West Papua


I attended a talk on the current situation in West Papua during the week. On the panel was West Papuan human rights activist John Rumbiak. This man has been exiled from his home. It is a similar story to the previously mentioned Aceh. In West papua there are an estimated 240 different tribes with different langages and cultures. West Papua and Papua New Guinea are thought to be the home of 15% of the world's languages. West Papua is rich in raw materials of interest to fossil fuel and logging companies as well as gold. (I think you see where this story is going). In 1962, former colonists the Dutch ceded control of West Papua and by 1963 Indonesia moved in. A referendum at gun point of around 1000 of the one million inhabitants of West Papua was held. The terrified 1000 declared loyalty to Indonesia, as you do. This referendum was good enough for the UN. Since the occupation Indonesia has murdered 100,000 West Papuans, although some say the number is more like 800,000. Despite the regime change in Indonesia in 1999, the ultra- corrupt military continue to kill in West Papua. West Papua's raw materials are currently being plundered by some of the large corporations we're often told we shouldn't worry about. The effects of these cost effective excavations of West Papua are, needless to say, disasterous for both the tribes and the enviroment of the area. Amongst the greatest plunderers are mining company Freeport, long time pals of one H. Kissenger wouldn't you know. What is occuring in West Papua is effective ethnic cleansing. This includes a programme of transmigration (bringing in Indonesian workers) that is sponsored by the World Bank. The genocide and transmigration cause West Papuans to fear that they are soon to become a minority in their own land. An Indonesian birth control programme does little to discourage this fear. West Papuan women and children, as young as five, are regularly abducted and raped by the military. Complaints result in threats. An Indonesian soldier has never been convicted of rape. Resistance in West Papua comes in the form of the barely armed Free West Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or OPM). The OPM's attacks on Freeport etc. have resulted in retaliation bombings of just about anyone within range by the Indonesian military. These days the OPM have mainly taken a diplomatic route as have the Papuan Presidium Council, set up in the year 2000 by some 20,000 West Papuans. The Council are currently being courted by BP and Freeport, this is a cause of concern for John Rumbian who doubted BP's sincerity and described them as "buying off" many of his peers. The Indonesian military are armed by the US, the UK, Russia, France, South Africa, Sweden, Germany and just about anyone else who's selling. Indonesia currently facilitates training camps for the Bali bombers so so much for the war on terror. WHAT WE CAN DO: Tom Hyland and the East Timor action group did a lot of good work high lighting the cause of East Timor. West Papua has been described as the new East Timor (brown is also the new black) so hopefully this effort will gain some momentum and soon West Papua will be free to adopt IMF 'conditionalities' (whatever happened to the word 'conditions' by the way?) and be free to cut off each other's water, as is the case in South Africa and East Timor. Still, it'll be an improvement. Here's the website of the Irish branch of West Papua Action: http://westpapuaaction.buz.org This site has links to other sites for people from other countries. There are sure to be many campaigns that involve us sending indignant emails for our 'representatives' to ignore, but still if we send a lot it might make them feel that at least something will have to be seen to be done. Sorry for my cynicism, I have no other suggestions. Leading Irish political figures were invited to attend the West Papua event, none were there.

Created By: Garret Shanley