Self appointed Papuan rebel leader in exile Benny Wenda accuses everybody else from profiting from the alleged exploitation of the natural resources of the Indonesian provinces of West Papua and Papua, from the international companies such as Freeport that extract these natural resources to the Indonesian Government in Jakarta and the usual bugbear of the Indonesian military without admitting that without such tragic events like the death of a protester in a confrontation with police Wenda would have no cause to fight for.
In other words Benny Wenda would be nothing more than a ‘rebel without a cause’, and that would not suit his powerful foreign backers who seem to be more interested in using whatever grievances there may exist in the Indonesian Papuan provinces as a stick to hit the Indonesian Government and the Republic of Indonesia than in assisting in solving such grievances peacefully constitutionally at local and central level.
Benny Wenda is a secessionist who wants to achieve the secession of the Indonesian Papuan provinces to become independent by physical force, but in a classical tactic of any militant nationalist leader he will use social and economic issues such as a strike as an argument, and if possible as a tool to justify his own armed secessionist fight.
The Freeport strike is an industrial dispute about wages and like anywhere else in the world with rising food prices etc emotions run high and demonstrations can turn into violent confrontations with the police.
In one of such confrontations one man is tragically killed, but in a confrontation with local police in Papua, not at the hand of Indonesian troops as Wenda states in the Guardian of 12 October.
In Europe, including in the United Kingdom, there haven been recently numerous demonstrations about cuts, austerity measures, increases for fees for students etc, some ending in violent clashes with police, and occasionally people have tragically died, but the authorities in these democratic countries have responded with investigations, some of which have led to prosecutions of the police officer or officers responsible for these deaths.
Things in Indonesia as a democracy are not different; Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered an investigation into the death and wounding of several other protesters and has been quoted in the Jakarta Post of 12 October that those police officers who are found to have breached the rules should be punished.
Separately Indonesian human rights organisations have asked for the Indonesian Government to intervene to help to negotiate a peaceful solution to the industrial dispute between 8000 striking Freeport miners and Freeport as it has led to violence in which one protester has died.
This narrative, however, does not suit Benny Wenda and his foreign supporters such as the so called ‘International Lawyers for West Papua’ (ILWP) who continue to regurgitate un- and half truths about the role of the Papuan provinces in the history of Indonesian decolonisation from its former Dutch colonial rules.
These provinces were an integral part of the former Netherlands East Indies (NEI) and when Indonesian independence was proclaimed on 17 August 1945 the Republic of Indonesia was the natural successor state to the NEI, but under pressure of reactionary Dutch colonial interests successive Dutch governments held on unilaterally and illegally to the former colonial territories on the western part of the island of New Guinea that has been part of the NEI until hostilities resumed between the Netherlands and Indonesia in the early 1960s and the UN intervened and recognised in principle Indonesian authority over these territories pending a plebiscite.
Indeed the 1969 Act of Free Choice may not have been perfect but so were many other things in Indonesia of that time, though now Indonesia has moved on and is democratic just like the UK and just like the UK it may not be perfect with room for improvement.
Foreign journalists do indeed need permission to visit the Indonesian Papuan provinces but that is because a small band of Benny Wenda’s comrades carry on a low intensity armed insurgency in support of their secessionist aims.
The question the members of the ILWP should ask themselves is whether they are genuinely concerned with combating these alleged human rights abuses and want to assist in a peaceful solution to any Papuan grievances or whether they are more interested in supporting the minority but armed Papuan secessionist movement with spurious legalistic arguments based on historical misinterpretation and so perpetuate from their side a climate of insurgency and counter insurgency in which such abuses can occur?