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  • Writer's pictureMerdeka Secretariat

The People of Irian Barat Must be Free!

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison Chairperson International League of Peoples’ Struggle March 26, 2017

Dear fellow freedom fighters and friends, The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) is filled with joy over the holding of “Merdeka: A study conference on West Papua self-determination” this March 26-27, 2016 in Davao City, Philippines. We salute the organizers and participants of this study conference, especially the delegates from Irian Barat (West Papua) who are risking their lives and personal liberty for the most important cause of their country’s national and social liberation. On this occasion, we also remember and pay tribute to the tens of thousands of  people in Irian Barat who have been killed by Indonesia’s US-backed genocidal campaign, especially the martyrs of the struggle for their country’s self-determination and liberation. This is an historic gathering, as it is a major effort towards forging unity among the anti-imperialist forces of the world in support of the just and heroic, longstanding yet relatively unknown, struggle of the people of Irian Barat.

History, Principle and Current Situation

Let me state some points regarding the history of Irian Barat, the principle of national self-determination and the related current situation. In Indonesia’s  Declaration of Independence in 1945, Irian Barat was already encompassed by the Indonesian nation-state.

This was based on the historical ground that the indigenous people of Irian Barat had close relations with those of Irian Jaya and the  rest of Indonesia in various major respects as well as on the principle in international law  that the continguous colonial territory like Dutch East Indies is ceded by the outgoing colonial power to the successor newly-independent state in the process of decolonization.

A distinction must be made between the formation of the Indonesian nation-state in 1945, to include Irian Barat and its people against Dutch colonialism on the one hand and the inalienable right of the people of Irian Barat to assert national self-determination on the other hand, including the right to opt for regional autonomy or federation in a nonoppressive state and  up to the right to secede from an oppressive state like what the Indonesian reactionaries are running.

There is definitely a difference between the Indonesian state under the leadership of Sukarno and NASAKOM and the state that was taken over by the Indonesian military fascists in 1965. The latter state continues as an oppressive instrument of the US and the Indonesian reactionaries. It is a state that deserves revolutionary overthrow by the people of Irian Barat (the indigenous people and the mainly poor agrarian settlers) and the rest of Indonesia.

When the revolutionaries win anew in Indonesia and establish a non-oppressive state, the people of Irian Barat can opt for regional autonomy or the federation as the case may be. Thus, it is good for the Indonesian revolutionaries to cooperate with the people of Irian Barat in revolutionary struggle against the present Indonesian reactionary state. Thus, the basis is developed for the people of Irian Barat to opt for being part of a non-oppressive Indonesian state in the future.

According to recent population statistics, the original Melanesian and Papuan population in Irian Barat amounts to 51.5 per cent of around 900,000. The rest are settlers from various parts of Indonesia. They also need to be taken into positive account in sharp contrast to the reactionary accommodation fo foreign mining companies and big plantations.

They must be regarded as class brothers and sisters by the indigenous people.  For decades, hey have driven by the current Indonesian oppressive state to transmigrate because of dispossession and poverty where they come from. As in Mindanao, the poor settlers can no longer be sent back to Luzon and the Visayas. There must be a balance between accommodating them and the ancestral rights of the indigenous people.

The US and Indonesian Reactionaries

The  US-backed colonization and occupation of Irian Barat by the Indonesian ultra-reactionaries since 1965, its plunder of the latter’s immense natural resources, and its longstanding campaign of genocide against the people, deserve the utmost opposition and condemnation of the peoples of the world. The people of Irian Barat must unite to stop the operation of the giant mining corporations such as Freeport McMoran; the campaigns of massacre, torture and rape perpetrated by the Indonesian military; and the increasing displacement  of the indigenous people because of government-sponsored transmigration. The racist brutality of the US and Indonesian governments towards the people of Irian Barat, still unknown to many peoples of the world including anti-imperialist activists, deserve to be exposed widely and passionately and condemned vehemently. The just, non-stop, and courageous struggle of he peoplle of Irian Barat for national self-determination and liberation deserves the widest and sustained support from the peoples of the world. Faced with the their dire  condition, we say, together with them: To rebel is justified! The holding of this study conference is timely. Because of the protracted global economic crisis, which for one saw the rise of Donald Trump to the US presidency, imperialist powers are becoming more aggressive in plundering colonies and neocolonies and more brazen and brutal in launching wars of aggression.

Strengthening Solidarity and Support

Given this situation, the plunder and repression of the people in Irian Barat  and other countries are bound to worsen. Strengthening solidarity and support for the people of Irian Barat and their struggle for self-determination and liberation is a most urgent task. The International League  of Peoples’ Struggle,  for its part, is organizing the conference “Solidarity and Fightback: Building Resistance to US-led War, Militarism and Neofascism” on August 5-7 in Toronto, Canada in an effort to strengthen and intensify the anti-imperialist struggle. Solidarity for struggle for self-determination and liberation of the people of Irian Barat against plunder and militarism will surely be on the agenda. It is also auspicious that this study conference is being held on the year of the 100th anniversary of the victory of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The October Revolution freed Russia from imperialist control and served as an inspiration for the peoples of the world to struggle for national and social liberation. Those who are celebrating the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution’s victory should remember the words of the great Vladimir Lenin in thinking about the struggle of the people of Irian Barat and other peoples of the world for self-determination and liberation: The butchers of the people of Irian Barat, the US-backed Indonesian government and military, are also responsible for the massacre of more than one million to three million Communists and Communist sympathizers in 1965-1966. The struggle of the people of Irian Barat is proof that without justice, there won’t be genuine peace, that oppression will surely beget resistance, and that fascism cannot stop revolutionary struggles from continuing to emerge and gain strength. We hope that this study conference’s objectives are met. We hope that it comes up with materials that will help unite the peoples of the world behind the West Papuans’ struggle for self-determination and liberation. We hope that it clarifies the various means that the peoples of the world can show solidarity for the struggle o the people of Irian Barat for national freedom. Orang-orang Irian Barat harus bebas dan merdeka!   

(The people of Irian Barat must be free and independent!)

Mereka harus mencapai kemerdekaan dari penindasan!

(They must  achieve independence from oppression)

Mengalahkan imperialisme dan semua  reaksioner!

(Down with imperialism  and all reactionaries!)

Hidup perjuangan Irian Barat untuk pembebasan nasional!

(Long live the struggle of Irian Barat  for national liberation!)

Terima kasih.


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