Friday, August 12, 2011

West Papua – the silent genocide

The news of David Cameron’s victory in the general election was a source of relief and celebration to the people of…West Papua. Excuse me? West Papua; why on earth should they care about the election of a Conservative leader in a country thousands of miles from where they live? The answer is simple; he is the only western leader to have taken the plight of the indigenous people seriously, people who have suffered from decades of physical and cultural extermination at the hands of successive Indonesian governments.

West Papua, part of the Island of Papua New Guinea, once a Dutch colony but under Indonesian occupation since the 1960s, does not often make the news, unless it’s in some niche show like Unreported World. But the people here, the native people, have been struggling for independence since the fraudulent ‘Act of Free Choice’ united them with Indonesia in 1969, even though they have no ethnic, political or religious identity with the occupiers. Their plight has been shamefully ignored by the rest of the world.

The Indonesia authorities keep a very close watch on place, allowing access only under the most restrictive conditions. Last year the International Committee of the Red Cross was thrown out by the government and has not been allowed to return. Cameron himself has described the plight of the tribes people as “a terrible situation.” Highland villages have been systematically destroyed by the army, resulting in an estimated 6000 people becoming ‘internal refugees’ in the rapidly diminishing forests. People have been jailed in a country, one that pretends to be a democracy, merely for raising the Morning Star flag, the flag of free Papua, in public.

This is really only the top of the story. According to international reports, including one complied by Yale Law School, the Papuans have been the subject of brutal ethnic cleansing. Precise figures are difficult to obtain, but it is estimated that since 1969 anything between 100, 000 and 700,000 people have been killed, raped or simply disappeared. Part of this genocide has involved the deliberate use of the HIV/AIDS virus by the Indonesian army, another part of the demographic disaster that has been inflicted on the people.

This has had a serious impact on the population levels of the local people but even more serious is the steady dilution caused by the arrival of well over a million Islamic settlers. This is part of a systematic process, part of what I would refer to as the ’silent genocide’, the attempt to destroy the last traces of the native people to ensure that opposition to the illegal annexation is ended forever.

What strikes me most about this story is the sheer hypocrisy of an international community that is all too willing to attack Israel, which has never, even by its most determined enemies, been accused of the attempted extermination of the Palestinians, while ignoring what is happening in places like West Papua. I suppose the cause of these people, these primitive, tribal people, is just not fashionable enough, just not the kind of thing to excite the conscience of the self-righteous liberal establishment. And for people in Indonesia, one of the most venal and corrupt nations on earth, to remain blind to the outrages of their own army in their own backyard really is quite appalling. May God forgive them, for nobody else will. Now let me retire to my pulpit to pass judgement on the rest of humanity.