Paradise Betrayed is John Martinkus’ Quarterly Essay from 2002. Having recently read his powerful book on Aceh, I’m trying to catch up with some of his other work. This 80 page essay deals with West Papua’s struggle for independence from Indonesia.
Formerly a colony of the Dutch, West Papua was integrated into Indonesia under the dodgy Act of Free Choice. Writes Martinkus:
‘In 1969, the Act of Free Choice, a sham plebiscite that allowed only 1,026 representatives chosen by the Indonesians from an indigenous population of 814,000 to vote on whether to remain a part of Indonesia, had apparently consigned West Papua to permanent occupation.’
Australia and the US were happy to go along with this state of affairs, keen to placate Indonesia, thereby hoping to keep it out of Communist hands.
What has followed has been murder and mayhem, barely reported. For example, Papuan leader Theys Eluay was murdered in 2001 by the Indonesian military.
Then there is the Freeport mine, which brings in quite a bit of money, so obviously there are those financial interests that Indonesia is keen to protect.
Most worrying in our so called age of Islamic terror, is the importation into West Papua of the Islamic extremist group, Laskar Jihad, all backed by the Indonesian military.
John Martinkus must be pretty much a lone and lonely voice calling for more attention to this conflict. Ominously, he maintains that it is a problem that will only get worse and bloodier in the future. In the end, Australia will not be able to turn a blind eye, or put the problem in the too hard basket. One day we may be compelled to become more involved.
This is one Quarterly essay definitely worth reading.