Genocide is on our doorstep and it looks like we are complicit. One of our closest neighbours, the West Papuans, are being systematically murdered and enslaved by the Indonesians, says indigenous activist and musician Ronnie Kareni.
It’s a topic we don’t hear much about in the mainstream press, he says, because both Australia and Indonesia benefit from strip- mining the region’s resources and subjugating its inhabitants.
To most Australians, it sits to the left of Papua New Guinea. It’s not something I am proud of, but until I met Kareni and Blue King Brown’s Natalie Pa’apa’a, I had little idea about the place. And that appears to be how the Australian and Indonesian governments like it. The ‘free press’ like it as well, because advertisers who pay their wages are also profiting from the mining and rainforest logging, says Kareni. In light of that, it’s always worth thinking about where your next outdoor ensemble originates from.
Since the Indonesian military occupation in the 1960s, it’s estimated over 100,000 West Papuans have been killed, according to www.freewestpapua.com.au. But Ronnie says studies from Sydney University in 2009/10 claim it to be around half a million.
Its population of 3.5 million has been reduced to around 48 per cent indigenous, with the other half mostly Indonesian. It’s a stark difference to the time before the occupation, he says.
Perhaps invading underdeveloped countries is not personal; after all, the indigenous are just getting in the way of expected returns on investments (ROI). Case in point is that the Freeport gold mine in West Papua is one of the largest on the planet.
It harks back to the days of King Leopold II of Belgium, possibly the most evil imperialist to ever live. This fucker is responsible for the death of an estimated five to 15 million Congolese around the late 1800s. Eventually he was forced to hand over his private enterprise to the Belgian government, but that wasn’t before he extracted a fortune from the Congo. Initially it was ivory, but after a rise in the price of rubber, he enslaved natives to collect sap from rubber plants.
It’s an uncomfortable truth that almost all wealth in human history has been created from slavery and the consumption of finite and polluting resources. Even more uncomfortable is a news cycle generally wasted on petty crime and celebrity gossip. At least we can be thankful that there are other options. To learn more visit www.freewestpapua.com.au.