Written by FRFI
On International Workers Day, May 1, 2020, we republish below a statement on the 57th Anniversary of Indonesia’s Occupation of West Papua from the Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) and Merdeka Network.
On May 1st 1963, occupation of West New Guinea of the former Dutch New Guinea territory was undertaken by the Indonesian military under the barrel of the gun, with blessings from the United Nations (UN) and the Netherlands. Since then, a conservative estimate of 500,000 Indigenous Papuans have been wiped out in what has been referred to as slow-motion genocide.
The region now collectively known as West Papua consists of what Indonesia considers the provinces of Papua and West Papua. It was granted a special autonomy status in 2001 that would supposedly bring development in the region and respect the social and cultural life of the people. But West Papuans, especially the Indigenous Peoples, cannot practice the fundamental right to freedom of expression and assembly without getting arrested, threatened, or killed.
Moreover, the peoples of Papua still have no control over their natural resources – far from what the special autonomy has promised. Giant corporations like Freeport McMoran (Mimika), the British Petroleum (Bintuni), and the state’s agribusiness program, Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate, have brought more havoc than benefits for the communities in which they operate and have violated the rights of their workers as well. Recently, Freeport has reportedly refused to grant paid leave for its workers despite the pandemic. It has also dispersed a workers protest in April which demanded a temporary stop to the company operations given the active armed clashes in the area between the Indonesian Army (TNI) and the West Papua Liberation Army (TPNPB). The TNI’s presence is especially heavy in the areas where these big businesses are, as they function as the companies’ private security to suppress the resistance from communities who are affected by their disastrous operations.
We wish to express our solidarity with the working class of West Papua and Indonesia who will be protesting online and offline on this day to voice out the issues that they are facing and to assert their basic rights.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, the Indonesian Government insists on the passage of the anti-people Omnibus Law. The draft law has already drawn flak from various groups, including workers who have pointed out how the law shall worsen the state of the working people in the country by reducing, if not completely eliminating the rights to job security, income security, and statutory benefits among other rights. The law practically strips off the right to dignified living for ordinary workers in Indonesia while favoring big businesses by removing sanctions on employers who do not follow the minimum wage.
Aside from the labor aspect, the law also poses the threat of environmental hazards by relaxing requirements for business licenses and other investments. This will greatly affect Indigenous Peoples living in resource-rich territories such as the West Papua. The Omnibus Law works on the general framework of boosting foreign investments at the expense of the workers, the Indigenous Peoples, and the environment.
The Indonesian Government has employed various tactics to divide the oppressed and exploited peoples of Indonesia and West Papua but the devastating impacts of neoliberal policies on the toiling masses push the peoples of Indonesia and West Papua to unite and fight for their democratic rights and interests.
The West Papuans’ struggle against racism, militarisation, and ultimately for self-determination, is linked to Indonesia’s struggle for economic political sovereignty through national land reform and national industrialisation, as both struggles are rooted on the desire to break free from the same system that lives off of exploitation of labour and natural resources.
Defend the right to work, decent wage, and humane working conditions!
Reject the anti-people OMNIBUS Law!
Stop the plunder of ancestral lands!
Reject Indonesia’s occupation of West Papua!
Long live the workers of the world! Long live international solidarity!