Sound bites is a forum designed to showcase and promote the individual who in his/her efforts to further the West Papuan cause offer the rest of us insightful and thought provoking discourses to achieving our dreams of freedom. We salute these Freedom fighters and ask that they continue to help us fight the good fight.
From: Rob Wesley-Smith, B Rur Sc, Troppo Rural Consulting.
A Spokeperson for Australians for a Free East Timor
PhFx (61 0) 8 89832113
Box 2155 Darwin NT Australia 0801
The disastrous forest fires through SE Asia, and the drying of the rivers in New Guinea, are all interrelated, and the fault of greedy rapacious developers. In particular General Suharto, dictator/president of the military government of Indonesia, and the world's number one coloniser, is primarily to blame. He must resign!
He has been aided by stupid genocidal policies of the World Bank in financing transmigration projects, and the wholesale devastation of rain forests. This is ongoing, with huge projects happening along the West Papuan border, largely for military reasons. Warnings of these disasters-in-waiting have been ignored.
The mining industry also shares blame, as mines such as OK Tedi in western PNG, and Freeport in West Papua, tip their mega-huge loads of tailings into the rivers resulting in them silting up and becoming shallow. With a reduced rainfall period, of course they dry up quicker.
The actual rainfall is also reduced by the reduction of the rainforests. All things are interrelated. Surely Suharto's mystics have told him that, if not his generals. The root causes are greed and overpopulation. The rapacious greed of the Suhartos and their mates must be swept away, and probably will in due course, if not in time to save whole tribes, ecosystems and even nations from extinction. Overpopulation must be solved within countries.
The natural systems demand and require respect. The indigenous peoples, in touch with their lands, did not create or allow the sort of devastation we now see, and even in north Australia the fire management practices are allowing massive fires at present.
FIRES where necessary must be small and often, and mostly during wetter cooler times. The RESISTANCE in East Timor and West Papua has to learn to be pro-active and light such fires for their own survival, to ensure forest cover remains, until the world forces Indonesia to withdraw its military and returns these lands to their rightful and lawful owners.
From: Ottis Simopiaref)
The following is a speech that was written and presented by Ottis Simopiaref at the second annual meeting of the West Papua Network Germany which took place on September 26 to 28 1997.
Good evening brothers and sisters, friends and comrades.
To Renate for mobilising all of us to this meeting, to lovely Veronica for accomodating us with this beautiful and comfortable place to meet, to all of you for your supportive work from the beginning especially since last September up to now, I would like to express my deepest gratitude on behalf of my people in West Papua.
I am very happy to be here to participate in this second meeting of the network and I am very glad to meet you here as individuals as well as representatives of the groups in Germany. I see some new faces here; to you, I would like to say welcome on the busy platform and I hope that you will be pleased to stay with us for the coming years.
It was my desire to have a network for West Papua in Germany. I discussed this idea with a friend from Berlin for two years and I am very happy that this network became official in September of last year.
This meeting is of great importance. It is one of the historical epochs in our struggle. A historical epoch that is characterized by a series of aspirations, concerns, and values in search of fulfilment. You and I have concerns about the situation in West Papua. We are searching to find the best way to support the West Papuan people. This meeting is of great value to the entire struggle, not only to express your solidarity to the West Papuan people but to give value to humanity in general, that human beings need to be humanly treated. There are many challenges and many questions in our struggle. One of the many questions that is addressed to me from time to time during my public meetings is:
Why do you want to have an independent West Papua instead of living together with the Indonesians?
My simple answer to this question is:
I would like to live together with anybody else on this planet as long as I am equally recognised as a human being. If not, I would prefer to live alone.
I was born in 1953 during the Dutch colonial period in West Papua. The Dutch left West Papua in 1962, but I continued to grow up under another colonial regime, that is of Indonesia. From West Papua I went to Indonesia in 1975 to continue my studies. I stayed there for 8 years and so I came to know a lot about the culture and have many Indonesian friends. When I started to take legal actions in November 1983 against the human rights abuses and the colonial system in West Papua, I was almost killed by mystery killers. In fact, these, so-called mystery killers belonged to the Indonesian military. Because of this, I and three friends fled to the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta on the 28th of February 1984 to seek political assylum. After 13 days in the embassy we came to Europe and now live in Holland.
The basic reason why we, the West Papuan people, want to have our own independent state outside Indonesia is that we really want to be equally recognised as human beings. We want to have equal rights as other nations have in this world. As a nation, we are not struggling to separate ourselves from the rest of the world. We are fighting to create our own equal place based on the human values inside the world society. For recognition as equal human beings was the reason why the Africans fought in the 1960s against colonialism, against the brutal slavery, against the exploitation of their natural resources, against the killings, against the rapes, against the inequalities. It is the same reason why the South Africans fought against apartheid. It is the same reason why our brothers and sisters in Kanaky (New Caledonia) and East Timor are still struggling for an independent Kanaky from France and for an independent East Timor from Indonesia. It is for peace, justice, love and freedom. It is for humanity.
West Papua became a province of Indonesia on the 1st of May 1963 as a result of the failure of the United Nations to maintain their fundamental principles. This so-called United Nations Organisation, must be held responsible for the blood of the children, women and men in West Papua after the transfer of power in West Papua to the dictatorial government of Indonesia.
There are three priorities in the basic strategy of our struggle for an independent West Papua.
Mobilisation of the West Papuan people to play a basic role in the liberation process. Freedom is not an external award but should be created internally from one's spirit. As subjects of the liberation process, the West Papuan people must liberate themselves. I would like to refer to this self-support as internal support. From this mobilisation, a permanent liberation process should be created to maintain the dynamic movement inside the country toward progress.
The Indonesian government as oppressor should be carefully approached to be conscious of human rights and values. Various key-elements in the government should be gently approached to be our partners in the struggle. Therefore, the campaign and lobbying activities inside Indonesia are of great importance. I call this first external support.
The world society must be mobilised for an external pressure on the Indonesian government to recoqnise the right to self-determination of the West Papuan people. This is the second external support.
Since the invasion of the Indonesian troops and the committing of many brutal killings, the West Papuan people have become more and more consciously aware of their situation. I was eleven years old when I saw the soldiers come into our village to intimidate us and take away our bicycles, refrigerators, radios, watches and other property. They said, these items came from the Dutch colonial period and must be destroyed. In fact, those goods were never destroyed. I finished primary school in our village and went to secondary school when I was thirteen. I remember one day when the soldiers came rushing into our classrooms with a list in their hands. Some of my classmates were arrested. They were roughly thrown into a truck and taken away. They were held in military custody for about two weeks because their parents were involved in the liberation movement. Such military activities made us become more conscious of the reality that we were still a colonised and oppressed people.
After 34 years of being oppressed by Indonesia, we continue step by step to transform this reality. We can only liberate ourselves by mobilising the people. Freedom is not an externally honoured award. We must create it from our own deepest spirit. We must use the existing resources at our disposal. There are some intellectuals, some NGOs, student organisations, some labour forces, traditional peasants and traditional fishermen. We must organise these forces in the rural areas, urban areas and inside the cities. We have a massive land and we must use this for the purpose of the liberation movement. We have established traditional institutions in many areas. These institutions will formulate the strategies, set up special committees and sub-committees and run some specific programmes. The liberation movement is no longer a guerilla movement. The liberation movement has now become a mass movement of all sectors of society, making for a more powerful dynamic movement inside the country.
Last year, the West Papuan youth in Indonesia sent an appeal to the general secretary of the UN, Kofi Annan, to urge him to re-open the West Papua case to be re-deliberated. The blood and the soul of these young West Papuan people have been severely poisoned by many years of colonialism, so that they now struggle for their very survival. They are now taking over the struggle from our grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers and mothers. They have made a commitment to themselves to continue the struggle in the spirit of our ancestors. They have also sent the same appeal to the president of Indonesia, Suharto, as commander of the Indonesian special troops that began the West Papuan invasion in 1960. Up until now, there is no answer from either the UN or Suharto. The answer is, maybe, blowing in the wind.
We have succeeded in getting the support of many Indonesian NGOs in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. About ten years ago there was no one in Jakarta who paid attention to human rights violations or to the problem of environmental destruction by mining companies, logging companies and the destructive activities of the migrants in West Papua. However, this situation is now changing.
Amien Rais, a prominent muslim leader, has been actively raising the problems of Freeport in the Indonesian parliament. Freeport is the US gold and copper mining company which has been operating in West Papua since 1972. The West Papuan people are still actively protesting against the Freeport Company.
Military troops as backers to Freeport killed thousands of people with bombs in the Timika region (the region where Freeport operates) in 1975. Unfortunately, there is still no report about these killings.(Editor: Yes there are! ) From June 1994 to February 1995 there was a series of peaceful actions against which the military reacted with brutal killings. Among the 37 victims were a little girl of five and a little boy of six. This was well-documented in the report of Bishop Munninghoff. Almost a month ago (22nd of August) two more people were shot dead by the military during a mass protest. Sabam Sirait is another Indonesian parliamentarian who strongly critises the policy of the Indonesian government in West Papua. During a meeting in Jakarta on the 26th of February 1997, he raised a question addressed to president Suharto, the military and the government about West Papua. The question included a short statement as follows: "Do not force the Irianese to feel as one nation with us." The forbidden PRD - Partai Rakyat Demokratik (People's Democratic Party of Indonesia) actively supports the political struggle of the West Papuan people and the East Timorese. Although some leaders of this new party have been put in jail, the activities of the party are still well-organised underground.
One of the overall priorities now is to carry out campaign and lobbying activities in Indonesia in order to gain more support from the Indonesian people themself. I believe that thousands of the 198 million Indonesians (this number does not include the populations of West Papua and East Timor because the official number is now two hundred million) will rise up in the near future to support our struggle.
I believe that our liberation movement is not the central thrust that will destroy the unitary state of Indonesia but that it will come from the Indonesians themselves. There is already a process of semi-revolution inside Indonesia against the government (for example: (i) the uprisings against the government before and during the general elections of May 1997; (ii) labour movements are becoming stronger and stronger; (iii) the government has changed some old rules of the labour regulations in response to labour movements, (iv) some ministers have spoken out openly against the present political system, (v) parliamentarians now have a stronger position to criticize the political system). This will lead to the collapse of the existing political system. The collapse of the Soviet Union was not finally the result of any military assault by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) or other external mechanisms but simply the failure of the internal political and economic system. This will be the same in Indonesia because the present political and economic crisis in Indonesia has gone beyond acceptable limits.
PUDI - Partai Uni Demokrasi Indonesia (United Democratic Party of Indonesia) declared in its political manifesto the promotion of a federal system in Indonesia to replace the present centralist system. Unfortunately, the chairman of PUDI has been charged with subversion and is still being held in police custody while waiting to go on trial. Such a proposed federal system would be a great advance towards the struggle for greater autonomy in the occupied regions (West Papua and East Timor). This autonomy would then, hopefully, be the stepping-stone needed in order to gain full independence in West Papua and East Timor. Another process should emerge after democracy and respect for basic human rights in Indonesia gain ground. Under such conditions, I hope that it will be possible for the West Papuan people to propose a referendum to be held in West Papua. The referendum should be held no later than 2008 at which time West Papua will have been under 45 years of Indonesian rule.
I do not believe that the unitary state of Indonesia will maintain its existance in the coming centuries. The history of Indonesia includes an ancient Kingdom of Majapahit (from 1293 to ca 1520) that laid claims on a territory stretching from Madagascar to the Pas Island of Chile. This extensive ancient kingdom toppled in the end and the archipelago that now forms Indonesia is only one part of that kingdom. I do hope that the collapse of the unitary state of Indonesia will not result in a process of ethnic cleansing, like in the former Yugoslavia, but in the creation of new states that will live peacefully side by side.
At the same time that we work on in creating the freedom from within our own deepest spirit, external support is also necessary to propel the whole freedom process. West Papua has become more and more an international issue. The human rights annual reports of the US State Department and Amnesty International have regularly included reports on the systematic human rights abuses in West Papua. The Pope and Boutros Boutrous Ghali (the former UN Secretary General) took note of the situation in West Papua while they requested the OPM (Free Papua Movement) guerillas in 1996 to release their hostages which included six Europeans, four Indonesians and one West Papuan. While the Irish Parliament and the European Parliament did the same, the Irish Parliament also made an appeal to its government to bring the West Papua case back to the UN to be re-deliberated. This progress is not only a result of the dynamic movement inside West Papua but also a result of the persistant support of solidarity groups outside West Papua.
The most important priority of our strategy is the pursuance of a Human Development Programme. This programme includes educational projects. Education is the prime mover in the development process. Education of the oppressed people is to make them conscious of their reality so that they will be in a position to transform the reality itself. Educational projects should be carried out with the West Papuan people in the process of organising them. A permanent state of liberation should be created and strengthened by educating the West Papuan people themselves.
The more we achieve self-reliance, self-confidence and self development the more we challenge stronger global oppression. Indonesia is only one element of larger global oppression. To develop a strong solidarity movement based on the human values to protect ourselves against injustices and even to resist the global oppression, we need friends in all corners of the world. Therefore, I would like to appeal to you as groups as well as individuals to take up actions to support the struggle of the West Papuan people. I do hope that you will continue your supportive work. I am sure that you will not give up and I do believe that the West Papuan people will not give up their hopes. I also hope that our struggle has been yours and your struggle has been ours. Together, we will open a new page of history for a better future. Together, we will be strong and we shall overcome someday. Keep the spirit high and stay with us!
Ottis Simopiaref works at Stichting Werkgroep Nieuw Guinea
(New Guinea Working Group Foundation)
PO Box 454
6700 AG Wageningen