Jayapura, Jubi/ULMWP – Sixty years ago, the Bandung conference of Asian and African governments opened. The conference issued a stirring denunciation of “colonialism in all its manifestations.”ˇ The gathered leaders vowed to eradicate colonialism. President Sukarno of Indonesia, welcoming the delegates, recalled that it was the anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride in 1775, and called the American revolution the first great anti-colonial revolution.
“We are often told: Colonialism is dead,” Sukarno said in his speech. “Let us not be deceived or even soothed by that. I say to you, colonialism is not yet dead. How can we say it is dead, so long as vast areas of Asia and Africa are unfree?”
West Papua remains unfree, today, 60 years later. It is Indonesia, today, that holds West Papua as a colony. Today, the time has come to end colonial rule and permit West Papuans a genuine act of self-determination.
While Sukarno spoke against rule of one country over another, his government was using the Bandung conference to build Third World support for Indonesian plans to take over West Papua. The conference called for the end of Dutch rule over West Papua, but it failed to support Papuan self-determination. Instead: “The Asian-African Conference, in the context of its expressed attitude on the abolition of colonialism, supported the position of Indonesia in the case of West [Papua].” This was a failure to support the “Bandung spirit” of ending colonialism. But the conference also “expressed the earnest hope that the United Nations would assist the parties concerned in finding a peaceful solution to the dispute.”
In the 1960s, Indonesia took possession of West Papua, despite the support for West Papuan rights expressed by many governments and peoples ˆ Melanesians, Africans, and people from around the world. The result has been more than half a century of injustice. Dutch colonialism died, but a more brutal and even more ferocious and strongly racist Indonesian colonialism took its place. Killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and other systematic violations of human rights continue. The Indonesian government has tried to reduce the West Papuan people to a minority in their own country through the “transmigration” programme where thousands of Javanese and other Indonesians came and settled on Papuan land. It has tried to suppress indigenous West Papuan culture.
But there has also been half a century of West Papuan resistance, which continues to this day. West Papuans have never ceased asserting their identity as a Melanesian, not an Indonesian, people. Nor has international support ever ceased. Numerous African countries, for instance, declined to support the Indonesian claim to have annexed West Papua in an “act of free choice” in 1969.
On the 60th anniversary of the Bandung conference, it is time for human rights violations in West Papua to end. More than that, it is time for the inalienable right to self-determination of the People of West Papuan to be recognized, respected and implemented, at last. That right has been recognized by the leaders of five Melanesian independent countries. Consequently, the West Papuan liberation movement is seeking membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. The movement also calls upon the UN and its members, in the “spirit of Bandung,” to assist the West Papuan people and the Indonesian government to find a peaceful solution to the continuing dispute, a solution that honours the right to self-determination of the West Papuan people.
Octovianus Yoakim Mote
Secretary General of United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP)