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May 10, 2002


Australia West Papua Association, Sydney PO Box 65 Millers Point, NSW 2000 Email:

Today’s sensational story, in the New Zealand Herald (May 8, 2002), about OPM threats of violence in West Papua, falls well short of presenting an accurate picture of the West Papuan’s response to the autonomy imposed by the Indonesian government. I have just returned from West Papua, and there can be no doubt that feelings are running high. None of the many of Papuans I interviewed want autonomy; they have, in fact, been autonomous since 1969. The Indonesian military, directed by an increasingly belligerent government, want autonomy - partly to maintain the territorial "integrity" of the republic, but also because only one quarter of the soldiers' salaries are actually paid by the state. With this new autonomy they can get the snouts further into the trough.

John Martinkus employs the name of the OPM to present the outrage and frustration, when in fact he should be referring to the West Papuan Liberation Army. While the Liberation Army is an important element of the OPM, unlike the OPM it is not controlled by the civilian political leadership. My research indicates that the OPM leadership, the Papua Presidium Council, the churches, the women’s groups, the indigenous NGOs, and the all-important student organisations, are (still) totally committed to the non-violent struggle instituted in 1988. They recognize that the world is at war against terrorism, and do not want their legitimate struggle for self-determination to be undermined.

Martinkus appears to be facilitating an Indonesian strategy, leaked a few weeks ago, to mask a military campaign -- to eliminate the best and brightest of the West Papuan leadership -- with a war against terrorism. Anyone concerned with the state of affairs in West Papua, or in Indonesia, deserves a better-informed analysis by a journalist who spent the last year of East Timor's liberation reporting from Dili.

The international community wants to, and needs to, encourage dialogue between West Papua and Indonesia that is mediated by a third, neutral party. UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, is currently being petitioned to personally intervene and order an investigation into the UN’s conduct in West Papua, during the sham Act of Free Choice. East Timor's Independence celebrations in a couple of weeks will remind democratic Indonesians of their painful humiliation when their government and their military reacted so badly to a legitimate democratic process. The celebrations will also remind the international community, especially Australians and New Zealanders, to become actively involved in creating a peaceful solution to the problems in West Papua.

Kel at AWPA Email: 

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