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West Papua Conflict: The Freedom Yearned For Aeons

West Papua Conflict: The Freedom Yearned For Aeons

Voice of the neediest remains unheard in the noise of the greedy and the super rich. Our interests are with the meaningless words of fancy pant politicians forgoing the desperate souls in sorrow. Our craving for news that satiates our whims and caprices has kept some armed conflicts and human rights violations away from our attention while the victims of the massacre long for international support to end the humanitarian crisis. Violence and repression of the Indonesian military in West Papua is resisted by its indigenous population for nearly 30 years, one of the longest struggles for freedom in the modern world. The long wailings of the West Papuan population have echoed only as a deafening silence in the ears of the international community.

Protests to Free West Papua in Melbourne

Protests to Free West Papua in Melbourne [Source: Wikipedia]


Corporate greed and corrupt governance have left the western part of the Papua New Guinea island reeling for liberation from the iron hands for decades. The Netherlands offered independence to Indonesia in 1949 but retained control over the Western New Guinea arguing that the population is of different ethnicity and are not yet capable of self-governance, then. Anyhow, the US administration under Kennedy supported the Indonesian invasion of the archipelago to assuage and keep Indonesia in its bloc during the Cold War.

As per the New York Agreement, the Indonesian government conducted a referendum on the West Papua’s independence in 1969, but the legitimacy of the polls were highly compromised that a selected 1025 people were made to vote in favour of Indonesia at gun points. Ironically, the referendum was named ‘The Act of Free Choice’. Repression of the West Papuans still continues that has killed more than 500,000 Papuans. Until May 2015, foreign journalists were not allowed to enter into Papua, a rule that was overturned by the Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Map of West Papua

Map of West Papua [Source:]

Corporates in West Papua

Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX) and Rio-Tinto

Papua has the world’s largest gold mine and the third largest copper mine known as Grasberg mine and is operated by Freeport-McMoRan, one among the largest producers of copper and gold globally. The mine, near Tembagapura, is also one of the heavily militarized areas in the country. 90.36% of the mining company is owned by Freeport and the remaining 9.36% by the Government of Indonesia. Stocks of Freeport-McMoRan are also owned by Donald Trump, who talks about making America great again. Freeport is also the first company outside Indonesia to sign a deal with General Suharto’s government, which was formed after a military coup that massacred many.

“Freeport pays Indonesian Military $5 million a year”

The mining operations of Freeport badly affect the tribal populations of Amungme and Kamaro, whose lands are seized and given free of cost to the mining company by the Indonesian government.


Grasberg mine - World's largest gold mine

Grasberg mine – World’s largest gold mine [Source: Guardian]

Rio-Tinto yet another largest mining company in the world has some worst labour rights violation cases against its name. Its operations also have an adverse impact on the environment that is stated otherwise in their business mission. Rio Tinto is a partner of Freeport in the mining operations at the Grasberg mine and both the companies are notorious for creating environmental hazards and hence removed from the world’s second largest pension fund, The Government Pension Fund of Norway.

The riches of West Papua haven’t made its inhabitants wealthy, but more impoverished with poor education and health through the disastrous impacts the mining operations have on the environment. These mining companies have a closer association with the military to suppress any protests by the indigenous population.


Through its Tangguh Gas field project that was estimated to have 500 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, British Petroleum became the single largest investor of Indonesia. While 37% of the stock is held by BP, other major partners include China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Mitsubishi Corporation. Valued at more than £100 billion, this ‘super-giant’ should supply gas to US, Mexico and China for the next 30 years, as quoted by The Guardian in 2008.

“30,000 troops from Indonesian Military are stationed at West Papua to stifle any resistance” 

BP has not fulfilled its promises made to the local Papuans when it began its plant that extracts gas of volume 14 trillion cubic meters. The worst affected villages nearby the mine are given a meagre £15,000 per year for five years.

Any uprisings against this exploitation of resources are controlled with the power of the military. There is no worse injustice than their voice being unheard for generations while we continue to worry about the rich societies that face fleeting moments of downturns.

Related Video: West Papua – The secret war in Asia

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