West Papua and Indonesia Since Suharto: Independence, Autonomy or Chaos?



In the 1950s the Dutch promised the people of West Papua (the western half of New Guinea) self-determination and eventual independence. But in 1963 Indonesia took control of the territory with the blessing of the US, the UN and Australia. In a tragic clash between two very different cultures over the next 40 years the Papuans have refused - just like the East Timorese - to 'bow to the inevitable': Indonesian occupation and assimilation into that country This book reviews the long guerilla struggle of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) for a Free Papua, and traces the rise of a non-violent independence movement alongside it, the Papua Council, following the fall from power of Indonesia's military dictator, General Suharto, in 1998. The book is based on the author's extensive field research. It places the Papuan struggle in a context of failing reform within Indonesia and a politically reviving military: the feared and loathed TNI. More than ever, Indonesia needs West Papua's resource treasures - the giant Freeport copper mine, and BP's huge new natural gas field in Bintuni Bay - and the Indonesian army is ruthlessly 'defending' and exploiting these projects. However, the Papuans are equally determined to win independence. King argues passionately and persuasively that international intervention to resolve Papua's plight is essential: Australia, the US and other countries must act in concert through the UN once more, as they did in East Timor. Indonesians must be persuaded that their best interests lie not in a 'security approach' but in dialogue and negotiation with the Papuans and other disenchanted minorities.

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NewSouth Publishing
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