Magazine article New Internationalist

Hearts of Darkness [Military Build-Up in West Papua]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Hearts of Darkness [Military Build-Up in West Papua]

Article excerpt

THE Indonesian military recently unveiled plans to increase their presence in West Papua - its mineral-rich eastern province - by up to 15,000 new troops. This will bring the total number of Indonesian military personnel in the territory to 50,000 - approximately 1 soldier for every 24 Papuan civilians.

Days before the troop increase was announced, 37 members of the US Congressional Black Caucus joined progressive international leaders to challenge Indonesia's occupation of West Papua. These Congress members signed a letter urging UN secretary-General Kofi Annan 'to support West Papua's right to self-determination'. To date similar requests have been made of Annan by 174 parliamentarians from around the world, church leaders (such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu), and over 80 international non-governmental organizations.

As West Papua's independence movement gains international recognition, the Indonesian security forces are stepping up a domestic campaign of violence. Members of Indonesia's Parliament support the new troop deployments, hoping that more military personnel will prevent freedom fighters from gaining ground. Simply associating with independence activists in West Papua can now mean the kiss of death. According to unpublished church reports, the police and military recently executed scores of alleged separatists and burned down villages of sympathizers in the highland district of Puncak Java. Thousands of people have fled their homes for the forest. The Puncak Jaya operation started in August 2004 and new incidents are reported by church groups nearly every week. In March 2005 a series of extra-judicial executions took place in the neighbouring district of Mimika.

While progressive politicians are becoming aware of the grim reality of Indonesia's military occupation in West Papua, the major power brokers are profiting from the status quo. …

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