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July 2014 West Papua Report: Big business and W Papua’s annexation, WPAT award to New Zealanders, MSG, rights monitors, election, AIDS, more

July 3, 2014

West Papua Report
June 2014

This is the 123rd in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at edmcw. If you wish to receive the report directly via e-mail, send a note to etan. Link to this issue: .

The Report leads with "Perspective," an analysis piece; followed by "Update," a summary of some developments during the covered period; and then "Chronicle" which includes analyses, statements, new resources, appeals and action alerts related to West Papua. Anyone interested in contributing a Perspective or responding to one should write to edmcw. The opinions expressed in Perspectives are the author’s and not necessarily those of WPAT or ETAN.For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv archive or on Twitter.


This edition’s PERSPECTIVE by David Webster that explores the role of US business in the Kennedy administration’s decision to block Papuan self-determination and facilitate Indonesian annexation of West Papua.

UPDATE announces that the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) is awarding dual recipients for its annual "John Rumbiak Human Rights Defender Award." For 2014, WPAT honors New Zealand activist Maire Leadbetter and Catherine Delahunty and the Green Party of New Zealand. Also, the Melanesian Spearhead Group has shelved a Papuan application for membership, pending since 2013. West Papuans are calling for a boycott of the July 9 Indonesian Presidential election. Papuan human rights activists expressed concerns about a Prabowo victory. Indonesia said it cancelled a New Zealand police training program because of "hidden motives." There have been renewed calls for UN monitors to go to West Papua to verify charges of human rights violations, and Papuans spoke out about the denial of their rights at a church-sponsored gathering at the margins of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

CHRONICLE notes a statement by 32 international organizations for the next Indonesian administration to address long-standing security force impunity for human rights crimes; to make reparations to those who have suffered abuses at the hands of security forces; and to establish civilian control of the military. A panel discusses Papuan rights in Geneva. A new video highlights human rights violations in West Papua. Human rights advocate Yan Christian Warinussy urges President Yudhoyono to release West Papuan political prisoners and open the territory before he leaves office, and a commentary by prominent Papuan academic Budi Hernawan on the "choices" confronting Papuans in the Indonesian presidential election. A three-part series on links the spread of AIDS/HIV in West Papua to the Freeport mining complex.


Did US Business Shape Early US Policy That Thwarted Papuan Self-Determination?
by David Webster

David Webster is associate professor at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.

By now it is well accepted that President John F. Kennedy’s administration was responsible for the deal that saw West Papua handed over from Dutch to Indonesian rule, via a United Nations Temporary Executive Authority. The UN interim rule was indeed first suggested by Indonesia’s government, which offered to “borrow the hand of the United Nations” [1] in order to spare the Dutch government the embarrassment of transferring control of West Papua directly to their Indonesian rivals.

Why did the Kennedy administration decide to intervene? Researchers generally cite cold war motives (the fear that Indonesia might “go communist” if not appeased with control of West Papua) and a background of racism in American policy (the belief that West Papuans were “still living in the Stone Age” and could therefore never be independent on their own). [2] These are not wrong, but could there have been other reasons? In particular, given the way West Papuan natural resources later emerged as major money-spinners for the Indonesian treasury and for such American corporations as Freeport McMoRan, could business interests have played a role?

The notes that follow are speculative, but they suggest that it’s at least possible that there were economic reasons supporting the diplomacy that saw West Papua come under Indonesian rule starting on May 1, 1963.

American and other foreign companies saw potential resources in West Papua to exploit, but also saw that the continued Dutch-Indonesian dispute for control made investment risky and perhaps impossible. These companies would have wished for a stable resolution to the conflict and a government that would grant them a favorable investment climate. There are at least four companies relevant to this case: Freeport McMoRan, US Steel, Standard Oil, and Inco.

A subsidiary of US Steel was active in West Papua in this period. Nickel and cobalt were known to exist in large quantities in the Cyclops Mountains near Jayapura, and on Gag and Waigeo islands off the west coast. One of the last acts of the Dutch New Guinea regime in March 1962 was a contract for mining rights to islands of Gag and Waigeo with Pacific Nickel Co., a subsidiary of US Steel; this was renewed by the Indonesian government in 1972.[3]

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