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Home » , , » West Papuans fight for their freedom

West Papuans fight for their freedom

Written By Voice Of Baptist Papua on July 18, 2011 | 6:48 AM

by, Liam Ward

"The Australian prime minister, our foreign minister and the Australian government have made it very clear in recent days that Australia recognises Papua as an integral part of Indonesia and we do not support, and will not support, separatism in Indonesia."
- Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, 28 March

In the midst of West Papua's lush rainforest sits the Freeport mine, a huge militarised industrial compound gouged into the earth, surrounded by fences and guarded by the troops of Indonesia's infamous TNI.
The mine produces huge profits for the ruling class, including $1.4m a day for its American owners, and $70m a year for Australian supply companies.
The mine also produces massive environmental destruction. It pumps 200,000 tonnes of toxic tailings into the region's waterways every day. By comparison, the notorious Ok Tedi mine dumped 80,000 tonnes a day.
But the most important thing the mine produces is regular outbursts of rebellion from the West Papuans, who see it as a symbol of all the brutality that Indonesia's occupation has entailed.

Since January, West Papua has been seething. In March, students blocked the road outside the University of Cenderwasih and demanded that the TNI and Indonesian police be withdrawn from West Papua and that Freeport mine be closed.
The Indonesian government responded with a brutal crackdown. After opening fire on the demonstration, paramilitary police guarded hospitals to keep out injured students. Now the government has launched a hunt for protesters who fled.
After years of sending refugees back to war zones, Australia's Immigration Department recently gave Temporary Protection Visas to 42 West Papuans, leading some people to wonder whether the government somehow supports West Papuan independence. Not a chance!
The Australian ruling class has always supported Indonesian domination of West Papua, in the same way that it has supported its domination of East Timor and Aceh. In the fuss surrounding the West Papuan refugees, John Howard and Alexander Downer were falling over themselves to emphasise Australia's commitment to "Indonesian sovereignty."
But West Papua, this "integral part" of Indonesia, was in fact taken by force. The 1969 UN-sponsored referendum on joining Indonesia, the so-called "Act of Free Choice," was an outright sham. Indonesian troops were already in West Papua, and threatened to cut out voters' tongues if they didn't support Indonesia. And the voters themselves were hardly representative. Only 1000 hand-picked people voted, less than 1 per cent of West Papua's population.
The Australian government supports Indonesian domination for several reasons. Clearly, they want no disturbance in the multi-million dollar market for the 740 Australian companies who supply Freeport. But they also have broader interests in a unified Indonesia. Despite their drive to out-compete rivals, a regional power like Australia would much rather deal with other regional powers than with an assortment of independent states. This is particularly the case in relation to Indonesia, where instability could hinder access to vital shipping channels.
Moreover, independence movements anywhere can challenge imperialism everywhere. So for all the rivalry between the ruling classes of Indonesia and Australia, there are interests for the ruling class in general that must come first. Hence Howard's announcement on March 27: "We do not for a moment support West Papuan independence."
Socialists do support West Papuan independence. When one nation is oppressed by another, we support their struggle for self-determination, including the right to secede and form their own state.
Howard might use all this to demonise Indonesia and whip-up another round of anti-Indonesian racism - perhaps that was the rationale behind granting those Temporary Protection Visas. But for those opposed to oppression and imperialism, our focus should stay clear - independence for West Papua.
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