Veronica Koman: Human Rights Fraud

Crowds look on as the Manokwari Parliament building is set alight on 19.08.19. Image from http://www.ucanews.org

Veronica Koman: Human Rights Fraud

07-01-2020 – When leftists hear the term “human rights lawyer”, suspicions are, or should be, immediately raised. “Human rights”, so-called, has been twisted and distorted by the paid and unpaid scribes of Western imperialism into something which no longer corresponds to what these words originally meant in the English language. Wholesale wars of regime change, outright invasions and occupations of countries deemed too independent of the Anglo/US Empire, the funding and very creation of an “opposition” in countries seen as too friendly to Russia or China – all of this and much more is justified under the deliberately misleading rubric of “human rights”.  The case of Veronica Koman in relation to West Papua is yet another page in this sorry tale.

Ms Koman is currently being paraded around Australia by swindled left parties eager to promote their blind support for West Papuan “independence”. The Socialist Alliance (SAll) featured Ms Koman on a “World in Revolt” panel at their national conference in December last year.[1] Socialist Alternative (SAlt) are also billing Ms Koman as a featured speaker at their (misnamed) Marxism 2020 conference in Melbourne on April 11.[2] While not hosting Ms Koman, the Spartacist League (SL) chimes in with the other left parties they chastise as “reformist”, to sing her praises. They even use the term “human rights lawyer” to refer to her (Australasian Spartacist, No. 239, Summer 2019/20), which could be a first for a party which so proudly proclaims its revolutionary credentials. Solidarity (Sol), which usually has a policy of physically excluding the SL from their public forums, nonetheless echo SL and other left parties employing the liberal approved “human rights lawyer” vernacular.[3]

Why did Ms Koman flee?

The corporate media narrative is that Ms Koman fled into exile, in fear of her life, to Australia after bravely defending West Papuans from the Indonesian armed forces. Like almost all of the narrative spun by supporters of Papuan separatism, this is fiction. Ms Koman has been accused by Indonesian police of “incitement” for the spreading of fake videos and hoaxes online, some of which led to ultra-violent protests across Indonesia and West Papua in the second half of 2019. Under Indonesian law governing online activity, if found guilty Ms Koman could be jailed for six years and fined $US 70 000.[4] So she fled to Australia to avoid a lengthy jail term, NOT because she was merely “reporting” on events in West Papua. The riots which were partly fueled by Ms Koman’s social media posts led to the deaths of at least 40 people – both Indonesians and Papuans. (For clarity, we use the terms “Indonesian” and “Papuan” even though Indonesians regard Papuans as part of the Republic of Indonesia.) This was an extremely serious matter, and the Indonesian police followed procedure by asking her to step forward to be questioned. Ms Koman refused, point blank. Indonesia’s national police spokesperson, Argo Yuwono, speaking about the request sent to Ms Koman, said “We have communicated it with the international relations division..to make her available for questioning. We really hope that she would come. If she refuses to come, well, what else can we do? We have to respect rules”.[5] From this statement, it is clear that Ms Koman was under no physical threat by turning herself in for questioning. What she feared, instead, was being charged and convicted of racial incitement. To avoid this, she fled to Australia, knowing that the corporate media and even sections of the Australian government would shelter her. So much for the high principles of a “human rights lawyer” !!

Ms Koman, who grandstands with sombre intonations about the “human rights” of West Papuans, is silent about even the right to live, and the right not to be slaughtered by maniacal Papuan separatists, if you are an Indonesian living in the Papuan provinces of Indonesia. According to the Jakarta Post, on September 23 last year, a mob of Papuan militia descended upon Wamena and proceeded to set ablaze hundreds of shops, government buildings, vehicles in the street and also “attacked other residents with weapons.” (Emphasis added)[6] Papuan Police announced that they were searching for those responsible, who they regard as provocateurs, and who they believe are members of the KNPB (National Committee of West Papua) and/or the ULMWP (United Liberation Movement for West Papua). The Indonesian government suspects that the life-taking violence in Wamena last September was orchestrated by UK based Papuan exile Benny Wenda through contacts with the ULMWP and KNPB.[7]

If Ms Koman was indeed a “human rights lawyer”, if such a thing exists, wouldn’t she offer to defend the Indonesians attacked with hand weapons by Papuan separatists? Further, wouldn’t she offer to assist the families of those who were burnt to death after being trapped in the buildings which were set alight by rampaging Papuans? We won’t be holding our breath. From what can be observed, not all Papuans support separatist independence, and only a small minority of Papuans are prepared to take up arms in a Papuan militia. An even smaller minority of Papuans are prepared to use wanton and life-taking violence against neighbours who have a different ethnicity. i.e. non-Papuan Indonesians. Yet Ms Koman has decided to hitch her wagon to these very types – while claiming the exalted mantle of one who is waging a noble battle for “human rights”. The hypocrisy is stunning.

What is the basis of West Papuan separatism?

Ms Koman, and the Australian left parties singing hosannas to her, have to face up to an uncomfortable truth. In large part, West Papuan separatism is based on ethnic animosity and violence towards Indonesians, as opposed to claimed oppression and institutional discrimination by the Indonesian state. Needless to say, the left cannot support ANY political movement based on ethnic antagonism. In the main, what Papuan separatists are opposed to is the large-scale transmigration of Indonesians into West Papua over several decades. While it is true that the numbers of transmigrants are significant, figures from 2017 indicate that Austronesian transmigration has not turned the indigenous Melanesians into a minority, as separatist Papuans had feared.[8] Out of an overall population in the provinces of Papua and Papua Barat (West Papua) of 3.6 million, it is estimated that the Melanesian population comprises 66% of the total,[9] meaning that largely Austronesian transmigrants make up 34%. Moreover, many “transmigrants” have been residing in the Papuan provinces for several decades, making the “migrant” term misleading. However, West Papua researcher Dr Jim Elmslie has also pointed out that in some regencies of West Papua, largely Austronesian settlers have become a majority, outnumbering Melanesians. These are the regencies containing the coastal cities such as the capital Jayapura. Yet in the highland regions, indigenous Melanesians still comprise the overwhelming majority.[10]

If, and it’s a big if, the Indonesian state was systematically discriminating against, excluding, or even attempting a physical genocide of Melanesians in Papua, a separatist movement for independence MAY be one of the political options. But there is scant evidence that anything approaching this is occurring. There is no “genocide” in West Papua, in terms of a military occupation which is attempting to expel, much less exterminate, the indigenous population. On the contrary, there is much more evidence that the Indonesian government is attempting to integrate Papuans into the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia. This does not mean, of course, that leftists should endorse the Indonesian government or its politics. But it does mean investigating the claims of the Papuan separatists, and not taking their word for it.

In politics Marxists must be able to distinguish the essence of phenomena from its form. Under most circumstances, generally the left would support a movement aimed against an imperialist power. But here’s the rub: Indonesia is not imperialist!  Not even our presumed Australian socialist parties who loudly proclaim their backing of West Papuan independence – SAll, SAlt, SL, Sol – would claim that. On the contrary, Indonesia is a third world nation which is still in the process of developing, which means it cannot approach even Australia in terms of labour productivity, for example. While it is true that Indonesia operates a capitalist economy, Indonesia itself fought for its independence from 350 years of Dutch colonialism. Again, this does not at all mean that Marxists politically support the current Indonesian government. At the same time, Marxists should side with the third world nation when it comes to a question of meddling or interference into their affairs by imperialism.

Lies for Empire

Ironically, Papuan separatists actively collude with, and cultivate, liberal yet pro-imperialist elements in order to prosecute their movement for “independence”. Ms Koman is but one example. Liberal pro-imperialists today line up with the conservative imperialists they feign to criticise when it comes to war, and even national sovereignty. For example, US imperialism was (or is) engaged in counter-revolutionary intrigue in Hong Kong, funding and encouraging ultra-violent separatist riots throughout 2019, with the ultimate aim of overturning socialism in mainland China. Blackshirt fascist leader Joshua Wong, openly courted by the US state department through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)[11], is the poster boy for this reactionary movement. In the middle of all of this, on the 18th of June 2019, none other than Veronica Koman tweets a happy snap of her alongside Mr Wong.[12] Two days later, Mr Wong would incite a riot at the Wan Chai Police Station in Hong Kong, for which he was later arrested and charged. One wonders if our purported Australian socialist parties can see the connection. Mr Wong incites racially charged riots (reports of anti-mainland Chinese racism among the Hong Kong Blackshirts are legion) in Hong Kong at the service of US/UK imperialism, while Ms Koman incites racially charged anti-Indonesian riots in West Papua also at the service (albeit covertly) of US/UK imperialism. When ethnic based riots (containing ethnic violence in the case of the armed Papuan separatists) forms part of your politics, you are not in good company.

Examples of Ms Koman’s lies for Papuan separatism are tweeted (on Twitter) frequently. In a tweet dated 21-08-19 from the Fakfak regency, Ms Koman posts two images, with claims that one West Papuan protestor had his stomach slashed and his intestines were pouring out, and another claiming that a protestor was hit by stray bullets.[13] The images are clearly fakes, with staged actors, and with faces blacked out. If it came to it, the photos would be thrown out of any court of law as unverifiable. Five days later, in a tweet from Wamena, Ms Koman claims the protest rally gathering there would contain healthy people from among those displaced by the Indonesian military operation in Nduga, which allegedly “caused the death of 186 civilians”.[14] The lies here are palpable. Numerous sources will confirm that what actually happened was that Papuan separatists armed with guns executed 24 road workers constructing the Trans Papua Highway. Eight more fled, only for seven of them to be tracked down and butchered the next day.[15] Behold the real intentions and actions which underpin West Papuan “independence” !

Anti-China gun for hire

Despite Ms Koman’s ethnic Chinese heritage, her anti-Chinese anti-communism knows few bounds. The fake Western media concoction of Uyghur “oppression” in China’s Xinjiang province has been in full swing in the last 12 months. As we wrote in July last year[16], the West is not concerned in the slightest about “human rights” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Washington – backed by Canberra – are attempting to demonise socialism in China by inventing boundless fictions such as Uyghur “concentration camps”. This is because China’s stupendous economic growth and concomitant advances in science, technology, education etc., is in the process of surpassing the failing capitalist economies of the US, Europe, Australia and the rest. Chiming in with the utterly deceitful Uyghur “human rights” corporate media hoax is – you guessed it – Veronica Koman.

Ms Koman tweeted dolefully that the Indonesian government would “never” speak out for the Uyghurs because it needed the Chinese government’s support on the Human Rights Council over West Papua![17]  Much more likely is that the Indonesian government can see a fake “human rights” campaign orchestrated by Washington when they see one. As a Muslim majority country, most Indonesians can see that the US government and their Western allies cannot possibly be concerned about the Muslims of the XUAR, when it has waged horrific wars against other majority Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, slaughtering well over 1 million adherents of the Islamic faith.

What price integrity?

Lest anyone imagine that it is only the “Trotskyist” Australian left parties (SAll, SAlt, SL, Sol) which fall for the torrent of tall tales from the West Papuan separatists, the fact that they are joined by two “Stalinist” (and/or “Maoist”) Australian left parties should kick this misconception. Both the Communist Party of Australia (CPA)[18] and the Communist Party of Australia Marxist-Leninist (CPA-ML)[19] make firm calls for Papuan separatism, with both demanding a referendum take place. They don’t appear to notice that this is ultimately a call for imperialism itself to “oversee” the referendum – either through the United Nations (UN) or US/UK/AUST troops on the ground. The CPA-ML try to deflect likely questions about the fact that Australian Union members and Waterside workers, including Communists, aided and assisted the Indonesian struggle for independence from Dutch colonialism during World War II. Yet the contradiction is too large to ignore. Both the “Trotskyist” and “Stalinist” parties have been fooled by the habitual lies and falsification which drives West Papuan separatism.  It could be understandable why liberals would not have the basis on which to question the political claims of an indigenous people, which is covertly backed by sections of world imperialism. Socialists, however, should know better, and should be able to apply basic Marxist investigative skills in ANY sphere, especially when dealing with claims of a “human rights lawyer”.

Veronica Koman, and by extension, the Papuan separatist movement, is a fraud. Regardless of the actions of its government in the past, or in other situations, Indonesia is not “imperialist”. Armed Papuan separatists especially are guilty of anti-Indonesian violence, and the likes of Ms Koman sell vast fake narratives placing the blame on Indonesia, with the assistance of the corporate media in Australia and elsewhere, to an eager Western audience. Indonesian workers are aware of what is happening, and don’t buy it. A political movement based on truths, facts, and actions against basic injustice is one thing. A quasi-political movement based on lies, distortions, ethnic antagonism and violence is another thing entirely. The left, at the very least, should be able to sense when it is being hoodwinked.

 

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

 

[1] https://www.greenleft.org.au/video/world-revolt-free-west-papua (02-01-2020)

https://www.facebook.com/events/539475839964278/    (02-01-2020)

[3] https://www.solidarity.net.au/international/students-shot-dead-as-west-papua-protests-continue/ (02-01-2020)

[4] https://asiapacificreport.nz/2019/09/05/indonesian-police-target-veronica-koman-for-west-papua-incitement/ (02-01-2020)

[5] https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/indonesian/Papua-rights-defender-11212019184820.html (02-01-2020)

[6] https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/10/08/papua-police-name-13-suspects-for-deadly-wamena-unrest.html (03-01-2020)

[7] Ibid, 6.

[8] https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/programmes/datelinepacific/audio/201830960/west-papuan-demographics-update-highlights-disparity (03-01-2020)

[9] https://www.hawaiipublicradio.org/post/pacific-news-minute-new-statistics-show-indigenous-melanesians-remain-majority-w-papua#stream/0 (03-01-2020)

[10] https://www.globalresearch.ca/indonesias-west-papua-settlers-dominate-coastal-regions-highlands-still-overwhelmingly-papuan/5569676 (03-01-2020)

[11] https://www.mondialisation.ca/hong-kong-gets-new-us-backed-party-funded-by-washington/5520536 (04-01-2020)

[12] https://www.dimsumdaily.hk/veronica-koman-human-rights-lawyer-based-in-australia-who-advocates-for-west-papua-pursued-by-indonesian-government/ (04-01-2020)

[13] https://twitter.com/VeronicaKoman/status/1164181784612859905 (07-01-2020)

[14] https://twitter.com/VeronicaKoman/status/1165821234174496768 (07-01-2020)

[15] https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/2176302/indonesia-probing-reports-rebels-executed-31-construction (07-01-2020)

[16] https://redfireonline.com/2019/07/24/xinjiang-the-wests-big-lie/ (07-01-2020)

[17] https://twitter.com/VeronicaKoman/status/1204991932927115264 (07-01-2020)

[18] https://cpa.org.au/guardian/2019/1898/05-papua.html (07-01-2020)

[19] https://www.cpaml.org/lostfiles.php?id=1568513614&catid1=9,15 (07-01-2020)

Wamena: Papuan Militia Terrorise Civilians

Part of the inferno set ablaze by separatist Papuan militia in Wamena. Image from wwwtribunnews.com

Wamena: Papuan Militia Terrorise Civilians

05-10-2019: Parts of West Papua are again in flames, after armed Papuan separatist militia launched an attack on the town of Wamena in the Papuan province of Indonesia. The death toll stands at 30, with 22 of the victims being Indonesian transmigrants, according to Indonesian national police Chief Tito Karnavian.[1] The armed Papuan militia set fire to numerous government and private buildings, leading to some Indonesians being burnt alive after becoming trapped.[2] These deadly attacks by armed Papuan separatists mark a serious turn to anti-Indonesian pogroms which cannot be justified, regardless of history. It reveals the “independence” movement, at the very least, as being politically compromised. Leftists in Australia and internationally need to carefully investigate the situation, rather than being swept into a trance by the slogan of “Free West Papua”.

Liberation movement?


Throughout history there have been many liberation movements which have fought for a just cause of emancipation from colonialism and imperialism. Over time, left parties and movements have thrown political support behind them, and have thereby stood on the side of elementary justice. The West Papuan case, however, is qualitatively different – in a negative way. A liberation movement forfeits the name if it is involved in ethnic violence, or in murderous acts against civilians or migrants. Unfortunately, armed Papuan separatists have done this repeatedly, and the attacks on Wamena in the last week of September were particularly vicious. By September 27, 1500 Indonesian residents had gathered at Wamena airport in a bid to leave. Local Air Force official Arief Sudjatmiko stated that 2500 people had registered to get aboard flights.[3] They were not fleeing the Indonesian military or security forces. They were fleeing for their lives from Papuan separatists, who were clearly targeting Indonesian transmigrant workers, such as motorbike taxi drivers, shop workers and restaurant waiters.[4] It should go without saying that socialists of any persuasion cannot endorse the wholesale slaughter of workers of any nationality – even if systematic discrimination against one group of workers is proven.

Yet even this does not appear to be the case in West Papua. While it is the case that the Indonesian transmigrants dominate the local economy in the Papuan provinces, there are policies in place to promote Papuans within the civil service.[5] There is a disparity between the coastal cities of West Papua, where transmigrants predominate in economic and commercial activity, and the relatively underdeveloped Papuan central highlands. The lack of development is not entirely the fault of the Indonesian government, but nonetheless the Indonesian government is attempting to spur development in Papua through infrastructure building, such as roads and electricity coverage. There is even an awareness that infrastructure building on its own will not solve all problems. Hence, in 2019, the Indonesian government increased spending on education by 13% across the country, including Papua.[6]  There may well be ways in which the Indonesian government is not administering the Papuan provinces using entirely just methods. For example, there are plans to have the roads built in Papua operate as toll roads.[7] A campaign to remove tolls from the roads would seem necessary. However, as in Australia, such a campaign would have to involve the working class of all nationalities, for lower living costs. It would not usually be a campaign against the road infrastructure itself – but particularly in Papua, where there are relatively few roads.

Not all Papuans are anti-migrant

There is evidence that the anti-migrant dimension of the West Papuan independence movement is not universal. For example, there appears to be peaceful co-habitation amongst indigenous Papuans and Indonesian transmigrants in certain areas. In Wamena during the separatist attacks, some indigenous Papuans helped to shield Indonesian transmigrants from the assaults. They even worked together to guard shops and buildings from the armed separatists – protecting their lives by doing so.[8] There were statements saying that the residents did not know where the armed independence marauders came from – perhaps the highlands. Wamena is the largest town in the central highlands, so it becomes the first target. Some Papuan independence militia claim that they have no issue with transmigrant workers, only those who act as informers for the government and security forces.[9]  In Wamena and elsewhere, however, this is not the case.  What cannot be denied is that the West Papuan independence movement has always had an anti-migrant basis. Romantically minded leftists in the West, who clamour to support West Papuan independence, are either not aware, or wilfully ignore, this base prejudice.

Moreover, it is the “exiled” West Papuans who are the most strident in prosecuting what is often a misleading campaign for separate independence. In the case of the Wamena attacks, Indonesian authorities, not without cause, have accused de-facto independence leader Benny Wenda and his international network of orchestrating the violence in order to make headlines days before the United Nations (UN) general assembly sits in New York.[10] Mr Wenda is no stranger to stoking deadly riots, as he is himself a fugitive for doing just that in Abepura in 2002. Benny Wenda incited a crowd of 50 to attack some shops, which resulted in two people dead.[11] While detained facing trial, he escaped from Indonesia and fled to the United Kingdom (UK). From Oxford in London, the fugitive Mr Wenda convenes a disingenuous campaign for West Papuan independence, particularly appealing to the forces of imperialism against Indonesia. To say the least, a movement which regularly incites violence against those of another ethnicity, often resulting in the slaughter of innocents, is not one to be endorsed.

Fake videos, real lies

When violent riots by Papuan separatists break out, the Indonesian government sometimes responds by “throttling” or blocking the internet. While this raises a hue and cry by unenlightened West Papuan independence supporters internationally, this action has a rational basis. Often the violent riots are begun by the spreading of fake videos online, making false claims about mistreatment from Indonesian authorities. In the case of Wamena recently, the bloodthirsty riots were set off by rumours circulated that a high school teacher had used a racist remark against students. Papua police Chief Rudolf Alberth Rodja, however, stressed that the police had investigated the alleged school and teacher, and confirmed that this incident was fabricated, and was a blatant untruth. He said that it is believed that this was hoax information deliberately distributed in order to fuel riots.[12] As Papuan separatists have a history of telling lies in order to whip up support, it is not unreasonable to accept the police account here.

For example, the Papuan separatists told the mother of all lies in December 2018, when they made the preposterous claim that the Indonesian military had used white phosphorus munitions against them in the Nduga region after a flag raising ceremony. They had the active support of corporate journalists who had made the same unsubstantiated claims against the Syrian government during the US led war for regime change.[13] That is, Papuan independence advocates willingly worked with the corporate media which repeatedly referred to ISIS and Al Qaeda as “rebels” and “revolutionaries” in Syria, in order to use the same lies against the Indonesian government. These spurious claims were soon debunked as utterly fallacious, given that the Indonesian military had never stationed artillery in West Papua, let alone million dollar jet fighters. And the only helicopters the Indonesian military has there are transport choppers, unequipped with any offensive weapons, which would be needed to fire ANY ordinance.[14]

West Papuan separatists and their entourage need to spread whoppers because the politics of their independence movement falters at the first question. Prime among the distributors of falsifications is “human rights” lawyer Veronica Koman. Despite being herself of Chinese-Indonesian ancestry, Koman is inherently anti-China and pro-imperialist. On October 1, she posted on her Twitter account a claim of solidarity with the violent Blackshirt rioters in Hong Kong, who in turn claimed solidarity with Uyghurs.[15] The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are currently targeted by the CIA for destabilisation, and, they hope, regime change. Their aim is to counter the rising socialism of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by any means – including funding those engaging in armed violence, and up to life-threatening extreme jihadism. But Koman’s anti-socialist fealty to the Pentagon is not the reason she is wanted.

Veronica Koman has been charged with serious crimes by Indonesian police. She refused three times to be questioned, who then charged her with violating the Electronic Information and Transactions Law and the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination Law.[16] Racial and ethnic harmony is crucially important in a large multi-ethnic country such as Indonesia. However, Koman had repeatedly been stoking ethnic conflict by posting false information which aided violent riots in Surabaya. Instead of defending herself on charges of provoking deadly unrest and fuelling ethnic conflict, Koman fled to Australia. Understandably, the Indonesian government issued an Interpol red notice for her arrest,[17] but whether this will be enacted by the Australian government remains to be seen. Since fleeing as a fugitive to Australia, she has since appeared on ABC and SBS with favourable coverage, but without mentioning the criminal charges laid against her.  Unfortunately, a lack of basic honesty is de rigueur for pro-US “human rights” advocates.

Left parties blind on West Papua

Some Australian left parties blindly raise both hands when it comes to a request for volunteers for West Papuan independence. They barely lose a step before blundering into yet another international issue without checking its bona fides. Never one to miss a chance to embellish the Australian government, the Socialist Alliance chimes in with a demand that the federal government grant Veronica Koman protection and not hand her over to the Indonesian government. At the least, they display First World disrespect for the legal system of a Third World neighbour. They then pose the rhetorical comparison of West Papua to the case of East Timor.[18] If someone hasn’t told them, comparisons between East Timor – which after a long struggle won independence from Indonesia – and West Papua, are like chalk and cheese. Likewise, Socialist Alternative echoes the East Timor comparison, and swears to uphold all South Pacific struggles for  “self-determination”.[19] The Communist Party of Australia[20] and the Communist Party of Australia Marxist-Leninist[21] both reflexively hail the cross-class “people” of West Papua.

These left parties have forgotten their “Marxism”. Even if it was the case that Papuan militia did not slaughter innocent civilians, did not foster and foment ethnic violence against Indonesians, and did not spread lies and falsifications – Marxists would not automatically endorse self-determination or independence. While Marxists stand against national oppression, advocating the exercise of self-determination is dependent on a number of factors. The most important of these is whether or not it advances the struggle for socialism in that country, in the region, and internationally. Even accounting for the fact that, due to historical factors, the working class of Indonesia is more developed than that of West Papua, there is ample space for working class Papuan and Indonesian collaboration in struggles against capitalism in the region. For example, that which is facilitated by the common language of Bahasa Indonesian.

In stark contrast to liberal and petty-bourgeois nationalists, Marxists do not engage in the shadow boxing of a “good” versus a “bad” nation. What is required are methods of political struggle which advance the class consciousness of workers of all nations. “Self-determination” and/or “independence” may or may not play a role in this process. Either way, efforts to forge Marxist vanguard parties across the entirety of the Asia-Pacific remains essential.

WORKERS   LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO Box 66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/6402252/migrants-caught-up-in-papua-violence/?cs=7579 (03-10-2019)

[2] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/protesters-burn-buildings-in-indonesias-papua-province (03-10-2019)

[3] https://www.nst.com.my/world/2019/09/525226/thousands-scramble-flee-unrest-indonesias-papua (03-10-2019)

[4] Ibid, 1.

[5] https://www.theislanderonline.com.au/story/6402252/migrants-caught-up-in-papua-violence/?cs=11679 (03-10-2019)

[6] https://papuawest.com/2018/12/12/government-to-shift-focus-from-infrastructure-to-education-in-papua/ (03-10-2019)

[7] https://news.mongabay.com/2017/10/indonesias-big-development-push-in-papua-qa-with-program-overseer-judith-j-dipodiputro/ (03-10-2019)

[8] https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/09/30/good-neighbors-papuans-help-non-natives-flee-violence-in-wamena.html (03-10-2019)

[9] http://lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/violence-papua-could-get-worse (03-10-2019)

[10] https://www.muswellbrookchronicle.com.au/story/6402252/migrants-caught-up-in-papua-violence/?cs=7281 (03-10-2019)

[11] https://redfireonline.com/2019/04/27/west-papua-independence-movement-spreads-more-false-claims/ (03-10-2019)

[12] https://www.smh.com.au/world/oceania/protests-sparked-by-hoax-racism-claims-kill-injure-dozens-20190924-p52uez.html (03-10-2019)

[13] https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/2018/12/22/exclusive-chemical-weapons-dropped-papua/15453972007326 (03-10-2019)

[14] https://infowestpapua.com/2018/12/26/phosphorous-bomb-propaganda-in-west-papua-a-seriously-fake-yet-silly-issue-administered-by-australian-media/ (03-10-2019)

[15] https://twitter.com/veronicakoman (03-10-2019)

[16] https://jakartaglobe.id/context/police-issue-red-notice-to-interpol-to-track-and-capture-veronica-koman/ (03-10-2019)

[17] https://en.tempo.co/read/1250173/veronica-koman-fugitive-police-issue-red-notice-for-interpol (04-10-2019)

[18] https://socialist-alliance.org/news/west-papua-australias-new-timor-leste (04-10-2019)

[19] https://redflag.org.au/node/6895 (04-10-2019)

[20] https://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/2019/1888/11-west-papua.html (04-10-2019)

[21] https://www.cpaml.org/posting1.php?id=967 (04-10-2019)

West Papua: Separatists Incite Violence

A local government building in Manokwari was set ablaze by separatist Papuans. Image from http://www.theguardian.com

West Papua: Separatists Incite Violence

04-09-2019 – The desecration of a national flag, destruction of shops, torching of government buildings. Are we talking about Hong Kong? Try West Papua. In the former, Western governments materially aid separatists[1], while in the latter Western governments diplomatically aid separatists – for now. Separatism in itself, under certain circumstances, may be the correct political move for an oppressed class or nation. Likewise, a movement for independence – up to, and including, the right to form a separate state, may, under specific conditions, resolve political issues in favour of working people. Independence, if achieved against the interests of domestic and international capital, may clear the way for an advance of a workers’ struggle for liberation. In West Papua today, however, a much different situation transpires.

Student disrespect

Just before August 17 – Indonesia’s national day – a post on WhatsApp by a youth organisation displayed a defaced Indonesian flag lying in a gutter near a University dormitory in Java.[2] In response, Indonesian soldiers descended on the University dormitory and accused Papuan students of disrespecting the national flag. During this incident, some soldiers apparently used racist insults, calling them “monkeys”.[3] Reports of this incident triggered protests across Indonesia and throughout West Papua. While racist insults are of course unacceptable, a heated emotional response to the national flag being desecrated on the eve of the national day is understandable. After all, Indonesia’s national day marks the proclamation of Indonesian independence from Dutch colonialism (August 17, 1945), which had ruled Indonesia for 350 years.[4] While nationalists exist in Indonesia as in other countries, animated reaction against Papuan students disrespecting the Indonesian national flag, while being hosted at a Javan University, was likely.

The separatist or independence protests that ensued as a result appeared to have a clear target – Indonesian government built infrastructure, government buildings, and Indonesian commercial activity. Despite the Papuan students using these services, alongside Indonesians themselves, the separatists displayed scant regard for them, or for the danger posed to human life in the process. Like Hong Kong, the protests were in effect violent riots. In Manokwari, the capital of the West Papua province, the local government building was torched and reduced to ashes.[5] The separatists pulled down power poles and set fire to vehicles.[6] A market in Fakfak was set ablaze, as was a prison in Sorong – leading to the escape of 250 prisoners.[7] Also in Sorong, the airport was vandalised and many shops were looted.[8]

Liberation?

The demand “Free West Papua!” sounds alluring and enticing, and is redolent of a struggle for justice and right. In reality, the slogan is devoid of political content, not to speak of class content. More than 200 years ago, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels railed against anarchist opposition in the First International, which called for “freedom” in the abstract, regardless of the development of society in an economic or political sense. “Freedom” in itself is a meaningless term in politics, unless it is referred to in concrete terms and to a certain class it seeks to liberate. West Papuan separatists appear to see “freedom” in terms of being released from integration with Indonesia, or specifically, from non-Papuan Indonesians. While there is some nationalism and racism directed against Papuans from ultra-nationalist groups within Indonesia, this is not reflective of Indonesia as a whole. At the same time, there are eerie elements of Papuan disapproval of Indonesians on the basis of their ethnicity. This does not endow the West Papuan independence struggle – under its current leadership – with wholesome aims.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo stated that he understood why Papuans were offended, and asked that both sides forgive each other as “fellow countrymen”.[9] The governor of East Java, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, apologised for the behaviour of the Indonesian nationalist mobs, and said it does not “represent the…people of East Java”.[10] These are scarcely the words of government leaders who are allegedly carrying out systemic discrimination against Papuans. The extent to which the Indonesian government always enacts fair treatment of Papuans is of course up for debate. However, the intent of the Indonesian government appears to be consistent – it is attempting to integrate Papuans into the whole of Indonesia. In 2001, the Indonesian government granted Papua a status of “Special Autonomy”. This may well be rejected by separatist Papuans, but “liberation” has to have a more positive political program than simply rejecting Indonesia.

A liberation movement also needs a basic honesty, so that all can clearly see that the cause is just. Yet in the hands of the current political leadership, a lack of honesty is the major drawback for the West Papuan independence movement. Time and again, the West Papuan separatist leaders have fabricated blatant untruths in their attempt to whip up false hysteria against “Indonesia”. In December last year, Papuan separatists made the fatuous claim that the Indonesian military used white phosphorus munitions against independence supporters. They allied themselves with reporters who openly sided with US imperialism against Syria, where the US government accused the Syrian government – without evidence –  of using chemical weapons, while at the same time admitting they had themselves used white phosphorus munitions against civilians in Syria.[11] Around April this year, Papuan separatists were backed by Western NGOs in claiming – without a shred of evidence – that 32 000 people had been displaced in the Nduga region in West Papua, and that 34 schools had been damaged by the Indonesian military.[12] No verification was provided. But this doesn’t stop Papuan separatists from trying it on again.

Instigators of violence

Papuan independence supporters raised their hands in horror at the Indonesian government blocking the internet in response to the outbreaks of violence wrought by the crowds they had incited. The Indonesian government claimed that this move was made in order to stop Papuan separatists sharing fake videos to further incite more violence. There were some reports that the Papuan students were circulating a video allegedly showing a student being killed by Indonesian soldiers, which was entirely fake. Without offering the Indonesian government any political support, they appear to be telling the truth here. Why? Because the West Papuan separatists have a history of retailing bald faced lies to artificially pump up support for their movement. It is not beyond belief that the violent riots which occurred in the last week of August were fuelled by the separatists spreading a fake video online. Given that this then lead to a government building being burnt to the ground, an airport vandalised, shops looted, markets set on fire, power poles being felled and more – it is in turn not unreasonable for the Indonesian government to “throttle” or even block the internet in an attempt to prevent further violence.

The political violence instigated by the separatists only follows on from the instigation of military conflict by armed West Papuan militia. Time and again, the armed West Papuan groups provoke violent conflict with the Indonesian military only to claim “oppression” when the inevitable retaliation ensues. It is similar to the situation in Syria, where US/UK armed death squads would attack Syrian government positions, and then claim that the Syrian response to overt violence against them was evidence of an “oppressive regime”.  In December last year, armed Papuan militia slaughtered 31 Indonesian road workers constructing the Trans Papua Highway through the Nduga region.[13] Understandably, the Indonesian security forces had to move in to, at least, recover their bodies and secure the area. Hence, the Indonesian government claims that the military build up in parts of West Papua occurs only in response to the violent attacks from the separatists – are not without foundation.

Rejecting development

At the time, Sebby Sambom of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) claimed that the group deliberately attacked the road workers building the Trans Papua Highway because they reject all infrastructure development programs in West Papua.[14] !  This statement is revealing. The West Papuan separatists appear to be aware that the infrastructure development programs paid for and installed by the Indonesian government will benefit Papuans and non-Papuans alike, and will lead to increased economic activity, contributing to a higher standard of living for all. If this occurs, political support for separatist independence would be likely to dissipate. So to keep alive their aim of separatism, 31 innocent Indonesian workers had to die – and with no apology. Is it any wonder that the separatist Papuans do not attract sympathetic Indonesians to their cause?

The question of the economic and industrial development of West Papua is important. Without offering political support to the Indonesian government, the fact remains that the Indonesian government is ramping up its efforts to connect West Papua, parts of which are still inaccessible due to mountainous and jungle covered territory. The Trans Papua highway is a part of this, but there are also moves to extend electricity coverage to more areas of West Papua. In fact, the Indonesian state owned electricity company PLN recently signed a cooperation agreement with the Indonesian military and some Universities, where the aim is to provide electricity to 99% of the villages across West Papua in 2019.[15] Is this the type of development which is rejected by the armed West Papuan groups – connecting villages to electricity, which have never seen it before? West Papuan independence advocates can arguably claim that the Trans Papua highway will only benefit Indonesians, as most Papuans do not own cars or commercial vehicles. However, it is not plausible to suggest that the electrification of nearly all of West Papua will not benefit Papuans, especially those from the highland areas which are currently in darkness.

Transmigration

The critical issue which is driving some Papuans towards nationalist and pro-independence views is the desire to end the transmigration of Austronesians to Papua from other parts of Indonesia. The transmigration is significant, with Austronesians now making up around 51% of the population to the approximately 49% Melanesian indigenous population. However, there remain huge regional variances within the Papuan provinces. While Austronesian and other transmigrants now outnumber Papuans in urban and coastal areas, Papuans are still the overwhelming majority in the highland interior.[16] To some extent, fears of being pushed out of their own land MAY be understandable IF there was systematic and blatant exclusion of Papuans by the Indonesian government and those who tend to dominate commercial activity. However, it is apparent that the Indonesian government is attempting to integrate them into the “Unitary State” of Indonesia, through granting regional autonomy, spending vast sums on transport and electricity infrastructure, and, where possible,  providing healthcare and education for all residents.

Doubtless, there may be many blemishes on the record of the Indonesian government while attempting to implement their aims. Despite this, the Indonesian government  cannot stand by and allow armed Papuan groups to engage in wanton killings of non-Papuan residents. Nor can it stand by and allow Papuan separatists to engage in terroristic violence such as provoking gunfights with police and the military OR the incitement of crowds to commit riotous acts such as setting ablaze government buildings, markets, shops or transport facilities.

It is true that Marxists MAY sometimes give critical support to a movement for national liberation IF it is directed against imperialism.  However, the current West Papuan “liberation” movement is oriented in the opposite direction. It aims to enlist imperialism to help achieve its aims, both because it knows it cannot defeat the Indonesian military on its own, and because it does not aim to convince Indonesians, let alone Indonesian workers, of the justness of its cause. So there are appeals to the United Nations, to British and Australian parliamentarians, and so on. The British ruling class has partially come to the party, by offering fugitive independence figure Benny Wenda “asylum” in London.[17] The nationalism of a small state often means, in turn, recognising the nationalism of the largest states, as a quid-pro-quo. Working people, from Indonesia, Papua, the UK and Australia – on the other hand – have a material interest in politically combatting the nationalism of small and large states, in their combined struggle for liberation from capitalist imperialism. Papuan separatists, and their supporters, need to decide where they stand.

 

WORKERS   LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E:workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

 

[1] https://www.workers.org/2019/08/16/whats-behind-hong-kong-protests/ (26-08-2019)

[2] https://globalvoices.org/2019/08/25/indonesia-sends-in-troops-and-cuts-internet-as-west-papua-protesters-denounce-racist-treatment-of-students/ (28-08-2019)

[3] Ibid, 2.

[4] http://www.bali3000.com/article/IndependenceDayofRepublicofIndonesia.asp (28-08-2019)

[5] https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/explained/article/3023640/explained-riots-indonesias-papua-region (28-08-2019)

[6] https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6337270/jakarta-to-hold-probe-after-papuan-protest/digital-subscription/ (28-08-2019)

[7] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/indonesia-papua-riots-unrest-history-problems-development-11836300 (28-08-2019)

[8] https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Papua-violence-shows-Indonesia-s-fragile-grip-on-eastern-provinces (28-08-2019)

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/20/indonesian-president-calls-for-calm-after-violent-protests-in-west-papua (28-08-2019)

[10] Ibid, 9.

[11] https://redfireonline.com/2018/12/30/west-papua-corporate-media-enlisted-to-spread-false-claims-fake-news/ (29-08-2019)

[12] https://redfireonline.com/2019/04/27/west-papua-independence-movement-spreads-more-false-claims/ (29-08-2019)

[13] https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/2176302/indonesia-probing-reports-rebels-executed-31-construction (30-08-2019)

[14] https://indonesiaexpat.biz/news/free-papua-movement-kills-workers/ (30-08-2019)

[15] https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/07/30/pln-signs-deal-to-expand-electricity-in-two-provinces-in-papua.html (01-09-2019)

[16] https://www.globalresearch.ca/indonesias-west-papua-settlers-dominate-coastal-regions-highlands-still-overwhelmingly-papuan/5569676 (01-09-2019)

[17] https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-49009326 (01-09-2019)

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.

West Papua: Corporate Media Enlisted to Spread False Claims, Fake News

Map highlighting West Papua. Image from RNZ

West Papua: Corporate Media Enlisted to Spread False Claims, Fake News

30-12-18 – As far as false flags go, this one was a whopper. In an “exclusive” posted in The Saturday Paper on December 22, John Martinkus and Mark Davis make the outlandish claim that the Indonesian military used white phosphorus munitions against West Papuan villagers in the region of Nduga.[1] White phosphorus is an internationally banned chemical weapon, due to the immense damage it causes to humans in a battlefield. It ignites spontaneously in contact with oxygen, and burns human flesh incessantly, causing unbearable pain and often death. The very mention of white phosphorus condemns those who use it against supposed adversaries. However, in this case, the mention of white phosphorus is calculated to cause maximum outrage, up to and including demands for Western intervention – as if that would do anything but make things worse.

Embedded regime change media

Given the recent background of John Martinkus and Mark Davis, and The Saturday Paper, and SBS, in stridently backing the US led war of regime change against the Syrian Arab Republic, it’s not difficult to see how they have transferred their skills in fake news. And the deadly irony is that the side they were paid propagandists for – US imperialism and its ISIS and Al-Qaeda death squad proxies – repeatedly used white phosphorus against Syrian civilians and anyone suspected of defending their government and armed forces against arguably the dirtiest war in history. A little over a month ago, it was reported that the US military used banned white phosphorus bombs in the Deir Ez-Zor province of Syria for the fourth time in two months.[2] It is not as if the US denies using banned white phosphorus munitions – a crime of colossal proportion. In 2017, the US military claimed that white phosphorus rounds were used for “screening” in a way that “considers civilians”.[3] Needless to say, the US military would probably also claim that its entire war for the overthrow of the Syrian state was because it was concerned for civilians!

Unfortunately the US was actively assisted in this atrocious war by other imperialist powers such as the United Kingdom (UK), France, Canada and Australia. And the region of Deir Ez-Zor is very close to home for the Australian ruling class. In 2016, the Australian military admitted that its warplanes had been involved in bombing in Deir Ez-Zor which not only slaughtered up to 82 Syrian soldiers,[4] but actively assisted ISIS alongside the US military. This was during a period where the US was back-pedalling due to the military success of Russia’s air strikes against ISIS, which were requested by the Syrian government.

2016 was the year in which John Martinkus openly propagandised for US imperialism, again ironically in the same The Saturday Paper. At that time there was a slew of Western corporate media slanders against the actions of the Russian military in Syria, with fabricated claims that Russia was bombing civilians instead of bombing ISIS, especially in and around the ancient city of Aleppo. John Martinkus’ article at that time was a part of this unprincipled barrage, and even claimed that the Syrian government also took part in supposedly raining death upon Syrian civilians.[5] For his part, Mark Davis also joined in as a mercenary journalist for hire, posting a video about the mythical “Syrian uprising”.[6]

If these reporters were consistent, or were even half remorseful about their role in working for imperialist interests against Syria, and in practice for the terrorist death squads armed by the West, they might have written a story about how the US used white phosphorus during its war on Syria, and still does. But no – now they have turned their hand to put together fabricated claims that the Indonesian military used white phosphorus against West Papuan separatists. In Syria, the aim was to call for further Western intervention to accelerate the destruction of the entire Syrian nation, potentially triggering a global nuclear war. Now, the aim appears to be a call for Western intervention into West Papua, on the basis of unproven and fake claims against the Indonesian armed forces. It seems the material benefits of fanning the flames of the nefarious ends of imperialism are too much to resist.

What did happen in Nduga?

In amongst the blanket of lies about white phosphorus, even compromised guns for hire feel compelled to report some of what actually occurred. The firing of some kind of gas projectiles into the Nduga region by the Indonesian military was in response to the slaughter of at least 31 workers who were constructing the Trans West Papua highway. The Saturday Paper’s “exclusive” admits that these killings were murders. These murders were apparently carried out after requests for the road workers to destroy a video of a flag raising ceremony in the region on December 1 – the day that West Papuans mark as their declaration of independence from Dutch colonialism in 1963. The armed Papuans apparently chased the workers back to their accommodation, and murdered 24 of them. 8 escaped to the home of a nearby politician, the armed Papuans again chased them to that place, and murdered 7 more.[7]

The Indonesian military (TNI) expressly denied using white phosphorus, and credibly pointed out that such munitions cannot be fired from a helicopter, but would be have to be fired from a jet fighter or a bomber, from a distances of tens or hundreds of kilometres away. A statement provided to the ABC by the Papua Military Command went on to say that the TNI does not operate jet fighters, let alone bombers.[8] On the other hand, the West Papuan armed groups make the likely claim that the road workers are in fact Indonesian military, and not civilians. Moreover, they claim that the Trans Papua Highway will be used for military purposes, and will not benefit civilians.[9] The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB) has claimed responsibility for the attack which took 31 lives.[10] Needless to say, once a dispute reaches the point of armed conflict, a political resolution becomes more and more difficult to attain.

Independence for West Papua?

There appears to be a divide between some of the armed separatist West Papuan groups and a political wing. Benny Wenda, the exiled chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), stated in response to the incidents in Nduga that his organisation does not want bloodshed, but does want Indonesia to come to the international table so there can be an agreement about a referendum.[11] At the same time, Victor Yiemo, international spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), stated that the TPN-PB is “our military and are fighting for our freedom and we support them”.[12]

What stance should working people take on the issue of independence for West Papua? Many on the left misinterpret the leader of the Russian Revolution, V.I. Lenin, on the issue of national liberation. While it is the case that Lenin and the Bolshevik party often advocated for the right of nations to self-determination, up to and including the right to separate – this was not always automatic. And more to the point, it was only advocated by the Bolsheviks in order to strengthen the struggle for socialism against capitalist imperialism. In the case of the nations within the Tsarist “prison-house of nations”, it was specifically put forward in order to gain working class support for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a multi-national workers’ state. This later became a reality with the founding of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922. However, this was only possible after the working-class seizure of state power which was the spectacular success of the October Revolution of 1917.

In acknowledging the right of nations to self-determination, it does not follow that Marxists will therefore automatically advocate the exercise of such a right. In addition, while Marxists do not of course insist that a national liberation movement must necessarily have international socialist politics driving it before offering support, the politics of the leadership of such a movement must be analysed and assessed. It therefore becomes not so much a case of whether or not to demand, and fight for, independence. It is much more a case of independence with which politics?

More to the point, what is the political character of the leadership of the various groups pushing for independence for West Papua?  There is no doubt a historic injustice has been perpetrated against the people of West Papua, and thus a strong case could be put forward for independence. Yet if the current political leadership of such a movement is prepared to allow blatant false flags (such as the claim of being bombed with white phosphorus) in cahoots with Australian journalists with a track record of working directly for imperialism in perhaps the dirtiest war in history, such a leadership must at the very least be questioned. Imperialism itself repeatedly used blatant false flags – claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians, without a shred of evidence, to prosecute a war which slaughtered at least 500 000 innocent people. Is the political leadership of the West Papuan independence movement at all concerned that its movement could be associated with such forces?

United Nations – a double edged sword

Taking the cause of West Papuan independence to the United Nations (UN), or appealing to it to intervene on behalf of West Papua, has some advantages, but many disadvantages. On the one hand, it may be possible to score moral victories, in terms of votes in the General Assembly in favour. For example, the UN General Assembly has voted for many years for the lifting of the economic blockade on Cuba. Repeatedly, the only countries to vote against usually include the US and Israel. These indicative votes in favour of a basic issue of justice of course cannot be enforced, but help to establish a certain political justification. On the other hand, the UN is a body which is controlled by the various imperialist powers, and led by the largest imperialist of all – the US. Therefore, appeals to the United Nations (UN) recognises the existing power structure and builds illusions in the very system which holds the world in its death grip. It doesn’t point a way forward to liberation from this system – in West Papua or elsewhere.

The ULMWP is apparently campaigning throughout 2019 for a UN vote on West Papua, and are asking Australian to lobby the federal government to support it.[13] This is the same UN which oversaw the discredited “Act of Free Choice” decades ago, and rubber stamped the Indonesian take-over of West Papua soon after.  Some also lobby to expand the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP), which includes current Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.[14] Ironically, closer to home, Jeremy Corbyn is on record as opposing independence for Scotland. But the supreme danger in terms of working people swinging behind such moves is that it reinforces the central myth of corporate class rule – that, despite everything, bodies such as the UN, the Australian and UK Parliaments are “our” politicians and “our” leaders. Little could be further from the truth. These bodies are marionettes whose strings are pulled by the real rulers of the world – the holders of finance and industrial capital, accumulated daily by the endless toil of working people throughout the globe.

Neither can working people make apologetics for the Indonesian government or its military (TNI) with its role in West Papua. The only way to combat this politically though, is to reach out to Indonesian workers in West Papua and throughout Indonesia, in a struggle against capitalist rule in South West and South East Asia, and indeed throughout Australasia and the Pacific. This would impair the unhealthy dynamic of “Indonesia versus West Papua”, and also the even more unhealthy “Muslim versus Christian” by-product. Under this political context, the demand for West Papuan independence could be backed by working people in the region, and could spur on the much needed socialist revolutions in the imperialist centres. Key to this drive will be the formation of workers’ vanguard parties in West Papua, Indonesia, Australia and the Pacific. West Papua can only be liberated by the actions of workers united across Australasia.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

PO Box 66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/2018/12/22/exclusive-chemical-weapons-dropped-papua/15453972007326 (27-12-18)

[2] https://www.mintpressnews.com/us-uses-banned-white-phosphorus-bombs-in-syrian-city-for-the-fourth-time-in-two-months/251537/ (27-12-18)

[3] https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201706091054502594-us-coalition-white-phosphorus-raqqa/ (27-12-18)

[4] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-18/australian-jets-involved-in-botched-air-strike-on-syrian-army/7855610 (27-12-18)

[5] https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2016/10/01/syrian-city-aleppo-under-siege/14752440003804 (27-12-18)

[6] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/dateline/story/syrias-uprising  (27-12-18)

 

[7] Ibid, 1.

[8] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-23/indonesia-military-denies-using-chemical-weapons-in-west-papua/10664402 (27-12-18)

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/05/west-papua-fears-of-spiralling-violence-after-attack-leaves-up-to-31-dead (27-12-18)

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s2h8nHc1KA&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0mv9fNQ1anWtMi1Xco-mos6f_ZcJujcJVmeQdjC6vhvkobrwj3CKJ1mPM (27-12-18)

[11] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/06/west-papua-independence-leader-urges-calm-after-killings (27-12-18)

[12] Ibid, 11.

[13] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/west-papua-liberation-movement-calls-un-support-independence-referendum-2019 (28-12-18)

[14] https://www.ipwp.org/ipwp-news/historic-meeting-with-leader-of-the-opposition-rt-jeremy-corbyn-london/ (28-12-18)

West Papua: Can Independence Deliver?

West Papua: Can Independence Deliver?

24-12-2017 – To the casual observer it appears to be an open and shut case. An indigenous people are occupied by a superior military power, which attempts to forcibly integrate the inhabitants within the larger and more powerful state, denying national and cultural rights that all people should enjoy. The oppressing power installs settlers in the occupied region, who, over time, come to overwhelm the original inhabitants. This power enjoys the backing of the “advanced” First World powers, which supply it with political and diplomatic support, along with state of the art military hardware. In response, the international left backs a movement for independence, linking with the domestic leaders, while applying political pressure to “their own” wealthy but rapacious governments. It all sounds straightforward. But in the case of the independence movement for West Papua, as in many things political, issues are not all what they seem.

Parallels with East Timor?

Progressive minded folk might object – but isn’t it a re-run of the situation of East Timor, where we have an obligation to back an independence movement? In fact, while not ignoring some similiarities, there are several reasons why the situation of West Papua differs significantly. Firstly, East Timor was militarily invaded by Indonesia in December 1975, days after a declaration of independence was made following the withdrawal of the former colonial power Portugal. The Indonesian military occupied East Timor from 1975 until 1999, when a United Nations (UN) sponsored referendum resulted in an overwhelming vote in favour of independence. Pro-Indonesian militias then embarked on a rampage, slaughtering around 1400 people, and pushing hundreds of thousands into West Timor as refugees. A UN badged INTERFET (International Force for East Timor) Force was sent in, which had the effect of preventing further violence. Although the exact role of the UN and the Australian military forces in East Timor at the time was dubious, East Timor was recognised as an independent nation in 2002.[1]

This military invasion and occupation of East Timor in 1975 was not recognised by the UN, not backed internationally, and in reality only the Australian government openly sided with Indonesia. In the case of West Papua, there was no overt military invasion, though Indonesian rule in West Papua came about in deceitful circumstances. The western part of Papua New Guinea was once a Dutch colony, but the Netherlands prepared for withdrawal during the 1950s. In 1961, West Papuans first raised the “morning star” flag, and sentiment for independence began.

However, Indonesia soon asserted what it believed to be its sovereign rights over the area, and a conflict broke out with the Dutch and indigenous West Papuans. In 1962, a UN sponsored treaty known as the “New York Agreement” was drawn up, which appointed Indonesia the temporary administrator. The agreement included a clause of which the intent was that all West Papuans would be able to vote in a referendum on independence. Unfortunately, when this referendum was held, the Indonesian military held 1026 West Papuans at gunpoint, and threatened themselves and their families with elimination if they voted for independence. This so-called “Act of Free Choice” was approved by the UN, despite the circumstances, and this remained in place for decades afterwards. West Papuans dub it the “Act of No Choice”, and it forms one of the planks of independence sentiment today.

Transmigration

There are also significant differences between East Timor and West Papua in relation to Indonesia’s long running transmigration program. The Indonesian government claims that transmigration is a necessity to alleviate population pressures on the densely populated islands such as Java, Bali and Madura, and assisting the development of outer areas such as Kalimantan, Timor and West Papua. There seems to be credence in critiques of transmigration from some groups, which claim that transmigration in Indonesia has barely alleviated the population pressures at all, and has led to significant environmental damage through forest and land clearing. Despite this, it has had the financial backing of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank throughout the 80s and 90s.[2]

Many West Papuans see the Indonesian government’s transmigration program as an attempt to outnumber them over time, to make them a minority in their own land. There is some justification in this view, as there are many reports of the Indonesian government backing transmigrants that identify their traditional lands as suitable for settlement, clear the forests, and then give indigenous West Papuans the “choice” to live in a transmigration settlement area as a minority.[3] This understandably fuels antagonism towards the Indonesian government and the transmigrants themselves, and fosters further sentiment for independence.

The sheer numbers are vastly different though, between West Papua and East Timor. A research paper by Dr Jim Elmslie, a specialist in West Papua studies at the University of Sydney, estimates that the current non-Papuan population in West Papua now comprises 51.27%, or around 1.8 million, whereas the Papuan component comprises 48.73%, or around 1.7 million. This is incomparable to the situation four decades ago, where Papuans made up 96.09% of the total population.[4]  This is the “slow motion genocide” West Papuan independence supporters refer to.

The transmigration issue for East Timor, on the other hand, was not in the same league. While there was transmigration into East Timor, it was at a significantly lower rate, and by no means ever attained a majority. On the contrary, it is estimated that between 1970 and 1990, the non-Timorese population in Timor (mainly comprising Indonesian, Chinese and Portuguese descendants) rose from 1.6% to 8.5%.[5] Thus, at the time of the UN sponsored referendum on independence in East Timor in 1999, the non-Timorese population in East Timor would presumably have not exceeded even 10% of the total. This 10% was excluded from the vote in 1999, where over 80% of the people of East Timor voted for independence.

UN petition

In August this year, West Papuan independence activists delivered a petition to the United Nations in Geneva, symbolically swimming across Lake Geneva to present it. Exiled West Papuan independence identity Benny Wenda stated that the petition had been signed by 1 804 421 people, which was comprised of 1 708 167 indigenous Papuans and 96 254 Indonesian settlers. Dr Jim Elmslie estimates that this represents 70.88% of the indigenous Papuan population.[6] Reportedly, hard copies of the petition were smuggled from area to area in West Papua after the Indonesian government blocked its distribution online.

The petition and its dramatic submission certainly attracted worldwide attention, but it also raises a potential problem for the West Papuan independence movement. What way would the other half of the population of West Papua vote, if given the opportunity? Moreover, given that almost all of this part of the population are non-Papuans, what incentive would they have for voting for independence? The cultural and ethnic divide between the Melanesian Papuans and the Austronesian Indonesians is one that can create animosity, given that the Austronesian transmigrants appear to be backed by the Indonesian government at the expense of the indigenous Melanesians. The strategy of large parts of the West Papuan independence movement seems to rely upon calling for a UN overseen referendum on independence. Yet if this was to come about, there seems little guarantee that the vote in favour of independence would be overwhelming, given that a little over half of the population  are non-Papuan. This is not to deny the fact that elementary justice should allow some form of fair ballot to take place, to replace the discredited “Act of No-Choice”.

Religious divide

In addition to the ethnic division, there is also the religious aspect. The Austronesian transmigrants are overwhelmingly Islamic in religion, and it seems some of them are more strident in defending this than others. The Melanesian Papuans, apparently due to large scale missionary work, appear to be overwhelmingly Christian, which appears to co-exist with their tribal ties. There can be a perception, therefore, that the West Papuan independence movement is backing a Christian West Papua against a Muslim Indonesia. This potentially sets up an unhealthy dynamic in a world political environment where US imperialism has been guilty of deliberately whipping up extreme Islamophobia to generate support for its regime change wars, most recently in Syria.

There was an instance where a “Free West Papua Party” turned up to speak at a rally organised by the ultra-racist far-right group Reclaim Australia in Perth. Reportedly, some West Papua independence supporters also turned out to a Reclaim Australia event in Cairns. To its credit, large parts of the Free West Papua movement in Australia issued a statement expressly disassociating itself from the “Free West Papua Party” and from Reclaim Australia. The statement, signed by around 40 representatives of various West Papua independence supporters, rejected the use of racism or religious exclusion entirely, and especially in the case of the struggle for West Papua’s rights.[7] The statement did acknowledge some tension between Christianity and Islam in West Papua, but claimed that this tension has not yet generated into a religious conflict which has broken out in other parts of Indonesia. In our view, the Free West Papua movement needs to be more forthright in declaring that their movement does not attempt to exclude anyone on a religious, cultural or ethnic basis.

Development divide

As in so many class struggles throughout history, the religious aspect is often a cover for very real class struggles bubbling away. This is reflected in the West Papuan divide between the relatively developed coastal cities and towns, and the overwhelmingly rural interior. Austronesian transmigrants predominate in the coastal cities, especially the capital Jayapura, and are the most prevalent in the jobs in the private sector, and those connected with commercial activity. These areas attract higher educated Indonesians, who also dominate in manufacturing, and an estimated 90% of jobs connected with trade.[8] As more transmigrants arrive in the West Papuan cities, they naturally form connections with “their own”, which affords them more job opportunities, which unfortunately crowds out indigenous Papuans.

Indigenous Papuans are then often forced back into economic activity such as subsistence farming, which is obviously not as lucrative, and which has little connection to the modern, cash and international economy. This, along with a lack of development in such areas, contributes to a justifiable resentment towards transmigrants, and towards Indonesia in general. While the Indonesian government is spending large amounts of money on West Papua, very little of it reaches the rural interior, overwhelmingly inhabited by indigenous Papuans. This leads to issues such as poorer education outcomes, where apparently 56% of Papuans have less than primary education, and 24% have remained illiterate. The lack of development indicators are stark, as in many rural Papuan interior areas, 80% of villages have no electricity, 90% have no telephone, and 83.5% have no access to banking or credit facilities.[9] Combine this with the fact that around half of Papuan villages are accessible only by dirt road, and one can see how many Papuans might follow the offered “solution” of independence.

Infrastructure spending by Indonesian government

Perhaps in an effort to divert West Papuans from taking the path of demanding all out independence, the Indonesian government of President Joko Widodo (also known as “Jokowi”) has pledged to accelerate infrastructure development. Last February, the Indonesian government announced it was spending US $371 million on infrastructure and housing in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, including a trans-West Papua highway.[10]  The Indonesian government has also prioritised the improvement of facilities at the regional airports at Saigun, Weror Tambrauw, Marinda and Fakfak.[11] Plans for the building and running of a railway in West Papua are also well in the pipeline, with the proposal to run a railway line from the city of Sorong in the West through to Manokwari in the East, passing through South Sorong, Maybrak, Teluk Bintuni, South Manokwari and Manokwari.[12]

Electricity infrastructure is also receiving Indonesian government investment. Joko Widodo announced the building of six new electricity infrastructure projects on his fifth visit in October 2016, including 4 hydro-electric power plants, and around 200 kilometres of power lines.[13] Much more would be needed to electrify all of West Papua, but it would seem the Indonesian government is keenly aware of the need for this infrastructure, and the need for it to be NOT seen as only benefiting Jakarta.

Military and political repression

Of course, all of the infrastructure development in the world is unlikely to completely offset other Papuan grievances, such as the military and political repression that it accompanies. The Indonesian military regard the raising of the West Papuan morning star flag as high treason, and often those who attempt to raise it risk long jail terms if caught. It is also claimed that 500 000 Papuans have perished in skirmishes with the Indonesian military. For their part, the Indonesian military claim they are only responding to an armed insurgency. The Indonesian military are accused of slaughtering pro-independence Papuan fighters, and, in turn, the Indonesian military accuse the Papuan militias of taking non-Papuans hostage.

There is also little doubt that the Australian government backs the Indonesian government’s position, and “respects the territorial integrity” of the Indonesian archipelago. After the experience of East Timor, however, many Indonesians simply do not believe such Australian government assertions. Nevertheless, there appears to be strong evidence that Indonesia’s Detachment 88 is trained and supplied by the Australian Federal Police.[14] Detachment 88 are suspected to have been behind the gunning down and murder of Mako Tabuni, who was at the time the deputy chairperson of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB). In fact, it is not only the Australian Federal Police who “train” and “advise” the Indonesian police, but the police of the United Kingdom, Denmark and Canada.[15]

Independence with which politics?

In the case of East Timor in the early 1970s, the Indonesian government and its backers in Australia and the US appeared to be concerned, with some justification, that an independent East Timor would be a communist outpost, a Cuba in the Pacific. The political leadership of the various East Timorese pro-independence groups was certainly left-leaning. However, so far it appears that the politics of the various West Papuan independence groups are not so left wing. Many on the left perhaps understandably believe that an indigenous people fighting for their rights will automatically adopt progressive, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist politics. This is not usually the case, and in fact, in the absence of a strong trade union movement, or strong left-wing workers’ parties, the politics can often tend towards liberalism – which is a component pillar of capitalism.

The Indonesian government is doing what it is doing to West Papua not because it is Indonesian, or because it is predominantly Islamic. The problem is capitalism in Indonesia, including West Papua, and of course including the United States, Australia and New Zealand. This is one reason why independence for West Papua – if this means the setting up of a small capitalist state in the Indonesian archipelago – will scarcely solve the problems that capitalism in the region is responsible for in West Papua – poverty, unemployment and under-development. East Timor is now discovering this, even as we can acknowledge that the Timorese are of course in a better situation without the presence of the Indonesian military.

From this distance, it appears that the politics of the various pro-independence West Papuan groups has not developed in an anti-capitalist, much less a socialist direction. Some leftists will point to Lenin’s support for the right of nations to self-determination as justification for endorsing the West Papuan independence movement wholesale. Yet Lenin also always stressed that the interests of socialism and the interests of the socialist revolution take priority over a struggle for national self-determination. That is, working people cannot discount a genuine desire for national self-determination, especially that of a former colonial country. At the same time, nationalism has its own logic. If you wage a campaign on strongly nationalist terms, it often directly leads to recognising the nationalism of all nations – even the huge imperialist powers, which are responsible for your oppression in the first place. The nationalism of a small nation, thus often becomes dependent on larger and stronger patrons. Hence the West Papuan independence movement, as much as it criticises Australian and British government backing of the Indonesian government, at the same time appeals to Australian and British parliamentarians to raise and fight for West Papuan independence within their “corridors of power”. The independence movement, in fact, becomes dependent on the large states it inveigles us to campaign against.

Under world capitalism, a small state can barely survive unless it has the backing of very large states. This is why an alternative for West Papua should be a perspective of uniting the working class of all of Papua – non-Papuan and Papuan alike – in a struggle to overthrow capitalism in Papua, Indonesia, and throughout the Asia-Pacific, not the least in Australia and New Zealand. Independence gained in this way would have the potential to address the issues of poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment in West Papua, concern over which is currently being directed towards a movement for (capitalist) independence. This requires the building of Marxist vanguard parties in Papua and Indonesia in the struggle for a socialist Asia-Pacific.

As far away as this perspective may appear, nationalism ultimately offers very little for the working people of Papua. It also does not advance the class struggle in neighbouring Australia, where solidarity can end up being an exercise to lobby for concessions from the Australian government – rather than working to delegitimise the ruling class in the eyes of the workers.  Nevertheless, it can be recognised that the West Papuan people should have the right to determine their own affairs, if indeed this is what they choose, up to and including the right to secede to form their own state. Such a binding referendum, however, would have to include the entire 3.5 million people who inhabit West Papua, indigenous and non-indigenous alike.

Working people internationally should also demand the Indonesian government allow all political activity in West Papua, including that which agitates for independence, to proceed without interference. The flying of the morning star flag should not attract any punishment, let alone jail terms. At the same time, working people should urge the West Papuan independence movement to link with non-Papuans in Papua and Indonesia in a joint struggle against Indonesian capitalism – which is underwritten by its imperialist sponsors.  A socialist West Papua as part of an Indonesian workers’ republic would vastly advance the interests of the workers of West Papua, and spur on class struggle throughout the Asia-Pacific. This would be a movement worth fighting for.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

A feature demand of the West Papuan independence movement is the call for a UN sponsored referendum. Image from http://www.bennywenda.org

PO  Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_East_Timor (26-12-2017)

[2] http://www.downtoearth-indonesia.org/old-site/ctrans.htm (26-12-2017)

[3] http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1990/10/marr.html (26-12-2017)

[4] https://sydney.edu.au/arts/peace_conflict/docs/working_papers/West_Papuan_Demographics_in_2010_Census.pdf (26-12-2017)

[5] https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/east-timor-old-migration-challenges-worlds-newest-country (26-12-2017)

[6] http://humanrightspapua.org/news/23-2017/273-papua-independence-petition-delivered-to-the-united-nations (27-12-2017)

[7] https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B27n3cmOkqI4OUQ3WTZyc0syU28/view (27-12-2017)

[8] http://apjjf.org/2011/9/37/David-Adam-Stott/3597/article.html (28-12-2017)

[9] http://apjjf.org/2011/9/37/David-Adam-Stott/3597/article.html (28-12-2017)

[10] http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/15/government-invests-rp-7-6t-in-infrastructure-in-papua-w-papua.html (28-12-2017)

[11] https://en.antaranews.com/news/106427/president-prioritizes-infrastructure-development-in-west-papua (28-12-2017)

[12] http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/321489/indonesia-steps-up-plans-for-west-papua-railway (28-12-2017)

[13] http://papuanews.org/jokowi-inaugurate-6-electricity-infrastructures-in-west-papua/ (28-12-2017)

[14] http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-28/papuans-claim-australian-link-to-death-squad/4228710 (29-12-2017)

[15] https://www.jclec.org/stakeholders (29-12-2017)