The Guardian December 13, 2000

West Papua:
Call to end occupation

by Mati English

December 1, known as Independence Day to West Papuans, marks the 
anniversary of the 1961 declaration of independence from Dutch colonial 
rule. On that date this year peaceful celebrations and the raising of the 
Morning Star flag, which holds great symbolic meaning for the West Papuan 
people, turned into a crackdown by the Indonesian army, which arrested a 
number of West Papuan leaders who were in favour of a peaceful dialogue 
with Indonesia on the future of West Papua.

Even though West Papuans are subjected to the most brutal suppression and 
open attacks against them, the Australian Government continues to support 
Indonesia's occupation.

Australia's position on West Papua was summed up by a senior spokesperson 
from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Paul Robilliard: 
"The Australian government unequivocally supports the territorial integrity 
of Indonesia and recognises indonesia's sovereignty over Irian Jaya 
[Indonesia's name for West Papua].

"The Australian Government has not and does not support separatist claims 
in Irian Jaya in any way.

"Only recently, at the Pacific Islands Forum in October, the Australian 
Prime Minister, John Howard, pressed other members to ensure that the 
forum's communique contained an explicit reference to Indonesian 
sovereignty over Irian Jaya."

The Australia-West Papua Association (AWPA) is appealing to the Australian 
Government and the PNG Government to take immediate steps to give 
assistance to and protect West Papuan refugees and to not allow the 
Indonesian army to cross the PNG border in pursuit of them.

AWPA also called on the Australian Government to oppose the human rights 
abuses which are presently occurring in West Papua and for the release of 
all political prisoners and the continuation of peaceful dialogue with the 
West Papuan leadership.


In 1963 when Indonesia occupied West Papua  the western part of the 
island of Papua New Guinea  it was during a period when colonial rule was 
breaking down and national liberation struggles were on the ascendancy in 
many parts of the world.

It was the period which saw Indian and Pakistani independence, the Cuban 
Revolution, the nationalisation of the Suez Canal in Egypt, the French 
defeat in Algeria and Vietnam.

Indonesia had itself fought off the Dutch, their former colonial masters, 
and had become fully independent in 1954.

The Western powers feared the liberation movements. Above all they feared 
that people would turn to socialism. The "domino theory", that if one 
country "fell" to communists others would follow, was concocted for use as 
a pretext for interference, aggression and invasion by the US and its 

In 1965 reaction, with the backing of the US, and the complicity of the 
Menzies Government in Australia, took the upper hand. The three-million 
strong Communist Party of Indonesia, the second in size and influence in 
Asia after the Chinese party, was decimated following the bloody coup led 
by General Suharto.

Around one million people were murdered by the military and tens of 
thousands more were imprisoned.

Suharto's Government opened the door to foreign capital to exploit 
Indonesia's natural resources which include oil, gold and timber.

West Papuans have been pushed off their traditional lands and replaced by 
migrants from the central islands of Indonesia through Indonesia's 
transmigration program.

West Papua has huge mineral resources, enormous timber stocks and off-shore 
natural gas deposits. The Freeport gold and copper mine operating there is 
the third largest of its kind in the world.

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