In West Papua, May 1 holds a special significance besides being the international day marking working-class struggle. It was on May 1, 1963, that Indonesia was granted control of the western half of the New Guinea island the by the United Nations. Since then, many West Papuan independence and human rights activists have been jailed, tortured and killed for demanding real democracy and a genuine independence referendum. As thousands of people across the region prepared for May 1 demonstrations marking 50 years of brutal occupation, the Indonesian authorities launched raids on April 30.
International support for West Papua grows with push to include the occupied nation in regional body
West Papua has been gaining international support recently, especially in its pursuit of inclusion in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), a regional intergovernmental organisation that has supported the independence movements of its members. Controversially, Indonesia, which has occupied West Papua for decades, has had observer status in MSG since 2011.
Eight Indonesian soldiers were killed on February 21 in West Papua. The attacks were claimed by the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (TPN-OPM). The attacks came after a series of violent crackdowns by Indonesian authorities on a growing movement of peaceful protest by Papuans calling for end to Indonesian occupation and for self-determination. In the first attack, a military post in Tingginambut, Puncak Jaya, was raided. One soldier was killed and another injured.
Indonesian police captain Kiki Kurnia told West Papuan independence leader Victor Yeimo, “We are ready to wreak havoc and clash with all of you,” during Yeimo's arrest at a protest in Jayapura on December 1. Security forces blocked the West Papuan “independence day” march and arrested two other independence leaders along with Yeimo for organising the rally, West Papua Media said on December 2. The three were released the next day.
British oil giant BP has signed a deal with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a $12 billion expansion of the Tangguh liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in occupied West Papua. The deal is typical of West Papua's exploitation at the hands of Indonesia and Western companies, who have pillaged the area's resources and abused its people for decades. Papuans have the lowest standard of living in Indonesia, despite the huge amount of wealth the area creates.
Protesters confronted Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his visit to Britain on October 31. They were angry at Indonesia's ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua. Australian-born activist Peter Tatchell was arrested for holding a West Papuan independence flag near Yudhoyono's car, the Jakarta Globe said on November 1. Yudhoyono was feted by Britain's political elites, including a private lunch with the Queen, Reuters said on November 1.
Indonesian security forces attacked West Papuan independence rallies in several cities on October 23. West Papua Media (WPM) said the worst violence took place in Manokwari where four people were shot by army soldiers and many others were beaten. There were fears a massacre would take place during a confrontation between protesters and security forces, after authorities blocked people's attempts to protest. Eleven student activists were arrested, including some who had been injured, Jubi said on October 24.
Indonesia has further intensified its repression of West Papuan independence activists, in an apparent response to independence leaders speaking to foreign media. Eight independence activists from the West Papua National Committee (KNBP) were arrested in Wamena on September 29 and accused of bomb-making and treason, West Papua Media (WPM) said on September 30. The operation involved the notorious Australian funded and trained Detachment 88 anti-terrorist unit.
The Australian government's support for Indonesia's occupation of West Papua reached absurd levels on September 12. Labor and Coalition senators voted down a Senate condolence motion for late refugee advocate and Papuan solidarity activist Vikki Riley on the basis that it contained the words “West Papua”. The Don't Say These Words? blog said on September 13 that Country Liberal Senator Nigel Scullion told the mover of the motion, John Madigan of the Democratic Labor Party, that he would support the motion if the words “West Papua” were removed.
The Australian government has come under pressure over its role in funding Indonesian counter-terrorism unit Detachment 88, after ABC’s 7.30 highlighted the unit’s role in repressing independence activists in occupied West Papua. Detachment 88 has been implicated in several killings and the torture of Papuan activists. A prominent recent case was its alleged involvement in the assassination of West Papuan National Committee (KNPB) leader Mako Tabuni in June.