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04 January 2019

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Martin Auld - If the population stood at about 800,000 in 1963, about the time the former Dutch colony was taken over by Indonesia, don’t you think, the Melanesian people would have multiplied in the last half century?

According to the 2010 Indonesian census figures the total population of West Papua and Papua stood at 3,593,803, seven years after both provinces were inaugurated in 2003.

The total population must include people from other races - Javanese, Chinese etc.

But is it not possible that 500,000 Melanesians were killed in bloody confrontations with Indonesian security forces in the last 50 years?

And whose bodies are those displayed as prized trophies by the Indonesian military on the internet?

I’ll have more to offer on this most recent comment by Martin Auld later. Suffice it to say for now that he presents to me less as a factual historian and more as a propagandist for Indonesian public relations and I would advise readers to take this into account. The 500,000 figure of West Papuan deaths is closer to the truth - and accepted as such internationally. More later

'estimated half million indigenous Melanesian people of West Papua'

Amnesty has complained that they are misquoted as estimating 100,000 victims of the Indonesian military over the past 50 years. But half a million? Most close observers of the conflict can see through that one.

Most recently the OPM tried to claim that genocide had reduced Papuans to a minority. That was a transparent propaganda tactic to convince Pacific nations of the urgency of supporting them. They are now backtracking and admitting the census data shows Papuans indeed remain two thirds of the population. This information had always available to journalists who wanted the true data, but many didn't.

The East Timorese used the same tactic, the same individuals who fabricated it quietly backtracking after 1999. They used an Indonesian census from just after integration, which didn't include the population of the regions not yet under control and to where Fretilin had moved people en masse, to spread propaganda that Indonesia had killed 300,000 people. It was always ridiculous and even a riduculous Murdoch rag like The Australian busted it and estimated the total as 60,000, mostly due to disease and starvation while Fretilin captives in the eastern highlands. I suggest you study the population data of West Papua from 1969 to the present. It is and always has been freely available to scholars and journalists alike.

Since you mention propaganda, here is but one example of propaganda from your archives. A piece of fake news Trump and Breitbart would be proud of, a total fabrication quoting non existent people. Professional analysts used to describe such pieces as 'Selebaran Gelap'[Black leaflets]. Prior to the internet, they were photocopied and distributed as flyers. When targeted at religious communities they provoked much violence in Timor, Papua, Maluku and Sulawesi. In the Birdshead the racist fake news they spread provoked SATGAS Papua in Sorong to push back Ambonese Christian refugees fleeing Jihadi ethnic cleansing. Peter Dutton would have loved it.

https://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2016/01/is-indonesia-about-to-offer-a-referendum-to-west-papua.html

Keith you mentioned Israel's PM being often in the media.
It surprised me that on 8 May the UK completely ignored VE Day that celebrates the end of WW2 in Europe.

Anyone of my age can recall the moments of joy that the surrender brought to countless British families. Even those like mine who still had two uncles embroiled in the ongoing slaughter of the Far East. At least no more bombing.

Most of us have seen the historic pictures of Piccadilly Circus or Trafalgar Square in London as thousands of young men and women, many in military uniform danced with strangers. I can still see our little section of my road blocked off as we lit a bonfire right in the middle of the dual carriageway.

So this year with complete absence of a mention of it on BBC News I tuned in to RTV and wow what a parade was going on in Red Square, Moscow where WW2 is called The Great Patriotic War.

Then I noticed almost holding hands with Putin was Benjamin Netanyahu PM of Israel. At least Ben knew his people have a blood debt to Russia. In fact at home in Jerusalem they too celebrate VE day with what is claimed to be the 2nd biggest remembrance of the day that hope returned to the surviving Jewish people in Europe.

Interestingly the Ukraine has deleted the event from its public celebrations. Could be the Crimean Effect influences that decision or maybe the current supporters in Kiev had too many relatives who actually not only staffed Concentration Camps but were in the many battalions in the German army.

As I tried to say yesterday's enemy can become today's ally. Oh yes and vice versa

"The 'transmigrasi' program has effectively altered the balance of cultures in West Papua."

You have just nailed the crux of the issue, Paul. This is where the nuts and bolts - as opposed to faked for media - political struggle is located.

West Papua in 2019 is not the WP of 50 years ago and is no longer even comparable to PNG. There are now two peoples in West Papua, like Fiji and New Caledonia. Like it or not, they have to live together forever. They have to build bridges and find things in common.

A few brave individuals keep the process going but at the extreme ends of the political spectrum are men of violence who want to divide the communities. This is why a racist OPM massacres settler civilians in Nduga. They and their propagandists retail the regressive fantasy that history can be turned back. Better still, it never happened.

Nope, let's just ignore the last 50 years. There may even be some hawks in Jakarta, old and young, not entirely displeased to see such atrocities discredit their perpetrators' cause and increase the trust deficit between the two peoples.

The more astute in WP, and there are plenty, understand that the only way to move forward is together. Identify what they share in common and work on that first, set aside the harder bits for later. But this is awfully threatening to the men of violence on both sides.

On a lighter note, if you scroll down this Merauke news site to the 28 December, you may, like myself, be delighted to see Merauke's statue of General Benny Murdani in pose rampant at the crossroads like Robert Johnson, getting a new coat of splendid red paint on his beret. Which just goes to show that old warriors never die, their hats just fade away.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/230100583991926/
________

I find it extraordinary that, in all his commentary on this issue, and there has been much, Martin Auld seems immune to the estimated half million indigenous Melanesian people of West Papua who have died under Indonesian rule. I don't think the throwaway, but telling, expression, "faked for media", really cuts it as anything other than propaganda - KJ

"The lesson to draw though is that unpredictable, even preposterous things can and do happen during times of extreme economic and political stress."

Martin, this is a statement that should be framed and placed in the office of every political leader in the world.

The historic evidence for its veracity is overwhelming yet the great and the good almost routinely blunder into disaster because they think that it cannot happen to them or, by extension, to us.

Right now, we seem afflicted with political leaders who, despite all evidence to the contrary, believe themselves incapable of the sort of epic misjudgements and ineptitude manifested by some of their predecessors.

We humans frequently and wilfully ignore evidence that does not fit our world view until, inevitably, reality ambushes stupidity and a cascade of disaster ensues.

If this happens at a personal level, it is merely a personal disaster. When so-called statesmen (and women) do it, we all suffer the consequences to varying degrees.

I do not wish to imply that President Habibie did this. Indeed, history will probably show that he was wise, not stupid, when it came to Timor Leste.

Whether Indonesian policy on West Papua will turn out to be wise remains to be seen.

History would suggest that finding a way to accommodate or otherwise placate the OPM separatists would be the best long term plan, not trying to suppress them.

Mao Zedong once said in relation to guerrilla movements that in order to win it is merely necessary not to lose.

The track record of non-indigenous forces in suppressing liberation movements is not especially impressive (Vietnam, Zimbabwe and Bougainville are examples that spring to mind).

The Indonesian army commanders therefore might be well advised to take note of Mao's comment.

Arthur - Thanks for reminding me of the inscription at the United Nations building in New York City.

I was privileged to see it when I attended the UN General Assembly meeting on 17 September 1991.

I was among a few Papua New Guineans to witness Grand Chief Sir Michael’s attempt to be elected president of the UN Assembly – which is mostly a ceremonial role for a one year term.

Saudi Arabia’s Samir Shihabi won with 83 votes against Somare’s 47.

There was much applause in the assembly hall when the new president admitted the two Koreas – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (South) and the Republic of Korea (North) as new members of the world body.

Other members admitted were Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

It is the wish of Melanesians that West Papua will one day be accepted to the UN as a sovereign member state.

Is this not possible for West Papuans when remnants of the people of Israeli were able to establish a Jewish state after much suffering through the ages and the loss of over six million people to Nazi Germany?

After all, Melanesians are also 'sons of Adam.'

Daniel - I think a lot of us know too well that our own backyard has a lot of pigs droppings for them to be able to criticise colonialism in any of its guises.

I can never forget in 1970 I asked a Bruce Rock, Western Australian citizen, “Why do you need all those wooden toilets on the railway yard?”

He laughed at my Pommie ignorance, “Thems not dunnies that’s where the Abos live when we’re loading wheat!”

Chris - I cannot understand how you claim the republic of Indonesia is ‘a functioning democracy’. Surely such a political entity does not slaughter its own people.

Then you write - ‘A valued ally of the Western allies.’ Wow! That phrase shows you’re age. Who are they? I suspect that means English speaking nations and guess it alludes to ‘current allies.

We mustn’t forget the USA only declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917, 2½ years after WW1 started. Or that it entered WW2 only after Pearl Harbour.

The USA failed to support its ‘allies’ the UK and France in the 1956 Suez Crisis.

While the UK, USA and other supposed allies of France would not assist Paris in its Indo-China War aimed at re-occupying Vietnam.

Then the draft-dodging haven neighbour, Canada, wouldn’t join the allies helping the USA in its doomed attempt to win a rematch of the Indo-China War in Vietnam. Neither would the UK.

Of our foreign language allies we must remember France caved in and surrendered a mere nine months after the start of WW2. Also UK decided to attack the French navy at Oran, North Africa in 1940.

In WW1 Italy was an ally of the UK and its allies but in WW2 swapped horse to be a German ally until September1943 very amazingly on the same day that the old enemy forces landed on Sicily.

The new nation of Belgium was neutral in WW1 and again neutral till invaded but was never an official ally in WW2.
Sweden and the Netherlands were neutral countries throughout WW1 and WW2.

Norway remained neutral in WW1 but after occupation in early 1940 fought unsuccessfully for a couple of months only before succumbing to occupation for the rest of WW2.

Japan for the most part enjoyed being an ally in WW1 as it allowed territorial gains on the Asian mainland and of Pacific islands that would become important bases and scenes of bloody warfare in WW2 when it was then an enemy.

The major non-English speaking ally who did most to win WW2 was Russia in its then temporary Soviet Union guise whose trauma of its political birth in 1917 had effectively forced it out of being a WW1 ally.

Yet its initial WW2 stance was governed by a secret 1930 non-aggression pact with Germany that allowed an early carve up of parts of the Baltic and Balkans. Until in a maniacal move by despotic Hitler he attacked the soviet nation in mid-1941.

That resulted in 4 years of slaughter on a scale never seen in human history and the ultimate defeat for Germany – but at the cost of at least 28 million dead military and 11 million civilian deaths for the Soviet Union alone whose successor is once again called Russia and today the arch-enemy of the NATO allies.

So Allies is merely a pro-tem arrangement of two or more nations quite often secretly endeavouring to prosper their own national interest in the guise of an external collaborative attempt to defeat the current bogey man.

Other writers to this post amaze me by even suggesting violence is the only solution for the Melanesian West Papuans to rid themselves of the yolk of domination from Jakarta the largest Islamic nation on earth.

I am so stupidly naïve in still believing the answer to self-determination is one important raison d’etre of the United Nations. Sadly decades of its perversion led by the smaller veto-prone Security Council has resulted in a new creed of either studied disinterest such as with the continuing plight of the stateless Kurds or allowing pre-emptive actions that you would think any normal human would consider illegal or inhuman.

The media delights in demonising Trump and his ‘Mexican Wall’ while studiously ignoring his arch ally Israel’s ‘Ben The Builder’ with hundreds of miles of walls often safeguarding illegal settlements or squatter homes built and with many more being planned. That have been condemned by the UN.

The media loves to talk about Russian majority language speaking Ukraine being illegally occupied while ignoring the illegality of occupation of the Golan Heights that belong to Syria but without a plebiscite.

Perhaps a result of its demands for more of Jordan River water or the prospects of the oil and LNG under that occupied land. This so called hot spot also has required an UN peace keeping force, called UNDOF, since 1974.

The UN continues to allow a tripartite division of the internationally recognised nation of the Republic of Cyprus between majority Greek south and minority Turkish north while allowing Britain to maintain two military bases there and UK troops practically have more freedoms than any Cyprus-born Turkish speaking person of the island.

It would seem that the UN can and I think should be a force for a solution to the 50 year struggle of West Papuans for their independence. But of course the curse of their half of the island of New Guinea is that since 1972 it has been host to the Grasberg Mine which is still possibly the world’s biggest gold mine and its 3rd largest copper mine.

The New York Times wrote a front-page story in 2005 that provides the essential background information on this massively lucrative mining venture that dominates the West Papuan story till this day. It is still worth reading at www.nytimes.com/2005/12/27/world/asia/below-a-mountain-of-wealth-a-river-of-waste.html

My mind boggled then at its tales of military pay-offs amounting to many millions; involvement of the highest elites of the republic and most sadly the environmental damages it has and is still causing to the Melanesian peoples of the impacted area. 13 years ago and so before the mine’s expansions during that period, Parametrix the consultants paid for by the mine’s owners, estimated the mine will generate an estimated six billion tons of waste before its ceases activity.

No president of Indonesia is going to forgo the bankrolling this mine provides for its teeming hundreds of million non-Papuans in far off Java or Sumatra. Only a push by the UN could ever help PNG’s brothers and sisters across the Fly River boundary.

Is it too much to ask? After all near the entrance to the UN building is a 13th century verse by a Persian poet Saadi:

The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If thou hast no sympathy for the troubles of others
Thou art unworthy to be called by the name of a human
_________

Much to argue with here, Arthur, but I must make the point that the global media frequently cover the antics and excesses of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They are far from ignored - KJ

The ordinary people in Papua New Guinea are beginning to speak out against the prolonged suffering of their Melanesian brothers and sisters in West Papua.

They are pressing their government to speak out against the genocide perpetrated by the Indonesian military.

Here is what Samuel Raitano said in 'The Voice of Papua New Guinea':

"As a typical Highlander, I don't bother talking about other people's pains and tears if they are not related to me by blood or tribe.

"However, my perception about humanity has changed when I saw these pictures of fellow Melanesians from West Papua being bombed and killed by Indonesian military through air strikes.

"I am shedding tears and am really upset with my PNG government for turning a blind eye for so long.

"We should now have an open door policy for West Papuan refugees. Screw diplomacy and protocols with the Indonesian government.

"PNG government readily opened doors for foreign/ Middle Eastern refugees and asylum seekers at Manus.

"Did we do it for Australian money or as an obligation to save human lives?

"Or did we do it for spin off benefits?

"PNG government must now officially declare certain spots in Western and West Sepik Provinces to set refugee camps for our Melanesian brothers and sisters.

"That’s a humane and Christian thing to do.

"Set conditions that refugees who flee to us must be disarmed, taken stock of and kept safe.

"Give them land, spades bush knives to till the land to feed themselves. Agriculture must be prioritized in the refugee camps.

"West Papuans must be helped somewhere, somehow.

"As a constituent of Ialibu Pangia electorate, l am begging my honorable MP and PM Peter O'Neill to lead this government to do the right thing in the eyes of God and men.

"Save our brothers and sisters. Give them a place to rest and heal."

"I find it hard to accept a description of Habibie's actions being genuinely voluntary."

They were. He and his thinktank, ICMI, had been pondering just such a course of action and a letter from prime minister Howard was the pretext he used to shift the blame, sending Howard and Downer into a panic.

Many in the Indonesian military found it hard to accept as well, and some still regard him as a traitor.

You're right about no similar trigger for West Papua on the horizon.

Habibie was an accidental president, never elected, and he didn't last long. The lesson to draw though is that unpredictable, even preposterous things can and do happen during times of extreme economic and political stress.

A cynic might also suggest, Chris, that the people of East Timor effectively swapped an Indonesian overlordship for a emigre Portuguese speaking one. All, ultimately thanks to the UN.

As you correctly point out, it's a well known human trait that the strong always seek to dominate the weak.

The 'Transmigrasi' program has effectively altered the balance of cultures in West Papua as it was designed to do. It's really a case, as Chris points out, of the West Papuans deciding to put up with it or do something about it.

No one else is going to lean on Indonesia to do the right thing and they know it. Certainly PNG is currently in no position to do or say anything that will have any effect.

Martin, while I will defer to your greater knowledge of Indonesian politics, I find it hard to accept a description of Habibie's actions being genuinely voluntary.

I think that the circumstances surrounding Timor Leste effectively forced his hand.

So, it was a voluntary action compelled by circumstances.

Anyway, perhaps the more important point is that no reasonably foreseeable circumstances are likely to trigger a similar action in relation to West Papua.

"Indonesia did not willingly relinquish its grip on Timor Leste."

Wrong Chris. It did. Nobody forced President Habibie to initiate a referendum Jakarta was never going to win. It was the pro-Indonesian East Timorese who wouldn't willingly relinquish Indonesia.

Habibie and his advisors wanted to eliminate roadblocks to the Islamicisation of Indonesia and divested himself of a Catholic Province, while wars elsewhere in Maluku and Sulawesi ethnically cleansed Christians into enclaves, created new Muslim majority Provinces and reduced the political power of the Eastern Archipelago to resist the 1945 non secular 'Jakarta Charter' being reintroduced incrementally.

The Birdshead Province of West Papua was the only new Christian majority province created, a belated clawback by the Christian Nationalist coalition. Unlike East Timor, some 35-40% of the population in Papua is ethnically non Papuan, rising to almost 50% in the Birdshead.

Islam is now a substantial minority across Papua and unlikely to be abandoned by Jakarta, barring an economic catastrophe that threatens the entire nation.

Of course, Daniel is entirely correct that his forefathers did not invite the division of the island of New Guinea.

Imperialism and colonialism have been recurring features of human societies across at least the last 3 millennia, where the strong have dominated the weak and exerted their power to achieve their strategic aims.

History is, in many respects at least, just a series of such events.

One of the great misunderstandings of our era is that imperialism is an exclusively European activity.

This is an entirely wrong idea, carefully nurtured by those whose political and other interests lay in perpetuating the mythology that colonialism is a recent phenomenon.

I find it profoundly ironic that Indonesia, which fought a very ugly war to throw off the yoke of Dutch imperialism, should promptly become such a power itself.

Its action during the confrontation with Singapore and Malaysia in the 1960s and its seizure of Timor Leste in 1975 are clear cut examples of imperialism in action.

West Papua is another such case: there is no logical ethnic or linguistic relationship between the Javanese who dominate the Indonesian federation and the peoples of the island of New Guinea.

Indonesia took possession because the old imperial powers lacked both the will and capacity to prevent it doing so. The USA is especially culpable because it exerted its power to actually prevent the Dutch (supported by both Britain and Australia) from conducting a fair and free ballot about future independence.

Indonesia did not willingly relinquish its grip on Timor Leste and it is even less likely to do so in the case of resource rich West Papua. It will fight to preserve its power by whatever means necessary.

No western power will directly intervene: whatever its faults Indonesia is a functioning democracy which has resisted Islamic extremism very successfully.

It is a valued ally of the western powers and this fact alone overrides other strategic or even moral considerations. The Indonesians know this perfectly well.

This leaves the West Papuans with a clear choice: acquiesce to Indonesian dominance or resolve to resist it by all means it can, including violence.

If sufficient numbers choose the latter course, then they will need better leadership, a coherent political and military strategy, access to military hardware and greater numbers of committed fighters.

A sustained guerrilla war is the only way to loosen the grip of the Indonesians.

V I Lenin, Mao Zedong, Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro and many others understood this very well and followed this course during the revolutionary era that, arguably at least, commenced with the American War of Independence in 1775.

Whether there is the will and capacity within West Papua to endure the terrible trial of a war of liberation is a matter of conjecture.

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