This is a report from the London Observer June 2, 1969. by Michael McDonald. Note: West Irian is now known as West Papua.
People of the territory, the western half of New Guinea, are preparing to vote on their future under United Nations observation.
The Observer said that for three years Indonesia’s bitter confrontation with the people of West Irian had been a closely guarded secret.
Early last month unconfirmed press reports forced the Jakarta Government to admit that rebels had captured five airstrips and that several hundred parachute troops were being sent to recapture the area.
The Observer report said: “But the trouble. . . is only the latest in a long string of secret military operations in West Irian which have been unreported until now because foreign correspondents were not allowed into the territory.
“Indonesian officials have come to realize that the Iranese may actually want independence – they certainly seem to, according to my findings during a 3000-mile tour of the island.”
“The officials are alarmed that a vote for independence could topple the progressive military regime of President Suharto by provoking violent disorders, or a chain reaction of secessionist movements, throughout Indonesia at the loss of almost a quarter of the Republic.”
“It is this threat to the unity of 117 million people which has prompted Indonesian military commanders in West Irian to take steps to ensure the ‘right’ result from the act of free choice.”
“It is, perhaps, a similar fear of chaos and civil war which has prompted member States of the United Nations to close their eyes to some of the extraordinary moves which have been taken against a million ‘stone-age’ people.”
“It is officially admitted that 250 Irianese rebels were killed in 1968, with a loss of about 50 Indonesian soldiers. Actual figures may be very much higher; the rebels claim they have killed several hundred Indonesians since 1966.
“Iranese who have spoken publicly of independence after six years of economically disastrous Indonesian rule have been imprisoned, deported. . . and even executed.”
The report added: “They include members of the West Irian regional Parliament and the Indonesian-appointed governor of the island territory. Other political prisoners claim to have been tortured.”
“In the north-west corner of the island, 4000 troops are hounding tens of thousands of dissident refugees, who are seeking lonely sanctuary in the thickly forested interior.”
“Along the border with Papua-New Guinea, Indonesian troops are driving natives into the Australian territory and destroying numerous rebel training camps. Bombing raids have been flown against some strongholds.”