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Posts Tagged ‘West Papua’

Thanks from West Papau!

Friday, October 19th, 2007

We just received a belated thank you from the Free West Papua Campaign for our coverage of The Pacific Youth Festival in Tahiti last year, so thought we’d pass it on!

Pacific Youth Festival logo

Dear brothers and sisters in the Pacific!

Warm greetings from West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda and all of us here in the Free West Papua Campaign, Oxford, UK!

Sorry we’re over a year late (!), but we just found your report about the Pacific Youth Festival in Tahiti (2006). We really want to thank you from our hearts for the strong expressions of support which came from the Festival for the cause of West Papuan Freedom. Benny Wenda and all of us here in the UK would be really grateful if there’s some way you can pass on our sincere thanks to all our Pacific brothers and sisters in your group.

Below is an extract from the report on your website which we have just distributed amongst international Free West Papua activists. It’s especially shocking for us to see that delegates from Papua New Guinea were expressly told by their government not to mention West Papua.

Please keep up your support for Free West Papua. Tragically, the situation now is if anything worse than a year ago, with increased levels of violence and terror against West Papuans from the Indonesian military, police and militias… and under heavy Australian pressure, the recent Pacific Islands Forum communique almost completely silent about West Papua.

(But as US campaigning journalist Amy Goodman says “Go to where the SILENCE is… and say something!”)

And please pass on our web address and my email address for anyone who’d like to get in touch with us… and join the West Papuan independence movement!


Richard Samuelson
Free West Papua Campaign, Oxford, UK

To see the Just Focus article they posted out to their networks, click here.

Eco-prisoners: From the US to the Pacific

Friday, May 18th, 2007

By Cameron Walker
WaterworldMany of the world’s environmental problems have been caused by multinational corporations and states in their constant drive for profit and control of humanity. Across the globe there have been many brave acts of resistance against those exploiting both humanity and the environment. Unfortunately as global awareness of environmental issues increases so does repression of those brave enough to stand up.
Jeff free’ Luers, currently serving a 22 year 8 month sentence in Oregon, USA, is one of these eco-prisoners. On June 26th 2000 he decided to take part in “an act of resistance designated to raise awareness and draw attention to a problem that affects every human being, every animal, every plant, and every form of life on this planet. I am speaking of global warming air, soil and water pollution” 1

SUVs SUVs SUVsLuers torched three SUVs at a Chevrolet dealership. The damage to the SUVs was so slight that they were later repaired and sold. Luers’ harsh sentence was entirely political. His support website has a large list comparing his sentence with those handed down to people convicted of shocking crimes, such as murder and rape. One man, who had previously served time for murder, was convicted, of raping several young girls and sentenced to 13 years prison by Karen Tracey, the same prosecutor in Luers’ case. On the 14th of February 2007 the Oregon Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Jeff Luers will be remanded back to court for resentencing. Hopefully his sentence will be shortened. To keep informed about this see Jeff Luers’ website below.
Since the election of the Bush Administration there has been growing repression of radical ecological and animal rights activists. In 2002 the FBI declared the Earth Liberation Front’ (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front’ (ALF) the nation’s biggest domestic terror threats, despite the fact that they’ve never hurt people. Many activists have been arrested and imprisoned for frivolous reasons, in what is being described as the green scare’.
Grasberg MineAcross the majority world large numbers of people have been imprisoned for daring to stand up to multinationals destroying the environment. In West Papua, which has been the scene of violent Indonesian Military operations since 1962, there has been large scale repression against students protesting the operations of US mining company Freeport McMoRan. Every day Freeport’s Grasberg copper and gold mine dumps 700,000 tonnes of mining waste into Papua’s rivers. According to the New York Times this has destroyed nearly 90 square miles of wetlands, which were once ‘one of richest freshwater habitats in the World’. This has angered many indigenous West Papuans, so Freeport pays the Indonesian Military to provide security. The Military has murdered many mining opponents.
West PapuaOn March 16th 2006 university students set up blockades in Papua’s capital, Jayapura, demanding the closure of the Freeport mine. The Military and Brimob (paramilitary police) violently attacked the demonstrators, leading to clashes in which three policemen and one soldier died. Brimob entered the university arresting scores of students, who were then beaten, tortured and forced to admit to taking part in the killings. Students’ families were also targeted. One student, who has since fled to Papua New Guinea, told an Australian human rights activist “After the March 16 clashes Intel [Brimob] arrested my mother, then took her from the house to the university. They wanted to kill her in front of the university but she was struggling and shouting hard, and so they took her to POLDA [Police Station] and tortured her, burned her with cigarettes and beat her up for three days at the gaol”.2 Some of the students have since been given lengthy prison terms, even though no evidence to suggest they took part in the killings was produced. Hundreds are still in hiding.
The New Zealand Government have been accused of not doing enough to expose the crisis in West Papua and could be seen as complicit in the destruction of West Papua. The NZ Super Fund invests taxpayer money in Freeport McMoRan. On May 14th 2007 an Indonesian Military officer started a 7 month NZ Defence Force Command Staff course at Trentham Army Camp, near Wellington. During the occupation of East Timor, Indonesian soldiers used to learn counter-insurgency’ skills from the NZ Defence Force. Human rights activists have called for NZ not to repeat the mistakes of the past by cutting all NZ military ties with Indonesia.
As young people we need to ask ourselves do we aspire to join the big corporations and governments destroying our world or will we stand in solidarity with Jeff Luers, the Papuan students and all those bravely resisting the destruction of our planet?
Take Action

Free Jeff Luers

Write a letter of support to Jeff in prison:
Jeffrey Luers, #13797671
Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP)
2605 State Street
Salem, OR 97310

Join his support campaign’s email list to receive updates about the case, writings from Jeff and ideas to support. Sometimes the campaign does a shout out for supporters to do little things, like buy Jeff a book. If you have spare money you can always donate to his legal fees fund.
Freeport and West Papua

Get in contact with one of the group’s protesting against the NZ Super Fund’s unethical investments.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee in Auckland has been campaigning for the NZ Super Fund to dump all its Freeport shares. Check out the IHRC Press Release.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of Auckland held a demonstration in March against the Super Fund’s investments in arms companies and Freeport. See the report.

Get in contact with Students For Justice in Palestine

Write a letter to the NZ Super Fund calling for it to dump Freeport McMoRan:
NZ Super Fund
P O Box 106607
Auckland 1143
New Zealand

Join the campaign to cut all NZ military ties with Indonesia.

Contact Indonesia Human Rights Committee in Auckland. Peace Action Wellington have also called for NZ Military ties with Indonesia to be cut.
Learn More
Report - Protest and punishment: political prisoners in Papua, Human Rights Watch, February 2007
Protest Punishment

Image of Grasburg Mine from Canada’s West Papua Action Network

Profile of a pacific political prisoner

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

Cameron Walker

Imagine being thrown in a filthy prison, where your cell mates mysteriously disappear’ overnight, just for waving your country’s flag. For many years this was a reality for my West Papuan friend Fransiskus Kandam.

To understand Fransiskus’ intriguing story it helps to know a little bit about the tragic story of his homeland, West Papua.

West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea (Papua New Guinea is the eastern half). The Dutch formally colonised West Papua in the nineteenth century. In the early 1960s they decided it was time for Papua to become an independent country, free to rule itself.

But in 1962, the Indonesian military invaded West Papua, seeking to claim it as part of Indonesia. The United Nations said Indonesia had to hold a vote to see if the Papuan people wanted to join Indonesia or become independent. West Papuans who supported independence were ruthlessly repressed by the Indonesian military. For example, in the village of Ifar Besar, 300 Papuan independence supporters were murdered. Papuans complained to UN officials, journalists and diplomats about how the military was treating them. An armed resistance movement, known as the OPM (Free Papua Organisation) was set up.

Most Papuan people wanted independence so the Indonesian military rigged the vote to ensure Papua became Indonesian. Just 1025 Papuan tribal leaders were picked out of a population of 1.5 million to vote — at gunpoint — on whether to join Indonesia or become independent. Not surprisingly they all voted in Indonesia’s favour. Since then, human rights groups estimate that at least 100,000 Papuans have been killed by the Indonesian military. Serious human rights abuses, such as murder, beatings, torture and rape, occur on a near daily basis.

West Papua’s vast natural resources, such as gold, copper and timber have been ruthlessly exploited by multinational corporations, such as the American mining giant Freeport, without any regard for the environment or the people whose villages have been displaced as a result of these activities. The corporations pay protection money’ to the Indonesian military to keep angry locals away from their operations.

Growing Up In Occupied Territory
When Fransiskus was growing up, his parents didn’t tell him about the Indonesian military or Papua’s history. “It was a forbidden issue” he says. His parents were scared that if he knew the truth he would join the resistance and put himself in danger. Once he started university, Fransiskus found out about what the Indonesian military was doing to his homeland. Without informing his parents, he started taking part in opposing the Indonesian military by raising awareness about human rights and environmental issues.

On December 1, 1989, a day Papuans mark as their unofficial independence day, he attended a celebration with 10,000 others, where a Papuan flag was illegally raised. Thirteen days later he was arrested and declared a subversive’. He was placed in a prison in Java Indonesia, along with other Papuan students and political prisoners from East Timor, which at that stage was also brutally occupied by the Indonesian military. Conditions in the prison were very bad. Papuan prisoners would disappear as often as the prison guards changed. Their families would never see them again.

Standing Up For Human Rights
Following his release from prison in 1997, Fransiskus continued to raise awareness around human rights and environmental issues as he did before his arrest. In 2001 Fransiskus and a friend were going to travel to Oxford University in Britain to study human rights. As they were about to leave his friend accidentally left some articles about West Papua in the back of a taxi. The taxi driver told the authorities and they were thrown in prison for five months without charge.

Indonesia’s government was using the post-9/11 climate as an excuse to label West Papuan human rights campaigners as terrorists’. With legal aid from a friend he sought political asylum in Australia and has since been granted permanent residence. In his new home of Adelaide he has joined up with other human rights activists to campaign for the rights of his people.

One day he dreams his homeland will finally be free.
This article was written as part of the Global Focus a collaborative project of Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.

The West Papuan Tragedy

Monday, August 1st, 2005

By Cameron Walker

In 1999 many New Zealanders felt disgusted as they watched news coverage of Indonesian soldiers and militia men brutally massacring East Timorese civilians as they attempted to vote in a referendum on independence.

The Colonial History of West Papua
Today a very similar situation is occurring in the Indonesian territory of West Papua. West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea. When the Dutch granted independence to Indonesia in 1949 they kept West Papua (as a colony to be granted independence at a later date) because the Papuan people were ethnically and linguistically different from the people of Indonesia. The Papuans are a Melanesian people, not Asian, and had expressed overwhelming opposition to becoming part of Indonesia. The Indonesian government wanted control of West Papua because it had an abundance of natural resources such as gold, copper, oil and timber.

West Papua’s Independence - and Invasion
On December 1, 1961 the Dutch formally ceded independence to West Papua. The Morning Star was to be the flag of the new nation. However, independence proved to be short lived as the following year Indonesia invaded West Papua. The United Nations intervened and promised Papuans a referendum on independence. This referendum, ironically termed the Act of Free Choice’ by the Indonesians, was not fair or democratic. The Indonesian military hand picked 1025 Papuan leaders, at gun point, who voted unanimously to join Indonesia. At the same time the UN mission received 179 petitions from Papuans calling for their nation to be freed and complaining of military repression, detention of political prisoners and other abuses by the Indonesian military.
papua sign
The Indonesian dictator Suharto then embarked on a campaign to Indonesianise’ West Papua and wipe out the native people’s culture. West Papua was renamed Irian Jaya and the people were banned from raising their flag. Thousands of trans-migrants arrived from Indonesia, and Papua’s natural resources were sold off to multinational corporations such as Shell and Freeport Mining.

Impact of “Indonesianising” policies on West Papua
These policies were enforced with brutality by the Indonesian Military. Officially 100,000 Papuans have been killed by the Indonesian military since the start of the Indonesian occupation. Some believe the number may even be as high as 800,000.

The Indonesian occupation has left the majority of Papuans destitute. According to the Governor of Papua, 74% of Papuans live in poverty. UNICEF estimates that Papua’s infant mortality rate is 117 per 1000, among the worst in the world. Multinational corporations take $500 million out of West Papua every year and Papuans have been made second class citizens to Indonesian trans-migrants and Western contractors.

The Indonesian military continues to abuse the people of Papua. In November 2001 they killed the pro-independence community leader Theys Eluay. In 2003 Indonesia’s Special Forces, Kopassus, launched a widespread military operation in the Central Highland town of Wamena. Around 1000 people were forced to flee from their homes and then could not access food or shelter. At least 16 villagers were killed by either the Indonesian military, starvation or exposure. One man, Yapenas Murib, died while under military arrest after being chained to a truck, by his neck, and dragged along the road.

Involvement of Multinational Corporations in West Papua
For many years some of the Western based multinational corporations operating in Papua have paid the Indonesian military to protect their installations. In 2003 the chief of the Indonesian military, General Sutarto admitted that 600 troops stationed near Freeport’s mine received direct allowances’ from the U.S. based company. In the late 1970’s a group of irate Papuans cut Freeport’s copper slurry pipe. In response, the Indonesian military cluster bombed villages, burned down churches, shot men, women and children and disemboweled their bodies. Pregnant women were pierced and torn open by soldier’s bayonets. Their unborn babies were then cut into halves.

Indonesian Militias in West Papua
In 2003 the infamous Indonesian militia leader, Eurico Guterres, set up a militia group in Papua. Guterres has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his part in the 1999 militia campaign of terror in East Timor which left 1000 people dead. The Indonesian government has allowed Guterres to set up the militia as he awaits for his trial to be appealed. According to the human rights organization Elsham, Kopassus has built special training camps for the Muslim fundamentalist group Laskar Jihad. The Indonesian military used these exact same tactics in East Timor, where they trained and armed militias to terrorise the local people into submission.

Between August and November 2004, gunmen launched a series of attacks on villages in the Puncak Jaya regency which killed eight people, including a policeman and Church Minister. Fearing further attacks, 5000 people from 27 villages in the area then fled into the forests. As a result of this, another 15 people (mainly children) died of exposure.

New Zealand’s relationship to West Papua
For 24 long years New Zealand ignored the people of East Timor as they were being brutalized by the Indonesian military. New Zealand cannot ignore the human rights tragedy which is unfolding in West Papua, right on our doorstep in the Pacific.


  • 74% of Papuans live in Isolation and Poverty’(19 August 2004), Jakarta Post
  • Papua human rights probe mooted’ Australian Associated Press -November 23, 2004 Australian Associated Press
  • Militias Active in West Papua’ (March 2004) New Internationalist, volume 365, p8
  • Kingsnorth, Paul (2003) One No Many Yeses, A Journey to The Heart Of the Global Resistance Movement, London, Free Press
  • Osborne, Robin (1985) Indonesia’s Secret War, The Guerilla Struggle in Irian Jaya, Sydney, Allen and Uwin Australia
  • Ongoing Repression’, (Autumn 2003), Suara Demokrasi, p3
  • Justice Elusive’, (Autumn 2003), Suara Demokrasi, p4
  • Brundige, Elizabeth; King, Winter; Vahali, Priyneha; Vladeck, Stephen & Yuan, Xiang, (November 2003), Indonesian Human Rightds Abuses in West Papua: Application of the Law of Genocide to the History of Indonesian Control, Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic Yale Law School