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  • Writer's pictureMerdeka Secretariat

Declaration: Freedom for West Papua!

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Declaration of The Study Conference on West Papua Self-Determination and Liberation

Davao City, Philippines | 26-27 March 2017

We, indigenous peoples, advocates of indigenous peoples, and people’s movements hereby unite in support of the right of the people of West Papua for self-determination and liberation. We shout: Merdeka for West Papua!

The long-standing and continuing struggle of the West Papuan people clearly shows their voluntary decision to fight for self-determination and liberation. They are clear in demanding their right to shape their own destiny and chart their own path towards development, in demanding secession from the current oppressive Indonesian state and the right to create their independent state. They are after all victims of national oppression and subjugation in the hands of theUS-backed Indonesian ruling classes who reject their right to secede on the basis of an oppressive “unity.”

We condemn, oppose and vow to fight the colonization and occupation of West Papua, the plunder of West Papua’s resources, as well as the violent repression and genocide against the people of West Papua being carried out by the government of Indonesia with the support of US imperialism.

The said colonization, occupation, plunder, violent repression and genocide are being enforced through the Indonesian army led by its corrupt generals. These serve the interests of the ruling big comprador-capitalist and landlord classes of Indonesia and the US monopoly capitalists who plunder West Papua’s immense gold and copper reserves and other natural resources.

Let the West Papuans chart their destiny! Since time immemorial, the people of West Papua have been denied of their right to self-determination over their territory, their community and their resources.

West Papua was colonized by the Dutch since 1800. While Indonesia was able to force the Dutch to recognize Indonesian independence in 1949, West Papua remained under Dutch colonial rule until 1961. After declaring independence from Dutch rule in 1961, West Papua was invaded by the Indonesian military led by General Suharto in 1962 and was ceded by The Netherlands to Indonesia in the same year. In 1969, in a fake referendum, 1,025 men and women selected by the Indonesian military voted for integration into Indonesia.

A report published in 2009 by the Institute of Netherlands History in The Hague revealed that the Dutch had secretly recognised the “unmistakable beginning of the formation of a Papuan state,” but were bullied by the administration of US President John F. Kennedy at a critical juncture to accept “temporary” Indonesian control over what a White House adviser called “a few thousand miles of cannibal land.”

West Papua is the most militarized province being claimed by Indonesia. There was a continuous build-up of the US-trained Indonesian military in the territory, which escalated after the downfall of former Indonesian President Suharto in 1998. In 2012, the ratio between state forces and the population is 1:99 [1].

To try to pacify West Papuans’ demand for secession, the Indonesian government gave the territory “special autonomy” on paper but also proceeded to parcel the territory, proof of its intention of keeping it at all cost. Despite attempts to make it appear that West Papua is enjoying autonomy, it is clear that the territory is under Indonesian occupation.

The plunder of West Papua’s natural resources must stop! The country’s natural resources must benefit the people of West Papua above anybody else, not the ruling classes of Indonesia and not the monopoly capitalists of the US and other countries.

The natural resources of West Papua are being plundered through mining and logging operations as well as biofuel plantations. The US’ Freeport and Australia’s Rio Tinto are leading the mining operations, Japan is leading the logging operations, and the US and Japan are leading in the extraction of liquefied natural gas. The big comprador-capitalists and landlords of Indonesia are promoting plantations.

Freeport is the biggest gold and copper mine in the world, worth more than $100 billion, and the Indonesian government’s single biggest source of revenue. West Papua is fifth in contribution to Indonesia’s GDP compared with the country’s other provinces.

Colonial exploitation and plunder of West Papua’s natural resources have gone unabated and have worsened since the Dutch opened this well cared for land. Suharto’s rise to power saw the intensified US plunder of West Papua which, according to progressive journalist John Pilger, was secured through the 1967 Geneva conference attended by Suharto’s Berkeley Boys and big business officials [2]. The imposition of neoliberal economic policies has only worsened this plunder.

The violent repression of the people of West Papua and the genocide against the native West Papuans being inflicted by the Indonesian ruling classes through the Indonesian government and military must stop! These measures uphold the plunder of West Papua’s natural resources in the context of the country’s colonization and occupation!

Records show that the Indonesian government and military have carried out massacres, murders, torture and rape against the West Papuan people. By sponsoring the transmigration of Indonesians into the territory, the Indonesian government is showing that it wants nothing less than the extinction of the native West Papuans. It has also institutionalized racism against the latter.

In the 1965-1998 period, at least 100,000 West Papuans were killed or disappeared. The Indonesian-appointed governor of then-West Irian estimated that since 1963, more than 30,000 West Papuans had been killed by the Indonesian military. The years 1977-1978 marked a milestone in the carnage as more than 10,000 were killed in the Central Highlands during military operations according to an Asian Human Rights Commission report [3].

In April 25-May 02, 2016 alone, at least 1,783 West Papuans were subjected to illegal arrests, while 1,269 were also illegally arrested in June 10-15, 2016. Fear is being systematically spread. Human rights are being violated with impunity. The exercise of the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are considered crimes and even terrorist acts. Reports revealing the true conditions in West Papua are immediately stifled. Local and foreign journalists are heavily controlled, if the latter even get the chance to enter the country.

Under US-backed Indonesian colonization and occupation, the West Papuans are an impoverished, oppressed and marginalized people in their own land.

Despite West Papua’s immense natural resources and the huge profits being pocketed by big foreign and local capitalists and landlords, the poverty rate in the area is 31 percent in 2012, more than double the national average of 12 percent. Illiteracy has been increasing and has reached 35 percent in 2011, a distant cry from the national average of just 2 percent. West Papuans are denied the most basic health services. [4]

As in the entire Papua province, unemployment abounds and only 17 percent of the workforce have regular jobs, 45 percent are in part-time jobs or are self-employed, and the remaining are either jobless or working unpaid. Native West Papuans form the biggest section of the jobless, as migrants get more than 90 percent of all trading jobs and the majority of jobs in manufacturing. [5]

West Papua’s thriving forests are increasingly being denuded, its rivers and seas are increasingly being polluted, and many of the animals living in the territory are increasingly being hounded to extinction.

In the face of colonization, occupation, plunder, severe repression and genocide, the people of West Papua are heroically waging their struggle for self-determination and liberation.

The West Papuan people are continuing and intensifying their struggle for self-determination and liberation. In 1965, the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) or the Free Papua Movement was formed as a military wing of the New Guinea Raad (Council), the government of the people of West Papua that was created in 1961. In the year 2000, the Presidium Council was established after the downfall of Suharto and positive developments in the people’s struggles in Aceh, East and West Timor, Central Sulawesi and West Kalimantan.

In 2015, for the first time, a coalition of West Papuan nationalist groups was granted diplomatic recognition in being admitted to a regional grouping of Melanesian countries, when the United Liberation Movement of West Papua was granted observer status by the Melanesian Spearhead Group. The move is expected to expose the human rights abuses being committed by the Indonesian government in West Papua and open doors to peace talks [6].

The people of West Papua and their struggle for self-determination and liberation deserve the solidarity and support of the indigenous peoples and all oppressed peoples of the world. They are struggling against US imperialism and its allied local ruling classes – the main enemies of the peoples of the world.

We recognize that in attaining West Papuan self-determination and liberation, it is the militant struggle of the West Papuan people in their homeland that is most important and decisive, while international solidarity is secondary and plays a supporting role.

We also recognize the unique importance of the national people’s movement in Indonesia in supporting the struggle for West Papuan self-determination and liberation, including efforts to build unity and solidarity among the exploited and oppressed peoples and groups in Indonesia for the said cause.

We are confident that the people’s movement in Indonesia will oppose and counter Indonesian oppression, privilege and racism towards West Papua. We are confident that Indonesian comrades will reject and struggle against “national unity” under the Indonesian ruling classes, which serves as a cover to the national oppression and subjugation of West Papua.

We uphold and celebrate the unity and synergy between the West Papuan people’s struggle for self-determination and the Indonesian people’s struggle for national liberation and democracy. The two are struggling against a common enemy and their struggles strengthen each other.

At the same time, we recognize the West Papuan people’s right to opt for regional autonomy or federation in an non-oppressive Indonesian state in the future, when the people’s movement in Indonesia triumphs in its struggle for national and social liberation.

To advance the cause of West Papuan self-determination and liberation, we vow to exert political pressure to help strengthen the West Papuan people’s struggle and to delegitimize Indonesia as a colonial and occupying power being backed by US imperialism. In particular, we vow to:

End the silence over the realities in West Papua and to spread information and education on the plight of West Papuans and their struggle for self-determination and liberation.Expose and shame the biggest corporations who are operating in West Papua and which are responsible for the plunder of the territory’s resources and the repression of the West Papuan people.Expose the extreme repression, widespread human rights violations, and genocide being committed against the West Papuan people.Build a Merdeka West Papua Support Network that will serve as a global campaign-coordinating network that shall link with existing West Papua support groups in different countries or help build Merdeka West Papua Support Committees where there are none.Help bring together exiles from West Papua to campaign for their native country’s self-determination and liberation.Bring our calls before the Indonesian government, other governments, international alliances, and relevant international platforms.Mark December 1 as Free West Papua Day, May 1, July 1, and other dates relevant to the struggle of the West Papuan people by holding various activities on or near these dates.

We are united in asserting our calls:

Merdeka for West Papua!

Struggle for self-determination and liberation for the people of West Papua!

US Imperialist, out of West Papua!

Indonesia, out of West Papua!

End the colonization, occupation, severe repression and genocide in West Papua!

Long live the people of West Papua!

Long live the indigenous peoples and all oppressed peoples of the world!

Down with US imperialism and all reactionaries!


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