My thoughts about the USIP public forum I attended this week

I was fortunate to attend a public forum hosted by the US Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C (USIP). The theme of the forum was “The Future of Multilateral Peacebuilding – A conversation with U.N. Under Secretary General Rosemary DiCarlo.”

My reaction

The meeting began with Hon. Nancy Lindborg, the president and CEO of USIP, gave her welcome remarks and then introduced of the keynote speaker. It was a great experience. I was glad to watch and hear directly from the Keynote speaker Hon. Ambassador Rosemary Dicarlo and an issue that is at the heart of our struggle in West Papua. Her remarks were both inspirational and instructional.

US and  UN partnership

Hon. Dicarlo spoke about many things, but this is what stood out to me. She stated that “the US Government has a strong connection with the role of United Nations” in fostering peace worldwide. In other words, the US government and the UN do share common views and values on many issues, particularly on the issue of peacebuilding.

Peacebuilding must not be selective

There’s no doubt. I personally agree with this sentiment, and it motivates me to continue with my advocacy work here in US as the Executive Director of West Papua Human Rights Center and as West Papuan representatives to the United Nations. The US is indeed vital to world peace, and nation and peace-building effort in the world. This is why many people look to America when no one else is around to help. And it is a fact that the US is always build peace where it is needed the most, but should that “peacebuilding” be extended to other places, example West Papua? I know most people here in the US don’t know what’s going is going on in our part of the world – West Papua. So, I while I agree with this sentiments, I hope that the US and the UN will extend their peacebuilding to other places including ours.

I know that many American citizens need to be informed about the genocide that is currently taking place in West Papua so they can talk to their government to intervene and protect the rights of our indigenous West Papuans, including the right of self-determination and freedom from colonialism.

Indonesian occupied West Papua illegally

The 1948 the United Nations passed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide which sought to protect four groups of peoples namely the national, ethnic, racial or religious groups. This convention layed down the framework for colonized people to get their own self-determination. Most colonies in the Pacific gained their independence including our neighbor, Papua New Guinea. In 1969, however, Indonesia occupied West Papua using a sham election, which 99% of West Papuans weren’t allowed to vote.

Why West Papuan self-determination matters

Indigenous West Papuans are ethnically, racially, culturally, and religiously different to the Indonesian people. The only thing West Papuans and Indonesians had in common was a common colonial master, the Netherlands. And it was this reason that their former colonial power wanted West Papua to become an independent state of their own. But before that proposal materialized, Indonesia – with the help of the UN – annexed West Papua and has been occupying it to this day.

Slow genocide

Majority of West Papuans rejected this occupation and instead of trying to understand their concerns, Indonesia turned West Papua into a military occupied zone – one of the largest military occupations in the world.

For more than five decades, those who spoke up against Indonesia, peaceful or otherwise, were either jailed for decades of executed by the Indonesian military and police. It is estimated that over half a million indigenous West Papuans have been killed by the Indonesian government since the occupation began in 1963 . Many scholars who are familiar with the occupation of our land called the killing of indigenous people as a “Slow-motion genocide.” The occupation and the militarization of West Papua is something that the world outside of West Papua doesn’t seem to even care about.

The history of Indonesian brutality in West Papua over decades is well documented by scholars, religious leaders, and our indigenou people. The establishment of ‘Social Media’ makes it possible to for the world to see the truth about this occupation and genocide. And it is  the responsibility of all freedom loving people in the international community to help stop this. And it is important in our view for the US government, which has a powerful presence at the UN, to focus on the issues in  the Asia Pacific region, particularly West Papua. The data are there for them to see.

The illegal actions of the Indonesian government is a well known issue, so how long must we wait for justice while Indonesia slaughter our people with impunity? Isn’t fifty years of brutality not enough for someone to notice? The question that is more relevant to this context is – what is the role of America and the United Nations be regarding West Papua?

Equal application of ‘peacebuilding’

Today, so much attention is currently given to the political situation in Syria, how about giving equal amount of attention to the suffering people of West Papuans in the hands of Indonesia? We have been struggling for freedom and justice under the brutal regime of the military of the Indonesian state for more than five decades, and yet the powerful UN is pretending everything is okay.

Knowing the history of the Indonesian state’s Army and Police invasion of West Papua, we can all say that the Indonesian menacing attitude won’t change. More people will die, thousands more in prisons, and the bodycount continues. And it is appalling that certain people could set the UN leadership in motion, but when it comes to West Papua, they yawned. Last year about a hundred West Papuans have been murdered and so far no one is allowed to visit West Papua, while Indonesian leaders are allowed to participate in discussions on national security, freedom, and human rights issues. Recently, at the UNSC, Indonesia accused Israel of the things Indonesia is doing in our own backyard – occupying and suppressing of indigenous West Papuan rights!

Conclusion

International relationship is a crucial part of this modern globalized world, but one that cannot be left untouched or ignored by the UN. The UN should play at hand in fostering global peace and improving the relations between nations and their people, and it must not selectively enforcing its will. It must be fair in pursuing global peace – meaning, peace keeping cannot be carried out in certain parts of the world while others are ignored. I believe that people’s dignity and their culture, as well as the laws of God and of the secular world are essential pillars, are crucial to the West Papuan independence and self-determination. Our struggle for independence is tragic – a drama born from the bosom of the Cold War, and one that many people simply ignored. Unrestricted military dictatorship, greed and corruption are among some of the reasons why people sit back and just watch without lifting a finger to ensure precious lives are protected. The struggle to end a colonial era, and the apparent indifference in the Indonesian public and international community is a green-light for Indonesia to continue its illegal actions.

Again, the role of UN and US are significant for making change in the world and we hope this will also extend to West Papua, but the right people must act.

Here at the center, we will continue to bring to you the atrocity of the Indonesian government and the negative consequences of the militarization of West Papua, and the human rights abuse of our indigenous people in the hands of Indonesia! We will continue to make waves and provide information about the suffering of our people until our freedom is won!

Please join us in this effort.

Herman Wainggai 
West Papuan Human Rights Center
Washington, D.C