Public Statement by the West Papua movement in Australia
27 July 2015
We the undersigned are part of a national solidarity network supporting a free West Papua. We publicly disassociate ourselves from the anti-Muslim and anti-refugee views of Reclaim Australia, the United Patriotic Front, Rise Up Australia and others who associate with these groups. We extend a warm welcome to Muslims and refugees, many who are also West Papuan.
As a national solidarity network with regional and international links, our practice in the past has been to confine our public advocacy solely to West Papua and not get drawn into other issues. We are speaking out now because recently Paul Madden, a non-Papuan leader of the Free West Papua Party spoke at the Reclaim Australia rally in Perth. According to posts on Facebook, West Papua solidarity activists also attended a Reclaim Australia rally in Cairns. Mr Madden and some of his associates used Reclaim Australia rallies and their social media network to recruit members for the Free West Papua Political Party that he helps lead. The decision to associate with Reclaim Australia, Rise Up Australia, the United Patriotic Front and the other groups that make up the Far Right is a mistake. It is divisive and counterproductive: it misrepresents the free West Papua solidarity movement in Australia; it undermines the free West Papua movement inside West Papua; and, it employs the very methods of religious and racial vilification we oppose.
West Papuan leaders and the Australian solidarity movement do not support Reclaim Australia’s anti-Muslim and anti-refugee agenda. We are a movement for freedom in West Papua. We are against a racist and colonial system. We are not against any particular religion or ethnic group. We align ourselves politically with Indigenous people, pro-democracy forces in Indonesia, people from the Pacific and others striving for the common good. We respect people’s right to free speech and reject any association with Reclaim Australia.
West Papua supporters in Australia are a diverse group. We are from both sides of the political fence. We come from a range of religious traditions. Some of us are avowedly secular and some of us are people of faith. Some of us were born here. Some of us came to Australia as migrants or refugees. We are for freedom, peace and justice in West Papua, and better relationships between the people of West Papua, Indonesia, Australia and the region. As a group we stand against slow motion genocide in West Papua that is aided by the Australian Government that continues to arm and train the Indonesian military. We also campaign against Australian corporations who continue to exploit West Papua’s resources. Associating with Reclaim Australia is undermining the unity of purpose of the West Papua solidarity movement.
The conflict in West Papua is not a Muslim-Christian conflict. It is a conflict between the occupier and the occupied, between those who seek to deny West Papuans their rights and West Papuans defending and claiming those rights. The movement for freedom in West Papua includes many Indigenous Muslim leaders, people like Thaha Al-Hamid as well as senior journalists and NGO activists. The free West Papua movement inside West Papua also includes Muslim communities in places like Fak Fak, Sorong and Kaimana. Many of these Muslim leaders have been jailed, even killed, for the cause of freedom. For more than one hundred years Muslims and Christians in West Papua have co-existed in peace. West Papua activists living in West Papua and Indonesia are also working with pro-democracy forces in Indonesia who are Muslim, who understand the political roots of the conflict and support West Papuans’ right to freedom.
Much of the violence by the Indonesian military and police in West Papua is reinforced by racism: a belief that an entire ethnic group is fundamentally inferior. Militia groups like Laskar Jihad, Barisan Merah Putih, LMRRI and the Islamic Defenders Front use the cover of religion to vilify and physically attack West Papuans, even those with no association with the independence movement. The Indonesian security forces are often behind these attacks. Freedom of expression and association is denied. The persecution of West Papuans as an ethnic group and pro-independence West Papuans on the basis of their ethnicity, religious or political beliefs is one of the roots of violence in West Papua.
The Indonesian and West Papuan people are weary of race and religion being used to stir up conflict. For decades religious and political leaders in West Papua – both Muslim and Christian – have been combating religious and nationalist extremism. They have been working to create West Papua as a land of peace and for the most part they have been successful. When the neighbouring Malukan Islands was engulfed in sectarian violence West Papua stayed calm.
Tension between some elements of Islam and Christianity is a fact in West Papua, as it is elsewhere in the world. To date West Papua has been largely free of the inter-religious violence due to the excellent leadership of both communities; however, there are shadowy forces ready to foment trouble in West Papua and this danger is increasing. As Australian advocates for peace in West Papua we support the many Papuan and Indonesian people of both the Christian and Muslim faith that are engaged in trying to resolve or mitigate the conflict. We expressly reject religion being used as a tool to extend or redefine the nature of the West Papuan conflict which boils down to the survival of the Papuan people in the face of overwhelming non-Papuan migration and dispossession of their land and resources via military occupation.
So when a small group of Australian leaders of the Free West Papua Party align themselves with a group that is perceived as being anti-Muslim they play into elements in Indonesia and West Papua that would like to incite sectarian violence in West Papua. They play into the hands of those who would like to give a free reign to the Indonesian police and military to arm and organise nationalist militias in order to crack down on pro-independence activists just like they did in East Timor.
The free West Papua movement rejects spreading fear and hate against any group on the basis of their beliefs or identity. Vilification of Muslims as a social group, Islam as a religion or the use of racism in any guise has no place in our movement. This position is supported by West Papuan leaders inside and outside the country.
Although Mr Madden apologised via Facebook last week, that apology made no mention of the FWPP’s willingness to disassociate from Reclaim Australia. Therefore, we – the undersigned – ask Mr Madden to discontinue the formation of the FWPP and to step down as its spokesperson. Once that has occurred we are happy to continue working with Mr Madden and his associates for the benefit of the West Papuan people.
|Jason MacLeod||West Papua Solidarity Group Brisbane and West Papua Project, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, The University of Sydney|
|Camellia Webb-Gannon||West Papua Project, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, The University of Sydney and Australia West Papua Association – Sydney|
|Peter King||West Papua Project, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, The University of Sydney|
|Jim Elmslie||West Papua Project, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, The University of Sydney|
|Dave Arkins||Australian West Papua Association – South Australia|
|Peter Arndt||West Papua Solidarity Group Brisbane and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace|
|Jacob Rumbiak||United Liberation Movement for West Papua|
|Anne Noonan||Australian West Papua Association – Sydney|
|Joe Collins||Australian West Papua Association – Sydney|
|Matthew Jamieson||Institution for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights|
|Nick Chesterfield – Editor, and our researchers, translators, and journalists||West Papua Media|
|Stephen Rangihuna||Free West Papua Campaign – Sydney|
|Ronny Kareni and Airileke Ingram||Rize of The Morning Star|
|Melkias Okoka, Erwin Bleskadit and Joe Wally||3CR Voice of West Papua|
|Alfonsius Adadikam and Sixta Kareni||Victoria West Papuan Community|
|Ricard Rumbiak and Adolf Mora||Morning Starz Football Club|
|Amos Wainggai, Peter Elaby and Anselmus Pisakai||Black Orchid Stringband|
|Natalie Adadikam and Babuan Mirino||DFAIT West Papua Women’s Office|
|Lea and Petra Rumwaropen||Black Sistaz (singers)|
|Izzy Brown||West Papua Freedom Flotilla|
|Dan Field||Surfers for West Papua|
|Uncle Kevin Buzzacott||Elder from Arabunna Nation in South Australia|
|Wiwince Pigome||Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua (International representative based in Perth)|
|David Bridie||Wantok Music|
|Don Stewart||Australia West Papua Association – South West Victoria|
|Mary Lancaster||Australia West Papua Association – South West Victoria|
|Peter D Jones||War Resisters International (Australia), Hobart, Tasmania|
|Cindy Watson||Australians for a Free West Papua’, Darwin|
|Lola Forester||Koori Radio|
|Dominik Kanak||Cr. Waverley Council|
|Anthony Ash Brennan||Yatte Yattah films|
|Marilyn Woodward||Australia West Papua Association – South West Victoria|