Papua - King Kong, Keep the river on your right, world music, south pacific section

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 12, 2008 07:39pm | Post a Comment
In Papua, a Kapiraya chief announced Monday that he's launching a campaign to get compensation for environmental damage wrought by US mining company Freeport. The gold and copper-mining giant has polluted the coastline and streams around the Karpiraya's lands in the world's largest copper and gold mine, established in 1971. Due to the considerable pollution, the Kapiraya are faced with a water shortage.

Freeport is a joint venture co-owned by Indonesia and the U.S.A.'s Freeport McMoRan. They pay an estimated 1.8 billion dollars in taxes to the Indonesian government, which doesn't help the Papuans, whose land is occupied by Indonesian soldiers who suppress the indigenous population.

How did West Papua end up in the hands of the notoriously heavy-handed Indonesian government?

Since then, like many of the 100s of non-Javanese peoples of Indonesia, things have been crappy all over. During the seemingly unending rule of the murderous, military dictator Suharto, the best that can be said about the Indonesians' treatment of occupied Papua is that they didn't do much. In 2001, the Indonesian government passed a law granting a degree of autonomy to Papua, although they've failed to enact any of the law's requirements.

Papuans have lived in the land for at least 40,000 years. It's the second largest island in the world and was created when, at the end of the last ice age, the glaciers melted and flooded the Torres Strait. With nearly 1,000 languages spoken, it's the most linguistically diverse area on Earth.

About 3,500 years ago, the Austronesian people (who spread across the oceans from their homeland in Taiwan) arrived in Papua. They established colonies along the coasts and adjacent islands. Papua is one of the last nations in the world with vast areas unexplored by outsiders. There are at least 44 uncontacted tribes on the island.

In 1545 the land was claimed for Spain by Ortiz de Retez, who named the nation Nueva Guinea because, to him, the Melanesian inhabitants were the spittin' image Africans in Guinea.

The Europeans found, both to their fascination and horror, that these ancient people who'd lived without outside interference for thousands of years had developed what, to them, seemed many exotic, fearsome and immoral practices such as widespread cannibalism, head-hunting, "pack rape" and ritualized pederasty, to name a few. The locale became the inspiration for many stories, including King Kong, whose Indian Ocean natives who lived in fear of dinosaurs and other megafauna were inspired by the perceived exoticism of Papua.

In the 1820s, the British, Dutch and German governments got in on the action and carved up Papua amongst themselves. By the 1930s, the Papuan graduates in Mei Wondama, Manokwari were calling for for the re-establishment of self-rule. But in 1936, a secret partnership formed by Shell, Mobil and Chevron discovered what they reported as the world's richest deposits of gold and copper. Their clandestine organization, the NNGPM, kept their discovery secret from the Dutch colonists.

In the 1940s, Japan invaded, followed by the US. When the Dutch returned, they found that absence had not made their colonized subjects' hearts grow fonder. So, in the 1950s, the Dutch colonizers prepared Papua for self-governance by organizing elections, which took place in 1959. In 1961 they adopted Rev. Kijne's composition, Hai Tanahku Papua, as the national anthem. In December of the same year, they raised their flag for the first time, in West Papua. National Committee Chairman Mr Inury said, "My Dear compatriots, you are looking at the symbol of our unity and our desire to take our place among the nations of the world. As long as we are not really united we shall not be free. To be united means to work hard for the good of our country, now, until the day that we shall be independent, and further from that day on."

Not long after, the Soviet-backed Indonesian army invaded on May 1, 1963. The Indonesian invaders disbanded the council and forbade display of the flag or the singing of the anthem. Two years later, insurgents formed the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (or OPM, which stands for the Free Papua Movement).
In their struggle against the Indonesians, at least 100,000 Papuans have lost their lives in order for the Indonesian colonizers to protect resources to license to foreign corporations who reap the benefits at the expense of the Papuans.

In 2006, 43 Papuans rowed to Australia with a banner claiming the Indonesians were carrying out genocide. The Australian government responded by tossing them into an internment camp on Christmas Island. Only Vanuatu recognizes Papuan independence.

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