Saturday 16 Oct 2021 | 09:53 | SYDNEY
Saturday 16 Oct 2021 | 09:53 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: The Freeport attacks


Sam Roggeveen


24 March 2010 11:32

Joe Collins from the Australia West Papua Association (Sydney) responds to Jim Della-Giacoma's post:

A number of media articles have mistakenly  implied  that the International Crisis Group (ICG) report 'Radicalisation and Dialogue in Papua' blames so called 'separatists' for the attacks around Freeport. In fact, all the report does is give a number of possible scenarios. The most telling line in the report is 'that more than six months after the shootings began, and with some good investigators on the scene, there are no conclusive answers'. 

From the report:

It is not clear who is responsible or whether one or multiple parties have been involved. There are four possibilities, however: Kelly Kwalik's OPM forces (Kelly himself was killed in a police raid on 16 December 2009); men acting on the orders of someone who once worked with Kelly Kwalik; the local Indonesian military; or a combination of the above. It is a reflection of the complexity of the political and economic dynamics around the mine that more than six months after the shootings began, and with some good investigators on the scene, there are no conclusive answers.

The report does not rule out military involvement either and in its scenario on the possibility that it might involve military protection rackets it states, 'none of this means military involvement is impossible, but the evidence is either circumstantial or inaccurate'.

The report  does not go into any detail about why some students might appear to be more radical. There is no mention of the vast exploitation of the national resources of West Papua, the illegal logging, the security forces involvement in resource extraction, the massive degradation caused by the Freeport mine, the new threat to West Papua's forests by proposed oil palm plantations nor any mention of migrants arriving daily leading to the possibility of West Papuans becoming a minority in their own land.

Now that the mutual backslapping is over from the visit by President Yudhoyono, the reality is that a number of protesters were arrested in Papua on 22 March although they had a permit for their rally. And Indonesia sees the need for more troops in West Papua.

I wonder how much West Papua was on the agenda in the talks between Kevin Rudd and President Yudhoyono? For all the talk about Indonesia being a democracy, West Papuans can still be jailed for simply raising their national flag and a number of books on the issue of West Papua have recently been banned. The banning of flag-raising and books is in direct contravention of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia signed in 2006.

Its an issue that's not going away and the most likely issue to cause a major hiccup in our relationship with Indonesia. However, the ICG report is correct in that dialogue between Jakarta and representatives of the West Papuan people is the best way to try and solve the many problems in West Papua, otherwise the situation could deteriorate further.