CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 April 2019

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Indonesia accused of slow genocide in Papua

BRISBANE (SE): A report from a fact-finding commission of the Justice and Peace Commission from Brisbane, Australia, has concluded that there is a slow motion genocide occurring in the Indonesian province of Papua.

It accuses Indonesia of wanting to replace the Christian religion of the indigenous Papuan population with Islam.

Brisbane’s diocesan weekly, The Catholic Leader, says in its March 9 issue that the report documents Muslims being radicalised in the once predominantly Christian Papuan provinces and what it describes as very active Muslim militias burning down the homes of Papuan families.

The report has not been released publicly and nor has comment been sought from the Indonesian authorities.

It documents religious, social and economic discrimination. It specifically highlights that land is being carved up for development that only benefits multinationals, while excluding Papuans from all benefits, as well as ownership and employment.

The author of the report, Josephite Sister Susan Connelly, was accompanied to Papua by Peter Arndt, from the Justice and Peace Commission. They interviewed over 250 community leaders in Japapura, Merauke, Timika and Sorong.

Sister Connelly, a respected human rights advocate, described her visit as “stepping back 20 years when I first went to East Timor.”

The newspaper quoted her as saying, “The same oppressive security presence everywhere, the same suspicion, bewilderment, frustration and sadness. The same fear. The same seemingly groundless hope. A man took my hands in his and said, ‘We are in danger’. That simple statement sums up for me the experience of the whole visit.

“The Papuan people have lost so much and are facing erasure as a people, merely preserved as oddities of the past or artifacts to be photographed for tourist brochures. They realise that their land is considered more valuable than they are,” she explained.

“There is clear evidence of ongoing violence, intimidation and harassment by the Indonesian security forces,” Arndt commented.

“That is especially the case for Papuans expressing their support for particular political points of view. Authorities want to close down any Papuan efforts to promote discussion about self-determination and they have applied a military response to deal with the irrepressible desire of a large number of Papuans to promote their cause for freedom,” he explained

The fact-finding team heard many examples of how the Indonesian government pushes economic development, but ignores human rights.

“The government has carved up the land and given it for exploitation to some 50 multinational companies,” The Catholic Leader, which was shown a copy of the report, said.

“The procedure is that the local government invites companies to come and gives permits. People are usually shocked when the companies come to sign a MoU (memorandum of understanding) with them, showing them the permit and the map. If the villagers don’t agree to the proposal, the company goes back to the local government and returns with the police.”

In the 1970s, Papuan people accounted for 96 per cent of the population. Today, they are a minority 48 per cent, because of the rapid migration of Indonesians from other more populated islands, such as Java.

The report says, “The general opinion encountered was that Indonesia is a total failure regarding Papua and is just another coloniser. The Indonesian government does not give opportunities to Papuan people or protect them.

“It was said that most Church leaders try to deal with the problems one by one, but the whole picture should be looked at as a series of policies designed to overcome the Papuan people.

“In every sector of government the system is composed of Indonesian tactics to destroy the Papuans.

“Beatings and torture are used, but also the economic aspects of lack of opportunity, the sidelining of the indigenous peoples, the taking over of land by companies… are part of the plan.”

The report also accuses the government of actively crushing any initiative taken by Papuan people, through police harassment, torture or the destruction of property.

 

Few opportunities for young people to receive a decent education are available, which mostly adds up to a colonisation by population and confiscation of resources.

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