Benny Wenda

The guy playing ukulele in this clip is Benny Wenda. He’s also a leader of the movement to free West Papua from Indonesia.

He’s been living in the UK since 2003 when he was granted asylum after escaping arrest and torture in Indonesia. He now faces arrest and deportation after the issuing of an Interpol red notice.

On Radio 4′s Today program an Indonesian ambassador claims he’ll get a fair trial. Which doesn’t seem likely judging by Amnesty International’s report on Indonesia. The Indonesian government accept that torture takes place and calls it, “unprofessional”.

I heard about Benny from Jimmy off of the Bobby McGee’s:

I met Benny on a bus in Brixton coming back from a gig about three years ago. He had two beautiful little girls on his knee and a ukulele tucked under his arm. I had mine on my lap, we nodded in some kind of uke brotherhood recognition and we started talking.

Benny told me that he was a tribal leader in exile from West Papua, that he had been forced to flee the country under increasing fear for his life from the Indonesian government.

He had been recording a CD of ukulele freedom songs, “everyone plays ukulele over there!” he told me. We had lovely chat, He seemed like a lovely guy and when we shook hands and said “bye” at Victoria, he gave me a leaflet about his “Free Western Papua” cause.

Six months later, totally unrelated, at a music festival on the south coast I met a young lady who came over and started talking to me about my ukuele. Her neighbour played and had shown her how to play. In the silly serendipitous way the world works it turns out her neighbour was Benny and we spoke about him and his daughters and his story, we’ve been friends ever since….

Today I heard on BBC Radio 4 that Indonesia were putting pressure on the British Government to have Benny extradited. According to the Indonesians he is a wanted criminal, an arsonist and murderer.

I don’t believe them.

I don’t know the ins and outs of his case and I certainly don’t know enough to pontificate on the situation in West Papua. But I do know it’s wrong to threaten to send a guy back to a police force that tortured him and continues to torture others.

You can find out more about Benny and Free West Papua on FreeWestPapua.org. And you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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6 Comments

  1. Alec December 6th, 2011 6:07 am

    Great story, great post. Will go read more about it now.

  2. Woodshed December 6th, 2011 7:48 am

    Alec: Thanks very much!

  3. jcmcgee December 6th, 2011 9:59 am

    Thank you for taking the time to write this up and post it. Brilliant! I’ll let Benny & his family know.

  4. Woodshed December 6th, 2011 5:17 pm

    Jimmy: Thanks for telling me about the situation.

  5. Kit August 10th, 2012 1:58 pm

    Benny’s a great chap. Had no idea he played the ukulele though.

    There was some good news regarding his personal situation recently; he’s off the interpol wanted list – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19149678

  6. Woodshed August 12th, 2012 9:24 pm

    Kit: Thanks! That’s excellent news.

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