The demise of regional broadcasting
We mustn’t lose our literary magazines

The battle for West Papua

West Papuan independence leader Victor Yeimo is in hiding (Greg Nelson ACS)
West Papuan independence leader Victor Yeimo is in hiding (Greg Nelson ACS)

| Foreign Correspondent
| Australian Broadcasting Corporation | Extracts

Link here for the full ABC story, complete with photographs

SYDNEY - In the highlands of Papua, in easternmost Indonesia, villagers are returning to the burnt-out remains of their abandoned homes.

A woman slumps on the grass, overcome with grief, as men dig a pit for the remains of those who could not escape the bloodshed.

The air is filled with the sound of wailing.

Witnesses who fled the attack say they saw bombs rain down from Indonesian helicopters.

This is the aftermath of a secret war being waged just a few hundred kilometres north of mainland Australia, captured in video obtained by Foreign Correspondent.

Since late 2018, West Papuan separatists have engaged in an escalating series of deadly skirmishes with Indonesian security forces as they renew a decades-old push for independence.

Indonesia has sought to suppress news of the conflict getting out, restricting foreign media from entering the contested provinces and even cutting off the region's internet access at the height of the revolt.

Hundreds have been killed and local authorities say up to 45,000 Papuans have been displaced — a number Indonesia disputes, suggesting only 2,000 have fled.

While the flashpoint for the current wave of violence is a 4,000km road project, the origins of West Papua's independence struggle go all the way back to the Cold War.

It's the early hours of the morning when West Papuan civil independence leader Victor Yeimo emerges from the darkness.

He's travelled through the night to illegally cross the border from Indonesia into Papua New Guinea for an exclusive interview with Foreign Correspondent.

Mr Yeimo has previously been jailed by Indonesian authorities and fears he will be arrested again.

"All my life I worry about my life," he says. "Not only me, I worry about my people's lives."

Mr Yeimo is part of a new and emboldened generation of activists demanding independence in West Papua. He is pushing for a referendum on West Papuan independence.

"For us it is better to fight before dying, for our dignity," he says. "Fighting is a duty, a role of a young generation like me."

Mr Yeimo hopes for a peaceful solution and that the dream of West Papuan independence will become a reality in his lifetime.

"After the night, there will be sunrise in the morning," he said. "The people of West Papua hope that one day the Morning Star will rise up."


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Raymond Sigimet

Thank you Foreign Correspondent and the ABC for putting out this story.

The West Papua issue must not die at the hands of this oppressor, murderer and thief.

The people are oppressed; families are murdered; land and resources are stolen.

No propaganda from Indonesia will ever justify its sham claim and forced take-over of the western half of New Guinea.

No propaganda from Indonesia will ever justify the deaths, destruction and brokenness inflicted on the people of New Guinea in West Papua.

Let them vote in a referendum.

Philip Kai Morre

West Papua is among the last colonies not to gain independence.

Indonesian has violated human rights to the extreme with mass murder and has illegally taken the land rightly belonging to West Papua.

Is the United Nations doing something about these human rights abuses or is it supporting the suppressor to do more?

How are we going to help if our government keeps telling Indonesians that West Papua is your internal problem forgetting that West Papuans are Melanesians.

West Papuans need us to assist them. Australia is also playing a passive role and not doing much.

Indonesia needs to conduct a referendum with United Nations' support for full independence like they did with East Timor.

Philip Fitzpatrick

It's worth going to the Foreign Correspondent website and reading the response to this program by the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra.

Lindsay F Bond

Compelling. Where it is reported "...Papuan youth was run over and killed by an Indonesian security vehicle" reaction among witnesses was a 'here we go again', with a military not accountable to such incidental events.

From ABC-TV last night, no longer can Australians say they were not sufficiently informed of magnitude of depth of injustice in the administration of law by Indonesia and by the apparent indifference from the United Nations.

The day will come when Indonesians will need to reassess its methodology for Papuan people.

Military will be seen to be the problem, the force of occasion and collision that is the stealth continual of commerce consuming geographically, geologically and ecologically.

Peter Salmon

For a good historical backgrounding on West Papua refer John Ryan's book, 'The Hot Land', Part 3 East of Djakarta (ANU Registry Number AUS 69-1407).

Unfortunately a book that may now be difficult to obtain now but nevertheless....

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)