Garo Matana, the blue-eyed child – Part 3
Toroama 'alarmed' by former adviser's claims

Unsnarling West Papua’s Gordian knot

Papuan protest
West Papuan youths carry a mock coffin during a demonstration in Jakarta. Indonesia won sovereignty over the former Dutch colony in 1969 after a referendum widely seen as a sham (Ahmad Zamroni, AFP)

CHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - While I don't endorse Geoffrey Luck's comments on Yamin Kagoya’s article, I do have concerns about what was written.

I think that any reasonable person would agree that the systematic oppression of West Papua's Melanesian population is shameful.

It reflects badly on Indonesia and a largely indifferent world generally.

It is also true that the antecedents of the current problems do lie in the colonial past, aspects of which are undoubtedly worthy of severe criticism.

That said, Western colonialism was hardly unique in the annals of human history and the colonising instinct, sense of cultural superiority and inherent racism that form its core are not restricted to Western Europe.

There are innumerable examples in history of one group of humans seeking to impose their will upon another group. The motivations varied of course, but the outcomes were largely the same.

So, for example, the Inca rose to become an imperial power through the ruthless suppression and enslavement of other nations.

The same can be said of the Zulu people in pre-colonial Africa. They were not motivated or informed by any knowledge of western colonialism.

In the case of West Papua it is Indonesia's own particular version of colonialism which is in evidence.

While it manifests the same ugly characteristics that were often found in Western colonialism it is wrong to believe or infer from this that it is not evidence of an entirely indigenous colonial outlook.

To my mind it is an unhelpful and even misleading diversion to try to describe Indonesia's actions as being derived from its own experience of western colonialism.

And with respect to Mr Luck's assertion that the article reflects a Marxist view of history, I am struggling to see how he arrived at this conclusion.

As far as I can recall, Marx did not have a lot to say about colonialism beyond the fact that it reflected the predatory nature of capitalism and its underlying class basis.

The article seems to me to reflect a mainstream nationalist view of the kind found in many countries in the post-colonial world.

West Papua represents a truly wicked policy problem for Australia and the other countries in the world that (however reluctantly) acquiesced to the Indonesian takeover.

There never was a defensible legal or moral basis for this: it was purely a function of the geo-politics of the time.

How this particular Gordian Knot can be unravelled I do not know but history suggests that it will ultimately have to be unsnarled.

Comments

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

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

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

Working...
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.

Working...

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.)