Michael Pascoe writes:
John Quiggan’s piece in yesterday’s Crikey (item 7) doesn’t go nearly far enough in suggesting the Australian
government’s past misdeeds are catching up with it in the present diplomatic
difficulties of West Papua.
Betrayals never go unpunished somewhere
down the line – and that’s not just in the ALP. The West Papua refugee problem is
the direct result of Australia acting dishonestly back in 1969 when we conspired to go along with Jakarta’s
appropriation of the Dutch colony into a Javanese colony.
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Canberra knew the Indonesian-run West Papuan “vote” in 1969 was a corrupted
farce, but we did the dishonourable thing and approved it. We did the same
thing with East Timor in 1975 – and again that betrayal has been punished.
In 1969 we ditched the Dutch who were
belatedly trying to act a little honourably with one of their colonies. We
happily waved away the people of West Papua into a new colonial empire because standing on principle would have
been “difficult”. Betraying principle eventually becomes more difficult.
The reality is that West Papua has been colonised
with one million Indonesians already under Jakarta’s
transmigration policy and there are more on the way. The 2.5 million Papuans
will eventually be swamped. They already are being economically marginalised.
There is no reason to think the Indonesians
are any better at being an occupying power than the Dutch. And we bear some of
the responsibility for that – it’s not just Rio Tinto that has to examine its
The present small problem with a handful of
refugees is just the start of a larger and ongoing problem. It serves us