Reply to Cameron on West Papua

On a comment on my last post, Cameron made this suggestion re West Papua, a Melanesian populated territory, currently incorporated into Indonesia.

ACT could show that it is clearly more compassionate than National and Labour on the issue of Papua. National and Labour don’t really care. Only Greens and the Maori Party really seem to care at the moment. This shouldn’t be a ‘left’ or ‘right’ issue, people are dying and NZ could do a good job to lobby Indonesia to allow journalists and aid workers to enter West Papua. They are currently banned.

There are several points here that need clarification. Firstly, Indonesia has been a prime target of the world communist movement since the ’20s. The movement almost succeeded in taking Indonesia in the early ’60s, but was thwarted by the extremely bloody anti communist coup of ’65/66.

Since then, I believe, Indonesia has been the victim of a sustained propaganda campaign by leftists intent on de-stabilising the country and destroying ties to the West.

While the Indonesian military has no doubt committed some atrocities, I take anything coming out of East Timor, Aceh or West Papua with a grain of salt.

Unfortunately Cameron, there is a “left-right” element to these conflicts as the independence movements in all three areas (Fretilin, Free Aceh, OPM) are all either Marxist-Leninist or backed by the international left.

I quote a letter from the latest issue of “The Guardian”, journal of the Communist Party of Australia, from Phyllis Johnson of NSW.

The 1950s Indonesia’s Revolution failed. One of its leaders, Sarjono, the General Secretary of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and others were railroaded by the Indonesian military fascists to the malaria-infested swamps of Tena Mera, on the Dyul River in West Papua.

The one million indigenous people in this West Papuan territory are Melanesians, ruled for many years by the iron fist of the Dutch capitalist class and then from Jakarta.

The history of the working class solidarity by waterfront workers and others for the independence of the people so close to our shores has been well and proudly recorded. I know, because I took part in the boycotts, strikes, picket-lines, public and factory-gate meetings by wharfies, seamen, coalminers, boilermakers and Qantas employees who refused to load munitions as did thousands of Australians in all States and territories for near friends and neighbours.

The 42 West Papuan refugees from Melanesia represent the Papuan Freedom Movement (OPM) which is leading the struggle for independence and self rule in their homeland.

In a solidarity gesture, why not invite a trade unionist or a West Papuan freedom fighter in the spirit of international support now that social change is well on the agenda.


Clearly the OPM cause is a leftist one, Cameron. While the Indonesians are no angels when it comes to dealing with subversives, I for one will not assist a campaign to de-stabilise that country. If I could spend time on the ground in Papua, I might think differently. Then again I might even find my mildly pro Indonesian views strengthened.

The OPM has been persistently accused of kidnappings and summary executions.Why would I want to support a movement that might well be guilty of such crimes?

I think that Indonesia has been demonised by the left, so I would take a lot of convincing to support a communist backed revolutionary movement against that country.

This is no black and white issue, Cameron. I have studied it reasonably well, sorting through the shades of gray as best I can. Currently, I am more supportive of Indonesia than the OPM. I am always open to more evidence, however.

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4 thoughts on “Reply to Cameron on West Papua

  1. You are mistaken Trevor. In the 1950’s Communist China and the USSR strongly supported Sukarno’s claim over Papua. After Suharto came to power and there was the phony “Act of Free Choice” referendum the Communist block, like the Western nations, all voted to approve West Papua’s integration at the UN. This is why in the 1970’s the OPM decided not to seek arms or support from China or the USSR who had sold them out.

    This not even about OPM, who only are believed to number about 100 men currently. Currently there are two men imprisoned for 15 and 10 years respectively for just flying the West Papuan flag. Do you think this is right? There have been military operations killing many civilians in the Highlands over the past few years. Australian human rights activists have found evidence of troops and Muslim fundamentalists crossing the border to harass refugees in PNG.

    The OPM and Papuan tribal councils have recently decided to give up armed struggle and campaign for Papua to be declared “a land of peace”. Despite this Indonesia last year has sent a whole extra batallion of troops to Papua. There is now 1 Indonesian solider for every 21 West Papuans.

    Papuans are no longer demanding immediate independence, or ‘Merdeka’, instead they just want to open up dialogue with the Indonesians to end human rights abuses. They want to be able to have basic freedoms such as the right to fly their flag without being imprisoned or shot, to be able to run things like medical clinics and schools without them being burnt down by Indonesian units etc.

    I’m rather disapointed with your simplistic analysis of just seeing this as a fight between the OPM and the Indonesian state without taking into account all the innocent people who have been caught in between.

    Your comment ‘I take anything coming out of East Timor, Aceh or West Papua with a grain of salt’ would be a bit like a Stalinist circa 1968 saying ‘I’d take anything coming out of Czechoslovakia with a grain of salt’.

  2. Exactly Cameron-when the communists and Sukarno were in the ascendancy in Indonesia of course Russia and China supported their control of Papua. Just as China supports self determination movements when it suits, but not when it concerns Thibet, Taiwan etc.

    Now that the commies no longer dominate Indonesia, the left will support any movement that has a chance of disintegrating the country.

    Maybe I do see things too simplistically Cameron. Maybe you do have a better handle on the situation than me.

    However I have followed the commie “lines’ for 20 years plus and I am not about to support the left against Indonesia without a lot more knowledge than I have now.

  3. Do some reading then. I’d highly recommend the Yale Law school reports on the Application of the Law of Genocide in West Papua that have been written over the past few years.

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