West Papua – Behind the Batik Curtain

West Papua – Behind the Batik Curtain

West Papua – Behind the Batik Curtain Australia, Blog, Indonesia, Pacific, The Struggle, West Papua
November 24, 2011

The situation in West Papua is growing more serious every day. As December 1st, West Papua’s Independence Day, approaches, many are becoming concerned about the possibility of serious violence. The Indonesian military has consistently suppressed expressions of Papuan self-determination, including killing at least 6 when soldiers started firing indiscriminately at citizens peacefully attending the Papuan People’s Congress.

Some in the international community are calling for independent observers to be present in major cities on December 1st to make it more difficult for the Indonesian military to behave in its usual brutal fashion. Unfortunately, for over 40 years now, Indonesia has kept the international media out of West Papua for just this reason. What’s happening behind the “Batik Curtain” is nothing less than systematic genocide of the indigenous population.

Nevertheless, through the efforts of courageous citizen journalists and activists, the images of oppression, murder and torture are escaping from West Papua and are finally becoming impossible for international politicians to ignore. The continued use of torture and indiscriminate violence against peaceful demonstrators, like in Egypt, Syria and other Arab Spring uprisings, is doing more to galvanize the protests than suppress them.

“The powerful forces bent on forcing Papuans to separate from Indonesia are none other than the central government, especially its military and police force. … The more Indonesia uses force to keep its hold on Papua, the stronger its independence movement will become.”
– Bramantyo Prijosusilo, Jakarta Globe (Nov 22, 2011)

Even within Indonesia itself, criticism for the government’s cruel and ineffective policies towards West Papua is rapidly growing louder. Indonesian citizens are beginning to realize that their government and military serve the interests of multinational corporations like Freeport McMoran, BP and Rio Tinto, and would not hesitate to trample on the rights of any citizen if it benefited their corporate masters.

“National legislators from a range of Indonesian political parties have begun to publicly criticise the Indonesian military, police and even the President over the government’s policy, or lack of it, in West Papua.”
– Jason Macleod, This Blog Harms (Nov 23, 2011)

There is clearly also an element of racism and discrimination in Indonesia’s handling of West Papua. While the Indonesian government allows extremist Islamist groups to openly campaign to overthrow the state, Papuans are gunned down like dogs or locked away for 15 years for merely raising their flag or even holding a public discussion about independence.

“Papuan activists can also see how Islamists in Indonesia can actively work to destroy the country not only with impunity, but also with the tacit support of the state and members of the government. The Islamist party, Hizbut Tahrir, for example, openly agitates for the fall of the republic to build a global Islamic caliphate in its place, but the authorities tend to aid and support it rather than take action to hinder its activities.”
– Bramantyo Prijosusilo, Jakarta Globe (Nov 22, 2011)

The Indonesian military has consistenly handed out absurdly light sentences to soldiers guilty of torturing or murdering Papuan citizens (i.e. a few months). Earlier this year, the Indonesian justice system also saw fit to let off the 12 chief perpetrators in a violent mob killing of several minority Amadhiyya Muslims with sentences of only 3 to 6 months. Many of the incidents of torture in Papua, as well as the Ahmadiya attacks were documented on video.

In the recent unprovoked attack by Indonesian police on the Papuan People’s Congress resulting in at least 6 deaths, the Jayapura police chief and seven others received only a token written warning for orchestrating the brutal attack.

“Sr. Comr. Deddy Woeryantono, the provincial police’s head of internal affairs, said the punishment meted out to the eight officers was the “heaviest in the police force.”
– Banjir Ambarita, Jakarta Globe (Nov 23, 2011)

The Indonesian government has never even pretended to intervene on behalf of its own citizens in West Papua when their rights are being violated by multinational corporations. In fact, the Indonesian military is often hired by these companies to force indigenous tribes off their own land to make room for resource extraction, logging, and massive scale industrial agriculture projects to feed the rest of Indonesia. Once displaced, the military continues to harass and murder them hoping to disable any resistance movements.

The Indonesian government also always condones or dismisses the bad behavior of its military, even as they gun down striking workers and other innocent civilians at the behest of Freeport McMoran, Rio Tinto, BP, and other amoral profiteers. In a recent report from West Papua Media, 8 traditional Mee tribal gold miners were shot and killed in Paniai District in a village close to a disputed gold mining area. The report stated that the unprovoked attack was carried out by members of Indonesia’s paramilitary Brimob police – with weapons courtesy of the Australian government.

The Indonesian government has failed to get involved in the still ongoing labor disputes at Freeport McMoran, where workers are asking for pay raises that will still leave their salaries at a fraction of international standards for mining work. Freeport McMoran workers in West Papua currently make an average of US $1 – $3 an hour and are asking for US $7.50 an our. Since the strike began 3 months ago, at least 9 people have been killed near the Grasberg gold and copper mine.

This failure to play a role in the reasonable use of Indonesia’s own resources will not benefit Indonesia any more than it has the West Papuan people thus far, however. The situation at Freeport McMoran has been allowed to detoriate possibly beyond repair.

“The status quo at the mine has been irrevocably transformed by the miners’ strike.

Blowing up the diesel and concentrate pipelines and blocking the mine access road has not only temporarily crippled the mine; it has permanently weakened the company. Once the epitome of aggressive American capitalism, it is now a victim of its own success, beholden to many forces and actors beyond its control which threaten the very survival of the company in Indonesia. Whether it be Papuan tribesmen, Indonesian unionists, the TNI or nationalist politicians in Jakarta, many people are out to get Freeport.”
– Jim Elmslie, NewMatilda.com (Nov 23, 2011)

What’s more, the environmental degradation and loss of habitat that is the result of years of resource plunder with no oversight is a crime against the nation itself.

“Are the people of Papua to blame for objecting to having their sacred lands ripped apart by corporations making profits for shareholders far away?”
– Bramantyo Prijosusilo, Jakarta Globe (Nov 22, 2011)

This demonstrates the essential problem: the Indonesian government has never seen Papuans as their own people. They have never treated Papuans as if they were brothers and sisters. They have never governed them as fellow human beings. This is the essence of Indonesian policy in West Papua.

This failure to govern is evident in the trail of death and destruction left by Freeport McMoran and other companies, the great disparity of wealth between indigenous Papuans and transmigrants, the lack of public facilities available to indigenous Papuans in their own land, and in the inhumane and overbearing response of the military to almost every situation that arises in West Papua. It’s time to let Papuans govern Papua, as a free and independent nation.

AK Rockefeller

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AK Rockefeller

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One Comment

  1. michael says:

    Hi there,

    I think what i can read and see here is the propaganda one of the province within the Indonesia the soverign country. I don’t see any balance information other than negative and saying all bad thing….just like dutch in the past ‘devide at impera”

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