West Papua

In August 2019 we were excited to welcome a new affiliate to our international network - Pasifika, based in West Papua. In late August the Indonesian military began a violent crackdown in West Papua, prompting a mass nonviolent response across the region.

Rosa Moiwend

A former Dutch colony, West Papua was occupied by the Indonesian military in 1963. The international framework that allowed this occupation to take place was based on the economic and political interests of the United States and supported by its allies the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Australia. The United Nations actively denied West Papuans right to self-determination and supported the Indonesian occupation. During the first few years of the Indonesian government’s occupation West Papuan resistance was brutally crushed through military operations and aerial bombardment. Two years before the United Nations formally facilitated the transfer of Dutch sovereignty to Indonesia – all without West Papuans consent – the United States and Indonesia established a massive gold and copper mine in West Papua. From the beginning the Freeport mine was declared a national asset and security project protected by a massive Indonesian military presence. Old fashioned colonialism marked by territorial occupation by a foreign military force remained but was augmented by neo-colonialism: intensive capital investment in the extractive industries and the influx of large numbers of Indonesians to displace indigenous West Papuans. In the early years the Indonesian government’s transmigration program was funded by the World Bank. Although on paper the project was designed as development to benefit ‘the poor’ in reality the Indonesian government’s sole objective was to protect its territorial integrity. It was militarised development that in actual fact generated poverty.

Alex Rayfield In a recent article (Rayfield and Morello 2012) a colleague, Rennie Morello and I wrestled with our outsider/insider identities as we facilitated nonviolent training and education with and for West Papuan activists longing for freedom. We wrote: In some sense we might have once identified ourselves as outsiders to the movement offering support “in solidarity”. But over time the movement has stirred-up trouble for us and our insider-outsider identities. We work in solidarity with Papuan activists in their struggle for self-determination, but we are not Papuan. In this way we are cultural outsiders. More importantly, while we attempt to share the risks and costs of working for peace and justice in West Papua, we will never pay the same price as Papuan activists. In this way, we are political outsiders. Connected to this is our commitment to non-interference – Papuan activists themselves must determine the strategic direction and tactical choices of the movement. In this way we are movement outsiders.

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