Defeat Racism and Stop the Ethnic Violence Against the people of West Papua and Papua!

Fight for an independent West Papuan State as part of a Federation of Socialist States in Melanesia!


Article by Joseph Adams, RCIT Britain, 13th September 2019,

The island of Papua is split in two: the right hand side of the island is the sovereign state of New Guinea Papua where the left hand side of the island are the two states of Indonesia, the archipelago of islands in South East Asia. Western Papua has different identity and has more in common with the Melanesian Islands of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.  It has a history of struggle for independence and still seeks to be an independent state. Recently there have been extreme human rights abuses and racist practices by the police and security personnel who have been sent to the island to quell riots and disturbances.

One day before Indonesia’s Independence Day on August 17, racial discrimination was experienced by Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java. The problem was triggered by the accidental damage to an Indonesian flag that fell into a drainage ditch in front of a Papuan student dormitory. At that time, it was alleged that Papuan students had deliberately damaged the flag. As a result, the dormitory was surrounded by a nationalist organization and some individuals dressed in the Indonesian National Armed Forces uniform. They broke the dormitory fence, then cursed and shouted “monkey” and other slurs at the Papuan students. They also threatened to kill the students instead of talking diplomatically to clarify what had actually happened. Video of the incident was spread quickly in Indonesian society. Indonesian society, particularly Papuans, responded furiously to this racism. The governor of Papua province firmly stated to the media that Papuans are not a monkey race; they are members of the human race. Likewise, the racism in Surabaya triggered massive demonstrations in several regions of Papua and West Papua provinces, including Jayapura, Sorong, Manokwari, Nabire, Fakfak and Mimika. They burned the West Papuan parliament building in Manokwari and damaged public facilities in Fakfak, in the same province. Some Papuans even demonstrated at the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta. They demanded that the Indonesian government heavily punish those who committed racial discrimination.” [1]

Evidence of this seething anger by Papuans against the Indonesian state has a long history. Joko Widodo, the recently elected president, has promised to right the wrong and he campaigned on human rights issues, but his statements were all hot air. As has been shown, Widodo is controlled by the military and does their bidding.

In 2016, a Papuan student in Yogyakarta was chased, arrested, and beaten by the police for no apparent reason. The most heartbreaking fact was a photo being spread showing the student’s nose being pulled by the police and his hands in handcuffs. However, law enforcement against racist and human-rights violations against Papuans is often biased and incomplete. The Indonesian government has been too soft in dealing with acts of racism against Papuans. According to the country’s Race and Ethnic Discrimination Law, anyone who commits racial or ethnic discrimination may be sentenced to a maximum of five years’ imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of 500 million rupiah (about US$35,000). However, this provision is not being implemented properly and is not deterring perpetrators, as the authorities do not act quickly and decisively against racist acts.” [2]

The violent clashes in Western Papua and Papua centre on the treatment meted out to Papuans and their belief that when East Timor was given independence, so could West Papua. Their culture is different from Indonesian society which is some miles away from the mainland. Both Indonesia and Papua were colonies of the Dutch Republic and in 1969 became part of Indonesia although ethnically  difference are obvious.

Papua and West Papua form the western half of the island of New Guinea (the eastern half is the nation of Papua New Guinea). The region was known as Irian Jaya until 2000, before the provinces were renamed in 2003 as Papua and West Papua. Jakarta maintains they are an integral and indivisible part of Indonesia, but that has been contested for more than half a century, including via a low-level, armed insurgency. Indonesian troops have been accused of human rights abuses and violent suppression of the independence movement. The two provinces have suffered from systemic underdevelopment but are rich with natural resources, including gold, copper, and timber and generate billions of dollars for Indonesia. Yes, they were part of the Netherlands but in 1962 the Dutch signed an agreement to transfer the administration of what was then called West New Guinea to Indonesia, on the proviso that an act of “self-determination” or vote would be completed within seven years. The so-called Act of Free Choice took place on 2 August, 1969, where 1,025 West Papuans were hand-picked and coerced – including being threatened at gunpoint – to vote in favour of Indonesian control. Rallies in support of Papuan independence have been held across the Indonesian archipelago this month, marking the anniversaries of the vote and the agreement. Last week’s Pacific Islands Forum issued a statement saying the UN high commissioner for human rights should visit and report on any abuses within a year.” [3]

Fight for Independence

Because of the way independence was granted to Indonesia and not to Papua, Papuans naturally believe that the free choice decision was fixed in favour of the Indonesian bourgeoisie so that they were able to enslave the masses mining the rich deposits found on the island. Widodo heads a bourgeois capitalist semi colony and by oppressing the masses there he hopes that the resources and their profits will ensure success for the capitalist regime. The result has been that the police have been sent to the island using their racists and provocative attitudes and arresting anyone who dares talking about independence. Widodo’s regime is very much taking on the appearance of the same tactic used by Narendra Modi against the Kashmiris. It is nothing more than ethnic cleansing. There is further evidence that human rights activists and political activists are being rounded up.

Indonesian police shot dead a member of a Papuan separatist group on Friday during an exchange of fire, a spokesman said, after violent demonstrations this week in other places in the eastern region over perceived ethnic discrimination. Police have flown in 1,200 officers to quell sometimes violent protests since Monday in a region that already has a heavy military presence due to decades of separatist conflicts. Papuan towns such as Manokwari, Sorong and Fakfak had seen protesters setting fire to buildings including a market, a jail and a legislature in the biggest series of demonstrations in years.” [4]

Support for independence is growing in Western Papua as scores of people, workers and students, realize that the only response from the Widodo government is repression and prison sentences. Internet access has been cut as the authorities feel a full flown revolt against their rule. Demonstrations and rioting show that the masses and the exploited are taking matters into their own hands.

Indonesian police have named human rights lawyer and well-known West Papua advocate Veronica Koman as a suspect in the spreading of “fake news”, accusing her of provoking widespread unrest in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces. In a move slammed by Amnesty International Indonesia, the human rights lawyer faces charges under the country’s controversial electronic information and transactions law, and faces up to six years in jail if found guilty Usman Hamid, the executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said the move was deeply misguided. “The root of the real problem is the act of racism by some members of the TNI [Indonesian army] and the excessive use of force by the police in the student dormitory in Surabaya.” [5]

Demonstrations and Social Unrest led to Riots

The Indonesian bourgeois regime is now turning West Papua and Papua into a police state with over 1,000 extra police drafted in. They have a notorious racist attitude to Papuans as has been proved in their actions against students. They should be ejected from the province to prevent more bloodshed. The UN Commissioner on human rights has been forbidden to visit the province which shows the role of the Widodo regime faced with massive opposition, demonstrations and uprisings coupled with demands for a free referendum on independence.

Protests continued on Thursday including in the capital Jakarta, where demonstrators flew the banned Morning Star flag in front of the state palace. Scores have been arrested for raising the symbolic flag of independence in the past, with one activist, Filep Karma, spending more than ten years in prison for the offense before he was released in 2015. On Wednesday, violent unrest occurred in Fakfak, where a market was set ablaze and street battles erupted between police and protesters. It followed days of large and violent protests across multiple cities in the region, which is divided into the provinces of Papua and West Papua. The groundswell of anger that has fueled the demonstrators was sparked by an incident in the Javanese city of Surabaya on the weekend, where nationalist groups goaded Papuan students with racist taunts, calling them “monkeys”, “pigs” and “dogs”. The exiled West Papuan leader, Benny Wenda said the subsequent arrests of the Papuan students in Surabaya had “lit the bonfire of nearly 60 years of racism, discrimination and torture of the people of West Papua by Indonesia.” [6]

The RCIT unreservedly supports and welcomes the protests and demonstrations against police violence and oppression by the Indonesian bourgeois state. The RCIT puts forward the following demands to the exploited and working masses in West Papua as a basis for working class unity and establishing a free workers and poor peasant republic in West Papua.

* For all Police and security personnel to leave the Island! Stop the repression and arrests against Papuans! Immediate release of all arrested activists!

* For demonstrations and protests to continue towards an indefinite general strike to smash the bourgeois government of Joko Widodo and to replace it with a Workers Government based on the support of the urban and rural poor! For armed self-defense units of the workers, students and the poor to protect themselves against racism and police violence!

* For a constituent assembly to discuss the mode of a Workers Government!

* Fight for Papua to be an independent socialist state as part of a federation of Socialist states in Melanesia, including the Solomon Islands Vanuatu and Fiji!

* Forward to the Building of a Revolutionary Fifth International! Join the RCIT!