JUST five months before Indonesia is set to host UNESCO’s 2017 celebration of World Press Freedom Day, its government still has not met a regional human rights watchdog’s demands to address press freedom violations in the country’s restive West Papua province.
Upon the announcement in July that UNESCO would mark May 3, 2017 with a conference in Jakarta, the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) set that date as a deadline for Indonesia’s government to “ensure that there is open access to West Papua for foreign media, and an end to abuses against local media”.
However, the government has rejected that demand. In July, the Minister Counsellor at Indonesia’s embassy in New Zealand, Wanton Saragih, argued that great strides forward in terms of press freedom in West Papua have been made under the current administration, including a lift on the ban against foreign journalists. Last year, all foreign journalists’ visa applications to West Papua were reportedly approved, including a request by Radio New Zealand International reporter Johnny Blades.
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Nuclear tests are held in Nevada. Demonstrators riot against the Vietnam War. Shadows gather on a grassy knoll. And Indonesian paratroopers waft down onto the western half of a vast island, marked out on their maps as “Irian Barat”. In 1962, the world’s newest colonial force, Indonesia, is busy invading Western New Guinea. Event surrounding that year remains murky, involving a CIA coup, hand-in-hand with big business interests in the US political system, namely Freeport, still earning billions in profit each year. Not consulted; the people of Papua, their future decided on a far-away street in Dallas as a presidential limousine cruises past a book repository.
“When Kennedy was killed, a military dictatorship was installed and paid off ” in Indonesia, says Lisa Pease, an author on the assassination and its impact around the world, “so that the interests of businesses like Freeport are given higher priority than any demands of the natives whose resources are still being pillaged.” Fifty years after the paratroopers first land, the world’s biggest Asian invasion continues to pillage Papua at vast volumes. Still under armed force, an estimated 750,000 people from Indonesia now live in the western half of Papua, part of a gigantic “transmigration” programme, funded with the help of the World Bank.
Indonesians with a population nearing 3 million make up a dominant majority in urban centres and take up nearly all of the town jobs. But a flood of migrants are only a small part of a bigger tsunami of social and environmental damage, including 230,000 tons of waste a day from the world’s richest copper and gold mine, at Grasberg.
Mining there generated US$6 billion in sales for 2010 alone, including $4 billion in operating profits. “2010 was an outstanding year for our company,” reads the Freeport annual report on the company website.
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LAST month, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi made an unannounced flying visit to Melanesia. Ostensibly, the trip was to discuss relations bewteen Indonesia and the sub-region.
In reality, however, Marsudi’s visit was prompted by increased agitation in Melanesia for governments to take action against human rights atrocities in West Papua.
Over the first two months of 2015 there has been increased activity on social media, highlighting the murder of five boys by Indonesian security forces in its eastern-most possession.
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by Netani Rika