Saturday, January 17, 2009

Papua Merdeka - Free West Papua

The jailing five Australians “for illegally entering Indonesia's Papua province” shines an unwanted spotlight on this forgotten corner of the world.

The group were accused of entering Indonesia illegally, after they travelled to Papua on a small plane from Horn Island, off the tip of Queensland's Cape York on September 12. The Australians have described it as a sightseeing flight and mistakenly believed they could get visas on arrival in Papua. SMH

Granted independence by the Dutch an elected Papuan council took office on 5 April 1961. The Council decided on the name of West Papua, a national emblem, a flag called the Morning Star or Bintang Kejora.

However, Indonesia threatened with an invasion, and with the help of the Soviet Union, the compliance of Australia, the US and the Netherlands, took control of the territory in May 1963. So much for the will of the people and the defence of their sovereignty.

Indonesians live in fear of West Papua freedom building the same sort of Australian and international support as their former colony of Timor Leste (East Timor). It seems the Australia government share that concern. I think it is time we made those concerns real by showing support and spreading the story.

The Free Papua Movement (Indonesian: Organisasi Papua Merdeka, abbreviated OPM) is a separatist organization established in 1965 which seeks independence for Western New Guinea from Indonesia. Some links for further details:

For a Free and Independent West Papua

Free West Papua Organisations and Offices

Unbelievable diversity

The people of New Guinea, Melanesians, are racially and culturally separated from the Indonesian archipelago by some 40,000 years. A racial classification is thought to be inaccurate because it ignores the broad cultural, linguistic, social and genetic diversity in the area. Some argue that there is no one "Melanesian culture" or way of life.

New Guinea is perhaps the most linguistically diverse region in the world. Besides the Austronesian languages, there are some 800 languages divided into perhaps sixty small language families, with unclear relationships to each other or to anything else, plus a large number of language isolates.

That is just the people, with about 786,000 km² of tropical land, less than one-half of one percent (0.5%) of the earth's surface, New Guinea has an immense ecological value in terms of biodiversity, with between 5 to 10% of the total species on the planet.

There are probably well over 200,000 species of insect, between 11,000 to 20,000 plant species; over 650 resident bird species, over 400 amphibians; 455 butterfly species, 284 species and six orders of mammals. The island's frogs are one of the most poorly known vertebrate groups, currently totalling 282 species, but this number is expected to double or even triple when all species have been documented.

Then of course there is gold, copper ore, crude oil, natural gas, timber, fish, oil palm, tea, rubber, logs; all of those choice goodies which ensure we wealthy nations will continue to support the subjugation of the Melanesians on economic grounds.

Time to rattle the cage

Given the outcome Timor Leste (East Timor) who achieved a bloody independence in 2000, the Indonesian have every reason to fear a gathering of support for Papua Merdeka. On the other hand Papuans have every right to stand alone, and not be subject to the brutal rule of Indonesia.

Journalists are banned from entering West Papua and tourists severely discouraged; a tight lid is kept in a largely successful attempt to prevent the true story of the province leaking out. This control is apparently supported by Australian and neighbouring PNG governments. The stories that do emerge are from radical sources and quickly buries.

The potential this time is to highlight the fate of five naive travelers who assumed it was fine to stop in Wet Papua on a small aircraft jaunt. That news story was quickly buried, but is potentially the catalyst for wider awareness of Indonesia’s atrocities in the province.

I do ask each of you to take a bit of time to look further into this situation, then act in the way you see most effective. To me simply spreading the word, telling and increasing circle of people, is a good start.


abi said...

With names like Papua, West Papua, and Papua New Guinea being so close to each other, it's not hard to understand how these people ended up in the Indonesia part. These names have always confused the hell out of me.

In fact, the fate of these 5 people could have been mine. Many years ago my wife and I were in the Black Forest in Germany. We met a man and his wife who were, like us, about to board a train to the top of the Merkur Mountain. They were from Papua New Guinea. And apparently, they were very wealthy. They invited us to come visit them any time there, and said finding them would be no problem - just ask for Harry in the Big House and everyone would know.

But I couldn't understand why he kept referring to it as Papua New Guinea. I thought Papua was the town and New Guinea was the country. It made no sense to me - it would be like me saying I was from Boston America.

We never did make the trip to look up Harry in the Big House. But if we had, given my confusion over the names, we could have easily ended up in an Indonesian jail.

Cart said...

Abi, that’s New Guinea diversity again, right through to nomenclature. My guess is that Harry’s big house would have been in the north east, former German protectorate – German New Guinea.
The Indonesian province, the Western half east of the Fly River was Dutch has also been known as Irian Jaya. So you would have really lost your way, not hard I guess in those dense rain forests, to end up in Indon hands.
I had intended, in late teens, taking a job in PNG. Not long after the Eastern part controlled by Australia received self government. Most Aussies were put on the first plane home. As it is I ended up in Tasmania, at the other end of the cultural/climate range.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Cart
I am aware of the situation in West Papua, since a good friend of mine (who lectures at La Trobe University ) has spent a good deal of his time with refugees in detention, in assisting them write their own stories about prior life including the traumas endured.

He has told me about their stories and in particular more recently about one such man; a west Papuan Freedom fighter.

The West Papuan story is one as you say that is largely forgotten as these people’s desire for freedom is met with a diplomatic brick wall involving niceties to be shown to Indonesia rather than seeking out a just solution.

Best wishes

Cart said...

Thanks Lindsay. I'd love to see some of those stories, so little information gets out.
I do intend to keep pushing on this, the first effort being poorly timed :)