WEST Irian, formerly Dutch West New Guinea (or West Papua) was meekly handed over in 1963 with the approval of the West after sustained Sukarno betligerence.
East Timor, a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years, was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 after the region had been wracked by civil strife following Portuga]’s abdication of administrative responsibility.
The Indonesianisation of Melanesian West Papua (as Free Papua resistance fighters call it). has been an admix of military action, takeover of indigenous business activities by Indonesians and expropriation of Melanesian land to make way for settlers under the national transmigration programme which involves the relocation of Indonesians from overcrowded Java.
The Melanesian population of West Irian, which numbers less than a million, is in grave danger of becoming a minority in its homeland. Moses Weror, a West Papuan and once a junior diplomat in Indonesia’s embassy in Canberra, Australia. told me: ~We must help the West Papuans now before it is too late... Transmigrants from the over-populated regions of Indonesia are being shipped in their hundreds annually into West Papua. I quote the late President Sukarno’s doctrine: A can change a human race by intermarriage between the races ... in a few generations hence there will be only a single Indonesian race from Sabang in (northern) Sumatra to Merauke in the south of West Irian.’
West Papuans have suffered two bewildering and devastating decades of Indonesian military brutality, administrative incompetence and ethnic dilution. And, the West knows little of their tragedy.
By contrast, the tragedy ofEast Timor has received much greater exposure, particularly in the Australian and US press.
In political terms it was not surprising that stridently anti-communist Indonesia chose to invade East Timor after the socialist Fretilin group, which emerged victorious from the brief civil war, proclaimed the Democratic Republic of East Timor’ in November 1975.
With the acquiescence of the West the United States and Australia in particular (a ragged Portuga] was in no fit state at the time to protest) Indonesia embarked upon a barbarous military conquest. Yet Fretilin forces, though now depleted, continue their resistance in the mountains of East Timorto this day.
Colonial Portugal, when it conducted its last voluntary census ofEast Timor in 1974, put the population at about 680,000. Indonesia’s compulsory census in 1980 found only 550,000 people. Catholic church authorities on East Timor do not believe the present population is more than 425,000. If the Catholic estimate is reliable, there has been a population drop of 255,000 in seven years. Where have all the people gone?
There are car-stickers in Australia which ask: Is West Irian another East Timor?’ The author has it the wrong way around But whichever way one views it, it is not possible to get away from the conclusion that, far from the eyes of the world, Indonesia has indulged in an orgy of genocide in its two colonies.
And still the voices of protest from West Irian and East Timor have not been silenced.
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