West Papua - Freedom in sight?

A note from the editor

Danny Chivers

Five decades of defiance

If you’ve never heard of West Papua, you’re not alone.

It continues to amaze me how this 50-year freedom struggle on the world’s second-largest island is still so little-known. But then, I might not have heard of it myself if it wasn’t for Benny Wenda.

Wenda, an Indigenous leader from the Lani tribe, was arrested by the Indonesian government in 2002 for peacefully advocating for West Papuan independence. Imprisoned on spurious charges, tortured and likely to be killed, he escaped from prison and reached the UK, where he gained political asylum here in Oxford.

An accomplished strategist and diplomat with a gentle, unassuming style, Wenda has spent years building international support for his people’s cause. From Oxford, he launched the Free West Papua campaign, which is the reason why I and many others have now heard of this struggle.

New Internationalist got there before me. Back in 2002, edition 344 was titled ‘West Papua Rising’. Benny Wenda was carrying a copy when he was arrested, which he believes may have caused the Indonesian government to hold back in their treatment of him. This evidence that the world was watching ‘protected me. It may even have saved my life.’

West Papua today stands on a knife-edge between freedom and disaster. In this issue, we hear the voices of people living under occupation and fighting to be free. We learn about the unifying power of Melanesian music, expose the extractive companies that are profiting from Papuan repression, and hear Indigenous leaders lay out their visions of the new country they want to build. With enough international support, those visions could at last become reality.

Danny Chivers for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

Keynote article.

A resistance gathering in the West Papuan highlands.

A resistance gathering in the West Papuan highlands.

Photo: Dominic Brown

Morning star rising

After 54 years of struggle under Indonesian rule, is freedom finally in sight for West Papua? Danny Chivers investigates.

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Imagine a referendum in which just 0.2 per cent of the population were allowed to vote. Imagine that every one of those voters was marched to the voting station at gunpoint, and told exactly what choice to make. Would you believe the result truly represented the wishes of the people?

This is exactly what happened in the Pacific nation of West Papua in 1969. The occupying Indonesian army marched 1,026 handpicked West Papuans (from a population of 800,000) in front of election officials. These ...




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The river of Aikwa, once a local water source, now turned thick and silver by tailings from Freeport’s Grasberg mine.

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The Black Sistaz: Petra, Lea and Rosa Rumwaropen.

The drumbeat of resistance

‘The struggle is in the song, and the song is in the struggle.’ West Papuan musician Ronny Kareni explains the vital role of Melanesian culture in the fight for freedom.

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Papuan and Indonesian students from People's Solidarity for Democracy (SORAK) create a street performance for West Papuan human rights in Bandung, West Papua, December 2016; Indonesian police at a West Papuan freedom rally, 2016; A busy highway in Jayapura. Two-thirds of the city's population is now non-Papuan.

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Take action for West Papua!

Join international movements to support the West Papuan freedom struggle.

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‘We are ready’

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