Above: Residents of Ilaga flee from West Papuan armed separatists. Image from http://www.en.tempo.co
06-06-2021: Throughout April and May, armed West Papuan separatist militia rampaged through the Puncak Regency, causing mayhem and leaving a trail of blood and destruction. Ostensibly claiming to be part of a “resistance” to the “oppression” of Papuans within Indonesia, the sheer cruelty of their behaviour could well be interpreted as having another dark and sinister agenda. The noble sounding aims of “independence” and “freedom” for West Papua (the Indonesian provinces of Papua and Papua Barat) remain abstract until and unless it is connected with a definite set of political ideas and, most importantly, a political program. Without concrete examples, on paper no one is opposed to “independence” and “freedom” per se. At the same time, these broad aims – if they are genuinely held – should not be used as cover or a shroud for any acts of wanton violence. The means and ends must have a feasible correlation. While it is understood that not all political struggles can remain wholly pacifist, any use of violence must be justified on the scales of history.
Terror in the highlands
In the case of West Papua, justifying the barbarity of the small handful of Papuans who are prepared to take up arms against “Indonesia” has become an impossible task. The Indonesian government refers to the armed separatist Papuan militia as KKB (Armed Criminal Group), and it is difficult to disagree with this designation. On the 8th of April, Papuan KKB entered the Julukoma Village of the Beoga District, Puncak Regency, and approached the home of Oktovianus Rayo – a local elementary school teacher. They shot him dead. The next day, the KKB entered the home of junior high school teacher Yonatan Randen, and also shot him dead. This was after the Papuan separatists had burned down three local schools. Clearly, the separatists were targeting, in the most brutal manner possible, the education system which they see as “Indonesian” – but which educates all citizens regardless of ethnicity. Needless to say, the execution of school teachers is hardly a campaign of political persuasion. It is outright terror, to intimidate anyone who does not back separatist “independence”.
On Sunday the 11th of April, the separatist militia torched nine rooms of the junior high school at Beoga. After being repelled from the Beoga airport, the KKB burned the local school and several houses at Dambet Village. Here, they were engaged in a firefight with Brigadier General Gusti Putu Danny Nugraha and seven other soldiers. General Putu was shot dead in this exchange. It took 100 military personnel to re-take Beoga airport from the armed separatists, from where 42 “migrants” (transmigrants from other parts of Indonesia) had to be evacuated to Mimika for their own safety. The fact that the transmigrants (who are generally Indonesians from Java, Sumatra or Sulawesi) had to flee for their lives under the protection of the Indonesian security forces speaks volumes. Advocates of “Free West Papua” will not admit it, but this extreme anti-internal migrant racism appears to be the central rationale for Papuan separatism. It is acknowledged that some tensions can be caused by an influx of non-Papuans over time, but threatening to kill them is something else entirely.
The KKB separatists did not let up during the month of May. On Monday May 3rd, the militia attacked in the Ilaga District of Puncak Regency. They set fire to the Mayubwri Elementary School, the teachers’ residence and the Puskesmas Building, which was used as a community kiosk. The separatists also sabotaged a number of local roads, as well as the Kimak Bridge. They didn’t stop there. A few days later, the KKB burned down a public community centre, used locally for learning activities, in the Ilaga Kimak Village. Tracing the trail of destruction illuminates the clear intent of the separatists. Attack, burn down, destroy or sabotage any public infrastructure provided by the Indonesian government. In fact, even attack and kill public school teachers as a “warning”. Again, the terror and intimidation towards the local community is obvious. Papua will be “free” – or else. Workers internationally cannot offer one iota of support to this blackmail.
Claims that the Papuan separatists only target Indonesian police and military forces are false – they also target civilians. On the 28th of May, residents from the Oksamol District reported that the community revolted against the attacks from the separatists which threatened civilians and also took the life of officer Mario Sanoi. They affirmed that they took up traditional weapons against the KKB – who did not reside anywhere in the local area – and drove them away, even as they fired at them with guns. So much for separatism being a popular choice amongst the community!
NKRI declares KKB to be “terrorist”
Not without reason, in response the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) declared the armed Papuan separatist groups to be terrorists according to Indonesian law. In a press conference on April 29, the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Mahfud MD, stated that the acts of the KKB and all organisations and persons affiliated with it are now regarded as terrorist under Law No. 5 of 2018 and associated amendments. Terrorists are people who plan, instigate and organise terrorism. And “terrorism” is “…any act that uses violence or threats of violence that creates a sense of terror….that can cause mass casualties…cause damage or destruction….[to the] environment…public or international facilities, with the motive of ideology, politics and security.”
When armed Papuan separatists execute public school teachers, set fire to elementary and junior high school buildings, attack and damage roads and bridges – it can hardly be argued that such acts are not terrorist. While workers internationally cannot offer the Indonesian government political support, especially its energetic campaign to inject almost all of Indonesia with experimental Covid “vaccines” in response to a pandemic of lies, there can scarcely be opposition to its moves to prevent separatist violence in West Papua. After being officially declared “terrorist”, the onus is now on Papuan separatist groups and their supporters to declare their real position in relation to terrorism. Further, they must utterly repudiate the killing and/or targeting of non-Papuan civilians, as well as Papuans who do not support separatist independence. If they do not, we are entitled to view West Papuan “independence” as a campaign of ethnic violence and terror with the most unsavoury of intentions.
Left parties alibi racial violence
The knee-jerk reaction of liberals the world over is to bow down before an indigenous population and excuse their misdeeds no matter how heinous. Self-proclaimed socialist and “Marxist” parties, on the other hand, should know a lot better. Unfortunately, many of them display a championship level of credulity when it comes to West Papua. While being the first to shout to the heavens about real or imagined racial discrimination against black/indigenous/”people of colour” in the First World, they often fall silent or shift uneasily when shown examples where Melanesian Papuan militia have targeted or killed Austronesians or others from the approximately 1300 non-Papuan ethnicities who transmigrate into Papua. Many of these “transmigrants” have in fact lived in peace in Papua alongside everyone else there for 30 years or more. Yet racial violence targeting transmigrants in Indonesia should not be overlooked when it is carried out by separatist Papuans, indigenous or otherwise.
The Socialist Alliance (SA) very selectively reports on incidents such as the one that took the life of Indonesian General Putu. In their Green Left newspaper, SA claim that General Putu was shot “while travelling” near Dambet Village in Puncak Regency. They do not mention that General Putu and his group of security forces were not “travelling” but were in fact in pursuit of the separatists which had torched the local schools and executed two school teachers. They go on to claim that there are around 5000 IDPs (internally displaced persons) in the Nduga Regency, who had to flee “Indonesian security operations”. They do not mention that these particular security operations were a response to armed Papuan separatists murdering 31 road workers in cold blood who were constructing bridges on the Yigi and Aurak Rivers in December 2018, and subsequent clashes since that time. Needless to say, the slaughter of any Indonesian – civilian or military – will naturally force the security forces to respond. Moreover, one can only imagine the response of the police and security forces in Australia, the US or Europe, if armed separatists attacked and killed anyone they saw as representing or working with the governments of those states.
Socialist Alternative (SAlt) likewise wave the flag for West Papuan “independence”, regardless of the consequences. In an article in Red Flag, SAlt decry the denial of parole for five Papuans charged with treason in relation to riots which erupted across West Papua and Indonesia in 2019. While initially claiming the charges related to a “peaceful protest”, the article later admits that in fact the rioters had burned down the local parliament in Manokwari, as well as prisons in Sorong and Jayapura. Again we must ask – what exactly would be the response of the authorities in Australia, the US or Europe if rioters torched a parliament building and a couple of prisons? Anyone who attempted this in the first world would themselves go to prison for a very long time. Why should it be any different in Indonesia? Moreover, as we reported at the time, these riots were sparked by reports of Papuan university students desecrating the Indonesian national flag on the eve of Indonesia’s national Independence Day of August 17. While it can be acknowledged that hurling of the label “monkeys” at the Papuan students by some soldiers was wrong, it is understandable that they were incensed by the gross disrespect displayed by separatist students. This is after the Indonesian government goes to some length to ensure Papuan youth have the opportunity to access various levels of education.
The Spartacist League (SL) are usually the last of the self-affirmed Trotskyist parties to fall for the “human rights” false flag, but they make an exception in the case of West Papua. After the riots of 2019, they even fell for the fake charms of Veronica Koman, who they hail as “courageous” and a “defender of Papuan activists”. They claim that Ms Koman “fled” to Australia after sharing videos of police brutality on social media. This is a distortion which could have been sourced from the corporate media. As we reported at the time, what actually occurred is that Ms Koman was spreading fake videos online, in an effort to whip up the protests which certainly did flare partially in response to her social media posting. It is an offence under Indonesian law to spread hoaxes online, and the penalty could be six years in jail and a $US 70 000 fine. What is more, the riots that occurred with the help of Ms Koman’s incendiary videos took the lives of 40 people – both Papuan and non-Papuan. After this, she refused to come forward for police questioning several times, and then fled to Australia. So in reality, Ms Koman fled to avoid a charge of racial incitement. So much for the principles of a “human rights” lawyer! The SL seriously needs to check with whom it is aligning itself.
The Bolshevik-Leninist organisation uses extensive quotes from Lenin in an effort to justify their support for what they see as a West Papuan struggle for “national liberation”. They recognise more reality than others on the left in relation to Papua and Indonesia, and yet still come up short. They can see that West Papuan nationalism is a barrier that workers need to overcome, and propose that cross-national class unity between West Papuan and Indonesian workers should be the goal. This appears to align with “Marxist” theory, IF the reality of the basis of the “independence” movement is ignored. The unfortunate circumstance is the fact that the central pillar of separatist independence – armed or not – is racial tension and antagonism by Papuans against non-Papuans. In essence, Papuans want the transmigrants (mainly Indonesians of multiple ethnicities) out, so a Papuan only “state” can be formed. To achieve this, a small minority of Papuans are prepared to enact murderous racial violence.
This is why socialists cannot extend one iota of support to the notion of “Free West Papua”. ANY form of racial and ethnic hostility cannot be excused, regardless of who carries it out. Working people also have no interest in fostering and fomenting a national conflict, unless it is a rare case of using the methods of class struggle to combat national oppression in order to advance towards socialism. Papuan separatism has no such aims. The unity of Papuan, Indonesian and international workers is certainly needed; but only to ensure basic justice regardless of nationality, race and ethnicity.
 Ibid, 2.
 Ibid, 10.