Rape of a Nation

Indonesia's campaign of violence against the people of West Papua

| April 28, 2005

In an essay in The Ecologist, Paul Kingsnorth describes the Indonesian military's violent campaign in West Papua, where citizens are clamoring for independence. The Indonesian government, a staunch US ally, has succeeded in keeping journalists and aid workers out of the country, and any significant mention of the atrocities -- 'burning villages, attacking civilians, raping women and killing men' -- remains absent from the mainstream media.

'For the Papuan people, this is par for the course,' Kingsnorth writes. 'They have got used to the fact that the ongoing genocide of their people and their nation is routinely ignored by the rest of the world. For the soldiers and politicians of Indonesia, the nation that has occupied West Papua, against the will of its people, for almost half a century, this was just the way they like it.'

Kingsnorth suggests that the Indonesian military's attempts to 'Indonesianise' the diverse indigenous peoples of West Papua can be explained in a word: 'resources.' This country of over one million is 'a literal goldmine,' and the desire of its inhabitants to achieve true independence would mean a smaller piece of the pie for the Indonesian government.

Despite the increasingly strong violence against them, Papuan pro-independence groups continue to attract followers; new groups have sprung up in Australia and Britain as well. 'Slowly but surely, the Papuans are bringing their case before the world,' Kingsnorth observes. 'What they need now is for as many voices to join them as possible.'
-- Danielle Maestretti

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