Friends of West Papua.

"One People One Soul." -"Satu bangsa satu djiwa"

Welcome friends of West Papua Niugini. Selat menontong.

As Chairman of the OPM Revolutionary Committee I offer you warm greetings and thankyou for contacting the West Papua Niugini/Irian Jaya Homepage.

I hope that we have been able to reveal to you our struggle for independence which has gone on for a long time now and one that I nor my West Papuan brothers and sisters will never give up fighting for. Contained in this homepage is more than enough information to illustrate to you the brutal oppression that West Papuan peoples have been subjected to since the Indonesian invasion and infamous Act of Free Choice of 1969. As you read this, more information is being collated, like documented accounts of human rights violations, enviromental disasters etc, and this is being made availiable by worldwide FRIENDS like you who have created and are funding this homepage so that we, the OPMRC, via the latest technology can help bring about a long awaited dream. That is fredom and independence for West Papua Niugini. I also find it a remarkable situation that many of my Freedom fighters fight with only bows and arrows and here you and I are communicating via the Internet.

Considering this I would like to invite you to help us in our cause for freedom and ask that you contact us via E-mail for any information, comments, questions, words of encouragement or support are welcome. I would like to see an international forum established via this homepage whereby, according to the first agenda of the West Papua Homepage we can generate a community of pro-active world wide dialogue and ideas to assist and support the people's of West Papua and the OPM in achieving their independence from Indonesian domination.

If you have the time I would like to ask you to contact one of the following addresses and write a letter stating your opposition to the Indonesian presence in West Papua, Mining in West Papua, Transmigration or one of the many documented violations to West Papuans that we will soon make avaliable to you. Please contact the international action groups at the end of this page if you require more information about action groups closer to you. We will be listing more groups, agencies, etc in the near future.

So again thank you from your West Papua Friends and until we meet again I hope you will read the following accounts recently contributed by the former OPM hostages; while their viewpoints differ from my own I hope it will help you make your own decisions about the nature of the events that occurred, what is still happening in West Papua and the uphill road that lies ahead.
Terima kasih dari sobat Papua Barat sampai berdjumpa kembali.

Moses Werror.


July 1996
From: tapol (Tapol)

Subject: Daniel Start's return visit to Timika.

The following article by Daniel Start was published under the title 'Captive Heart', in the Colour Magazine of The Times, London, on 28 June 1997.

[Daniel Start's 'The Open Cage: The Ordeal of the Irian Jaya Hostages' was published last month by HarperCollins.

Hostage Return Story

Picking my way through the potholed alleys of Jakarta's suburbs on my first evening back in Indonesia I was already regretting my decision to return. A year before, Navy, my colleague and friend, had been murdered in the jungles of New Guinea thirty yards from where I stood. Although I had written to his bereaved family I decided I should also meet them face to face. I rang up and they said come round, but now I wondered whether it was right to impinge on their privacy and stir up their past.

As she opened the door Navy's mother was smiling bravely but had watery eyes. She reached up to feel my cheek and began to cry again, pulling my face to hers, tearing at my hair, thumping on my back calling repeatedly 'Daniel, you are the image of my son, my only son. How can I not see my Navy in you?' For ten minutes her grief spilled over me and I felt sick with guilt at the misery I had brought. With Navy dead what right did I have to be alive?

I first met Navy at the Biological Sciences Club in Jakarta while looking for Indonesian partners to form a conservation expedition to Irian Jaya one of the most biologically and culturally rich areas in the world. It had been sealed off by the Indonesian military since occupation in 1960s and was thought to be under considerable threat from mining. Navy and I shared a passion for the land and people. We knew that collecting biological data could support the formation of a National Park. This would not only protect the mountainous rain forests but improve the land rights of the local people.

Tragically, after eighteen months preparation and two months field work, our ten person research team were taken hostage by OPM Papuan independence fighters from nearby villages. They naively believed we could be traded for a 'free country'. Four months passed as the Red Cross tried to negotiate our release. At the last minute, when everything seemed set, the OPM changed their mind and the Indonesian military came in. The OPM attacked and killed the male Indonesians, Navy and Tessy. The rest of us were able to escape to the safety of the army.

Navy's mother's tears began to falter and she lead me inside. 'You make us so happy that you have come back to us, that you have remembered us,' she said. She brought out a photograph album she had made; a tribute to Navy, with pictures of him as animal lover and environmental campaigner, wearing his thick spectacles, planning the expedition behind his desk. There were pictures of us in captivity too. 'Is this the last ever picture of him alive?' she asked each time there was a new photograph of Navy. When I finally found the one she held the album to her, mourning not only her son but also the months of his life she had never known. Then, nervously at first, I began to talk about Navy, about how the OPM had always liked him and what he had meant to us; about how brave and inspiring he had been, even in his last seconds.

When I left the house I felt that I had brought a part of Navy back into my own life as well as into his mother's. But many old questions had been raised again, most important of which was why had Navy and Tessy had been killed? I felt that without understanding this, I could never let them go. I knew that the root of the problem was the Indonesian colonisation of the Papuan land, epitomised by the huge American-Indonesian Freeport gold mine just one hundred miles from where we had been abducted. After four months as guests of the OPM in the jungle I had heard much about it. Now Freeport had invited me to visit their operation. It seemed an extraordinary way to see Irian Jaya from the other side.

It wasn't just my hosts who were different on my return to the forests of New Guinea. Instead of a leaky, leafy lean-to I was staying in the five star Freeport Sheraton hotel, still deep in the middle of the jungle, but with room service, a mini-bar and satellite TV. It was not long before I was back in familiar surrounding though - the first leg of the official tour was in a helicopter, the same one that had rescued us the year before.

It vibrated noisily into the air and rose above the sprawling tin roofed resettlement camps; some built for the Papuans displaced from the mountains and others for trans-migrants imported by the government from over-crowded parts of Indonesia. I watched a long convoy of giant Mack trucks lumbering up towards the mountains on the Freeport access road. Running parallel to that was a large area of flooded rain forest and a river stained silver with rock waste.

We began climbing, following the pass of a narrow valley with forested walls looming on either side. The air was cold and I could feel the wetness as we passed through pockets of mist rising from the river below. Everything had the feel of our last days in captivity, after the army had bombed the villages and we had been taken high into the mountains where Navy and Tessy had been murdered. I remembered the desperation, the hopeless isolation and then Adinda, Navy's fiancee, staggering towards me through the trees moaning, 'They kill Navy,' as more OPM men closed in with their machetes and axes.

At about 14,000 feet the forest had gone and the mountains were bare, jagged and black where they were not capped with ice. Suddenly tramways, mill grinders, slurry pipes, a whole town appeared. And then, above and slightly beyond, I saw the mine - a mile-wide crater gouged out of the rock by a fleet of digging machines and giant trucks scraping away half a million tonnes of the mountain per day. It was at once awe inspiring, beautiful and horrific.

The moment we landed I was frightened; not from any Papuan threat but by the Indonesian military presence, impossible to escape, even here. A poster at an army checkpoint pictured a huge skull on top of two crossed machine guns. Blood was dripping from the eyeball sockets and underneath a slogan read: 'Learn to respect Indonesia.' As I quickened my step I realised a reflex fear of the military had become as ingrained in me as it was in the Papuans.

Below the mine and town the mountain side was littered with huts. Unlike the ones I knew from the forest these were made from tarpaulin, scrap metal and old car tyres instead of palm leaves and bark. 'There were only 200 indigenous people living in these mountains when the mine arrived in 1970,' my Indonesian Freeport guide said. 'Now there are over 4,000. Many families came here to make their fortune from the rubbish heaps. Few had seen metal before.' Now things were changing and I heard a lot that day about how Freeport were helping the local people out of the stone age with their new program of community work.

But for many Papuans whatever help has come too late. Between the mid 1960s and 1980s tens of thousands of Papuans were killed or forced to flee when the Indonesian military strafed and napalmed villages from the air. As recently as May 1995, not long before our team left for Irian Jaya, eleven civilians, including women and children, who were gathered for prayer in remote forest, were shot dead at point blank range by an Indonesian military patrol. It was months before the story filtered through to the outside world. The army claimed they were OPM rebels. In fact they were a group of families in hiding after the military had burnt down their village. At the same time others people were abducted from Papuan resettlement camps and shot. Many more were tortured and interrogated. All this was in response to a series of peaceful OPM demonstrations protesting at the theft of Papuan land by Freeport and the Indonesian government.

Many of the Freeport executives were amused to hear about my own experiences with the OPM, the 'bow and arrow' army. They seemed surprised that men without guns, clothes or modern sense could take hostages and pull off such an elaborate publicity stunt. When I asked them about OPM activities around Freeport most seemed to know little, as if the world outside their high security fence was inconsequential to the business of getting gold out of someone else's ground. Only one man reluctantly admitted that the 'minor' disturbances caused by a 'handful' of OPM might have something to do with the mine.

I had met this same attitude two years before when I visited the Freeport offices in Jakarta. They said the entire resistance movement might number fifty at the most and posed insignificant threat to our expedition. Many other organisations, including the military and the missionary church, with decades of experience in Irian Jaya, gave similar advice. Perhaps we all wanted to believe that the Papuans were content, that Indonesian colonisation and development were happily accepted.

Now I know the truth is very different. Almost every Papuan believes in the cause of the OPM. Even at Freeport, where some men are lucky enough to get menial work, the support is still strong. When I explained to one Freeport worker that I had been a hostage with the OPM and knew many of the leaders, he took my arm and said, 'This is so good. You must bring us guns so we can continue our fight for our free country.' What clouds the issues for many outside observers is that the second cause closest to the Papuans' hearts is there their desire to own money. Although many will privately declare that 'Freeport must close,' the subtext is: 'Until it does, give me a job.' The Indonesian authorities translate this as approval for their exploitative 'development' programmes, whether they be the Freeport mine or the new towns built for the hundreds of migrants that pour into Irian Jaya every week. While all this goes on around, the naked, uneducated, unemployable Papuans can only watch from the sidelines, reduced to ignorant squatters on their own land.

Eighteen months ago when our small group arrived in Mapnduma, a small village in a relatively remote and untouched part of Irian Jaya, the locals were keen the same fate should not befall them. They were wary of us at first, putting much of the forest out of bounds to us and insisting that we gave every man a job. But two months later when the OPM ambushed us these same men fought to protect us. 'These people came to help us protect our lands,' the head man declared 'They are not our enemies.' After we were taken away the villagers regularly brought us extra food and made the OPM promise they would treat us as their guests, not their prisoners.

I had thought often about the villagers from Mapnduma in the year since my release and by extraordinary chance, while at Freeport, I met a group of them who had come to look for work. They were sitting along the side of a shop with their bow and arrows and string bags between their feet, looking tired after the two week trek through the forest. I recognised one of them immediately as my good friend Hani. He was a short man with wooden beads hanging down over a bare chest and bloated stomach. His children had regularly brought us butterflies and flowering plants for the expedition collections and we had repaid them with salt and plastic bags. I had only ever known him in his penis gourd, working in the forest so it was odd to see him now, crouching in his shorts on the broken concrete slabs looking ill at ease in the lowland town.

When we saw each other we smiled and he held my hand for a long time. I asked for news from the village and he told me who had been shot when the military came in to rescue us. 'Now the army are everywhere,' he said in his broken Indonesian 'They have beaten many people. Some families are still hiding in the forest and are very sick. Those who have returned need permits even to go to the gardens for potatoes or the river to wash.' Then he began to shake his head very slowly and I think we both understood that in the short time we had known each other our lives and worlds had changed beyond recognition.

I felt deeply sorry for everything that he had wanted for the village but had lost. I knew he had not supported the kidnapping nor the violent actions the OPM had taken in the past. He had told me once: 'It is important for the children to learn to be cleverer than the Indonesians. Only then we can push them out.' Now with the village in chaos and the church school closed I expected Hani to be weary and broken spirited. But the military occupation seemed to have given him a new resolve. 'Sometimes they search our houses and punch us and fire at our feet because they say we know things about the rebels in the forest. We tell them nothing.'

I didn't know the other men standing around him but when I asked their names they greeted me enthusiastically, almost like a returning hero. It was as if being one of the infamous hostages, a crucial part of the Papuan fight and cause, had earned me their respect 'Are you still angry with us, with the OPM?' one man asked. I did not feel angry. 'Four months as a hostage to support your people is nothing,' I said proudly. But when I saw how little they had achieved I felt frustrated. The Red Cross had offered a peaceful resolution. The villages would have gained a health program and long term international support. But the OPM had rejected it and now they had only the military for company. I took one of the men's arms. 'Why did you have to throw everything away? Why cheat the Red Cross when they had promised you so much? And why murder Navy and Tessy who only ever wanted to help the Papuan people?'

The men shrugged awkwardly, but already I knew the answers. The OPM's refusal to release us was foolish, but it was defiant. After the shame of thirty years of occupation and abuse it restored in them a sense of pride, a belief that one day they could take control of their lives again. The murders of Navy and Tessy were carried out by a small group of people in the last moments of defeat. It was not a decision based on rationality or logic, it was about hatred of a race and about remembering the honour of the Papuans who had died at the hands of Indonesians. It was a final, vengeful shout: 'This is war and Indonesia will never win.' Or, in the scorched words of the rebel leader: 'It is better we all die as Papuans than live to watch our children grow up as Indonesians.' How could I be angry when perhaps even I would be driven to kill somebody in the fight for my country and people?

Hani gave me a present; a string bag made by his friends in the village. 'They would want you to have it,' he said. 'The people speak well of you and the times when we all worked together.' As I left his parting words to me were, 'We are fighting a war against the Indonesians and it is in our hearts. Will you pray for us?' I embraced him and could not bring myself to explain how hopeless that war was.

The sadness for me was not that the Indonesians would never be defeated, but that they would never even begin to understand why the Papuans were fighting. The Indonesians don't think they are doing wrong. To them the Papuans are uncivilised people, 'smelly', 'stupid' and 'cannibalistic'. They are an embarrassment to a great nation and need to be developed by any means necessary. 'We will get them down from the trees even if we have to pull them down,' the government once said. In their minds there is only one injustice and that is the ingratitude the Papuans show to their 'charitable' work.

Given the Papuans' past experiences of outsiders' attempts to 'help' perhaps it is not surprising that the OPM decided our team were more valuable as hostages than as conservationists. The great irony is that the formation of conservation areas - and the traditional land rights that go with them - are the closest thing to autonomy the west Papuans are likely to achieve in the near future.

Even in the last weeks of his life Navy was talking about the community and conservation projects he would organise to help the Papuans when he was free. He knew that the Indonesians had done many bad things in Irian Jaya, but he believed his generation could begin to put them right. Tragically this, his only attempt, was his last.

Adinda says that when the first axe strike fell and cut into his back he cried 'It was not me.' He was right; he was not killed for his own wrongs but for those of his country. When the axe hit him again he collapsed and said his last words, 'Praise the Lord, Jesus Christ.' Perhaps in a flash he saw the magnitude of the Papuans' anger and hatred. For me, a helpless bystander, it took the shock and terror of Navy and Tessy's deaths to open my imagination so that I could begin to comprehend.



Subject: Radio National: Irian Jaya hostage retrospective. Background Briefing-
Sunday, May 18, 1997

Kirsten Garrett: Almost exactly a year ago - the date was May15 - a group of British, Dutch and Indonesian scientists escaped from captivity in the dense forests of Irian Jaya, that's the province of Indonesia also known as West Papua. The scientists had been held hostage for four months by the OPM, the Free Papua Movement, who were trying to draw world attention to their cause.

You're with Background Briefing, and hello, I'm Kirsten Garrett. The OPM have been fighting for decades for independence from Indonesia, for a better deal on land rights, and in particular against the Freeport Mine.

Today we hear from three of the escaped hostages and from Henri Faunier, who was a Red Cross negotiator. The hostages were graduates from Cambridge University, and in this program describe their extraordinary experiences during the four months they were held captive. They are Bill Oates, Anna McIvor and Daniel Start.

Dan Start: Obviously in hindsight it's easy to say that we should have stayed at home, but it came as a shock to the local people just as much as it did to us, when the OPM came and ambushed us.

Bill Oates: I think it's an unfortunate condition of being British, is that we're more liable to be taken hostage than any other nation.

Anna McIvor: Lots of people ask me why I don't seem to be angry with the OPM for having taken us hostage; they're so naive that I don't think they understood what they were really doing, the full impact of what they'd done and what it meant.


Daniel Start: My name is Daniel Start, I'm 23 years old. I suppose I was the one who had the original idea to go to Irian Jaya.

Bill Oates: My name is Bill Oates, 24 years old. What we were hoping that we'd achieve was more in terms of getting the place on the map, both in the scientific and hopefully in a slightly wider sphere about the Lorentz Nature Reserve, the people and the place.

Daniel Start: My first impressions of Anna McIvor were of her coming up the stairs with a multicoloured dress and knapsack with juggling clubs sticking out of the back.

Anna McIvor: I didn't know anything about Irian Jaya. Dan showed me where it was on the map, told me it was part of Indonesia, and that was the first I heard of it. We were a professional group from the beginning. Dan got us together as members of an expedition; he more or less recruited us for a job. It was never we were a group of four friends, we were four people who had skills that he wanted to go to do this thing.

Daniel Start: To have the area gazetted as a National Park or World Heritage site is very important for the people who live there. It will protect their land resources, their forests, and will also give them better rights than the other Papuans in Irian Jaya because it will actually incorporate land rights for the local people.

Bill Oates: I think there are very few places that are more remote than Irian Jaya. The only way to get round the place is by air, and so it was only this century when air travel became more possible that much of it has been explored.

Daniel Start: It was an extraordinary landscape of tiny waterfalls, landslides scarring the mountainside, these very deep valleys which came down from the high mountains. When we corkscrewed down into a very deep ravine, there was a tiny plateau on the edge of the mountainside with an airstrip cut along the edge of it. And there were a group of about 200 Induga who'd come to meet us, all staring at the aeroplane very blankly. All of a sudden I felt extraordinarily embarrassed at my flamboyant entrance into this area in this flying machine, whereas they were all standing naked except for their penis cords and grass skirts.

Anna McIvor: We'd actually had it described, it was a little bit like watching the Stone Age through a TV screen, through the window, and it really felt like that.

Daniel Start: We were staying in the missionary's house, which set us apart as well, because it was a two-storey house with running water and solar panels for electricity, whereas they were living in huts made from tree bark and palm leaves.

Anna McIvor: The Nduga are the most materially poor people I've ever seen. I can't imagine anyone owning less. A man will walk around carrying a string bag, a small string bag, with all his possessions in, and often that will include some tobacco that he's grown, and a comb for his hair. That's it.

Bill Oates: I've never come across anywhere that's so unrelentingly steep and inaccessible. The paths are literally hacked into the hillside, the rivers are thunderingly huge, the rainfall every day fills them up to such an extent that one slip, that's it, you're gone. And the only way of crossing them are these rope bridges which are very scary experiences.

Anna McIvor: The expedition team was actually eleven people:there were the four British ones, and then we had four Indonesian Jakartanese effectively. There was Navy, who was the leader of the Jakartans, and there was Tessy, Adinda and Lita. And then we also had three Irianese who of course are Indonesian as well.

Bill Oates: One of the guys that I worked with was a man known by the name of Yudus.

Anna McIvor: We suspected that Yudus was pretty high up in the OPM, he was very military in the way he looked, he wore very military clothes, and everything gave him away as being a member of the OPM.

Daniel Start: The Lorentz area, the World Wildlife Fund and also UNESCO have been trying to get gazetted as a World Heritage site and a National Park now for many, many years indeed.

Anna McIvor: WWF were looking at the area and wanting to come in and I think it was the Saturday or the Sunday, WWF came along, made up of Mark, who's Dutch WWF; Frank, German; and Mark's girlfriend, Martha who's not from WWF, she works with UNESCO. She just came for a holiday, and she was in fact pregnant.

Daniel Start: We'd been in Mapnduma about eight weeks of the ten weeks that we planned to be there, and it was 8th January when about 100 tribespeople, warriors, came down from the ridge, and I was initially surprised by the fact that I didn't recognise them.

Anna McIvor: We hadn't seen that number of people running before in the pose that they were running; they all had their arrows out, bows strung, they were wearing a lot of face paint, feathers in their hair, very ceremonial, warlike dress.

Daniel Start: Suddenly there was a gunshot which went straight past my head, and of course we were in a wooden house, and someone had fired up into the room. I mean at that point we really knew then that it was the OPM, because I knew the OPM, the Free Papua Movement, had guns.

Bill Oates: Everyone ran upstairs, except myself, and I ran into the room that I'd been sleeping in on the ground floor and hid under the bed, courageously. In my bedroom I had a tape recorder that I'd been recording the stories and the exploits of us in Irian Jaya, and I grabbed this, and I was recording my farewell words to my family and my girlfriend. I thought that was it, they were going to kill us.

Anna McIvor: The house had this kind of funny little porch that wasn't really a porch, it was just enough space for us all to crouch down in there basically. And Yudus was pushing us out, and they were trying to pull us out onto this thing, and we didn't know what they wanted to do to us, and to be honest, I think we almost thought our time was up.

Bill Oates: Pretty soon they worked out where I was, it wasn't a very big house; and so I was given the choice to either come out or have the door broken down and be dragged out, so I came out.

Daniel Start: And then the warriors came with machetes and they started slamming those into the wood of the porch, and close to our faces. It was almost as if the crowd could erupt at any moment, and commit some uncontrollable or unknown deed.

Anna McIvor: And finally, we couldn't hold back any more, they dragged us each out, one by one, and we saw that they were just tying us up, they didn't do anything worse.

Daniel Start: And then I saw a line of people stand on the low garden wall, and they all had their bows and arrows drawn, aimed towards us. And it seemed almost as if we were being prepared for execution. And then suddenly it began to rain, and clouds came down over the mountains to the north of the village, and that did seem to kind of quell some of the excitement.

(Reading letter) The 18th January, 1996 to George Burton, Her Majesty's Britannic Ambassador to Jakarta.

We, Daniel Start, William Oates, Annette van der Kalk and Anna McIvor, are writing to inform you of our situation as part of an international group held hostage in Irian Jaya. We are all in good health, and are currently being treated well. The intention of our captors, the OPM, is to hold the entire group hostage until a free Papua has been declared in front of the eyes of the world. They have dedicated their lives to this....

ABC newsreader: A battalion of Indonesian paratroopers have been put on alert for possible deployment in Irian Jaya. Freelance journalist, Mark Wirth, has travelled to the OPM heartland and brought back this report for Indian Pacific.

Mark Wirth: This is the OPM's National Anthem, which celebrates the struggle for the freedom of West Papua, a struggle fought for with little more than home-made guns and bows and arrows.

The rainforests of Irian Jaya hold some of the world's last significant stands of tropical hardwoods. The land is also mineral rich, with massive mining operations like the Freeport Copper and Gold Mine in the country's central region --

Daniel Start: The background to the whole OPM issue does actually stem back to the beginning of the 1960s when Indonesia essentially took control of what was then Dutch New Guinea, or West New Guinea, and through a United Nations plebescite, which many people would agree was illegal, it was only a very small representation of the people and they were under enormous pressure from the military to comply or be killed. A thousand and 25 people I think out of a million Papuans voted that they would become part of Indonesia, and over the '70s and '80s, there were a number of uprisings which were very brutally suppressed, basically because in an area with so much forest, the only way really for the military to react is a sort of scorched earth policy, where entire villages are wiped out, bombed, napalmed etc. And all of this is well documented and well known.

In the early 1980s, the Indonesian Government changed their policy to what was called 'The Smiling Campaign' which is where they brought transmigration, moving people in from over-populated Java, bringing development to the "primitive people" of Irian Jaya.

Mark Wirth: The two issues of military repression and Indonesian land use ensured that Jakarta will never win significant Melanesian support in Irian Jaya. Since taking over, the Indonesians began a program of land appropriation, not only for development, but also for settling thousands of Indonesians into transmigration camps along the border with Papua New Guinea.This was done without proper compensation. It's a combine that's fuelled a massive level of discontent, and guaranteed the OPM a solid support base.

Daniel Start: There was something about it that excited me, this thought of being taken off into the forest by these Free Papua rebels, but equally as we set off, I was just overwhelmed with a complete impotence and frustration that really we, by going into the forest, we were moving into a very, very dangerous phase of the whole thing.

Anna McIvor: Annette and me, we had more difficulty, because most of our captors were male, and it very soon became clear that as females, we really had to watch it. Like very early on, we said we were married to Dan and Bill because at times it seemed really quite dodgy like if we were on our own, goodness knows what would happen . I remember once, I heard the man in front saying, 'Why don't we go over there?' and luckily Bill was just round the corner, and I'm absolutely sure that they were intending to take us off and see what they could get, so thank goodness Bill was there.

Bill Oates: We weren't really guarded very closely at all, and in fact it would have been reasonably easy for us to slip away from the camp. But once you've slipped away from the camp, where was there to go?

Anna McIvor: The first place that we stayed once we'd been taken hostage, we were still allowed to see some of the local villagers from Mapnduma. One of them, Silvianus came along and brought a pig's heart which is a custom of the Induga, that if you share cold pig's hearts, you can't harm the people you shared it with. So it was a wonderful thought, and I remember Annette cried, she was so touched by this action. But anyway, being a vegetarian, I still had never eaten meat at this point, the idea that I was going to have to share this cold pig's heart was really rather unpleasant. But Mark informed me that I was to share it, and Mark was by now more or less accepted as leader. So I nibbled a bit off to do my best and then when no-one was looking, I spat it out.

Bill Oates: We really first heard of Kelly Kwalik in hushed whispers from the troops, and then during the first week or so of our capture, we were sent numerous newspaper clippings, and this was ostensibly to show that the OPM that they had achieved one of their aims and that their profile had been raised in various countries. And one of the newspaper clippings talked about Kay Kwolic as this renegade, almost Robin Hood-type figure.

Daniel Start: Kelly Kwalik was educated in a seminary. He's fairly notorious within the area for having led OPM operations from ambushes on the Freeport Mine - they blew up their slurry pipe in the late '70s, to organising rallies more recently in the early '90s. The army actually came into those areas and they also began trying to find his family within the resettlement camps down in the lowlands. In fact his brothers, all his brothers, were detained on the very same night in 1994 to try and find out if they could find Kay Kwolic, and I think about four months later it was confirmed that they had been tortured and murdered.

Anna McIvor: He more than anyone else seemed to have a very split personality and would just completely flip around in what he'd think and what he'd do, and we always really saw him as someone who was a bit deranged, because perhaps of what had happened to his family in the past. And perhaps that twisted him.

Daniel Start: During the first week, when we were taken into the forest, our fear moved away from what harm the OPM might do, to what might happen if the military came in. We thought that they would handle it by coming in possibly and by bombing the entire area, wiping everybody out, then claiming the OPM had killed us and then denying access to the area. So that the truth would never be known, and we thought it was only by getting international awareness that we could stop a military campaign which would beyond doubt mean some of us would have died.

Anna McIvor: I think about two or three weeks later, I started to get malaria. Unfortunately that coincided with the time Kay Kwalic arrived and said, 'Right, we're moving'. And so we did a four-day march, more or less, and every day with this malaria, they walked me until I was so exhausted I couldn't even think any more, and I kept walking, and I kept walking and I mean, the days became a blur in my mind, I can't remember them really, just remember being hauled up and down and up and down mountains until I was in just such a state that eventually we had to stop.

Daniel Start: When we eventually arrived in a place which the OPM considered to be remote enough and safe enough, we all became ill. Anna had malaria, Adinda developed a kidney infection, Mark had a liver complaint, Annette developed dysentery, Navi had a huge infection on his arm and really then, the stark realisation that someone could die and there was nothing we could do, we'd just have to sit and watch them die and then bury them.

Anna McIvor: It's a very funny situation, because we actually got letters all the way through.

Daniel Start(reading letter): Dear Mother, we spent three weeks in February with nearly no food, no news, no freedom to walk around, no sun, no books, no warmth at night, no view. We were just watching the fire die in the morning light, waiting for two potatoes at midday, waiting for the rain to come, it leaped through the roof. It gave me time to run my head in circles and clear it again with a meditation. It was like a cleansing process, having years with no time to stop, let alone think, I made plans for the future, remembered times from the past I had forgotten. I don't think I have ever properly admitted the importance of my family to me. I love you, Daniel.

Anna McIvor: We learnt to rely on each other, and we learnt to look after each other, and to put up with each other, which we were never very good at to be honest. The thing was that we were quite good at just taking ourselves off, you know, some days we wouldn't really talk to each other at all, but it was quite important for us because we all quite self-reliant type people, and we didn't need to talk to each other, sometimes we needed to be on our own, to sort out our own feelings.

Bill Oates: Wednesday, March 6th, 1996. Dear Kate, My mind is buzzing right now, a thousand thoughts and emotions, my brain in turmoil, my guts too as my stomach recovers from a dose of something bad. I woke up early this morning with an unbelievable sense of doom hanging over me. My mind was unable to fix on anything positive. Images of you, our life together, floated before me and I felt painfully lonely.

Anna McIvor: Dear Mum, Dad and everyone, Did you get my letter of about a week ago? I'm thinking of Spring in England, the warmer days coming, daffodils, bluebells etc. My life has been made more enjoyable by some socks and underwear sent in. I was surviving on one pair of each. A frog just turned up for Martha, but I think Navy will eat it. Oh for a loaf of bread. But I'm surviving quite happily on potatoes, rice and mi noodles, and have decided that conjuring up pictures of chocolate fudge cake is not constructive......

Anna McIvor: I think for Bill, he was quite grumpy and quite sad, but I think that was actually his way of coping to some extent, was that he had to say 'Well at least I'm showing them, at least I'm making my point.'

Bill Oates: I was very worried that if we were seen to be happy and content, that they would lose sight of the fact that they were doing something that was wrong.

Anna McIvor: The rest of us were trying to get on with people. I think I had to try and be happy, I had to try and -- you know, I saw children, I love to see the children, or I liked to try and talk to the women, that was important for me. So it gave me something to live for.

Daniel Start: There were various points throughout the captivity when I felt really very happy to be a prisoner, in the sense that I had always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to live in a remote place, to see the Induga at their level, and also was able to spend a large period of time in the forest being in the wilderness. And after three years at University, which had been completely frenetic, it was amazing really to have so much time to almost be in retreat.

Anna McIvor: We were so far away they couldn't get food to us. And so we were like quite close to starving for about three weeks, and we had maybe one sweet potato, two sweet potatoes a day, which were really carefully rationed.

Bill Oates: We were also presented with a wide variety of natural foods shall I say, from mostly endangered species, from the forest - bark's not very nice, a bit bony really. I think we had rat at one point, which is not very nice meat. Frogs - frog's lovely, and lots of pig, and the most prized part of the pig was in fact the skin and the fat underneath it. Certainly my stomach was completely unable to cope with just a huge dish full of pure fat, and I made myself ill on more than one occasion by eating this stuff.

Anna McIvor: I mean it's grim, isn't it, that we didn't any loo roll, we didn't have you know, sanitary things. So we each had our favourite type of leaf, and if you went to the long drop,the loo, you could see which bushes people preferred because they'd lost their leaves. And we only had one bar of soap, and eventually there was a rule, that you could only wash the important bits, and you weren't allowed to wash any clothes or anything. Because I'd been so ill, and I couldn't walk, I didn't get down to wash for about a week and I smelt horrible, and Annette, Dan and Bill told me so and I wasn't bothered about my smell, I got used to it.

Monica Attard (radio newsreader): As the hostage crisis enters its fourth week, a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross has now been flown to Irian Jaya to find a resolution. Leading that team is the Red Cross' chief representative in South East Asia, Henri Faunier.

Henri Faunier: At the first meeting, we discover the gap between them and us in conceptualising what we were all talking about. To give you an example, the kidnappers used to date their letter with the mention Bethlehem. When we thought then, yes, we know Bethlehem, the birth place of Christ, they told us, 'Then you are ignorant, because you don't know that Bethlehem is Irian Jaya, and the lady who is pregnant is bringing Christ back to us.'

Daniel Start: Within their beliefs, they knew that their ancestors were white and that they would come again. And of course we began to realise that did they think that our group arriving perhaps was this sign that the Lord had sent, and then of course people from WWF and the UN had arrived, one of whom was pregnant. Did they somehow believe that this sign perhaps was the coming of the new messiah, and that suddenly Martha was bringing this baby - they had already thought of a name for the baby, it was going to be Papuana if it was a boy, Papuina if it was a girl - and in their tradition, this baby had to be born on Papuan soil.

Bill Oates: Martha's reaction to that I think she was very, very scared by it. First of all because it implied that as she would have to have the baby in the forest, and secondly I think it implies that the baby would be valued too much by the people for them to want to let it go, release it.

Henri Faunier: I was concerned by the capacity of the hostages to resist, not only the psychological environment, but also too, the physical difficulties, the jungle.

Bill Oates: Initially the Red Cross were placing themselves at a really big risk, and in fact I think they stretched their rules of engagement to the limit. I remember one experience recounted to me by the doctor, that he asked the helicopter pilot to land in this clearing and he got out of the helicopter and was led into the forest away from the helicopter, which is completely against their rules, and was told 'Sit on the ground' and I think about a dozen men stood around him with arrows drawn, ready to fire at him. And he had to sit there and endure their questioning and gain their trust. I think the debt that I owe the Red Cross, I don't think will ever be possible for me to repay them.

Anna McIvor: We were sitting in the hut, and then suddenly at the doorway, friends just stood there and he said, 'I'm a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross come to help you, please come outside.' And he took us to another hut, and he gave is a medical checkover and he gave us medicines, and they gave us some food, and they gave us letters to write home. And all the pictures they took of us were smiling because we were so happy to see them. And the next time they came, they kind of said, 'Look, you've got to look like hostages, just a little bit, OK? Can't smile all the time or else everyone will think you're enjoying yourselves.'

Daniel Start: And of course the moment the helicopter left, they always made at least one of us cry, because always you saw the Red Cross get into these helicopters with the nice upholstered seats, in their nice clothes; you could imagine them talking to the other people, and having a beer and being able to talk to their families and things. And of course that kind of isolation of the area just flooded back in and we realised just how remote we were again.

Bill Oates: 19th April, 1996. Dear Kate, I am sitting writing this inside a smoky hut, watching the potatoes grill on the fire and the vegetables being boiled for lunch. Life has improved since I last wrote, back in a village, with kids playing and hens pecking around and have sunlight and a decent washing place, good food, thank you the Red Cross. My major problem seems to be a surplus of 'friends' - my body feels like a veritable menagerie both inside and out. Know any good parasitologists? Lots of love, Bill.

Daniel Start: The Red Cross kept coming in for a period of about two months, and over that time, there were a number of deals they tried to make and ultimatiums they set, none of which came to anything. But it was 8th May which we put most faith and hope into. There really seemed to be a change of attitude amongst the leaders that they were Induga men who had started this and who had taken us, and the responsibility was really now totally with the Induga leaders.

Henri Faunier: We were encouraged by the end of March because they told us that they wanted to end the crisis and they want to solve it, and that's why we explained to them the importance of the 8th May for the Red Cross, as World Red Cross Day, and they agreed that it would be a perfect occasion to correct what could be seen as a mistake, the kidnapping, and to make a very humanitarian gesture.

Daniel Start: The Red Cross had brought in various offers, one of which was the offer of a long-term project in the area which would bring community help, medical scheme, radios and helicopter visits from doctors, which would also act as a human rights watchdog and also promises from the Indonesian army that there'd be no retribution. And also an offer from the European Parliament that a delegation from the OPM could go to Europe and make their case at Brussels. But there was always disappointment that still they had received no answer to their demand for a free Papua.

Anna McIvor: It was clear to us that a free country wasn't in the offing, and so we were like trying to say 'Well, release us now, you've taken us hostage but you've looked after us well, and you've released us. So use that publicity and make something of it.' And yes, it almost worked; it was so close to working until Kelly Kwalik turned up.

Bill Oates: A ceremony is a crucial aspect of any part of Induga tribal life, and they only had a few days in which to get it organised. So it was a question of ferrying food from village to village. Now normally this would be carried on the backs of people but the Red Cross, because they had helicopters at their disposal, they strung huge string bags from underneath the helicopters, filled them up with pigs and vegetables and all sorts of things, and then ferried them across the mountains to the village.

VOICES of Irian natives.
Daniel Start: Some of them came along and asked what our addresses were in England so that they could come and visit us one day. They thanked us for the time we had put in and how we had helped their cause, and how we had lived with them for four months and how we'd always be friends.

Anna McIvor: They built a podium and they brought seats around the podium, and they all practised their marching and they practised putting up their flags and they built flagpoles, and then we had to run in and do this kind of little war dance with them all.

Henri Faunier: There was a representative of the British Red Cross, a representative of the Dutch Red Cross who came from Europe, we were almost 400-500 people there, and then afterwards they started in a very organised way, to bring the pigs, to kill the pigs.

Anna McIvor: The pigs are like tethered up, and then they get their bow and arrow and they put an arrow straight through the heart, and the pig dies almost instantaneously. Then later at the podium, everyone made a speech and that was when things just started to go horribly wrong. Because Kelly Kwalik got up to speak in what should have been his release speech, and he just built himself up into a rage and just went on, and on and on.

Anna McIvor: It was kind of very rhetorical, it was - if you ask someone for a sweet sweet potato and they give you a claddie do you take it, or do you say, 'No, I didn't ask for that.' And he was turning it back and saying, 'We've asked for a free country and what have you given us? This isn't a free country.'

Henri Faunier: And suddenly we had this astounded attitude unpredictable attitude of the leader who said in a speech that he was not ready to release the hostages. It was a shock, it was like a thunder.

Anna McIvor: Everyone was crying. First of all Annette cried, and Martha tried to comfort her, and she just thought it was because Annette was so shocked at being released, and then Martha realised Annette was crying because we weren't going to be. Because it kind of dawned on people slowly, it was really hard for people to understand.

Daniel Start: I suddenly thought to myself this was never going to be a release ceremony. Kelly Kwalik has just used this to reaffirm his position as leader. Kelly Kwalik had even declared himself as president, he'd already declared that Sila should be the Foreign Minister, and Yudus should be the Minister of Defence. He'd already created the whole Cabinet; he'd already said that the Government should be there in that village in Gesalema, the five of them around a bashed-up typewriter, and there seemed to be no concept of what they wanted to achieve, and how they were planning to do it.

Anna McIvor: To me, that day the Irian people threw away so much it was just impossible to understand how much they could have achieved. You can never really be sure, because you don't know who will have kept their promises, had we been released. But from what I saw, it seemed that the army were going to stay out, that the Red Cross were going to be allowed to come in as supervisors to keep an eye on the human rights; they were going to be allowed to bring in health measures and all these things. And they lost everything, and I think the OPM knew that was the end. They knew better than we did that now only the army was left to come in.

Radio News Reader: The Indonesian military is to take charge of a hostage crisis in Irian Jaya after the International Committee of the Red Cross said it could do no more to have the group freed. Following the Red Cross decision, western military experts in Jakarta expressed concern that any use of force could risk the lives of the hostages.

Anna Mcivor: Next day the Red Cross came in the morning, one last try, and in the afternoon we heard a plane, and everyone looked up uncertainly, because planes didn't usually come in the afternoon. And then we heard a huge bang, and it was like, 'My God, it's the army, they're bombing.'

Daniel Start: Everybody was screaming, everyone was saying that we were going to die, people were in tears and hysterics and there was a third explosion then, even closer than before.

Bill Oates: We kept on saying, 'This is bad, we don't want this to happen, we can end it now. The helicopters are looking for us. If the helicopters see us, they can stop it, we can stop this thing now.' But they just wouldn't, and we really, really pushed. We sat down, we refused to walk further, and it wasn't until they strung their bows and actually physically threatened us that we gave in.

Daniel Start: We then spent the next five days being taken high up into the mountains, sleeping in the open, getting separated from each other, meeting members of the local community who were also on the run. And they told us stories about how a white helicopter had come down out of the air, and how white people had got out and they thought it was the Red Cross, and they'd run up towards them. But the people had laid down machines on the ground and fired at them, and about ten people had been killed, including some children and an old man.

Anna McIvor: We quickly knew the army was all around us, because we tried to send off letters. They quickly decided, 'All right, we'll release you, but we can send off letters', they always did when they got scared, and they couldn't get the letters out because all the paths were closed. So we knew the army were hot on our tails.

Bill Oates: The pace at which Martha could walk, and Adinda could walk, was very slow. And this was about the only time that we ever became separated from each other.

Daniel Start: They told us to rest on the hillside, and they gathered together in some form of secret discussion. We'd heard a helicopter that morning circling over the valley with a loudspeaker sending out a message to the Induga, 'Give up, give up, we've almost found you.'

Anna McIvor: And we were so exhausted that we kind of dug our heels in and said 'No, look, we can't go on, we've done enough for today.'

Daniel Start: And we sat around with the men for a while, and then one of them put out a metal axe head and hit it onto wooden handle and went off. In fact he passed Bill on the way, and Bill said, 'Oh, you're going to cut leaves' and he nodded and grinned. So Bill, Anna, Annette and I were up there waiting for Navy, Tessy, Adinda and Lita to make their way up the hillside. When we all heard Adinda cry out, 'Navy!' and there was something in it that alarmed us all immediately, and then again the cry came again through the forest, 'No, no, Navy!' and she came up through the forest, followed by Lita and Tessi, and she was stumbling and crying and waving her arms, and she said in her best English, 'They kill Navy!' With those words, they meant almost nothing to me when I heard them, they were so unbelievable.

Anna McIvor: Almost like animals against a wall, they just turned and the people at the top, they got out their bows and arrows and said, 'Right, Indonesians over there, white people down there.' Silas knew it was going to happen, and he must have felt powerless, because he went down to where Mark and Martha were and he cried on their shoulder. So they tried to separate us, and we wouldn't be separated.

Daniel Start: And at that point, they grabbed Tessy, and Tessy was crying at this point. I think maybe he knew that he was going to be next, and I don't understand why he didn't run, maybe it was because he thought that he would have to sacrifice himself so that Adinda and Lita might have a chance of escaping. And suddenly I kind of woke up to what was happening, and I think we all did suddenly. We turned around and there was about ten people surrounding us. I ran out and said, 'No, you can't do this, you can't do this!' And then I saw on the left of one of the marksmen pick up his bow and arrow and aim it at me, and then someone came along swinging the axe towards me. And I jumped back, and then Annette jumped in, trying to do something to save Tessy and again the people came up swinging the axe with eyes clear that they would kill us.

Anna McIvor: And we couldn't quite believe that they were doing it, because it just didn't seem possible, you know, I don't suppose it was in our ability to understand anyone could do that to someone. And it seemed as if they were just hitting him with the back of it, they didn't actually mean him any harm, and then suddenly we saw them cut into his wrist, and just saw the bone and the flesh, and it was just -- I think it just hit us, 'My God, they're going to kill us.' And someone shouted, 'Run! Run!' and I ran one way and everyone else ran the other way.

Bill Oates: We dragged Lita and Adinda with us and we ran, we ran down the hill just whatever way we could, not following the path, just going straight down, tearing through the bushes and grabbed Mark and Martha and we all just ran completely. And I can remember looking back over my shoulder and seeing the three murderers standing there with their bows strung, just watching us, not doing anything, just watching us.

Anna McIvor: And the others had gone, so I went and hid kind of in the bole of this tree where I could see out and no-one could see in, and I just stayed there.

Bill Oates: It was literally a hundred yards down the river we saw the first troops. Literally seconds after the killing had started, we were with the Indonesian army. The look on the faces of the troops when we got there was just one of complete disbelief. They were as surprised as we were. They all got their little pocket cameras out, and were taking pictures of us there sort of lying, huddling, shivering in a state of shock. They weren't particularly well-trained in the art of shock management.

Anna McIvor: A strange thing happened under that tree. It was like that was my life and death moment. That was the moment where I got to decide whether I was going to live or die. I still think that things could have gone both ways at that point. I could have been one of those that died.

Bill Oates: I felt so elated although that elation was inevitably tinged with horror and shock and what had just passed a few minutes previously. But I knew that it was all over.

Daniel Start: We were desperately trying to explain to them that Navy and Tessi were just on the hillside above, and that maybe they could be saved if only we could go and get them now. When Adinda described the wounds that Navi had suffered with the axe, and when we described what had happened to Tessi, I think they decided there was no hope, and no point perhaps.

Anna McIvor: Nothing can describe it. I was shaking so much and trying to calm myself down, and I didn't hear anything. And I suddenly thought, 'Well I can't just sit still in fear, because that won't do anything.' So eventually I decided to make my way down to the bottom, where I thought the army were, and I shouted 'Talong, talong!' which means 'Help', and the army came and looked out, and they said, 'Come on, come on, come to us.' So eventually I jumped down this kind of last section of the landslide which is about - I don't know how far, but I think even the army were a bit impressed that I jumped down it. And I just ran to them, and they escorted me and I found all the others. And I was just - I didn't think anything, it was just like, 'My God, thank God I'm here.'

News Reader: Six foreign hostages just released from more than four months in captivity in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya, will be turned over to their respective embassies in Jakarta later today. Indonesian correspondent, Michael Marr reports.

Michael Marr: Among those who died in the rescue operation were two Indonesian hostages, as well as eight guerillas of the Free Papua organisation that took a group of scientists --

Bill Oates: I think to find the answer to the question why did they do it, I think you have to look back over 25 years of Indonesian involvement in Irian Jaya. The act of killing Navy and Tessy was just yet another in the long chain of madness, stupidity and atrocities of all kinds and all sizes by all sides.

Daniel Start: Certainly the area is worse off from the human rights point of view. Essentially every area is now militarised as a result of the kidnappings. The Red Cross can't go there because the government claims it's not safe for them, and of course it's very difficult for anyone to go there now because of what happened to us. However, I do understand and feel more sympathetic than I ever did to the amount of anger and resentment that was within a number of the people in that area. This wasn't just some kind of movement that wanted some whimsical free country so they could run their own government, this was a people who'd really suffered an enormous amount, had become used to life and death of family members being killed by the Indonesian military, of having their rights taken away. And that the reason these people wanted a free country, is they really wanted to be treated with the dignity that they deserved, and I can understand perhaps how that kind of treatment might bring a man to commit murder.

Anna McIvor: I sometimes miss the women and children because I really grew to love some of them, and the little children they cheered me up so much and they were just so beautiful, and I'm sad that I won't ever see them, I'm sad I won't know what's happened to them. And I'm sad that maybe some of them won't be still alive, I don't know.

Daniel Start: Five weeks after we were released, Mark and Martha returned to Holland where Martha gave birth to her child, a bouncing baby boy, nearly 8 pounds, called Mick Lorentz van der Vaal. He seemed to have suffered no harm from his diet of sweet potatoes.

Kirsten Garrett: And that's Background Briefing for today. You heard three of the hostages who escaped in May last year from the OPM, the Free Papua Movement. They had been held in the jungles for four months. The survivors you heard today are Bill Oates, Anna McIvor and Daniel Start. The Red Cross negotiator was Henri Faunier.

'Captured' was produced by Neil Walker, for Revolution Recordings. Co-ordinating Producer for Background Briefing is Linda McGinness, and I'm Kirsten Garrett.

Background Briefing is broadcast at 9.10 every Sunday morning and repeated at 7.10pm the following Tuesday, on Radio National, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's national radio network of ideas.
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