Papua for twenty-five years. After this period, Dr. Thom discovered that Indonesia was to return West Papua to the United Nations decolonization agenda. This, Dr. he argued, was the end of Indonesia occupation of West Papua and that the thorough execution of the Rome Agreement would lead to the ultimate freedom of West Papuan people. He and 70 tribal leaders met and agreed to declare West Papua – by virtue of the Rome Agreement – independent from Indonesia. Doing so, he attempted to force the International community, particularly the United Nations, to implement the agreement and to place West Papua back on the agenda of the 1988 UN agenda to pave the way to self-determination. What was meant to be a simple legal challenge to the legality and credibility of Indonesian occupation of West Papua, turned out to be a total nightmare. On December 14, 1988, Dr. Thom notified the Indonesian government, police, and military that he and other leaders planned to meet at Mandala stadium to raise the West Papuan flag and to declare the independence of West Papua and to demand the UN resumes control of West Papua until an arrangement was made to accommodate West Papuan self-determination. This act of good faith brought the Indonesian military and police to the stadium to encounter Dr. Thom and his men. These soldiers were armed to the teeth with eyes in the sky, soldiers in every street, and Warship at the Wharf within striking distance of the stadium. They were extremely scary! I watched hopelessly as they stripped our elders down to their underwear and forced them not to move. The commanding officer walked up to my uncle and manhandled him – arrested him as if he was a wanted warlord or drug-dealer being nabbed from the streets. His wife, whose only crime was sewing the West Melanesian flag, was also roughed up and both hauled away from my sight by armed soldiers and police. That day, watching my uncle being humiliated in front of his people permanently scarred my memory. I could never get it off my mind. It was like a war zone. At home, Indonesian military had entered our house without a warrant and sought through our properties. They ordered every fisherman to stay home and removed their ‘motor engines’ to avoid them sneaking into Papua New Guinea. The Indonesian authority feared that the documents Dr. Thom prepared could be smuggled to Papua New Guinea to a Dr. Thom’s personal friend – a Catholic bishop – who was stationed at Vanimo; a village near the border. The two weeks Dr. Thom gave the international community to recognize Indonesia’s independence and for the UN to put the West Papua agenda back on the UN decolonization agenda, was a total nightmare. The Indonesian government ordered a total shutdown of electricity and all forms of communication. Fully armed soldiers and police officers filled every street of West Papua – the green colors and brown uniforms filled our streets. It was like a war zone. The decision to ban West Papuan fishermen from going out to sea also affected us tremendously. As a fisherman family, fishing was our only source of income; we didn’t have money to buy food. But we understood the policy of the Suharto regime. It was a dictatorship and would do whatever it takes to destroy West Papua. We spent days looking for my uncle. I appeared that they didn’t put him in a traditional police prison, they hid him in a military base, known as Waena military base. Every time we visited him, guards would humiliate us. During our first visit, guards asked my dad and me to strip down to our shorts as they use Bayonets to check Dr. Thom’s food that we brought. Another time, my aunt and I were thrown out of the base because my aunt spoke to Dr. Thom in our native language – Ambai language – instead of the Indonesian language. I informed the guards that my aunt didn’t speak Indonesian language but they gave us no chance. My uncle was soon taken away from Jayapura, and that was that last time I saw him. We were absolutely powerless to get Dr. Thom back to us; it seemed as if the world had completely lost its sense of justice and moral compass. These things affected me tremendously, but they also emboldened my commitment to the ‘Nonviolent movement’ Dr. Thom left behind. For more than twenty years, I dedicated myself to my uncle’s struggle – his ‘Nonviolent movement’ and his promotion of Melanesianism in a land gripped with foreign occupation and severe indoctrination. Today, I’m sitting in my room just outside of Washington, D.C. recalling my uncle’s experience and my own experience with so much pain, but I am thankful I’m still alive and well to continue this struggle. Freedom is just around the corner. To be continued…


West Papua's struggle is a tragic, rich and tough drama about cold-war politics, the depravity of an unrestricted military dictatorship, greed and corruption, the struggle to end a colonialist era as well as an indifferent Indonesian public and international public to the attrocities of fifty years perpetrated on the Papuan people. It is also a drama about sacrifice, hope and courage of a people who have never stopped and will never stop fighting for justice and freedom. I am committed to helping my people realize their struggle for self-determination: freedom for West Papua. I have personally been involved in non-violent activism in my country of West Papua since 1989. My organization and I are both committed to using non-violent action to one day realize merdeka, or our independence. Why? Violence will not help us; the Republic of Indonesia will always have more weapons and soldiers than the West Papuans. I believe we can secure more support from friends in West Papua, Indonesia, and the international community through nonviolent action. The rest of my family is also active in the movement, and I have learned much through practicing nonviolent resistance with them. I have experience in organizing peaceful rallies and taking steps to gain support for my people on an international scale. I believe we can secure support from friends in West Papua, Indonesia, and the international community through nonviolent action and I know that that is crucial in stopping the human rights abuses and the violence in my country. I am one of the few West Papuan leaders who is blessed to live in these amazing United States and I want to tell you, the situation of the West Papuan people is extremely dire. Day by day, more soldiers of the ABRI (Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia, the military of the Indonesian government) are being sent into West Papua. Fortunately, the world is more transparent and interconnected today than ever before, and the systematic oppression of the indigenous peoples of West Papua cannot be hidden from the world. International acceptance of basic human rights is at odds with the suppression of these rights by the military and police of the Indonesian government. That's why I escaped from West Papua; I was being targeted by the Indonesian police (POLRI) and military (TNI). I remember one circumstance in particular that continues to stay with me today. I was imprisoned twice in a police station jail cell in Jayapura, West Papua. They arrested me and put a gun into my back, and forced me to the police station. They tortured me. They locked me up in an interview room and put a gun in my face, and they threatened to kill me. I thank God that I am still alive today and can continue my advocacy works here in exile Washington DC. Although I left my country in 2006, I continue to stay in contact with and get information from my friends and comrades fighting for independence for West Papua from Indonesia. The military still terrorizes our people. They try to stifle our growth and fight our growing political maturity. For example, on December 1, 2015, the Indonesian military and police (TNI/POLRI) shot to death native Melanesian civilians. The incident happened when the native indigenous West Papuans were celebrating West Papua morning star day in Yapen Island. The people of West Papua are being intimidated, tortured, raped, killed, imprisoned and neglected. Those who speak up against the oppression face the harshest of penalties; jails and cemeteries are where they are being silenced. The Yale University Law School conducted a study that found strong evidence that the Indonesian government is committing genocide against the people of West Papua; hundreds of thousands have been killed in the last six decades. However, we will continue to fight this battle, we struggle for independence because we have been repressed by Indonesia since the beginning of their brutal military occupation of our country beginning May 1st 1963. We have been denied our fundamental human rights, like freedom of speech and right to justice. We have already known that, despite the democratic reforms in Indonesia following the fall of General Suharto in 1998, terrible human rights abuses continue to this day. A military buildup in West Papua has continued under Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo, and the government recently banned journalists traveling to West Papua. Therefore, I ask of the United States and the international community to call on the Indonesian government to urgently to permit a United Nations team to enter the province to investigate and monitor the human rights situation there in West Papua and furthermore, to resume high-level talks with our West Papuan political leaders inside the country, with the aim of setting a timeline for a genuine act of self-determination for the people of West Papua.


It’s been a long journey, I can’t find the words, only dreaming of freedom. I need your voice to break the silence. After 25 five years of my involvement in our struggle for independence, West Papua is still under the grip of colonialism. Our beautiful home is still one of the most militarized territories in the world. Today, I’m celebrating one of West Papuan national days with my American friends. December 14 is a day that is significant to my personal struggle, but more so our struggle as West Papuans. December 14 has a very special meaning to me personally and to our peaceful freedom fighters in West Papua. On this very day, December 14, 1988, as a young boy, I witnessed with my own eyes the brutality of the Indonesian military and police officers towards peaceful West Papuan protesters who gathered for a peaceful demonstration at Mandala stadium. My dear uncle, Dr. Thom Wainggai (Dr. Thom) led that protest. During this protest, Dr. Thom declared that West Papua was no longer administered by Indonesia, and called on West Papuans to join their brothers and sisters in Melanesia. He then declared West Papua as an independent Melanesian country separated from Jakarta. After his bold proclamation of West Papuan independence, he and others raised the West Papua flag – a declaration of solidarity with Melanesia. Instantly, the Indonesian military and police responded with brutal force. West Papuans who gathered at that stadium that day were assaulted, arrested, forced to crawl, intimidated and beaten like animals. I saw my uncle trying to negotiate with the Indonesian military and pleading on behalf of those innocent protesters, but he could not stop the brutality of military officers. He was hopeless. I was helpless. I was powerless to help my uncle. All I did was watching the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters as if I was watching a Holly Wood horror movie. I stood there watching helplessly as armed Indonesian officers dragged my uncle away. I was devastated. My spirit was shattered. The following year, December 14, more West Papuans again took to the streets to protest and continued on for sometimes, and Indonesia’s only response was more protesters arrested and jailed. As I described in my recent documentary – “The Unbreakable Melanesian Arrow,” I found myself in the same situation as I rallied our students to commemorate the day my uncle declared West Papua an independent Melanesian country. During that day, December 14, 2000, a number of West Papuan leaders and I led one of the largest protests ever held in West Papua in commemoration of December 14. The protesters marched from Cenderawasih University to downtown Jayapura – a two hours or so march. In spite of police intimidation and harassment, we made it to Taman Imbi park where we protested against illegal occupation of our lands by Indonesia. As a result of that, my dad and I were arrested – first in separate locations and reunited in jail. We spent four months together in prison – in the same room, under inhumane conditions. It was the saddest moment of my life. Looking back, it was my little sacrifice for my people and though I’m in a foreign land – free, I am not going to stop fighting for my people. I quoted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that we are born free and equal, but why are we still imprisoned in my own country? I have often seen the flags being of various independent states flown outside of the UN building. It is a beautiful and prideful sight and a constant reminder to me that the West Papuan flag should be flying there too, and someday it will. This is what the West Papuan people have been and will continue to fight for. The UN has an obligation to protect, and also an obligation to right past injustices by sending UN monitors to West Papua and putting pressure on the Indonesian government. Not doing so is injustice in itself. The Indonesian government needs to allow unhindered access to international journalists and end impunity for their security forces. Also, the United Sates, as a member of the UN Security council and the UN, has an obligation also to help put an end to atrocities such as the slow genocide which is happening in my country of West Papua. Pretending that something doesn’t exist doesn’t make that “thing” go away. Thus, ignoring West Papuan human rights abuses, doesn’t make it go away, it will be there as a reminder to the rest of the world that the lives of certain people aren’t that important. A good way to honor this day is to help spread the words. Public awareness is what we need. I, as a former political prisoner, who went through very difficult circumstances – in prison and in exile, appeal to all my fellow West Papuans to keep fighting. Fight peacefully and don’t give up. Don’t give these people excuses to use excessive force on you, let them be the aggressors. And to all our supporters out there, keep up the good work. We can never pay your back, all we have to offer you is – THANK YOU!


My story will be released in three parts; the first will be released at the end of the year and second and third will be out perhaps in the middle of next year. This will be my opportunity to talk about my life and my activism from my days with my beloved uncle, who was taken away so soon by the Indonesian military, and my decision to escape West Papua and continue my work outside of my home. To learn more, or follow my political activism in exile. Check this site: hermanwainggai.net because we’ll continue to update the site on the progress of the documentary so stay-tuned for that.


The Rise of Thom Wainggai. In the 1970s, my uncle traveled to Japan where he studied law at Okayama University. When he returned to West Papua in 1973, he was arrested for the first time because of his political views and activism. He was sentenced to six months in an Indonesian Army prison. Once released, he returned to Japan to complete his law degree. Shortly after completing his law degree, he traveled to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship where he earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration followed by a PhD in Political Philosophy at the Florida State University. The purpose of his higher education was not to remain in the United States, but rather to increase his knowledge and skills and return to West Papua to continue his fight for freedom and pass on some of his new knowledge to the nonviolent resistance campaign. On December 14, 1988, Dr. Thom made a bold proclamation that Papuans are Melanesians with a strong cultural heritage that is distinctly Melanesian and has no historical connection with the Indonesians. He described Melanesian women as the “the Birds of Paradise”, and Melanesian men as “Pigeon”. Dr. Thom’s proclamation was also very political, as it left an open space for him to describe West Papua as a Nation, a State and a Government with the goal of conforming to Western terminology and the politics they practice. In 1988 he was arrested for subversion and sentenced to 20 years in Indonesian army prison in Waena, Jayapura. The result of expressing his ideological conviction that a true democracy, administered by Melanesians, is the only acceptable solution for his people. I was haunted by my memories of my visits with my uncle while he was imprisoned. Some of my visits were good, while others were frightening. One instance, in particular, was watching the Indonesian prison guards used the tip of their sharp bayonets to haphazardly rummage through the food that I brought for my uncle. During those visits, the capricious guards were waiting for a justification to enforce further punishment on my uncle and that was heartbreaking. I also remember the extreme disrespect these guards shown toward my uncle; it was painfully sad. To these people, Melanesians are just dogs, and it was the dehumanization of my beloved uncle that hurt me so bad but at the same time influenced and motivated me. I made up my mind then to fight smarter, stronger, and braver for West Papua’s independence. I picked up where my uncle left and started my own fight to free my people. I began by acting as an educator, mentor, and trainer of students committed to peacefully working together to make a positive change in the world and international advocating for West Papuan independence. While the struggle continues, I felt tremendous fear for my uncle’s safety. Everyone was well aware of the danger he was in, but powerless to help him. Then the event that I feared the most, happened shortly before his next visit with his uncle. My most loved uncle, Dr. Thom, died alone in prison at the age of sixty-one. He was poisoned. Thousands of Melanesians overcame with grief upon hearing of my uncle’s death. The loss was deep for my people. Losing Dr. Thom meant losing an exceptional man; a great leader and a mentor to many and to me personally. One who faithfully served Papuans as a leader, an educator, an activist, a friend, and a beloved family member. West Papuans were deeply disappointed and struggled make sense of the death of their great leader. The next day, the news headlines in Indonesia referred to him as the “Nelson Mandela of Irian Jaya” – a label Papuans saw fitting for their hero, Dr. Thom Wainggai. My uncle’s death was heart wrenching for me personally; my sorrow was profoundly deep. I can still feel the moment I learned of his his death: first came a gasp, then tears; and as I wiped the tears away, I felt a renewed and empowered commitment to fight that struggle he left behind; using only nonviolent strategies he taught me, for independence and to free his fellow Melanesian Papuans. I knew that my time has arrived! One may stop to ponder where West Papua would have been if the military did not murder the West Papuan “Nelson Mandela”. Well, I take comfort in my belief that my beloved uncle is pleased that his death ignited the Second Papuan National Awakening that remains mobilized and buttressed by ubiquitous Melanesian. It was created to function as the transitional Papuan government in the period following independence. Once the West Papua’s government secured and supported in the international community, the Third Congress will act as the permanent governing body. The death of Dr. Thom was a tragedy for my family and I, and all Melanesians. It goes without saying that I’d lost my teacher, role model, mentor, and of course my dear uncle. This loss has become a part of me, just like the lessons on the philosophies of fighting for freedom from Indonesia’s evil grasp Dr. Thom gave me as a young boy. I am steadfast in my commitment to continue fighting for self-determination and although my uncle was killed, his activism will continue for independence with self-determination for West Papua’s indigenous peoples. My uncle’s death lives with me to this very day, and I know that “my beloved uncle is an eternal, immortal soul who continues to live in another dimension more beautiful than the one in which I currently exist.”


It is now 2015 and we begin the new year by continuing our decades old struggle for freedom and independence from Indonesia. For West Papuans, this is a struggle that began on 1 May, 1963 when the Indonesian Goverment first occupied our homeland, using military force to dominate our people. Fifty odd years later I find myself living a world away in Washington, D.C., seat of power of the influential United States Goverment. Since I arrived in what Americans call “Our Nation’s Capitol”, I feel fortunate to have spent many hours with professors, students, government officials, non-government organisations, and friends, and their families discussing the situation in West Papua. I was surprised to learn that most Americans have no idea about the political situation in West Papua, how West Papuans have been deprived of our basic human rights for over five decades, or even West Papua’s geographical location. To feel disheartened about this lack of international awareness of my people’s plight would be a natural response, however, I choose to look at this revelation as an important opportunity for our struggle. There is a gaping hole in the American people’s knowledge of my homeland and I intend to fill it with the truth of the West Papuan people’s story and their brutal mistreatment at the hands of the Indonesian Government. Bearing witness is one of my key reasons for escaping my homeland and living in exile. After fifty plus years of being silenced by Indonesia, West Papuans now have the opportunity, through me, to use our “voice” to capture the attention of the American people, who I have found to be staunch supporters for ending human rights violations throughout the world. There is a strong belief amongst the people I have spoken to here in America that non-violent resistance is the most effective way for West Papua to achieve independence and that this strategy will open up significant opportunities to further bring our plight and struggle to the public’s attention. I begin this year with true West Papuan Christmas tales that will begin to shed light on what it is like to be an indigenous West Papuan under Indonesian rule. Experiencing this past Christmas in free America makes me reflect upon what Christmas means to some of us. Christmas is a time when people come together and experience joy and laughter. However, joy and laughter have been coupled with sorrow and tears in the long West Papuan struggle for independence. On 25 December 1989 I celebrated Christmas behind the bars of an Indonesian military prison, at that time not yet imprisoned myself. Under the ever watchful and intimidating gaze of six Indonesian prison guards I was allowed to visit my uncle, Dr Thomas Wainggai (a West Papuan independence leader at the time). Despite the circumstances, it is shared time with my uncle that I am grateful for, as some seven years later in 1996 he was killed at the will of the Indonesian Government while serving 20 years in jail because of his political beliefs. Political imprisonment, torture and extrajudicial killing are just part of the story of the West Papuan people and their struggle – a harsh Christmas carol. I myself celebrated a few Christmases in prison as a guest of the Indonesian Government for my beliefs in Melanesian self-determination, human rights and human dignity. It was like a waking nightmare lived out in a dark room for months on end. I was denied access to a toilet, the cement floor was my bed, and I had a single shirt and pair of shorts for the duration of my stay. My books and writing materials were confiscated and never returned to me. It was the most inhumane experience I have had to endure in my life and it was done so with two guards vigilantly pointing their guns at me. A more positive Christmas story in my personal journey to West Papuan independence is set at sea. On 25 December 2005 I was with my comrades floating to freedom on a journey to Australia where I would be granted political asylum in recognition of the danger to my life in being returned to Indonesia. This Christmas at sea was a stepping stone on my path to the United States and my chance to speak for the people of West Papua and request the United Nations intervene on their behalf to help them peacefully resist occupation and end the genocide and human rights violations they have been subjected to. I look back on Christmases past with sorrow as well as joy, tears as well as laughter. But tonight I truly enjoy the full blessing of freedom here in Virginia. I miss West Papua and hope and pray we will be blessed with freedom someday. Then I will go back and enjoy that freedom with all those left behind.

West Papua - Time For International Action

A Call from Herman Wainggai, Federal Republic of West Papua‘s representative to the United Nations. The different colonial history of Timor Leste/East Timor and West Papua Melanesia. Indonesia ended its brutal military occupation of East Timor in 1999 but continues in West Papua today. Therefore, as a people, a nation, and a country of West Papua we argue that a United Nations peace-keeping force must be sent to West Papua, with or without Indonesia’s permission, to bring an end to the abuses and ending human rights abuses. The UN Security council needs to pass a resolution to end the Indonesia occupation.


The protest , organised by the Federal Republic of West Papua, is honouring West Papuan political prisoners and calling for their liberation. The purpose of the protest is to demand that the Indonesian government immediately releases all West Papuan Political Prisoners so they can return to Papuan society and reunite with their family members after being separated from their loved ones while locked up in Indonesian prisons. Living in prison for so long is another form of torture for us West Papuans, and many of us have faced this torture under Indonesia. As a former West Papuan political prisoner, I know how difficult it was when I was in an Indonesian jail. Now that I am in Washington D.C, or when I first escaped to Australia in 2006, I have truly appreciated my freedom, but I never forget about my colleagues while they don't have that freedom. Therefore, in the name of justice, truth and freedom, human rights and political rights for the people of West Papua, a free nation of Melanesia, we call to Free all the West Papuan political prisoners, including Forkorus Yaboisembut, the President of Federal Republic of West Papua and Edison Waromi, the Prime Minister of Federal Republic of West Papua & all political prisoners. " Under international law, West Papuan political prisoners are not criminals and they should be release immediately " . Free West Papua, Herman Wainggai Former Political Prisoner Follow on Twitter https://twitter.com/HermanWainggai Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Herman-Wainggai-Support-Page/166829806813852


'It's been an awesome journey. I can't find the words, only have tears of joy. The water went back to where it started from and won't return for 40,000 years. It will give power and strength to everyone. And the fire that will be lit all over West Papua and the other islands will warm people's hearts and give them knowledge and peace and will make West Papua too hot for Indonesia to cope with. Indonesia will have to remove themselves. Keep the drums going, don't give up. Freedom is not far away. Shame Indonesia. Pressure the new Goverment and Abbott. It seems people are too concerned with money but it's about spirit. It's a spiritual move. You can't beat our ancient creators. There will still be sacrifices made because peace always has a price to pay but so be it.We've built up the hopes of the old people inside West Papua,their 50,000 flowers will be still fresh when we go back in. We're going back as soon as we can work it out. Papua merdeka' With Love and Respect, Margie and Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, Arabunna elder from Lake Eyre


Through a recent Indonesian radio broadcast it was reported that three Indonesian Air Force Sukhoi fighter planes had arrived in Merauke in West Papua at the border with Daru in Papua New Guinea. This news follows Indonesia's announcement that more than 2500 Indonesian army personnel has been sent to the border region. Not uncoincidentally, the cruise ship Pog from a Freedom Flotilla, sailing from Australia to West Papua, is soon expected to enter the Merauke area. Despite the situation in West Papua being made more tense by the increase in troop numbers in Merauke, political, human rights and democracy activists in West Papua remain committed in their struggle through peaceful means and to their desire to make Papua a land of peace and not a war zone. A round of peaceful protests have been organised by various activists across several cities throughout West Papua. The next actions are planned for 13 and 16 September 2013, and are coordinated by a wide cross section of West Papuan groups: the West Papua National Authority (WPNA), National Solidarity of West Papuan Students (SONAMAPA), National Youth Front of Papuan Students (FNMPP), West Papua National Youth Awareness Team (WestPanyat), Indigenous Peoples Movement (GEMPA), Melanesian Women's Solidarity of West Papua (SPMPB), Fellowship of West Papuan Children (AWEPA), West Papua National Committee (KNPB), Organization of Papuan Political Prisoners (TAPOL Papua), Papuan Customary Council (DAP)and leadership of the Federal Republic of West Papua (NFRPB). These groups, together with the people of West Papua, call upon and urge the government of Australia, Britain, the United States and the other UN member states to conduct a form of intervention in mediating the process of self determination for the Melanesian people of West Papua. The West Papuan people also strongly condemn the violent behavior of the Indonesian military which continues to occur in West Papua. These public demonstrations also represent a public welcome and support for the yacht from the Freedom Flotilla coming to the West Papua homeland in peace.


Knowing the history of the Indonesian state’s Army and Police invasion of West Papua there is no surprise in the fresh news of increased Indonesian military troops to the region, who are growing rapidly on this Melanesian ground like fertile mushrooms. The Freedom Flotilla sailboat is currently on its voyage from Australian waters to the land of West Papua , and it has been confirmed that it is due to arrive within the next few days. Throughout the land of West Papua citizens and activists have been holding a number of peaceful demonstrations as a signal to welcome this boat. Thousands of West Papuans have bravely taken to the streets, high in enthusiasm and taking with them a variety of traditional instruments used in West Papua - ukuleles , guitars , drums , flute drums. They are also wearing traditional dress, and along with raising banners of the Freedom Flotilla sailboat, they are also displaying the national symbols of West Papua – the Morning Star flag. This represents a challenge to and hope for the Indonesian government, that it ‘opens up’; that Jakarta demonstrates that it possesses genuine democratic maturity to negotiate peacefully with the political leaders of West Papua. The people of West Papua, moreover, sincerely look forward to the newly elected Australian Federal government, especially in its new role as one of the member states of the UN Security Council, to act as a mediator and by standards of international law help resolve the long running political conflict between the Indonesian government and the people of West Papua. Our hope is that the precise opposite does not happen – that the Australian Government merely lets the Indonesian government continue to unilaterally kill the political, human rights and democracy activists of West Papua. This has been their lot for over 50 years – arrests, kidnapping, detention, shooting, killing, raping, long imprisonments. The people of West Papua also hope that the Australian government will not forget this tiny Freedom Flotilla who will be facing the storm of the Indonesian military whose numbers have been newly swelled in the border area. Whatever happens, Australia needs to be assured that the people of West Papua will maintain their struggle to govern themselves, and will fight for that freedom by non-violent means. The history of Indonesian brutality in West Papua over decades must be stopped by the international community, which includes Australia in its significant roles in the UN and the Asia Pacific region. The data has been clearly documented from year to year – how long must West Papuans continue to be slaughtered like animals? The question is very pertinent then – what will be Australia’s role, and the USA and the United Nations – in regards to West Papua? This land of the Mambruk - the beautiful Bird of Paradise – which we love, shall we close our eyes and stop our ears to the injustices? In the same way that attention is currently being given to the political situation in Syria, so must attention be given to the little Freedom Flotilla, and to the suffering people of West Papua, who have struggled for freedom and justice under the brutal regime of the military of the Indonesian state.


Dear Mum, You raised your children with sincere of love, you guide your children with education of wisdom When your children create an offense, you give advise to your children with wisdom from your Melanesian culture. When your children were arrested and imprisoned, you went to visit your children even when the authorities of Indonesia tried to stop you from it. Today I remember mama, when I sat next to mum in the guard room, you start greet me, Herman, how is your health condition these days? I am fine mum but I really apologize for making you come to prison to see me as always you do.  Thank you for your love, mama! Washington DC, Herman Wainggai.

What are the changes that happened in the past 50 years that West Papua has been ruled by Indonesia? Why do I reflect on my personal journey and write this ? Because this has been the reality of the lives of the Papuan people under the Indonesian military system since the 1st of May, 1963 and since the so called Act of Free Choice in 1969 when West Papua through military and political pressure was unjustly integrated into Indonesia. We [West Papuans] have maintained our dignity in the face of oppression, insult and prejudice. So many of our people have suffered and died, and they will continue to suffer and die under the military regime of Indonesia. This is why we cannot stop our struggle for justice and freedom.

Life is a struggle for West Papuan people. Indonesia has imposed a brutal military occupation, and the West Papuan people have become victims of rape, murder, abuse, torture and intimidation. When I was in West Papua in the 1990s, I studied at a university, I was also actively involved in the West Papuan people’s struggle and I organized many nonviolent demonstrations against the brutality government of Indonesia. I knew there were many risks to face when I was in my country at that time because I was unsure of how I could deal with the authority of Indonesia. One of the biggest challenges in my life occurred when me and my friends organized a peaceful demonstration in my country. As a result of the nonviolent protest I was convicted of subversion and incarcerated twice for almost three years in my country of West Papua. While I was in the prison of Indonesia, I thought that I would be killed by the oppressor government of Indonesia if I was still in prison for a long period of time. Begining that moment, I started to think more about my safety and personal life and staying alive was my biggest concern. I decided that best plan was to leave West Papua after I released out from the prison. It would be better for me to escape from my country to exile. I would be safe, able to increase international attention on the issue and also to continue the struggle in a nonviolent manner from afar.

Most daily life in my country is a nightmare, which is why many West Papuan leaders and friends have been killed, either inside prison or after released. For me, to leave was big decision to make because it meant I would be leaving all my family and friends behind. This was an extremely hard decision to leave my country of West Papua but I think it was great decision for myself and I was also happy to help my other friends who came with me on the outrigger when I left the country and crossed the open ocean for four days to seeking safety in Australia.

New York City is historically significant place to the West Papuan people because of the New York agreement, which ultimately handed control of West Papua to Indonesia in the 1960s. The United Nations building is also located in New York. Fifty years later, I found myself living in the United States of America and every time I have visited to the United Nations building I have developed a deep love for differences in culture, cities, experiences, works and ideas. These are everlasting impressions that will be vivid in my mind and heart for the rest of my life and have been significant in creating my experience today. I am always impressed by the architecture and inspired by the purpose of the United Nations and the work that they do, as well as the flags outside the building. I learned a lot of things about myself and the world that I never would have had the opportunity to learn if I had not left my home country of West Papua. My time abroad has sometimes been lonely and crazy but it is also the best experience of my life to be able to continue to fight for my people from the USA and hopefully make a difference. I have had moments when I have been extremely uncomfortable, or when I simply have to smile, laugh and embrace the awkward, but that’s what truly makes the journey abroad experience so valuable. I have been forced out of my country, my comfort zone and away from the community but am able to experience another culture that is completely different than my own, a valuable learning experience to say the least. For these significant experiences, I will never regret my decision to step out of my comfort zone and risk this journey abroad because it has been the best of my life, filled with adventure, challenges, and of course, the beautiful awkward.

This feeling of abandonment compelled me to meet people from all over the world from every ethnic group, country, age and religious background and I gained a broader more accepting world view and obtained vast amounts of knowledge all while continuing my advocacy works to help the people of West Papua. The United Nations was established after World War II and its most important service is being a place for the countries of the world to come together every year to discuss, communicate and debate issues happening around the world. It regulates the activity of the world’s government. The issue of human rights violations in West Papua and brutal militaristic control of Indonesia is something I believe UN needs to act on in order to stand by their upheld values on judgment, human rights, and freedom. This has been an ongoing conflict for 50 years, it is unresolved and the military operation continues to destroy West Papua. Intimidation, terror, murder, rape, and what could be called‘slow motion genocide,’ these are the realities of life for the trampled people of West Papua. It has been far too long that the West Papuans have being oppressed and it is for this reason that the cause of West Papua should be relisted on the UN Security council agenda sometime.

I have often seen the flags being flown outside of the UN building. It is a beautiful and prideful sight and is a constant reminder to me that the West Papuan flag should be flying outside the building, and someday it will. This is what the West Papuan people have been and will continue to fight for. In the land of West Papua, a man can serve fifteen years in jail simply for raising the Morning Star flag, which has significant historical, political, and cultural meaning to the people of West Papua. Telling my story has become a new aspect of my dream and big part of my journey. This is a story that I want the world to know, so that my country and my people can live a life of freedom and independence like the other 193 countries who are UN members.

Therefore, in the name of justice, truth and freedom, human rights and political rights for the people of Papua, a free nation of Melanesia, we ask the Australian Government, the government of The United States of America and all other International communities, for a dialog between the Jakarta Government and the Federated Republic of West Papua that is mediated by a third party nation or representatives of the United Nations.


More Info below:

Date: March 27, 2013 Time : 15 : 00 – 16 : 00
Place: Jonson Center Room 244, George Mason University, Fairfax Campus .

This event will be held on the 2nd floor of the Johnson Center.
GMU senior Amy Frazier will give a speech about West Papua, and her experiences learning about the issues faced there through working with Herman Wainggai. She will especially be focusing on the importance of informing the American people about the struggle in West Papua.

She will introduce Non-violent West Papuan activist and Visiting Scholar, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University. Herman Wainggai, a West Papuan leader and former political prisoner with experience of life both before and after assertions of state and corporate control into his peoples’ territories, will share the character, viability and qualities of life in a locally self-governing and sustainable culture, as well as his peoples’ nonviolent resistance to armed and violent oppression.

Please come out and support our organization & efforts!

Credit : Amy Frazier


January 17, 2013

Open letter to the President of Indonesia:

I write with the support of the people of West Papua, New Guinea, pro-democracy activists around the world and defenders of the rights of West Papuans, to say that the global support for democracy and freedom, and the end of 50 years of military colonization by Indonesia for will be exercised firmly and peacefully.

Peaceful demonstrations are planned for January 17, 2013 at the Embassy of Indonesia in Washington DC, Los Angeles, as well as in Manokwari, West Papua, Yapen Waropen, Papua, and Australia and the Solomon Islands to demand freedom for West Papuan political prisoners.

Today, people around the world are watching the peaceful demonstration in West Papua, where most are people are ready to take to the streets with music, dancing, and their demand that Indonesia free West Papua political prisoners.

Over the years, peaceful demonstrators in West Papua have been terrorized, imprisoned and killed by Indonesian military police. Edison Waromi, one of West Papua’s human rights defenders, has been imprisoned for more than 14 years, and we were imprisoned together for two of those years. West Papuan activists Edison Kendi and Yan Maniamboy currently are threatened with 20 years in prison for organizing a nonviolent rally in support of the United Nations’ International Day of the World's Indigenous People in New York in August 2012.

We demand that Indonesia immediately and unconditionally free all West Papuan political prisoners and end its military occupation of West Papua. We also request that the UN Special Rapporteur, who is scheduled to be in Indonesia in January, visit West Papua and meet with imprisoned political leaders of the Federated Republic of West Papua, such as President Forkorus Yaboisembut, Prime Minister Edison Waromi, and others.

Herman Wainggai
Former political prisoner and visiting scholar at George Mason University