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Issue #1677      March 18, 2015

Taking Issue

Political/business elite rule in Indonesia

My family and I have never been to Bali or the rest of Indonesia and don’t intend to travel there until the country undergoes considerable real change. Despite the tentative moves towards a more democratic Indonesia, the same powerful, corrupt Javanese military and ex-military political/business elite controls and represses the country. The vast majority of people live in poverty and the small educated and privileged few exploit them and the nation. So essentially the mindset of the ruling elite is unchanged and the system that supports them remains intact.

President Joko Widodo – behind the sham democracy the old Javanese fascistic and feudal military regime is still the real power in Indonesia.

Indonesia is supposed to have a new liberal leadership with the election of new president Joko Widodo, the first president to be elected from outside the Javanese military/political elite. But the Australian public in the furore over the fate of two the Australians and others facing execution are getting a glimpse of the stance of Widodo (and other influential Indonesian leaders) on human rights, justice and compassion.

Of all the areas of Indonesia, West Papua, the richest resource region is suffering the most, with the people there getting the least social and economic benefits and the West Papuans living under a brutal Indonesian army occupation. West Papua has the world’s largest copper and gold mines, but with corruption and injustice rife the West Papuans endure poverty and inequality while the wealthy Javanese elite and foreign companies are further enriched.

The minerals, rainforests and other resources of West Papua are being exploited with negligible benefits to the local people and resulting in pollution, deforestation and destruction of wildlife and habitat. The main beneficiaries of the resources wealth are Indonesia, USA and Australia.

In 1961, West Papua was promised independence from their former Dutch (Netherlands) colonial rulers, but Indonesia wanted to take over the country to get access to the vast mineral and timber resources of West Papua. The USA forcibly pressured the Netherlands to give West Papua to Indonesia. Indonesia was eventually given interim control of the territory until West Papua’s future was decided.

West Papuans were not consulted about this. The United Nations did promise the West Papuans they would have a say in determining their own destiny. What actually happened in 1969 was not a free referendum, but a so-called Act of Free Choice which was a farce. Indonesia selected 1,025 people and forced them at gun-point to vote for incorporation with Indonesia.

Since the invasion and occupation of West Papua the Indonesian army and police have carried out a policy of slow systematic genocide against the Indigenous West Papuans. Before the Indonesian invasion the native West Papuans were 98% of the population, today they are only 48%. It is estimated that 500,000 West Papuans have been killed or have disappeared since the Indonesian invasion. Indonesian military and police carry out regular operations in the rural areas which result in houses being burnt and civilian villagers being terrorised, beaten, tortured and killed.

Many West Papuan leaders and activists have been killed or are being held as political prisoners for engaging in peaceful protests or other acts of resistance and even for raising their voices against Indonesian oppression. Some are serving 15 years in prison for merely hoisting their people’s flag, The Morning Star. While others have been shot and killed or cruelly tortured for this action.

Bali is the regional headquarters of the military operations for West Papua. While oppression, gross human rights abuses and atrocities continue in West Papua people of conscience should not holiday in Bali or the rest of Indonesia or buy products made there. This may unfortunately affect some ordinary Balinese and other Indonesians, but it will mainly impact the privileged few of the Javanese political/military/business elite who (with the large foreign corporations) dominate business operations and who gain the most from exploiting the resources of West Papua. They also own most of the hotels, airlines, travel agencies, other tourism ventures and commerce in Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia.

The Indonesian army also operates legal enterprises and illegal businesses, either by itself or through criminal gangs with military connections from timber logging and tourism, to alcohol, gambling, drugs, protection rackets and prostitution.

Behind the sham democracy the old Javanese fascistic and feudal military regime is still the real power in Indonesia. And as long as its reactionary policies dominate the country nothing will really change in Indonesia. As was the case in South Africa, East Timor, Burma, etc, pressure and actions from outside did play a role in supporting and encouraging fundamental change.

The West Papuan people continue to struggle against oppression and for freedom and independence and deserve support. Our actions in speaking up on this vital issue and exposing the oppressive situation that exists in West Papua can play a constructive part in helping to promote genuine change there.

Next article – Legal services face funding cuts threat

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