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.
West Papuan independence leader Buchtar Tabuni has been put on trial as part of Indonesia's crackdown on the independence movement. Tabuni, a leader of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was arrested in June for allegedly organising “anarchic” protests calling on the government to properly investigate a wave of random shootings blamed on independence activists. The protests were peaceful until attacked by police and ended with several activists dead and others injured.
The Indonesian government has engaged in a spin campaign over the recent wave of mysterious shootings in Indonesian-occupied West Papua in an attempt to derail the struggle for independence. With no evidence, Indonesian police have blamed the shootings on the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and its armed wing, the National Liberation Army. Several Papuan independence activists were killed, along with others wounded or killed since the attacks began in late May.
West Papua has been rocked by a wave of shootings and repression in recent weeks that has left many parts of the occupied nation in a state of fear. Indonesian security forces went on a rampage in the highlands town of Wamena, killing one person, injuring many others and destroying property on June 6. Human rights group Tapol said on June 8 the soldiers were seeking revenge for an attack by locals on two colleagues who had run over a three-year-old child with a motorbike. Locals killed one of the soldiers on the motorbike and the other was severely beaten.
Hearings began last month into the case of five West Papuan independence leaders on trial for treason. They were arrested with hundreds of others when Indonesian troops attacked the Papuan People's Congress on October 19 last year. The conference had declared the Indonesian-occupied territory an independent state. West Papua was officially annexed by Indonesia's Suharto dictatorship in 1969 in a United Nations-supervised “act of free choice”, in which only 1022 Papuans were allowed to vote.
Deadly repression in Indonesia has refocussed attention on the role of Australian mining companies in human rights abuses in the country. People of the Paniai region in Indonesian-occupied West Papua have lived in terror since November. The Australian government-trained “anti-terrorist” unit Detachment 88 (D88) and Brimob paramilitary force launched an offensive in the area that month to eliminate fighters from the Free Papua Movement (OPM).
The statement below was released by a range of Asian left and workers' organisations on December 11. * * * Workers at the Freeport-McMoRan Grasberg mine in West Papua are striking for a wage increase. The strike started on September 15 and it involves nearly 12,000 workers. It was called after the negotiation between the union and the management went into deadlock. The striking workers want to be paid US$7.50 per hour (for grade F1) to $18 per hour (for grade A5) instead of the $2.10 per hour to $3.50 per hour they are currently receiving.
Strike action by thousands of workers at the notorious Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua since September 15 has brought operations to a halt, despite attempts to stop the strike. The mine is the largest and most profitable in territory controlled by Indonesia and has a long association with human rights abuses. It is owned by US mining giant Freeport-McMoRan and British-Australian company Rio Tinto. West Papua has been occupied by Indonesia for nearly five decades, despite strong demands from Papuans for self-determination.
Indonesian army forces brutally attacked the Papuan national conference in Abepura on October 19. The conference was attended by up to 20,000 people discussing West Papua's struggle for independence from Indonesia. WestPapuaMedia.info said on October 21 that local sources confirmed six people were killed. New Matilda.com reported on October 20 an account from a priest who saw a truck full of arrested people who were “covered with blood” and had been “beaten and shot”.