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Issue #1904      February 24, 2020

Letter

West Papua

Dear Editor

While the world’s attention has been lately concentrated on the democracy protests in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Chile, and elsewhere around the world, there has also been a mainly unreported people’s uprising going on just north of Australia, in West Papua.

Indonesia took over the former Dutch territory in 1963 as caretakers until a vote on its future was to be undertaken. In 1969, a sham referendum was held with a small number of people selected by Indonesian authorities who were compelled to vote for integration with Indonesia. It was not fair or free and totally lacked the consent of the people. The West Papuans have been resisting Indonesian rule ever since.

After many years of low-level guerrilla warfare and many outbreaks of unrest, the latest protests have been widespread and a clear expression of the Melanesian peoples’ yearnings for de-colonisation, self-determination and independence.

The indigenous West Papuan people have suffered terribly under oppressive Indonesian rule and are continuing to bravely resist the Indonesian occupation of their homeland. The Indonesian army has a sordid history of mass killings, rights abuses, and other appalling actions. Since the 1960s over 100,000 West Papuans have died in their struggle for justice, dignity, and respect. West Papuans are arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and killed for expressing their opinions or for taking part in peaceful protests.

The region is very rich in resources of timber and minerals, but despite this West Papuans are not getting any of the benefits. And they have continuously endured human rights violations, discrimination, inequality, and brutal repression at the hands of the Indonesian military.

Indonesia is blocking the internet and reporters from entering, while the army again tries to quell the unrest. We should demand media access to the region so the world can see what is happening there.

The people of West Papua rightly want freedom, human rights, and democracy. It is imperative that concerned people raise their voices for these forgotten people who have already suffered so much. We cannot ignore the brutal injustice going on there and the dire plight of its people. The West Papuans desperately need and deserve our support and help as they struggle to be free from repressive colonial domination.

Steven Katsineris

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