West Papua: Independence Movement Spreads More False Claims

Map showing the location of the Nduga Regency in Papua.

West Papua: Independence Movement Spreads More False Claims

26-04-2019 – When a political movement distributes distorted facts and false claims, its legitimacy is necessarily brought into question. In the case of the independence movement in West Papua, this is a shame, for there may be a genuine case for the achievement of independence, which could potentially resolve historic injustices. Yet today, the current leadership of the West Papuan independence movement appears to have few qualms in using unverified reports, false claims and the backing of compromised allies to push their cause.

“Front Line Defenders”: the Empire’s press agents

The “Front Line Defenders” are a classic example of a corporate funded NGO, with practices not at all in consonance with their claimed raison d’etre. It is claimed that a team from Front Line Defenders visited West Papua, which went on to claim that around 32 000 people have been displaced by Indonesian military operations in the Nduga area.[1] The Free West Papua web site also claimed that bombs had been dropped and hospitals had been torched. However, the Front Line Defenders website does not mention West Papua, and details are hard to come by elsewhere.

What can be garnered from the Front Line Defenders website is that its board of directors are replete with CEOs and wealthy stock market brokers.[2] Quite obviously not short of a quid, one wonders what they might have in common with impoverished West Papuans. Moreover, their campaigns are transparently part of the imperialist human rights racket – where “human rights” are only a concern in countries which are targeted by the US Empire for regime change, or at the very least, politico-military-diplomatic intrigue with the aim of destablisation. Hence, Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran and even Indonesia are subjected to the corporate backed Front Line Defenders’ hackneyed claims of “human rights abuse”. Needless to say, the US Empire is never accosted for the same treatment.

For its part, the Indonesian military rubbishes the claims of 32 000 people being displaced in the Nduga region. Colonel Mohammed Aidi stated that there is no population data available for Nduga, implying that the numbers of claimed displaced people are impossible to verify.[3] The armed West Papuan groups claimed that the Indonesian military had damaged 34 schools, which the military denies. Colonel Aidi did state that six soldiers had perished in gun battles which were instigated by the armed Papuans. Further, the armed Papuan groups claim that bombs had been dropped from helicopters.

Who can be believed in this situation of claim and counter-claim? Going by previous history, it is more likely that the Indonesian military version is closer to the truth. This does not imply the slightest political support. Yet if recent events are anything to go by, it is likely that the claims by the armed Papuan groups are falsifications. In December last year, armed Papuan fighters slaughtered 31 Indonesian road workers who were constructing the Trans-Papua highway. Understandably, there was a military response to this. But then the armed Papuan groups enlisted corporate journalists to make the completely unfounded claim that the Indonesian military had used white phosphorus munitions against them.[4] Given that at least one of the journalists assisted the US Empire in its war for regime change against Syria, and where there are credible reports of the US military itself using white phosphorus against civilians in Syria[5], it is reasonable to assume that, once again, the armed Papuan groups and their supporters are making fabricated claims.

Some left parties fall over themselves to endorse the West Papuan independence movement, without pausing for a moment to check on its bona fides. The Socialist Alliance is just one of them, and they repeated the unverifiable claims of the “Front Line Defenders” in its newspaper Green Left Weekly.[6] They reprinted the claims direct from the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), who likewise reprinted the allegations which were seemingly made verbally by the “Front Line Defenders”.[7]  The point needs to be made, though, that an independence movement which relies on “NGOs” which overtly or covertly work in the interests of imperialism, especially its mendacious “human rights” arm, is one which is on shaky political ground.

Benny Wenda: fighter or fugitive?

The chairperson of the ULMWP, and de facto leader of the West Papuan independence movement, is Benny Wenda. Mr Wenda no longer lives in West Papua – he lives in Oxford in the United Kingdom (UK), where he has been made a citizen. Supporters retail stories that Mr Wenda is living in a forced exile for his peaceful political activities, and cannot return to his homeland. The truth is somewhat at variance with this classical tale of an exiled activist. On December 7 in 2000, Benny Wenda apparently incited a group of around 50 people to attack a police station at Abepura, alongside two shops, which were torched. In the attack, a police officer was killed, and a security guard from the adjoining shopping complex was found dead.[8] While on trial for this, Mr Wenda escaped across the border to Papua New Guinea, and then fled to the UK.

The Indonesian government, somewhat understandably chasing someone wanted for the slaying of a police officer and potentially another person, attempted to have an INTERPOL red notice applied to Benny Wenda. INTERPOL red notices are usually applied by the 200 odd member countries, who agree to extradite the wanted person. Within 12 months, however, the INTERPOL red notice against Mr Wenda was lifted.[9] In short, it is not that Benny Wenda cannot return to the West Papuan provinces of Indonesia, out of fear that the Indonesian authorities will not allow him political liberties.  It is more that he is a fugitive, who has fled the country in order to avoid standing trial for murder. This fact is unknown to many West Papuan independence supporters, or swept under the carpet by those supporters who are aware.

While in the UK, Mr Wenda has used its protection to garner international support for the cause of West Papuan independence. Nothing wrong with this, one might object. Except, Mr Wenda is enlisting the highest political offices of capital to do so. He founded the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, which was initiated in the Houses of the British Parliament, and was also set up in the European Parliament in Brussels.[10] That is, the leader of the West Papuan independence movement is already subordinating the politics of the movement he leads to the class interests of British and European imperialism. Again, without endorsing Indonesian administration of the West Papuan provinces, if independence was achieved with the European ruling classes as sponsors, it may end up being worse than Indonesian rule. For whatever its faults, the Republic of Indonesia is not imperialist.

Genocide in West Papua ?

Genocide is one of the most emotive laden terms in the English language. By its nature the elimination of a people or nation, in whole or in part, invokes virtually universal condemnation. Estimates of the number of Papuans who have needlessly lost their lives at the hands of Indonesian armed forces vary widely, from an alleged 100 000 to possibly 500 000 since the 1950s. Again, these numbers are difficult to verify. However, West Papuan independence supporters today often claim that Papuans are suffering an ongoing genocide, which continues to this day. This implies that the Indonesian military is systematically mowing Papuans down with sub-machine guns, or engaging in regular massacres of Papuans going about their daily lives. In this sense, this is patently untrue, and this is not the situation in West Papua today.

What Papuans are referring to as “genocide” has much more to do with the significant transmigration of Indonesians into West Papua from Java, Bali, Sulawesi, Madura and other highly populated islands. With Indonesia’s population topping 200 million, one could say there is significant overpopulation on the main islands, and thus some form of transmigration program was necessary. One could argue that the transmigration program has become too extensive. In 1971, the non-Papuan population of West Papua stood at only 4%, but had reached 50% by 2004. Now, it is reported to be 51% non-Papuan and 49% Papuan.[11] Some Papuans fear they will thus be displaced over time, becoming a small minority in their own land.

Some West Papuans thus interpret their situation much more as a cultural “genocide”, as opposed to one which involves unchecked military force. To some extent, West Papuans can claim that a certain marginalisation of them is occurring, at their expense, and to the benefit of the Indonesian transmigrants. For example, employment for Papuans is reportedly difficult to come by, especially if they have been dislocated from their traditional means of living, sometimes as subsistence farmers.[12] However, there are many reasons for this, and this may not be intentional on the part of the Indonesian government. Much of the urban and city commercial activity has been run by Indonesians who have settled there. They have higher education and business experience, whereas the indigenous Papuans, who inhabit mostly the highland areas of Papua, generally have not had contact with this type of work. Perhaps understandably as a result, Indonesian run business and government sectors prefer those who are already trained for this type of activity. However, conscious exclusion of Papuans from employment is difficult to prove.

What is more, the development which the Indonesian government is constructing in West Papua does benefit Papuans along with the Indonesian transmigrants. Some Papuans view this development as benefitting ONLY Indonesian transmigrants. Yet it would be difficult to deny, for example, that the Trans-Papua highway will not assist the economic development of West Papua. In addition, while the delivery of education to all areas of Papua remains a challenge, especially in the remote highlands, primary, secondary and tertiary education is provided at little cost to students.[13] Further, Indonesia has recently rolled out a system of health insurance which reportedly “dwarfs Obamacare”.[14] While complete funding for this healthcare system remains patchy, it is also in place in West Papua.

“Leninist” Self-Determination

The most articulate, yet still mistaken, “Marxist” case for the independence of West Papua is put forward by the Spartacist League (SL). The SL call for the independence of West Papua while giving no political support to bourgeois nationalist forces – but then proceed to do precisely that.[15] SL is apparently unaware of the fugitive status of Benny Wenda, referring to him as an “exiled independence leader”, as do all bourgeois – and petty bourgeois – nationalists. In addition, they state that “West Papua is a cause celebre for bourgeois liberals, including the capitalist Greens in this country.”[16]  But isn’t there something strange about “Leninists” saluting the flag alongside bourgeois liberals?

In reality, Lenin and the Bolsheviks in their time did not automatically politically advocate every single movement for self-determination or for independence generally. They analysed the concrete circumstances of each situation, and then ONLY backed self-determination if it advanced the struggle of the working class for socialism in that nation and internationally. Lenin and the Bolsheviks would have scoffed at very suggestion of backing a petty-bourgeois or bourgeois nationalist struggle which had no connection – and even worked against – the achievement of socialism.

Like it or not, the character of the political leadership of the West Papuan independence movement today is light years away from socialism. Not only does the leadership put forward factual distortions and falsifications, the armed wing provokes the Indonesian authorities by slaughtering their personnel. When the Indonesian armed forces naturally respond to such an attack, they cry out and run to the Western corporate press. They enjoy the benefits of economic development (roads, education, healthcare) which Indonesia brings, and which is available for all Papuans, and then claim discrimination.

It would be a different matter if the West Papuan independence leadership proclaimed: we fight for West Papuan independence as part of our struggle for socialism and greater equality throughout Indonesia and the Asia-Pacific, and we are willing to stand with working people in our country and internationally against the perils of capitalism across the globe. Even something leaning in a left-wing direction could be the basis for a reassessment. Until and unless such a moment arrives, workers should leave the advocacy of West Papuan independence to the drawing room conversations of the chattering classes.

WORKERS   LEAGUE

http://www.redfireonline.com
E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

[1] https://www.freewestpapua.org/2019/04/01/human-rights-investigators-bombs-dropped-hospitals-torched-and-thousands-displaced-in-nduga/ (22-04-2019)

[2] https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/board-directors (22-04-2019)

[3] https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/386236/32-000-people-flee-violence-in-papua-rights-group (23-04-2019)

[4] https://redfireonline.com/2018/12/30/west-papua-corporate-media-enlisted-to-spread-false-claims-fake-news/ (23-04-2019)

[5] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-using-banned-white-phosphorous-syria-says-moscow (23-04-2019)

[6] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/west-papua-destruction-and-displacement-nduga (23-04-2019)

[7] https://www.ulmwp.org/human-rights-investigation-ndgua (23-04-2019)

[8] https://web.archive.org/web/20141215023432/http:/www.thejakartapost.com/news/2002/10/31/papuan-separatist-leader-breaks-out-jail.html (23-04-2019)

[9] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/9458223/Benny-Wenda-removed-from-Interpol-wanted-list.html (23-04-2019)

[10] https://www.ipwp.org/background/ (23-04-2019)

[11] http://www.7dayadventurer.com/2016/02/25/transmigration-to-irian-jayapapua-melanesian-marginalisation/ (25-04-2019)

[12] https://awasmifee.potager.org/?page_id=71 (25-04-2019)

[13] https://freewestpapua-indonesia.com/Freewestpapua/free-west-papua-afirmasi-pendidikan-tinggi-bagi-putra-putri-asli-papua?lang=gb (25-04-2019)

[14] https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2142640/indonesias-health-scheme-dwarfs-obamacare-there-problem (25-04-2019)

[15] https://www.icl-fi.org/english/asp/236/papua.html (26-04-2019)

[16] Ibid, 15.

Algeria: US Foments Destabilisation in Africa

Algeria: US Foments Destabilisation in Africa

17-04-2019 – Algeria was one of the foremost countries of the wave of anti-colonialist liberation struggles which followed the Second World War, winning its independence from France in 1962. Today, there are both hidden and barely hidden attempts to bring Algeria back within the vice-like grip of Western imperialism. The US Empire, desperate after being defeated in Syria, and following ham-fisted failed attempts at regime change in Venezuela, is responding by doubling their bets. Anywhere they can see even half a chance at fostering and fomenting internal regime change where an independent country exists, Wall Street in all probability has contingency plans ready to roll.

To the uninitiated, waves of protest in Algeria calling on an octogenarian leader to refrain from running in the Presidential election for a fifth time appear to be self-justified. Yet in Africa, and politics in general in 2019, things are not at all what they seem. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a joint press conference with Algerian Deputy Prime Minister Ramtane Lamamra last month. Lavrov pointedly warned of external interference and destabilisation in Algeria.[1] This was a veiled reference to the US state department, delivered with trademark Lavrov diplomacy. Russia and Algeria have been strong allies since the time of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and Algeria also signed a Strategic Partnership agreement with Russia in April 2001.[2] More recently, in 2014 Algeria rejected a US demand to set up a military base on their soil.[3] Since then, Algeria has been one of the very few Arab countries to vigorously defend the Syrian Arab Republic against the US/Israeli/Saudi backed jihadist death squads which besieged them, as Algeria itself is susceptible to similar attacks,[4] some as spillover from the NATO destruction of Green Libya in 2011.

Algeria tilts towards Russia, against NATO

Given the aftermath of NATO’s annihilation of Libya, in cahoots with Al Qaeda linked death squads they armed, Algeria has found it necessary to align itself with the Russia/Syria/Anti-NATO bloc. This is the real reason for the current round of staged protests calling for “regime change” in Algeria. There are always some domestic pro-US layers of society in all countries, from liberal students to agents of small or large business classes. In this case, such elements are betraying Algeria’s independence under a grossly distorted banner of “freedom and democracy”. To be sure, working people in Algeria have no stake per se in the capitalist system operated by the Algerian political leaders. However, allowing Algeria to be fully open to US/NATO plunder via US backed regime change would be consonant with a return to occupation by French imperialism, i.e. it would return Algeria to a situation before its independence in 1962. To that extent, workers in Algeria and internationally need to militarily side with Algeria/Russia/Syria against the US Empire, while retaining their own organisational and political independence.

Russia, in the form of the then USSR, has backed Algerian independence since the first hours of its declaration in 1962. Yet today the alliance between Algeria and Russia to a large extent hinges on Algeria’s backing of Russia’s actions in Syria, where it is still combatting the residues of the unhinged US backed ISIS death squads. Russia also appreciates the Algerian government’s role in what they term the “pacification” of Libya and Mali.[5] That is, Algeria taking measures to prevent the further spread of the remnants of the Al Qaeda elements used by Washington to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. These actions by Algeria are in the interests of working people across North Africa despite the politics of the Algerian government.

Further, it is not just in a tactical security bloc against US backed jihadism in North Africa where Algerian-Russian co-operation is apparent. Energy supplies are vital also. Algeria and Russia are top gas exporters, with Algeria producing 130 billion cubic metres of gas annually. 14% of this amount is exported to Europe.[6] Russian gas exports to Europe are also extensive, so co-operation with Algeria in this sphere is mutually beneficial. Washington, of course, views such trade and co-operation with Europe as an obstruction, and political impertinence – despite the US not being able to supply gas itself.

Algeria signs onto the New Silk Road

As if to further underscore declining US economic power across the globe, in 2018 Algeria became one of the 90 countries to have signed onto Red China’s One Belt One Road (also known as the New Silk Road or the Belt and Road Initiative – BRI). Algeria signed onto the BRI in Beijing itself, while attending the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.[7] Under the BRI, China’s booming socialist economy commits billions of dollars to infrastructure development in countries along the old Silk Road. Algeria will be a part of the Maritime Silk Road, which connects China, Europe, India, East Africa and the Red Sea states. Washington is furious at this, but is unable to prevent it. What is more, the People’s Republic of China has remained Algeria’s largest trading partner since 2013. 2017 figures have China accounting for $8.3 billion of Algeria’s $45.95 billion worth of imports.[8]

The People’s Republic of China (PRC), like the USSR at that time (and now Russia), has extensive ties with Algeria due to its assistance for its struggle for national liberation. This is not lost on the current Algerian leadership, regardless of their politics. As Guy Burton wrote:

“China’s connections to Algeria go back even further. In 1958 China was the first non-Arab country to recognize the National Liberation Front and provide it with arms and funds in its struggle for independence. Following independence in 1962, China provided soft loans and other forms of assistance, including medical missions to the new government. When China eventually joined the UN in 1971, Algeria was one of the co-sponsors that proposed the resolution. Today, Algeria has one of the largest Chinese communities in Africa and the Middle East, at around 70,000.”[9]

Such ties, forged in bonds against colonialist and imperialist struggle decades ago, are not easily forgotten. The US can fume as much as it likes, but it cannot match anything like the camaraderie and mutual backing offered by both China and Russia – in political and economic terms. The economic crisis of the capitalist US economy, however, drives it further and further into reckless military adventures, and/or, constant preparation for them. This is why Africa today is subjected to US military intervention, the arming and funding of proxy jihadist death squads, and constant backing for compromised opposition groups within African states. The aim is chaos, destabilisation and disruption, and even open war, in order to undermine friendly relations with Russia and China. Washington will consider using any means, from using its own troops, to arming and funding Al Qaeda linked barbarians, to covert or overt backing of internal regime change “revolutions” – such as the one in Algeria today.

AFRICOM – footprint of the US Empire

AFRICOM (Africa Command) was established in 2007 as a counterpart to the US Empire’s CENTCOM (Central Command) and SOUTHCOM (Southern Command). It currently shares its headquarters with EUCOM (European Command) in Stuttgart, Germany. Some US Senators have recently openly questioned why, after 10 years of “operations”, the US does not have its AFRICOM headquarters stationed in Africa.[10] It takes some galling arrogance, even from the standards of US imperialism, to assume that they have a right to permanent bases in countries overseas, and base entire military commands based on sections of the globe. Yet this is the reality of Africa today.

Even some US citizens were surprised to learn, after US troops were ambushed in Niger in October 2017, that US troops are crawling over many countries in Africa.[11] The reaction was one of “what are they doing there?”. To put it bluntly, they are there as an imperial occupying force – albeit one that is not advertised as such. There is some evidence that the main task of US troops across Africa is the fostering and fomenting of coups against African countries which demonstrate even half a shred of independence from the US behemoth. Today Algeria and Sudan, tomorrow Cameroon and Nigeria, and on and on it goes.

Many African countries have baulked at allowing a permanent US military base to be set up on their soil. One of the core responsibilities of AFRICOM is supposedly “stability operations” – but what is meant by this is clearly demonstrated in Algeria and Sudan in recent times. That is, not stability, but thinly veiled destabilisation, to bring down any government or any ruler not willing to play by the rules of Washington. To facilitate this, the Pentagon operates what are euphemistically termed “Cooperative Security Locations” or “Lily Pads”. Lily Pads are weapons and vehicle depots which include airfields for military aircraft as well as drones. Lily Pads have been constructed in Algeria (despite its refusal to host a US base), Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cabo Verde, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo.[12] It doesn’t take too much understanding of geopolitics to realise that this is an imperial occupation, which can only serve Washington to the detriment of hundreds of millions of Africans.

Left parties toe Washington’s line

Seemingly oblivious to the US Empire’s troops across Africa, or perhaps because of it, some Australian left parties have been eager to put their hands up to man the megaphone for the US state department. First cab off the rank was the Socialist Alliance (SA), as an extension of its role of propagandist for US led regime change war against Syria. In Syria, SA pumped for US/Saudi/Israeli armed jihadists who were leading a mythical “revolution”, alongside secular forces which did not exist. Similarly in Algeria, SA falls for a corresponding assortment. Sam Wainwright in SA newspaper Green Left Weekly claims that the Algerian opposition marches have “included Islamists, people with a democratic secular outlook, the Kabylie independence movement (a Berber speaking part of the country) and the Algerian Socialist Workers Party (PST).”[13]

For a start, the PST is linked to the French NPA (New Anti-Capitalist Party). The NPA was notorious for calling on French imperialism to arm jihadist death squads to effect regime change in Libya and Syria. French imperialism certainly did this, and parties such as the NPA in France and SA in Australia, cheered on these atrociously dirty wars – arguably the dirtiest in history. Islamists were at the heart of the “uprisings” in Libya and Syria, and SA again hails their participation in regime change operations in Algeria. Some Berber independence groups also backed US led regime change in Syria, and “democratic and secular” opposition to the Syrian government was a fantasy.

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and its “World Socialist Web Site” (WSWS), to their credit, did not back US led regime change in Syria. However, in Algeria they switch sides and fall into line with Washington. The SEP loudly criticised parties such as SA for spruiking for US led regime change in Syria. Yet they don’t notice the irony of adopting the same position – regime change backed by imperialist powers – as SA in Algeria!  Will Morrow claims in the WSWS that the “…ongoing movement of the Algerian working class against the military backed regime is part of a renewed eruption of working class struggle around the world.”[14] One could only believe this if it was possible to ignore the swathe of US operated “Lily Pads” across Africa, US troops swarming across many African nations, Algeria’s alliance with Russia in security and gas exports, Algeria signing onto Beijing’s New Silk Road and major trade with Red China. One would have to have to be wearing blinkers to ignore Washington’s concern about all African countries’ dealings with both Russia and China. For all rational observers, Algeria’s “uprising” is anything but pure.

To be sure, to lift Algeria and Africa finally clear of the devastating legacy of Western colonialism, socialism – the class rule of the workers – will have to emerge victorious. The current Algerian government will ultimately stand in the way of such progress. However, right now, working people in Africa and internationally have a vital interest in militarily siding with Algeria, Syria, Russia and China against the nefarious ends of US imperialism. At the very least, workers should demand that the US withdraw AFRICOM and all US troops from African soil. The sovereignty of Algeria and all African countries must be guarded, and defended in a temporary bloc alongside the non-imperialist (and anti-NATO) states. US backed coups, in such a scenario, will have little or no chance of “success”.

Workers  League
E: workersleague@redfireonline.com
http://www.redfireonline.com

 

[1] https://dailynewssegypt.com/2019/03/19/russia-warns-of-external-interference-in-algeria-lavrov/ (10-04-19)

[2] https://jamestown.org/program/the-broader-regional-meaning-of-russian-foreign-minister-lavrovs-maghreb-tour/ (10-04-19)

[3] https://www.sott.net/article/278889-Defeat-for-the-empire-Algeria-rejects-US-demand-for-military-base (10-04-19)

[4] https://www.globalresearch.ca/algeria-on-the-edge-of-a-soft-coup/5528762 (10-04-19)

[5] https://africandailyvoice.com/en/2019/01/24/algeria-syria-and-yemen-at-the-heart-of-sergei-lavrovs-visit-to-algiers/ (13-04-19)

[6] http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-01/25/c_137771977.htm (13-04-19)

[7] https://africandailyvoice.com/en/2018/09/05/algeria-joins-the-new-silk-roads/ (13-04-19)

[8] http://northafricapost.com/25232-algeria-joins-belt-and-road-initiative.html (13-04-19)

[9] https://thediplomat.com/2019/03/what-protests-in-algeria-and-sudan-mean-for-china/ (13-04-19)

[10] https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2018/03/13/senators-consider-putting-africom-headquarters-staff-in-africa/ (13-04-19)

[11] https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2018/04/28/605662771/the-military-doesnt-advertise-it-but-u-s-troops-are-all-over-africa (13-04-19)

[12] https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/02/26/africom-giant-waste-money.html (13-04-19)

[13] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/algeria-turning-point-people-rise (13-04-19)

[14] https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/04/06/alge-a06.html (13-04-19)