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September 4, 2006 | by  | in Features |
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Strangers In Their Own Land

The following is an extract from a presentation from Rev. Socrates Sofyan Yoman from West Papua given on Monday 28th August 2006. Socrates is one of the leaders of the Melanesian country currently being dominated and destroyed by Indonesian control.

West Papua is a beautiful land, like your country. West Papua is the land of peace. West Papua is the land of paradise, of many birds. West Papua is the Melanesians’ land, the Melanesians of the Pacific Islands. West Papua is a rich land: copper, gold, and minerals available to be mined. West Papua is the beautiful country of beautiful lands. There are also beautiful people – friendly people in West Papua, like here.

It has already changed to the hopeless land, 43 years after Indonesia took over and occupied West Papua land. In 1963 West Papua [was] taken over by the Indonesian government with support from the United States. Ordinary people, West Papuans, local people, in the Christian perspective we say God’s people, indigenous people in West Papua, the Indonesian army, they kill the people. They terrorize and intimidate the people publicly. They put them in the paper. [When] people are killed their photos are put in the local newspaper. The military have taken over the newspaper; we call it a criminal newspaper. After the military kill the people, then they put them in the newspaper.

They’re killing our mentality. They create our fear. Killing continually, systematically … they plan to depopulate West Papua. They’re not only killing Papuans physically, but their mentality, emotion, character. Also they kill it economically, [and] education and health. We need the health, need to educate, and build [for] the local indigenous people, but we are struggling [for] justice and peace, and human rights and hum an dignity, [but] how do we develop economically, educationally and in health?

Environmental destruction, with the presence of multinational companies like [the] Freeport mine, Rio Tinto, of Australia, and now presently BP, with petroleum [have created] damage, huge destruction our mountains, and illegally supported by the military … HIV/AIDS in West Papua, prostitution in West Papua infects the women, HIV/AIDS brought to West Papua [is] facilitated by the military. The Papuans are for self-determination, to be fully independent on their own land. Indonesia says no. But we have to look for another way, [and] consult West Papuans for the answer.

Transmigration and the marginalisation of West Papuans Papua is marginalized economically

West Papuans on their own lands are very marginalized. The main purpose of Indonesians coming to West Papua is not to develop the people in Papua. They want to take over the lands, control the Papuans’ lands. And they never develop the Papuans economically, or their capacity … They never will develop the education of our people.

The Papuans, the young people, the women, are members of the separatist movement. The Papuans never got an education. So the economy is controlled by migrants, because they’ve got good facilities, from the government. The transmigrants build good roads, bridges, schools, good houses. They put them there. And in the bank, if we want to get money, credit, we never get access. We never get the benefit of our land, of our resources. The international community give money to the Indonesian government to develop the Papuans, but I never see it. The government is killing them. When they bring the people from outside, they [also] establish military bases close by, they protect their people, and they marginalize the Papuans.

West Papuans know very well that Indonesia will never improve education and develop the Papuans. They only come and kill us. Systematically killing, and there is genocide. And they want to take away our lands. It is increasing [the military presence] and there are more military barracks everywhere.

And [another] thing is, they divided the new provinces. We have only a population of 1.2 million. We don’t need more provinces. How do they develop education, health, [and the] economy? They divided the new province again! They will spend more money on other resources and apparatus. They will have more transmigration, more military. This is a problem for us.

Another thing is… the people are still in jail. Many Papuans are still in prison and … [there is] no freedom to demonstrate. When we come demonstrate, the police shoot the people, arrest the people. [There are] no public demonstrations in West Papua. This is happening in West Papua, and it is our our problem. With my community, with my people.

Intimidation of West Papuan leaders

Because we speak for justice and peace, for protecting the people, they want to kill the us, the little and small people. But they will not. They never will stop us. Many times they terrorize me, many times. After I visit Australia, I return to West Papua. I arrive in the Airport in Jakarta. Indonesian Intelligence came, they took my passport. But I say I don’t follow you, for who needs my passport, if not me? Because I have my people with me, from West Papua. They terrorize me. This is what’s going on.

Support from the international community

We need the voice of the international community to relieve the West Papuans of their suffering. We need to be helped like East Timor. How are you able to help East Timor and not assist us in West Papua?

This is not a good experience for us and we need Australia and the international community, especially the New Zealand government to become the mediators, to mediate a deal, genuine dialogue, to sort out the West Papua problem, not through the special autonomy law, but [for] West Papua and Indonesia to come together, facilitated by the New Zealand government.

And secondly, the New Zealand government [can] also support West Papua to gain observer status at the Pacific Island Forum. This is important. We are not ethnically, culturally, democratically Indonesia! We are actually Melanesian, part of the Pacific Island people. How do they force us to be Indonesian?

And the last thing is [that] we need a statement made by the international community, especially governments, to say we strongly support territorial integrity. The international community has to stop, has to make a firm statement … Better the West Papuans get their own government, own land.

We need education. Bring one or two or three here, and educate them. And after they come back, [they] will educate [their] own people with language, culture, and with your support. We need your support. We also want justice and peace and selfdetermination also. The better way is [our] own government, own land and capacity.

Thank you very much, God bless you.

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