Jul 30, 2014

Old song, a new singer: will Jokowi’s reign bring liberation for West Papua?

Outgoing Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono maintained the status quo with West Papua during his two terms in office, but West Papuans are hoping president-elect Joko Widodo's rule will be different, writes Ron Kareni.

With last week’s release by the Indonesian government of five West Papuan political prisoners and more foreign media shining a light on the deteriorating human rights situation in West Papua, Indonesia is under increasing pressure to open the region to the outside world.


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9 thoughts on “Old song, a new singer: will Jokowi’s reign bring liberation for West Papua?

  1. Rais

    Meanwhile the failed/failing state of Papua New Guinea, the world’s most dangerous place for women and not much safer for men, blunders on. Compared with PNG Indonesian Papua is not so bad.

  2. Brian Williams

    Exactly what I was thinking Rais – while we can all believe in the right of self-determination at a philosophical level, the actuality of the failed state of PNG makes me wonder just how much better off West Papua would be either out on its own, or joined with PNG.

    I am no fan of Indonesia’s imperialistic attitudes, but I’m also a realist.

  3. daeron

    Is an independent West Papua instead of a Indonesian occupied West Papua better for Australia’s national interests? I suggest yes. For Australia on issues of regional security, ecology, and economy an independent West Papua would be a much better neighbour than Indonesia has been for the pass sixty five years.

    Lets not forget that the “Republic of Indonesia” (RI) is not the nation that was formed in 1949, rather the RI was one of fifteen states in the United States of Indonesia but during the next eighteen months Sukarno attacked and subdued the other states into submission. Indonesia then fought other nations to expand its borders in Borneo, New Guinea, and Timor. Indonesia has introduced HIV/AIDS and a number of parasites and exotic animals that have infected the people and animals of New Guinea and threaten Australia. There is little to stop bats, mosquitoes, and other carriers moving between Papua and our mainland. And on the economic front Jakarta prefers to use the vast gold and other revenue from West Papua to employ companies in Jakarta rather than companies in Australia.

    An independent West Papua is likely to be more open to Australian companies bidding on nation building projects, would impose customs control to mitigate further damage to it and thereby our ecology, and would likely agree on a range of mutual defence interests. In short an independent West Papua would likely be less hostile to Australians than an Indonesian controlled Papua.

  4. AR

    As long as that mine at Freeport (sic!)remains majority US owned and Indonesia’s most abundant source of revenue West Papua will remain as it is today.
    When Sukarno et al fought for independence from the Dutch one of the tenets was “ethnic solidarity” – by no stretch of the imagination could West Papuans be considered to have any links, genetic, linguistic or cultural to Indonesians.

  5. daeron

    I don’t think America cares as much about Freeport as you might imagine. For example the US Congress in 2005 approved a Foreign Relations bill telling the Secretary of State to report on condition inside West Papua and on the validity of the Indonesian claims about their ‘act of free choice’; and that was a Republican majority that was content to call the Indonesian and Freeport presence into question. The only reason that bill did not become US law is because Indonesia has a habit of interfering in the affairs of other governments, SBY instantly denounced the bill and said he would have the US Senate reject it. It is only because the Indonesian lobby was allowed to work behind closed doors to make deals with Senators that the bill failed.

    And although the Indonesian Generals were willing to kill to keep their hands on East Timor, at the end of the day too much of the Indonesian economy is now dependant on international trade to endure international sanctions. In the 1960s Indonesia could afford to snub the United Nations but it has a different economy now.

  6. Scott

    Dare I say it, I agree with AR.

    Too much money for Indonesia to ever let it go. The subsidary of Freeport that mines in the area (PT Freeport Indonesia) and which the indonesian government owns 10%, has estimated it has given $15 billion to the Indonesian Government over 21 years, most of it in company tax and royalties which would disappear if Indonesian gave up control of the province.

    And in regards to the future, just in the Freeport mine alone, there is roughly $139 billion dollars of Copper and Gold in proven reserves. Who ever owns that country will get around $19 billion over the life of the mine through export taxes and royalties…big dollars.

  7. daeron

    Scott, I think your logic on this is flawed. By your logic Indonesia will never leave East Timor and its oil. And the Indonesian military will never leave East Timor.

  8. Malcolm Street

    Quick, find oil in West Papua! Then we’ll back independence.

  9. daeron

    Malcolm, your wish is granted. Our oil friends at BP have been looting West Papua’s LNG for sale to California but now for sale to China. Like the rest of the Australian continent West Papua has a variety of resources.

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