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Indigeneous people of West Papua resist World Bank supported settler colonialism
- an interview; Wed, 16 Aug 2000 09:01:40

A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Following an interview with an activist out of the resistance movement in West Papua against the Indonesian government and multinational firms. This interview was done on a March evening in the Infoshop Grauzone in Innsbruck... (IG - Infosgop Grauzone, WP - West Papua resistance activist)
For further infos on the struggle in West Papua just take a look at one of the following homepages:

http://www.westpapua.net (or www.westpapua.org)

Infoladen Grauzone, PO BOX 705, 6021 Innsbruck, Austria
e-mail: ilgrauzone@hotmail.com

IG: Can you tell me something about this transmigration issue? What it is about? What is the main purpose of it?

WP: Transmigration means transporting people from one island to the other. In this case from Java and Bali to West Papua, Malokas (?), Borneo and Sumatra so far. This problem is mainly sponsored by the Minister of Population of Indonesia, and financially supported by the World Bank so far.

The main purpose behind all this is to make everything one, because in Indonesia there are 5 principles of Indonesian nations. One of them is united Indonesia. United Indonesia means mainly Indonesian population should speak Indonesian, should eat Indonesian food, should have Indonesian culture, should have Indonesian race, should have everything called Indonesian, that's the main purpose.

But on the surface to get the money from the World Bank they tell a different story. They say that West Papua is a very remoted place, lots of mountains and trees, and that we need to develop, so we need to send more people there. And also many people are not really educated, so we need to send more people, that's the purpose they tell the World Bank.

IG: The way they could do it is to build schools in West Papua, so there would be no need to bring other people in?

WG: Yes, that's what they should do. But they say also that it is a too large area and if we develop schools, there just very few people, not efficient economically. We need to bring more people, because for more schools it is good to bring many people. But if we build schools for just a few people, spending lots of money. So they think it is economically not so beneficial for Jakarta or for Indonesia. That's why they think we need to send in people.

They also call it redistribution of population and they say it is unfair, it is not justice if Jakarta has 100/1000 million people and West Papua only has 1,5 million. Well, the size of the island... Java Island is 4 times West Papua, or 5 times. So they think it is not fair to have one small island with hundreds of thousands of people. That's why they say we need to redistribute the population.

IG: To come back to the World Bank. What do you think are the interests of the World Bank to finance this transmigration issue?

WP: The interest of the World Bank is to get the profit. Because the World Bank is looking for the money, the profit. So it's a lot of money, even to Indonesia. Indonesia has oil plantations in the transmigration area. So oil plantations and transmigration go together. With these oil plantations they want to pay back the debts to the World Bank. The World Bank actually doesn't care what happens with the money, at least they just want to get back the money.

IG: So it is in fact just a way for them to put money in and get more money out?

WP: Yes, that's it!

IG: What are the consequences of this transmigration issue, for the country. I mean the ecological point, and also your culture?

WP: As I mentioned Indonesian wants to make one food and one race, one culture, one language. And this means they will disregard, they will destroy the food in West Papua. We have our main food in the low-lands, which is called "syko". One syko tree can supply food for a family for six months or a year. And now they say syko is not good. We need to plant more rice. Rice is better. It has more energy and more carbohydrates. That's how they do. So they destroy the food and then they bring in new food, so that Papuan people are not independent to their own food, but they must be dependant on Jakarta.

Culturally? If they change food they change the whole people. We can imagine people here coming and saying "Stop eating bread!". It is the same with my food, my bread from West Papua, which is the syko. Just like that, everything changes. So the way of farming changes, when the food they plant is different.

Also the language changes. We cannot speak our own language in our villages, because new people are coming in and they use English and the speak Indonesian language. And all the people are just allowed to speak Indonesian language, so these are the impacts...

To the environment... So far we have been talking against Indonesia because the destruction of our culture. For example many people still have beliefs on trees and forests, and rivers and mountains. First of all the sent Christian people to make Christians, so that they don't believe in trees and mountains, and then they don't fight against the destruction. So transmigration comes after this process happens.

IG: Some sort of colonialisation. It is a new aspect of colonialisation this transmigration issue.

WP: It is colonialisation. It is very clear when they send in transmigration, they treat them better, whereas local people are just sent out. They give warnings "In this year we will put transmigration in this area", so local people who live here, who hunt here beware and build your house elsewhere because we put transmigrants here. And when they put in transmigrants the government provides food and what they need, provides roads, but before they even didn't have roads. For local people they have no concepts of building roads, to help them. But for transmigrants they do very well. They provide more food and more electricity, all of these. But local people are just pushed out from their own villages. So it is very clear for us to say that it is colonialisation.

IG: What is the impact of transnational firms like Freeport in West Papua?

WP: Freeport started its exploration in 1984. Exploitation started about 5, 10 years later. The culture is destroyed firstly because the people believe in the mountains. We have some concepts. Mountain is something very important. Sometimes people think it is a mother. We describe the mother's head and stomach and everything. We have belief on that concept. And this is the mountain where they are digging now. People are shouting "Oh! This is our mother they are digging now, we must fight back. Most of the people around the mining area are already Christians, Protestants and Catholics. So in the church they say "You are wrong, because your mother is not here", something like that. This weakens the position of the tribal leaders and also the police they have really strict rules and regulations to the people. In the past they had 13.000 tons per day, but now it has increased during the last 5 years until the next 50 years, 45 years. They will produce 50.000 tons per day. So they very quickly destroy the mountains and also when they take out the things from the land, the ground they throw them into the rivers, throw them into the villages, so people cannot live anymore because all the tree have dried out, all animals on the rivers died out. People cannot drink, all animals who drink die, like fish, pig wandering around. And all the trees dried, totally dried. People have been angry, shouting and demonstrating, but all things they get is they shot dead. Thousands of them have been killed so far. And we cannot tell the world because we don't speak English. We cannot get out to speak. Journalists cannot get in. But Freeport just ignored... Freeport says those people killing are the Indonesian army, not them. But we believe they paid the army.

IG: So they are working together hands in hands?

WP: Yes, working together.

IG: Like you said you cannot go out. But you are now from West here in Europe. So this is the first step to inform the world outside what is going on in West Papua. Because when we thought so far of Indonesia, we thought of the conflict in Eat Timor, and the conflict in West Papua was hidden behind the other one.

WP: Yes, East Timor was a little bit lucky. There have dies a lot of people, but they were lucky. They started the war in 1975. Ten years after West Papuas fighting. West Papua started in 1964. But they were lucky because first they already had many people abroad. And secondly because Portugal was supporting very openly the European Union. So the information went very quick out from there. For example Ramos Horto was in the USA. He went to UN conferences and talked to them. So it was very open. But us in West Papua we had no one out abroad, no one can speak English. Just one, two or three but they got lost in the big cities of Australia and Holland. For example they even forgot their own villages. So they don't speak about it. Even if they want to speak we don't have information going out from there. They don't know what is going on, so how can they talk about it. How can they inform the world, because they don't know. Netherlands didn't speak for us, they just forgot what happened. So we were not lucky, and also we had a very large area, and a very small population. What is happening in the one village is not known in the other village. And it is also difficult to get informations out, as there are army controls everywhere in the villages. We don't have phones, we don't have tools to communicate. So it's very, very complicated. But now it's open, so we can type into the computer for example. We can surf a little bit in the internet. And now the Indonesian army is a little weakened, as the president is a civil person. So it's getting weaker. In the past if you went out you could just get shot, on the way, on the airport. On the aeroplane they can just take you out. It is very easy, there's no question. But now people can get access. That's why we started this year to get out and tell the stories.

IG: As you now spoke about internet. It's a way to communicate very fast. But the point a lot of people criticise, is that it is only a way for the people from the industrialised countries to use. So there seems to be a change in this, what do you think?

WP: Yes. For example I said that we don't have television access. We are just told what the government wants us to listen and watch. Newspapers are controlled by the government. They have got the permission, everything is settled. But internet none can control it. So far I can get out now, but I don't know if I can get out again. Because it is impossible if they don't allow it to me. But most probably they will not allow it, which means the only way is internet. If we don't use internet, the people here will not understand what is happening... We cannot send journalists in because it is locked, there are check points everywhere. I tell people in the jungle, with penis chord, bows and arrows that this is important, because otherwise Indonesia will say "These are primitive people. They are fighting tribal wars. And we need to send police, we need to solve the problems, they don't understand democracy." But when we have internet we can tell directly that they are wrong. That we are fighting for the environment against Freeport. We can tell the world very clearly and then the people here will understand better about us. So I think at the moment internet is very, very important for us...

IG: ...to communicate with outside.

WP: To communicate... First to communicate among ourselves, because we really have problems as well. Inside we have 254 tribes, different languages and we also live very far away from another. As I said if one village is bombed we don't know what is happening in the other village. So if we have internet we can spread the information through the whole Papua, and also at the same time throughout the world. So two sides, internally and also to the international world. It is very, very important.

IG: Can you maybe tell us a little bit about the OPM? Why they build up this resistance group, what is the main purpose they are fighting for?

WP: The OPM was established in 1964. Officially it was declared like an organisation, but it was also a movement that happened in 1800 against the Dutch colony. But it became a name as OPM in 1964. We call it a movement of people against colonialism, but mainly against the destruction of the environment. Because when colonialism started they started with destroying forests for example. They started with exploiting mountains or most of the rivers have now become toilets. In Indonesia you must wash your dishes in it, even if it is a toilet. In our culture you cannot pollute the water. Water is life. That's how OPM started because people thought that this is strange. They just don't care what we believe here. So people talked to them but they ignored. So they thought "Ok, the only way is to fight." That's why the OPM came into.

OPM started fighting since Dutch colony, but the name OPM became formally after Indonesia invaded West Papua in 1963. So it was against what was happening to our culture and our environment. That was the main worry. So when you go to West Papua and ask "Why are you fighting? Why do you want to join the OPM for example?" Then they will say "Because my forest is destroyed. Because my mountain is destroyed". They won't tell other reasons. The first reasons will be my mountains, my rivers, my trees.

IG: So I see quit a difference between your struggle and that of the so-called national liberation movements, like Palestine, Kurdistan. Who somehow want their own state, because they feel as an own nation. An own culture invaded by another one.

WP: Yes, because we have names like "National Liberation Army" people misunderstand us, because of this word "nation". Because they think "Oh, nation again". But it actually basically means it is a union of people fighting together against destruction. So we want to make it one union, we call it OPM, we call it National Liberation Army. I think if we ask people in West Papuas "Do you want to have your own country?". They will say "Yes!". But why? It is very clears, it's not because they want their land. The main reasons is because their homes are destroyed. We want to get rid of those people who destroy our forests. So I think I can say that there is a little difference.

IG: So when I think of it... if Indonesia had invaded West Papua but not destroyed the environment, there wouldn't be any resistance?

WP: I really believe that if Indonesia respected tribal leaders for example, and they had rules and regulations adopted from tribal leaders, I think there would never be a struggle against it, against Indonesia.

IG: ...because it has such a large impact on our culture and environment...

WP: Indonesia will be just something that we can celebrate once a year, or far away. So we would still have the control of our environment. So there would be no problems, I think.

IG: So what do you think about the other national liberation movement I've just talked about, the Basques, Curds? Do you understand and support their reasons for fighting?

WP: I have heard for example in Euskadi they have some dam constructions. But for me as a Papuan I think the main problem is what we want to get when we fight Indonesia, if we want to get another government or not. And this is the question. We can see from Papua, our neighbour country. They have fought and they have independent nation Papua New Guinea, but they still have problems. Forests are still being destroyed and our own people in Papua New Guinea, we have one land one culture they still cry, they still fight. I don't understand why people fight one government and establish another government. This is really a bit funny for me because they fight against government, with many people dying, and much money, energy and time is wasted, and then they want to establish government again. So I think we need to understand this better, why we are fighting. Is it because we just want to show ourselves as different from the other or because we care what happens to our planet, our environment. Maybe in West Papua we have people as well who just want to create another government. These people are very dangerous, but I think most of the people will not understand these reasons.

IG: So I see your resistance is quite an ecological orientated one.

WG: Yes, people are still tribal people. So they don't really care about how to build big houses, big buildings, and run a government. That is not their concern. Their concern is as I said their homes and their environment. So it's quite different. Maybe if they were well educated for example in modern standard, maybe they would be thinking different. But now people in the villages still think "This is ok for me, I can stay here, I die here, my parents were here, so if someone comes and wants to build a road in this village this is problem...". That's what they think. They don't care about building another office of president, prime ministers.

IG: You told that your relation to the nature is a quite strong one, that you are dependant from it...

WP: Until now for my generation for example... We are still dependant. We communicate very well. Now I'm here I'm not communicating very well with nature, for example trees and animals. Because they are really separated from us. We are strangers between them and us here. But when I'm in West Papua we feel like one unity. They are natural being like us.

IG: So you notice a difference between Europe and West Papua in this ecological issue? That there is a distance between humynkind and nature?

WP: Yes, here it is very distant. I think even plants and animals do hate people here, because they are destroying everything. What would people here think if someone came and said "We want to destroy the people in Austria". What would people think here it's like that for destroying forests without a reason, just to build houses and roads. We have one road, and we want to build twenty roads. This kind of things. We have twenty roads and we want to build one hundred roads. This is not very logical...

IG: So it was quite a cultural shock for you...

WP: It is really shocking. Because people feel ok without trees. This is really funny for me. And they feel save in the middle of concrete. This is really strange for me. I cannot follow this, people feel that concrete is alive.

IG: You're not getting used to it?

WP: No, I'm not! When I'm in England I always want to get out once a week. Just to walk around to the nature.

IG: What was another cultural shock? You told me that the first time you used money was in England.

WP: Yes. I used money in my country, but only for buying shows, because we don't have shoes or clothes in West Papua. So it is only for a single object you use money, but not for food. I have never heard that people who want to eat need money, because they have the food. Or drink for example, or move from one village to the other. Now here it is different, if you want to go to the toilet for example, some places you must pay. Or if you want to cut hair, these things that not necessarily need money in my place. Where here every single thing almost costs money. I feel like tied up somewhere that cannot make me live anymore. I'm just like none, dependant on something else. It is money that can make me alive. I feel like a wild pig that I tie up in my village... I feel like that. The pig cannot really think as it is tied up. That's how I felt when I came here. "You must use money", like that. Everything you want to do, money.Oooh, that's where I feel that my freedom is lost. Half of my freedom, because I cannot do whatever I want and can. Always money. Until now people in my place they only use money for some products...

IG: But not for daily life?

WP: No, not for daily life. This is really a bit shocking.

IG: So when you go back to West Papua now. What do you think will be the first thing you will tell your people there? What you have seen, what you have lived through, what your reflections were... Your impressions.

WP: I will tell them the two sides of development, which is used by Indonesia, but also by the NGOs, mainly Christian aid organisations, who say they will bring money and development. Their development is similar to the bible. This is very dangerous, because development means they will introduce money. Money is dangerous. I will explain the relation to religion and to money, and colonialism, this sort of thing. Because people now think that religion is very good, that it makes people stop tribal wars.

IG: And they think they get some help from outside through development?

WP: Yes.

IG: I think this is quite a dangerous thing, because when you get development aid, you get help but on the other side you get dependant to those people...

WP: Yes.

IG: They can dictate what you have to do.

WP: Yes, this is what I've seen now. The aid organisation is very similar to the government.

(IG: Unfortunately my microcassette recorder hasn't got a full stop, so I didn't notice that the one side of the tape was already full... so one or two minutes of the interview are now missing...)

IG: Can you tell us something about this arms tradings, i.e. European countries selling weapons to the Indonesian army?

WP: On the list and the stories that I know military equipments are brought to Indonesia... United Kingdom is number one that sells weapons and the contracts have been signed since conservative government until now, the contracts still going on. And number two of the gun sales to Indonesia is France. And number three is USA. So these people sell arms to Indonesia. In addition Great Britain also sells Hawks jet fighters. In the 1970s the United States sold what they called bronco-fighters, which is another fighting aeroplane. But it's old generations, and new generation is hawks from the United Kingdom. France sells Puma helicopters. Thousands of Puma helicopters. Hundreds of Hawks, also many Bronco Fighters are also sold to Indonesia. Canada for example, they sell military equipment for communication, telephone communication, satellites, all this kind of equipment is provided by Canada. Germany for example they provide ships for the Indonesian navy. So it is clear that European governments and the USA, and also Canada they have been supporting the dictator in Jakarta. It is very clear.

IG: And these weapons... What is the official reason why they buy them? Do they claim to protect the country or do they clearly admit that it is to fight the resistance movements within Indonesia?

WP: First why they sell to Indonesia is economical reason. They want to make money, the European countries and the USA. They want to get money. But for Indonesia they say that they want to defend. Mainly in the past it was communism. It is very important in Indonesia, the biggest Islamic country with the forth largest population. Indonesia doesn't like communism so they need to provide as much military services and equipment, so that they are strong and that communism can't come in. That's why they started supporting Indonesia since 1940's, 1950's. But why Indonesia buys the weapons is a different story. Indonesia never had enemies in neighbouring countries, except Malaysia in 1940's, 1950's. But now they are very well, so there is no problem at the moment and the last 30, 40 years. But why are weapons, Hawks imported? Indonesia has no enemies abroad, Indonesia has enemies inside. And Indonesia never recognises its population as its people. Indonesia believes that the people inside Indonesia are enemies. So weapons are very, very useful. The Bronco fighters are very useful for East Timor and West Papua for example. Because they need to kill people, so that these are scared to fight, and that they stop fighting and become Indonesian. The purpose is that the military plays a big role for the first 100 years, and then after 100 years they don't fight anymore. In Indonesia they will always say that it is not used for killing people. And I say "Ok, if we buy chainsaws to cut down trees. If we buy cars, it is to drive. If you buy weapons not to kill people, this is funny..." How can intelligent politicians in the West say that weapons are not used to kill people. Is it for fishing or for cooking? They never say "We want to get money". These are not very good reasons.

IG: I read this interview, from the interview... It says that your culture is quite based on the power of men, but if you need an advice you go to your mother. You won't got to your father. Is that right?

WP: Yes. Culturally we say my mother will tell me. 9 months you are with your mother in her womb, not in your fathers. So 9 months we spend in mother's belly. That's the first reason. And when we get born mothers suffer a lot not fathers. We respect mothers more than fathers. We respect both, but we listen more to the mother. For example when father and mother don't agree in a decision about me, I will listen to mother. Because I know that 9 months long I was there, and she suffered a lot for me. And also my mother's family is more important. Because they have raised my mother, and that's why I was born. So decision made by my mother is the programme. I will listen to it better than my father's.

IG: So your culture is quite based on the motherhood, which we also see in the mountains being compared to your mother.

WP: Yes. Most of the mountains, most of the trees, most of the instruments we never give them a man's name, we always refer to women, as mothers. Listen to the mothers. There is no guitar in West Papua with a man's name. Always a woman's name.

IG: But you're also referring to these tribal leaders. Are these mainly male leaders?

WP: Tribal leaders, who are leaders in war. Mainly in war. Actually always men, because we say that men are people who fight. But tribal leaders for medicine, for food... these are mainly for women. We rarely find tribal leaders for medicine or food, who are men. It's for food, so why should men become leaders.

IG: How do you decide who is going to be a leader? Are they being elected, or what? Does it change every time?

WP: Yes, it can change in one day for example. It is really difficult to describe how we select them, because it is very difficult. As I always say they grow naturally, so for example one person protects the village when enemies attack today. When this guys fights 20 enemies, he fights very well, he saves the village. And the people ask "Who did this?" And then they say "Oh, this person!" We then really say "Oh, this man is good". The next time they attack again this person repeats the same, and then they say "If something like war happens in future listen to him carefully, because he is very good". And then suddenly he becomes the leader for war.

IG: So you can say this is leadership based on...

WP: What they can do...

IG: What they are able to do, not like politicians here, who can talk a lot...

WP: Haha, yes this is really crazy. It will never happen in West Papua. Politicians that give talks in the platform, it will never ever happen. This is one of the reasons why West Papuans are fighting. Because we have Indonesian political parties, coming to West Papua saying "We will do this...". They have very well campaigns. In West Papua we never talk, we will do this. It is really against our culture. I will not say that I will do this tomorrow. So now politicians give promises five years before they get elected. Then the next five years nothing happens. Only one or two of these promises happens, and the rest doesn't happen. This is really strange, because people talking before doing is really funny. When he comes the next time they will say "This is a talking person, he will not do anything". So it is quite the opposite to here, where politicians talk before doing. Tribal leaders do and people believe them, and people give the positions.

IG: I think that's the reason why so less people here trust the politicians, because they talk and talk, and they never do it.

WP: Yes, this is the case in West Papua. In 1977 we had war. 1977 was general election year, that's in my village. The elections first happened in West Papua in 1970. Yeah, 1971. And then the second election is this one. So the first promises they made after Indonesia came in, were not fulfilled. In the second general election people didn't join, because they said "You came here in first, you promised this and now you are not doing...

IG: ...you haven't done it.

WP: You haven't done it. So that's why we had war in 1977. The reason was promises before doing. This is really dangerous in West Papua. So for example if people from here go there they should not make promises, because if next time people from Europe come they won't listen to them, and say "These people tell stories". But if people don't talk but do, they will trust more.

IG: Yes of course. So there's quite a large difference between what you say, what you want to do and what you finally do.

WP: Yes, yes!

IG: Just a few words about your tour. What are the impressions of the tour so far? Are you satisfied with it, with the reactions? Or what would you have preferred to be different? What did you expect, and what now at the end of the tour could have been better?

WP: Yeah! I was wrong first, because I thought most people know about West Papua. And this is the first mistake I did. But in fact it is really totally new. Even some don't know the geography, where it lies, in which part of the world West Papua is. This is information that I didn't prepare, and I realised that 99% of the people don't know about West Papua. I can even say 100%. Only a few people heard about it, but they don't have any clue about it. Next time maybe we will also be better organised.. Haha... Better organises means everything is set up very well, knowing what time I will arrive... Haha...If I meet one person in a place I don't feel it is wrong, it's ok. I feel the same feeling as if I would meet 100 people. Honestly I don't feel anything wrong. I think everything is ok, if someone listens to it, if someone knows about it. So it's fine.

My feeling now also in the middle of this tour. I felt also that it is better if people from here go to West Papuas, so that the information is complete. And especially journalists who want to write about it, know it better if they go down there. Or activists who want to campaign for it. Maybe people need to feel. In our culture we have a phrase, a sentence...what you call it?

IG: Slogan?

WP: You will love if you know. If you know better you love better. So that's why I came here, that I know people here better and that we can communicate better. And people must go there better and more. The more people go there, the more people understand the struggle, the more people have feelings to fight for it. So that's why that in the middle of the tour I realised that I have to invite people to go to West Papua. I thought I need to come here and tell you that's enough. But now I realise I also need to organise a tour from here to there.

IG: Are you satisfied with the people coming to your speeches, your discussions? Because I just know from a few people who organised this tour, and these are mainly out of the anarchist movement. So I don't know if there were also others who organised some speeches for you, with a more broadened approach.

WP: Basically I'm travelling through the anarchist and student scenes. So I haven't contact to the mainstream, and I think it is maybe not time to do that, although other people are doing that mainstream work. I don't need to mix their business or their job. But also personally I don't trust the governments or the mainstream medias. They will tell what I don't tell. I always have suspect to these people. Not only because I have suspect, but I also have had experiences. We have told something to say and they have told something different. They interpret in their own ways, and then the message gets lost. So maybe other people can trust them and they can talk to them. But I can't do it. So far I'm walking this channel, maybe next time... Or next time when other people come they can do it. This is my work and this is good for me, so I cannot change it for the moment.

IG: Yes, I think it's good when it's ok for you... Do you think you could get some troubles when you go back to Indonesia, because of this tour?

WP: I suspect... It looks like I will get trouble. For example I will have one special intelligent person to monitor whatever I do. My calls, my computer activities, my eating, my sleeping, everything they will control. It's for sure.

IG: What you have done here...

WP: What I have done here and what I will do, because they know that I'm here, and that I will go back and do more. So they will do that. But also a second possibility is that they can get me straight at the airport. And they can interrogate. That's the second possibility. But the first one is that they just keep quiet, but will design one particular person to follow me day and night. This more dangerous, because I will not realise what is happening behind me. But maybe getting me at the airport is better I feel... Maybe they will not kill me straight away as in the past, because now the army is weak. But they will ask me many questions, and stupid questions. They can charge me with this and then they can put me in prison. Because the issue of West Papua is already enemy of the government. And also the people here organising the tour are enemies of the government. So double enemies.

IG: So I think we could come to an end, otherwise the tape will end... So is there something particular you want to tell us at the end of this interview?

WG: Yeah! I think the message I sometimes want to tell when I finish is that the struggle in West Papua is not only political issues. It is mainly on environmental issues and also it is tribal issues. Tribal people with traditional way of life, are being destroyed. And it is also the issue of... I don't really understand why this label of civilisation of human being still uses weapons to kill people, to solve problems. This is really wrong and we want to protect the land in West Papua, because it is the least exploited land in the whole world. We want to protect the culture of people, the environment. And people who care about this planet, because this planet is almost destroyed already, but if there are people here who think that it is important to protect, we are asking to support, to stand for us and to fight for it.

IG: What could we here in Europe for example do for your issue in West Papua?

WP: First of all we always ask for helping us with the internet projects, because we want to set up internet cafes throughout West Papua, so if anyone can give us computer, money or whatever to set up internet. This is very important. Next one we need also people to go to the Indonesian embassies in the whole world. Because whenever people in West Papua are being killed, forest is destroyed we will send information. Every time they do that we want people here to write them, have demonstrations against them, in front of Indonesian embassies in the whole world, mainly in Europe at the moment. So that's what we want you to do. And third we also want to invite people to West Papua, and see and feel us better. So these are the three main reasons I can tell people here.

IG: So thank you very much for your coming, talking...

WP: Thank you, thank you...

"States of Unrest" | WB/ IMF - Asia & Pacific | IMF/ WB Struggles | PGA

A not so Merry Christmas for West Papua
Date: Sat, 23 Dec 2000

Indonesian President Wahid intends to be in West Papua for Christmas...

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Subject: "We Wish you a Merry...."

As most of us prepare to embrace the holidays; you know; the end of the maddening crowds, the slush-covered, unplowed, and unsalted sidewalks, a Medusa's wig of hands all reaching at once for toys that you have to ASK why in the world your child should want SO desperately; only to remember at the end of this most hectic time of the year there might just be a warm fireplace and a hot mug of spiked eggnog to reward you and your partner. Not so for the peoples of West Papua, former Irian Jaya. Instead, this December and at the time of this writing, the indigenous population of West Papua faces machine guns, war ships, highly armed and dangerous Indonesian militia who would have few if any qualms about hurting a small child. Or his/her parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters. Or entire tribe.

Indeed, almost half of the native peoples of West Papua have already been annihilated, or have simple "disappeared" (remember East Timor?..A.K.A. now in West Papua). A land so diverse it is home to more than 250 hundred different tribes, and more than 250 distinct languages. This is an astonishing fact, given that the island of New Guinea as a whole contains only .01 percent of the world's population, yet contains 15% of the world's recognized languages. West Papuan people and culture have existed on the island for thousands of years.

They were first discovered by the Spanish, and later the Dutch took control of West Papua, or West Irian - as the United Nations 'terms' her. Under Dutch control, the tribal peoples did not suffer too much. Particularly by the Dutch missionaries, who - although hell bent on converting so-called "heathen savage" ways, provide sanctity in terms of missions, et al. It was only when religious settlers, and particularly those of other denominations or affiliations would not leave tribes alone after kindly and repeatedly asked, that they were likely eaten as a side dish to baked yams. Later came the mercenaries, and the Indonesians. Now, West Papua faces war.

Today, almost half of West Papua's indigenous tribal peoples have been killed. Today tribal elders sit in prison cells awaiting sentencing from officers who know exactly where to put the most salt on a wound or pulled tooth so it hurts as much as possible. And you don't even want to know where most of the wounding is strategically applied. In fact, five members of the Independence-oriented Peoples Presidium council now sit in jail, awaiting sentencing and hopefully, release. The detained included "moderate" Presidium leader Theys Hilo Eluey and his son Boy Eluay. One of the members of the leading Indonesian human rights watchdog group, Els Ham, has also been arrested for speaking out after several students, ages beginning at 16, were brutally murdered.

I stress here that it is not necessary the Indonesian government who sanctions such atrocities as shooting at will unarmed and innocent people (for say, taking one's sick wife to the chemist after curfew hours). It is a blindly brutal military regime, led by the Indonesian Defense Minister Muhammad Mahfud. And Sudharto's daughter, who was educated under circumstances of privilege in the United States of America. Ever hear of filial piety– respect for one's parents and elders? Well, Ms. Megwati certainly displays this. Remember the situation in East Timor? West Papua is undergoing it now. The Papuan youth, particularly sixteen and seventeen year olds armed with their family sticks practice filial piety as well.

They remember all too well the stories of their grandfathers and elders who were forced, at gun point, to sign the UN sanctioned referendum, The Act of Free Choice back in 1963. The Papuans refer to this particular document as 'The Act of No Choice'. This all occurred during a time in West Papua's history when gold had since been discovered in her mountains, Indonesia wanted a piece of her, and the United States was scared of Indonesia. So Mr. Bobby Kennedy requested that the Dutch relinquish West Papua, and all will be safe and well.

Not so (well) for the Papuan people. National Geographic once called her 'The Final Frontier'. How right they were. Gold was discovered in her mountains! Every privy western nation wants a piece of her, particularly the U.S. mining conglomerate Freeport McMoran, who has literally shaved off hectares and hectares of pristine mountain and forest ranges. A virtual gold rush! This devistation along with Indonesian policies of transmigration has not only contributed to deforestation of one of the worlds last remaining rainforests. Indonesia has already used up most of her own, and West Papua has vast mineral resources! While some native Papuans believe Freeport and its sister company, British Rio-Tinto, can bring much needed wealth to their nation, most have experienced nothing but hardship, loss of homeland, and even death. When the tribal lands are "needed", the people are! sent to lowland areas where they meet unfamiliar diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. West Papuan tribes in this region, particularly the Amungme tribes, are understandibly angry. They are tired of seeing the bodys of their people wash down a river now laden with toxins and other unwanted materials. Infact, they cannot even grow their ancestral vegetables, because the land is now infertile.

And such is the way with most of the worlds last remaining indigenous peoples. They fight right until the end for the 'basic' right of retaining (some) of their land, their culture, and the basic tenant offreedom. Independence. Or, as the Papuans say, 'Merdeka'.The late anthropologist Margaret Mead called the West Papuan indigenous peoples 'a culture on the very brink of change effervescent'. Indeed, she was and is. Although the atrocities being committed daily in West Papua and a tiny island neighbor called Aceh are being virtually ignored by the world, the people just don't give up. "Shout again for the whole world to hear" states a verse from the national anthem of Papua New Guinea, also shared by West Papua.

And the United nations refuses to grant refugee/asylee status to West Papuans who have managed by the skin of their teeth to make it across the border into PNG. Hardlined administration in Australia and the United States also refuse to budge on their stance. After all, their are just too many people trying to get out of some place somewhere right now.

One People One Soul. West Papua. Definition: Solidarity, courage, preserverance, and a love for ones native ancestral lands so deep one is willing to die in order to see a flag fly high.

Please, dear reader, urge the United Nations to consider the plight of a very important nation, and a very exceptional people(s) and culture(s).

For all of us.
And then, sigh...go struggle to buy your daughter that Diva Barbie she wants so badly this Christmas and have a spiked glass of eggnog. And thank God that she, at least, is warm and safe tonight.

Happy Holidays.
- independent contributer
"i share a vision..."
London, Seattle, Washington, Melbourne, Prague, Nice...

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"States of Unrest" | WB/ IMF - Asia & Pacific | IMF/ WB Struggles | PGA