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West Papua - still calling for its freedom

By Andrew Johnson - posted Thursday, 26 October 2006

West Papuans have good reason, a desire for freedom, to risk coming to our Commonwealth to seek refugee status. They have good reason, to stop the genocide of their people, to call for the United Nations and world to acknowledge that they are refugees forced to flee their beloved West Papua - West New Guinea which is still calling for its freedom.

Amanda Vanstone and anyone trying to gag the call for freedom should be ashamed of themselves and perhaps charged as accomplices to criminal theft and murder. Especially here in the Commonwealth of Australia we should understand that colonial claims to foreign nations involve theft of resources and the mass murder of the Indigenous people and their rights.

Colonisation can be almost benign as when European diseases probably wiped out 90 per cent of our own Indigenous population before some settlers and arrogant officials nearly completed the task. Or colonisation can be brutal vicious affairs involving aerial bombing and naval shelling of townships such as reportedly happen in West Papua during the 1960s and 1970s as local people were “cleared” from the areas desired for mines and settler townships. Or colonisation can involve allowing jihadist militia the freedom to terrify the people and burn townships to the ground which we began hearing of in May 2003.


In any event, colonisation is the brutal act of a colonial power raping the resources or people of another region such as the Australian Pacific nation of West Papua.

Some Australians seem to believe Jakarta's Government or US corporate business partners are better able to “manage” West Papua, and that Papua should never be allowed into the hands of the West Papuan people. I do not.

Unlike other parts of Melanesia, the West Papuan people had been adapting western concepts to their needs since 1865 and it was the West Papuan people themselves who decided in the 1930s to create a single unified Pan-Papuan identity which would then allow them to create a West Papuan government to protect their various cultural assets from external powers. Some 800 communities speaking 300 languages agreed and in early 1961 they elected a national parliament, and it was that parliament which selected the nation's new titled of “West Papua” and its “Morning Star” flag.

Why would I have more faith in a West Papua Government than in PNG? Because West Papua is the product of a hundred years' work by the people to produce something they wanted; where as PNG is a state which the Australian Government wanted and took tens years to bless the people of Eastern Papua with. Without any regard for the social effects of dumping a European business, political and government model on a group of Melanesian cultures, is it any wonder that PNG has serious problems?

During World War II people saw Nazi Germany try to colonise Europe and Africa while imperial Japan sought to colonise Asia and the Pacific with its own puppet rulers and governments to rule these provinces. The people who created the United Nations sought to put an end to such war and gave the concept of “decolonisation” substance by writing it into the United Nations Charter.

It took 15 years, but in November 1960 the UN passed two General Assembly resolutions to end the colonial era, 1514 established an absolute requirement that any colony be allowed “self-determination” without any delay, while 1541 defined what “self-determination” meant and how to determine if a territory is a colony when the administrating power attempts to deny the colonial status of that territory.


The case of West Papua is even more simple, Indonesia has already signed the 1962 New York Agreement in which it agreed West New Guinea was a colony and that it required “self-determination”.

Although the New York Agreement contract specified that an act of self-determination was to take place before or by the end of 1969, that event never took place. Instead an event historically titled the “Act of Free Choice” took place, organised by the Indonesian military, and commented on by the United Nations in UN GA Resolution 2504; it was not self-determination.

The United Nations, and Australia and Indonesia as members of the UN, have a moral obligation to resume the UN decolonisation process as per 1514 and 1541 and allow West Papua to have an act of self-determination as Indonesia had already agreed to in the New York Agreement.

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About the Author

Andrew Johnson is a human rights advocate for West Papua. He has been researching West Papua's history and those exploiting it for the last several years.

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