By new contributor Tabi-Sal. If you feel like writing for us, drop us an email!
There is a country which has only experienced 18 months of independence between colonial rulers. Its waters are poisoned by the by-products of multinational corporations’ extensive mining. Its soils are ruined by deforestation, and its people are displaced, brutalised, made to disappear.
This nation’s vast material wealth is siphoned off by an authoritarian government, and by western multinationals. These corporations fund shareholding authorities (imported from Jakarta) which bomb and strafe villages. As swathes of mountain rainforest are cleared, mined and militarised, the damage to the environment is passed on to the inhabitants of these tribal areas, who have no choice but to live off the land. The collusion of security guard and soldier is the key feature of this new form of imperialism. The destruction of the land’s indigenous population is its effect.
Melanesians have lived in West Papua for at least 25,000 years. No compensation has been paid to these peoples by the recent colonisers since they arrived from Holland approximately 200 years ago, or from Indonesia around 50 years ago. Presently, mountains sacred to local tribes are strip-mined at a phenomenal rate. Mining waste is bulldozed into sacred lakes in quantities of hundreds of thousands of tons. Polluted rivers flowing deep into the rainforests are grey threads of putrefaction and death. Displaced peoples die from diseases they have never encountered before as they are evicted from their mountain homes. Indonesia’s GDP growth increases healthily every year.
It is unsurprising and symbolic that West Papua might be more familiar to us by its Indonesian name, ‘Irian Jaya’. Apart from a brief and doomed parenthesis of independence in the early sixties, the nation’s aboriginal inhabitants have been seen as obstacles for nearly two hundred years, by two different governments, in their quest for pillage. For colonialism is not dead, it has merely evolved. The voiceless man’s land is still irreparably polluted by the bearer of arms. The scarred lands of West Papua are an indelible blot on mankind’s conscience.
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