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The Massacre Starts Tomorrow

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  • elevans@aol.com
    The Massacre Starts Tomorrow And Britain will share the blame for what s about to happen in West Papua By George Monbiot Also Published in the Guardian 30th
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2000
      The Massacre Starts Tomorrow
      And Britain will share the blame for what's about to happen in West Papua
      By George Monbiot
      Also Published in the Guardian 30th November 2000

      There's an odd component of globalisation, which I find myself at a loss to
      explain. We are, we're assured, living in a global village, whose people are
      daily brought closer together. Yet we hear ever less about what is happening
      in distant parts of the world. There is less foreign news in the papers than
      there has been for sixty years. Foreign documentaries are almost extinct.
      Parliamentary debate about overseas issues has all but dried up. In the
      midst of the communications revolution, we are becoming strangers to each

      So the massacres due to begin tomorrow will take almost everyone by
      surprise. Indeed, there is hardly a news editor who has even heard of the
      land in which they are scheduled to take place.

      West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, which has been
      occupied since 1963 by Indonesia. Tomorrow, local people expect the
      Indonesian army to launch a one-sided war, bloodier even than the carnage in
      East Timor last year. The troops and militias have been armed and trained
      and are awaiting orders. Only the international community can stop them.
      But, though Western nations such as Britain are up to their necks in it,
      they haven't the faintest intention of seeking to prevent the Indonesian
      plan from going ahead.

      In 1961, the 800,000 Melanesian people of West Papua were promised
      independence. Holland, the colonial power, began to transfer the
      administration to local people. In 1962, Indonesia invaded. The attack
      failed, but John Kennedy, with Britain's backing, coerced the Dutch into
      surrendering West Papua to the United Nations, on the grounds that if the
      Indonesian government were not appeased it might succumb to communism. The
      UN, as planned, promptly gave West Papua to Indonesia, but on condition that
      within five years its people would be granted "the right of
      self-determination". In the event, 1000 Papuan men were rounded up and
      forced to vote on pain of death for Indonesian sovereignty.

      Since then, tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Papuans have been
      tortured, mutilated and killed by Indonesian soldiers. The government
      launched a eugenics programme whose purpose, according to the former
      governor, was to give "birth to a new generation of people without curly
      hair, sowing the seeds for greater beauty". The Papuans have been pushed out
      of their lands and replaced by people from the central islands of Indonesia,
      brought in by the government to pacify the province. Its forests have been
      sold to logging companies, its mountains to western mining firms. When
      villagers have sought to defend their lands, they have been bombed and
      strafed. Now the whole place is about to explode.

      Tomorrow, the indigenous people will make a formal declaration of
      independence. The Indonesian army has been waiting for months for just such
      a moment. Since August, thousands of commandos and paratroops have been
      flown into West Papua. British-made Hawk jets have been overflying the
      province's central highlands. Their deployment there was, according to the
      Financial Times, sanctioned by Britain's Foreign Office. Militias are
      currently being trained by the army outside the town of Wamena, one of the
      centres of Papuan resistance. Some 12,000 firearms have been flown in,
      presumably for distribution to Indonesian volunteers. Local people, by
      contrast, are armed with spears and bows and arrows.

      The Indonesian army has been encouraging the Papuans to rise, planting
      agents provocateurs and issuing public statements suggesting that
      independence ceremonies will be tolerated (all previous rituals have been
      ruthlessly crushed). Here, as in East Timor, the army will seek to unleash
      sufficient force to persuade the indigenous people to abandon their hopes of

      Papuan leaders have repeatedly sought to reach a peaceful independence
      settlement with the Indonesian government. But while President Wahid seems
      vaguely sympathetic to their cause, vice-president Megawati, who has, in
      effect, ultimate control over the province, appears interested only in
      delivering lucrative logging and development concessions to the army in
      order to secure its support. The Papuans have approached the British
      government for help. It has ignored them. And still it continues to sell
      arms to Indonesia.

      When the massacre begins, our officials will doubtless wring their hands and
      lament the failure of Indonesia's people to resolve their differences by
      peaceful means. Having seen what happened in East Timor and having failed to
      do anything to prevent its repetition, the blood this time will be on our
      hands. We helped to start all this. Now we must stop it.
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