West Papua: a people crying out for help

A slow genocide by the Indonesian Military by Anthony Craig

Anthony Craig lives in Lithgow New South Wales and is a registered nurse and long term East Timor volunteer. After repeated denials by both the Australian and Indonesian governments and counter claims of atrocities and mass murder of West Papuan groups, Anthony travelled to West Papua in August 2015 to find out the truth.

I first heard a detailed account of the atrocities of West Papua at a dinner in Melbourne from guest speaker, Dr Clinton Fernandes from the Australian Defence Force Academy. It was horrible and shocking in detail. I started to research this issue and found many things just did not add up. The truth, as stated by both the Indonesian and Australian governments, was lacking. Like in East Timor, there appeared to be a failure to act on crimes by the Indonesian military and security forces.

Today, the atrocity reports coming from West Papua that are not reported in the main stream media are just as shocking as those from Iraq and Syria. Whole villages have been burnt to the ground and there have been massacres of West Papuans by Indonesian military to suppress their aspirations to be one day free and independent. Recently, 3,000 West Papuan refugees were granted asylum citizenship across the border in PNG, escaping from Indonesian military death squads.

Like our first nation people in Australia, the Island of New Guinea had been inhabited for at least 42,000 years prior to the Netherlands making claim to the region and commencing missionary work in the 19th century. Indonesians wanted independence from Dutch colonial rule (Dutch East Indies) and, after a brief  war, was granted independence on 16th August 1945. Indonesia demanded that the Dutch also hand over Dutch New Guinea (West Papua). The Dutch had promised the West Papuans independence and were in the process of de-colonisation when Indonesia threatened war.

West Papuans, under the Dutch de-colonisation process, were given the right to self -determination. Papuan councillors met in October 1961 to elect a National Committee, which drafted a Manifesto for Independence and Self-Government, adopted a national flag (Morning Star), a state seal, selected a national anthem ("Oh My Land Papua") and called for its people to be known as Papuans.

The New Guinea Council supported these proposals unanimously on 30th October 1961, and on 31st October 1961, presented the Morning Star flag and Manifesto to Governor Platteel, who recognized the flag and anthem on 18th November 1961. These ordinances came into effect on 1st December 1961 and a declaration of independence was made.

United Nations sponsored talks led to the New York Agreement on 15th August 1962. This agreement was to give the West Papuans a right to vote for independence or integration with Indonesia. The process was called an act of free choice.

The United Nations ignored the declaration of independence from 1961 and the Dutch agreed to allow the Indonesian control of the territory. In 1969, the Act of Free Choice signed the death warrant of the West Papuan people. Indonesian military hand-picked 1,025 tribal chiefs and, at the point of a gun, demanded they vote for Indonesia. They received 100 per cent compliance. The United Nations supervised the vote and, although knew it failed the democracy test, approved the results. (See US National Archive documents in references below).

Under the 2006 Lombok Treaty, a bilateral security agreement, Australia and Indonesia agree to cooperate and consult in the fields of defence and defence technology, law enforcement and combating transnational crime, counter-terrorism, and intelligence-sharing, as well as maritime and aviation security.  Now, the Australian government trains 150 Indonesian Military officers a year in Australia at a cost of 2.5 million dollars. Their argument is to teach them human rights. There is no evidence that over many years, this training has improved the human rights in the Indonesian military or police.

What can you do to help? For more information please contact me via email: (remove XX) anthony.june XX @bigpond XX .com.au

Anthony Craig

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the Catholic Diocese of Bathurst.

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