Above: Merauke Police respond to a protest against the creation of new provinces near Kamandu Village, on the border of Papua province and Papua New Guinea. http://www.nasional.kompas.com
12-06-2022: The government of Indonesia has in recent months announced plans to create three extra provinces in the area largely known as West Papua. The three new provinces will be 1) Central Papua Province (Meepago), 2) South Papua Province (Ha Anim) and 3) Central Highlands Province (Lapago). This will mean there will be five provinces in the Eastern half of Papua, and it will bring the total number of Indonesian provinces to 39. The government claims that it will accelerate and equalise development across West Papua, leading to a more equal distribution of wealth across the region. This may well be the case, as it may offset the development which has taken place in the coastal towns sometimes unintentionally at the expense of the highland interior.
Additionally, the Indonesian government lists other benefits, such as: harmonious relations between regions, greater access to services such as welfare, the facilitation of community mobility and activities, and the reduction of the span of government control between the centre and the regions. For example, Papuans may not have to travel all the way to Jayapura to access specialist services. They also claim that the creation of three extra autonomous regions will spur on the achievement of prosperity and people-centred development across Papua. While these communications inevitably contain some level of political spin, it also largely maintains a certain reality.
Separatists demand “self-determination”
For separatists who reject the Papuan Special Autonomy (Otsus) Law, however, the creation of more provinces under 2021 revisions to the Otsus law – which may well result in greater autonomy – are in fact a move by Indonesia to further “divide and conquer” West Papua. On May 10, groups now going under the banner of the “Papua People’s Petition” (PRP), organised protests in 10 cities: Jayapura, Manokwari, Sorong, Kaimana, Wamena, Yahokimo, Dogiyai, Mapia, Fakfak and Deiyai. These actions were purportedly organised to oppose revisions to the Otsus Law and the planned creation of new autonomous regions in Papua, and to call for the right to self-determination. Yet “self-determination” is a newly coined phrase to give a fig-leaf cover to the fact that this is in fact a drive towards separatist “independence”. This movement not only contains ostensibly peaceful protests, but open armed violence against the state and civilians who do not at all share such goals. This is one reason why the Indonesian security forces broke up three of the demonstrations in the larger cities of Jayapura, Manokwari and Sorong. Seven people were arrested in Jayapura including the spokesperson Jefri Wenda.
The PRP claimed that the arrests were part of the criminalisation of peaceful protesters. Yet their own international supporters themselves admit and report that in Jayapura, the organisers were given an opportunity to apply for a permit for the protest, but refused. The police then informed them that the protest was not allowed but offered to facilitate it anyway if they wanted to march to the Regional House of Representatives – but again the PRP refused. According to Jayapura police chief Victor Makbon, after police had then cleared the action, photos were posted on social media claiming injuries caused by police during its break up. Makbon insisted this information is untrue or a hoax.
TAPOL, an international NGO, immediately spoke up and demanded the release of Jefri Wenda. They also claimed that the Indonesian government has used the Covid-19 “pandemic” as a pretext to prevent peaceful protests, including ones against the revisions to the Otsus law which “hands more power to Jakarta” and potentially divides West Papuans. This is a bit rich coming from TAPOL who are based in London in the United Kingdom (UK), and who list US State Department reports on “human rights” in Indonesia as legitimate, alongside the notorious think tank Human Rights Watch (HRW). HRW is funded by, amongst others, the Ford Foundation, billionaire regime change financier George Soros’ Open Society Foundation(OSF), and one of the central architects of the abjectly fraudulent Covid-19 narrative – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Bill Gates and George Soros do not operate internationally without the co-operation and consent of Washington, whether on fake pandemics or indeed deceitful “self-determination” movements.
Lies alongside ethnic violence
Posting fake news about police repression on May 10 this year is scarcely the first time that the West Papuan “independence” crowd have openly lied about being supposedly “oppressed” by the Indonesian government. In 2018, Papuan separatists mouthed a jaw-dropping lie when they claimed, without a shred of evidence, that Indonesian armed forces had used white phosphorus munitions against them in the Nduga region. The separatists and their international backers also claim that as many as 500 000 Papuans have been killed during Indonesia’s “occupation” since the 1950s. This is ludicrous, given the Papuan population has roughly doubled in size since the early 1970s, from around 900 000 to approximately 1.8 million today.
The “genocide” they fantastically claim, has more to do with some Papuans objecting to the transmigration of other Indonesians to Papua over the last several decades. This has altered the demographics of the land covering West Papua, but at all times the Indonesian government has attempted to integrate, and not exclude, Papuans into the NKRI (Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia). The Indonesian government is spending trillions of rupiah for the development of Papua, but this development is resented by separatists and their supporters. In fact, their international supporters even admit that armed Papuan separatists target vitally needed infrastructure being built by the Indonesian government, such as the 4300 kilometre Trans Papua Highway. Unfortunately, the separatist movement – whether armed or unarmed – is also aimed at intimidating and/or removing, non-Papuans from Papua.
The small minority of Papuans who take up arms to supposedly fight for “independence” or “self-determination” have no scruples with employing extreme violence to eliminate not only Indonesians seen as supporting the government, but also other Papuans who do not wish to separate from the people they have lived alongside for 20 or 30 years. In 2019, armed Papuan separatists launched an attack on the town of Wamena, burning down numerous government and private buildings. 30 people, apparently 22 of whom were Indonesian transmigrants and 8 were Papuans, were killed in the offensive – some of them being burnt to death. It hardly needs to be said that the slaughter of innocents cannot be justified, and nor can the slaying of those who do not share a particular political opinion.
In April and May of last year, armed Papuan separatists waged a campaign of terror in the Puncak Regency. There, they set three local schools ablaze, and then approached the home of a local elementary school teacher – who they shot dead. The next day, they executed a local high school teacher. Soon after, the armed separatists sabotaged local roads and a bridge, before burning down a public community hall. The armed separatist groups – a numerically tiny section of the Papuan population – clearly target any public infrastructure, which is inevitably funded by the Indonesian government. The fact that they are also prepared to physically annihilate anyone perceived to be a part of government infrastructure – such as public school teachers – should indicate to all and sundry the homicidal nature and intent of these “militants”.
Armed terror causes backlash
In response, the Indonesian government officially designated armed Papuan separatists as terrorist organisations, or KKB (Armed Criminal Groups). In April last year, under Law Number 5 of 2018, the government stated that “those who commit massive violence are categorised as terrorist.” Their definition states that terrorists and terrorist groups are those that use violence or threats of violence to create an atmosphere of fear or terror that can cause mass casualties. It also includes damage or destruction to objects that are necessary for the community and the environment, e.g., public and international facilities. Now that the KKB have been declared terrorist and can be arrested as terrorists at any time, the armed separatists have been forced underground. Moreover, the KKB are now designated as terrorist alongside Islamic fundamentalist organisations existing elsewhere in Indonesia, such as: Jamaah Islamiya (JI), Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), East Indonesian Mujahidin (MIT) and Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT).
Not only has the government understandably responded to armed Papuan terrorism, one nationalist civilian militia has vowed to protect Indonesians from potential separatist threats. In March, the Laskar Merah Putih (LMP or “Red and White Militia”) demonstrated outside of Amnesty International’s Jakarta office. The LMP demanded that Amnesty support the government in the creation of new autonomous Papuan regions, that it cease creating narratives siding with the KKB, that it support the TNI (Indonesian military) and Polri (Indonesian police) in taking action against groups which threaten the NKRI, and that it demand legal action be taken against separatist students who held a demonstration in front of the Home Affairs Department which turned anarchic. The LMP held placards with photos of Amnesty International’s Indonesian executive director Usman Hamid which referred to him as a “traitor”, and demands that the government expel Amnesty International from the country.
This has not stopped the KKB. Three days after the PRP organised protests, the KKB prevented a cargo plane from landing at the Aminggaru Ilaga Airport by shooting at the plane multiple times. The pilot decided not to attempt a landing, turned and flew back to Timika. If the armed Papuan separatists are prepared to prevent provisions and supplies from landing in Papua, on top of all other crimes, it is little wonder that a nationalist militia has mobilised in response. If the political wing of the separatist movement does not wish to be associated with the armed wing, they should make this crystal clear.
Left alibis ethnic conflict
Many parties on the left make the error of inflaming what is essentially a conflict provoked by a small minority of Melanesians (the predominant indigenous ethnicity stretching from Papua to Vanuatu to Fiji) in West Papua against the largely Austronesian ethnicity of Indonesia. Indonesia, in fact, contains over 1300 ethnicities, with around 95% being native to its archipelago. Ethnic co-operation and harmony is therefore crucial to day to day life in Indonesia. Yet it is not just ethnic strife that the KKB inflame – they also harass, intimidate and sometimes kill other Melanesians who have no desire for separatist independence, or “self-determination”. Many of them have lived side by side with Austronesians and others for 20, 30 or 40 years, and understandably wish to continue live in peace with all ethnic groups so as to maintain the status quo.
The Australian Socialist Alliance (SA), for example, is one of the most enthusiastic backers of West Papuan “independence” – regardless of circumstances. Reporting on the May 10 protests, SA claims that “Crackdowns and arrests of peaceful demonstrators continue and security force operations have resulted in thousands of internal refugees”. Firstly, the main reason why police in West Papua act to prevent “peaceful demonstrations” for “independence” is because they often become violent attacks on government and public property, and can endanger civilian lives. Secondly, the government’s security operations are only aimed at preventing the KKB from doing likewise – but using weapons such as semi-automatic machine guns. It is the connection of the same political aim of the “peaceful pro-independence” demonstrators with the physically dangerous activity of the KKB that prompts intervention from the Indonesian police and security forces.
Unbeknownst to SA and other ostensibly socialist parties, West Papua does not meet the Marxist criteria for a nation, let alone one which is allegedly “oppressed”. Just one example will suffice to demonstrate this. West Papua is home to around 255 different ethnic groups. Of them there are around 240 different languages each with their own unique culture. These ethnic groups cannot communicate with one another unless they speak Bahasa Indonesia – the predominant language of all of Indonesia. It should not be necessary to point out the absurdity of breaking away from Indonesia (if that was possible) to form a separate state – while continuing to speak and write in Bahasa Indonesian!! It would not be practical to pretend that West Papau is a separate nation state – while maintaining the lingua franca of Indonesia.
Economically, West Papua could scarcely survive without the resources of Indonesia with its 270 million odd population base. If this was somehow brought about, a separate West Papua would hardly be “independent”, but almost wholly dependent on vast economic resources which would have to be imported from the imperialist West – mainly Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Many Papuans themselves tacitly acknowledge that they have more support for “independence” in Australia and the UK than they do in Papua itself. This is why there are a litany of “West Papua solidarity” organisations in the West, mainly composed of “radical” liberals who mistakenly imagine they are standing with an indigenous people who have committed no crimes and are subject to an “occupation”.
West Papuan separatists have learnt how to play on the saviour complex of Western liberals, including some “socialists”, to further their nefarious political goals. Even despite the fact that the Indonesian government has practiced a high degree of Covid madness, including attempts at mass vaccination, Papuans and all ethnic groups of the Indonesian archipelago are far better off striving for economic and political advancement across all of Indonesia. The nationalism of a former Dutch colony does need to be challenged through a general struggle for socialism in Asia and the Pacific – but on this path there cannot be a single trace of ethnic antagonism. Nor should there be the artificial political elevation of an indigenous people regardless of their conduct, let alone their crimes. As far away as it may seem currently, what is required is the forging of parties based on authentic Leninism, which have sworn to uphold Permanent Revolution, throughout Indonesia, the Pacific, Australasia and internationally. The worldwide uprising of the working class will render ethnic antagonism a relic of a dim and distant past.
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One thought on “West Papua: Separatists Denounce Greater Autonomy”
Exciting to be adressing the National Question, which we recently adressed in Ibrahim’s informative & timely artikel on the Kurdish Question, this has me wanting to up-educate myself further. And with that aim if ever he wrote anything of significance, Stalin apparently wrote the main Bolshevik work on that issue in 1914 worthy of study which appeared in the form of a pamphlet entitled The National Question and Marxism . It was published in volume two of Stalin’s works.
For years it was regarded as the standard Party work on the national question, & approved by Lenin can not be considered to be irrelevant, au contraire. I would be most curious if comrades know of any other more recent Marxist material?
Though however, this achievement “was not a result of Stalin’s theoretical genius. In fact was not Stalin’s work at all. As E.H. Carr  points out: “External and internal evidence shows it to have been written under Lenin’s inspiration.” (E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, vol., 1, pp. 425-6.) The ideas in this article are entirely those of Lenin. ”, … we can blast the capitulary Stalinist comrades on & on in attempting to have some break away towards (our) Trotskyism all we want (I find it fun), which we must.
But a big butt on the other hand I would not mind being somewhat kind & give Stalin some credit, ie to create a comradely (versus Icepickism) conduit to within their organisations, wherein it is us (to our credit as Trotsky had appealed to the German CP prior to 1933) seeking common ground to perhaps eventually form pro-union united fronts with authentic anti-imperialist Stalin/Maoists, whilst maintaining one’s insistence of being allowed to express oppositional views so as to ‘sharpen the proper program’.
Ultimately achieving socialism worldwide means winning the debat within the organised anti-capitalist workers vanguard organisations (primarily the nomally [pre-Covid terror period] anti-capitalist Left & the trade-union movement) about what (facing 1929-type depression & herhaps a catastrophic civilisation destroying forever 3rd world war between the imperialist powers & the non-imp/cap. opponents while inter-imperialist conflicts can be expected to occur) would be an achievable alternative to imperialist capitalism.
That alternative of a worldwide planned economy democratically organised by workers councils, aiming to satisfy ALL human needs, from basic to cultural-intellectual-artistc etc, (“to each according to need from each according to ability”-Engels), all principelled Marxists agree to.
Getting there can not but involve expose without mercy (see mainly the confrontational polemical brilliance then of Lenin & Trotsky, I have come to admire) pseudo-revolutionaries who capitulate on hard won programmatic positions;
be they Stalinist; holding on to the silly belief there’s an anti-fascist imperialism [see Dimitrov] or – the Maoist delusion in an anti-imperialist bourgeoisie [see Mao]) or – pseudo-Trotskyists who have since the post-WW II period, performed shallow & deep entrism within the reformist workers parties who have since then (& prior) betrayed, by co-governing from local to national levels with the big bourgeois parties, the need for achieving (as a Marxist law of the class struggle) as pre-condition for achieving its own workers government & then onwards to revolution (expropriation of the bourgeoisie without compensation), the absolutely required working class’ political independance from any & all (petty-) bourgeois political forces,,,, as we have noticed most of them find themselves in 2022 in the camp of Covid-fascism.