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Strangers in Their Own Land

West Papua's natural resources became the pivotal point in the public debate over its fate nearly 30 years ago. Had West Papuan aspirations for self-determination been acknowledged at that time, Papuans themselves would now have the final say in the exploitation of West Papua's gold, silver, oil, timber, cooper, nickel, and land development. Unfortunately, in 1962, the US government forced the Dutch to hand over West Papuan to Indonesia. Since that time, worldwide about the events leading to West Papuan colonization by Indonesia, the nature of its currently violent and genocidal repression, and the degree of Papuan resistance has allowed Indonesia to destroy native Papuan life largely unhampered by international condemnation. Financial, diplomatic, and military assistance aside - by their complicity and acquiescence alone - most Western countries have lent their support to the atrocious crimes and the deaths of more than 150,000 West Papuans at the hands of the Indonesian military (Gault-Williams 1987a).

The Importance of Land

Prior to foreign penetration, the vast majority of Papuans lived in widely scattered hamlets, having virtually no contact with each other or with the outside world. According to Papuan historian Saul Hindom (n.d.):

In the period before the Papuans were brought under non-Papuan domination, the tribes in West Papua were in fact sovereign small tribal states within which the group, which was an economic, political and military entity, was kept up by the mutual link springing from the fact of having common ancestors. Anyone who did not by virtue of this mutual link belong to the group... was a foreigner who, if he entered the territory of the society, would be considered as an evil intruder and therefore liquidated if need be.

Due to the differences in terrain and climate and the age-long separateness of the tribal communities, food production varies from place of place. In the fertile regions such as the Central Highlands (Paniai region) and the Baliem Valley, people are intensive garden cultivators. In other places, they practice shifting agriculture. In these areas, which comprise most of West Papua, land is cultivated for several years, then left to lie fallow so that the topsoil can regenerate. Trees are crucial to this model of production, providing protection from the fierce sun and fertilizing the soil with their leaves. Undeniably, Papuans have developed a well-balanced - if precarious - system of food production in most places that relies on a viable balance between population density and land for success (Osborne 1985:2).

Papuan is a foreign term that may have been coined by the Moluccans, to whom it mean "no father" - implying that New Guineans lacked strong leaders to protect them from slave traders. When it came to foreigners, the Papuans themselves were less concerned with any racial similarity than with the myriad difference among their clan groups. Today's Melanesian population in West Papua is estimated at one million people, 80 percent of whom live in the interior. Within this population, there are approximately 750 different languages (Korwa 1983).

The Papuans steeled in groups whose sizes were governed by ecological conditions such as food resources, as well as social criteria such as marriage customs. Some communities numbered a few hundred members, but many had only members in the range of 50 people. Regardless of size, every clan confederation viewed people of a different cultural-linguistic unit as foreigners, even if they lived only in the next valley or island. To traditional Papuans, land involves more than fixing boundaries between points on land:

In addition to arable land, dwelling sites, burial and ceremonial grounds, and non-agricultural land utilised for hunting and collecting, the following should be mentioned; paths and rights-of-way; strategic locations for trade or defense; streams, wells, springs and fords; stone quarries, salt wells and deposits of clay and rare earths; off-shore and fringing reefs; bird rookeries; economic trees of all type - coconut, sago, Areca, Canarium indicum (Java almond), Pandanus, breadfruit and so on; and such natural features as caves, rocky outcrops, and groves that may be significant to particular social groups by reason of their mythological association. (Hogbin 1973:106)

Traditional New Guinea society promotes the right to exclude outsiders, similar to customs that apply in Java, Indonesia. However, Papuans hold different views about two other key areas related to land relationship:

Rarely... are individuals empowered to alienate [i.e., to transfer title to an outside interest] on their own initiative any part of a group estate. In any case, it is more common for people to transfer themselves than their land - that is, by affiliating themselves with different estate-holding kin groups, people acquire rights to new lands while relinquishing or suspending their rights to the estates of their former groups. Finally, the right to claim income independent of use is virtually non-existent; there was no landlord class in the Pre-contact societies of Papua New Guinea. Occasionally gifts or payments are made in consideration of grants to temporary usufruct but, even if regarded as income, such payments are not generally significant in economic terms. (Hogbin 1973:106)

When outsiders infringed upon a clan's land rights, war was not the first resort. Instead, aggrieved clans would seek compensation for the rights abused, or property damaged, in commodities such as animals or trade items such as beads. In some cases, alliances were sought with potentially hostile communities through marriage links. Disputes, however, could not always be solved peacefully. Inter-clan feuds - sometimes full-blown wars - developed and were exacerbated by the notion of paying back the enemy to settle past scores. Yet the casualty rate in these battles was low. The defense of a clan's pride was a important as the defense of territory - perhaps even more so because the acquisition of land was seldom a Papuan aim (Osborne 1985:3).

Asian-Melanesian Antagonism

The roots of the Asian-Melanesian antagonism that currently dominates West Papuan society dates as far back as the seventh century, when seaborne merchants from Sriwijaya, the great Buddhist empire of South Sumatra, arrived on the New Guinea coast in pursuit of natural produce. Later came other traders, mostly Malaya and Chinese, but also some Arabs. The Asians, however, mostly just took - bird-of-paradise plumes, beche-de-mer, scented masoi bark, medicinal ingredients, and significantly, Papuan slaves (Osborne 1985:6).

Unlike the Asian traders, European colonial powers sought permanent footholds ashore, settlements from which they could control the sea lanes of the Spice Islands. Yet by 1937 the Dutch presence in West Papua amounted to only a "Slender control over about 200,000 people" (Hindom n.d.:4). For local Papuans, dealing with the Dutch government meant dealing primarily with Indonesians who, by and large, felt-racially superior to the Dark-skinned "Primitives." The Indonesians had been brought to New Guinea by the Dutch to form a middle stratum for the colonial bureaucracy; appropriately trained Papuans did not exist. This layer of society made little attempt to disguise its feelings, and interaction between the races was often tense:

Indonesians as well as Chinese and other Asians were employed by the Dutch and other European colonisers as civil servants, policemen, teachers, evangelists, military personnel and traders. That was why the most immediate resistance of most of the individual Papuan tribes which ensued has been directed in the first place against these helpers of the European colonisers. This resistance was of course inexorably beaten down by the intermediary group in the service of their colonising masters. (Hindom n.d.:5)

The Netherlands had, from 1944, begun encouraging a Papuan elite in order to form an indigenous government to thwart Indonesian takeover pressures. West Papuans who trained in Dutch-sponsored institutions such as the School of Administration, the Police Training School, and the Papuan Battalion were to become leading figures in the move toward independence and, when this failed, in the nationalist movement, led predominantly by the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM), or Free Papua Movement (Osborne 1985: 19-20):

The history of the national liberation struggle in West Irian [West Papua] is to a large extent the story of the misfortunes of the educated petty-bourgeoisie: their successive attempts to make linkages with a variety of foreign elements: the Dutch colonialists, the Indonesian middle strata' colonisers and political exiles in Dutch New Guinea, the United Nations Temporary executive Authority (U.N.T.E.A.) and the Indonesian pre-1969 administration. It is the story of the successive failures of this category, and of the divisions that emerged within it. Finally, left with nowhere else to turn, elements of the educated petty-bourgeoisie have turned inwards and have sought to make linkages with the peasant and proto-peasant masses and have chosen the road of organized armed struggle. (Savage 1978)

The Plunder of Natural Resources


The island of New Guinea was gradually recognized as a "Pacific `El Dorado'" (Osborne 1985:115). Papuan hostility and difficult terrain were, for the longest time, strong disincentives to resource exploration. However, Dutch geological exploration got under way in 1907, and important oil and copper discoveries were made in the 1920, and 1930s. Also in 1907, Dutch and British petroleum interests merged to form the Royal Dutch Shell company, with the Dutch holding 60 percent of the shares. This move was in opposition to the aggressive tactics of Standard Oil, the giant US company already trying to dominate the oil resources of the Indies. This would have given Standard Oil proximity to the large and growing markets of China and Japan. Rapid expansion by US and Japanese interests in the western Pacific, rich in natural resources and market potential, was resisted by the European colonial powers. Thus it was in the long-term interests of Standard Oil, and US transnationals in general, that Dutch colonial rule in Southeast Asia should end (TAPOL 1988a:3).

West Papua's natural resources were far better known to the transnationals than was ever revealed in public debates over West Papua's future. In 1941, extraordinarily rich oil deposits were discovered in Bird's Head. By the 1970s, both oil and minerals were acknowledged to be "in such abundance that the territory was spoken of as a `new bonanza.' Rich oil deposits had been discovered, sulphur-free and of light quality, minimizing refinery costs for petro-chemical production" (TAPOL 1988a:30).

Even exploratory activities inflict damage on the environment, however. Depending on the area, trees, gardens, and sago groves have been destroyed with serious results to sustainable food production. Disregard for local needs by contractors has often led to disputes with local people. Melanesian demands for compensation or alternative food supplies are universally ignored (TAPOL 1988a:31).

Nor do the oil ventures result in jobs for West Papuans. Former oil worker Mecky Saolssa testified at the Tribunal on Human Rights Violations in West Papua, held in the eastern half of the island, Papua New Guinea, in 1981:

About eighty per cent of the workforce were native Papuans initially, but then it was reduced to twenty per cent. Some were dismissed because it was said that their contracts had expired, and others because, for example, they failed to turn up to work for a day or two. None of the supervisory employees was native. There had been an instruction for native employees to be dismissed and replaced by Indonesians. In 1975, the Papuan workers at the company rebelled. They organised an attack on the Indonesian and western managers at eight in the morning, beating and attacking them. (TAPOL 1982)

Prior to Indonesian occupation, Papuans had a reasonably good chance of being employed in the Dutch oil industry, at least in lower-ranking jobs. Yet since Indonesia has controlled West Papua, fewer and fewer Papuans are being employed, many have been laid off, and some have even been subjected to intimidation by Indonesian authorities. Further, by 1974, more than two-thirds of the pay earned by Papuan workers was seized by the Indonesian military (Newsweek 2/18/74). In 1981, and American professor studied the planned influx of Indonesian labor into the West Papuan oilfields

to provide a secure labour force in key sectors of the economy. For instance, for 1981/82, 1,050 families or 5,000 persons are planned to be "dropped" near the oilfields of Manokwari and another thousands families will be "dropped" near the oilfields of Sorong. This guarantees as safe labour force, and ties in with Pertamina's [the national oil company] policy of non-employment of Melanesians in the oil industry. That began in 1969 and the Papuan labour force was soon afterwards retired from the industry. (Time of Papua New Guinea 5/22/81)


As with oil, some mining regions have not been exploited because of unattractive world commodity prices. If Ok Tedi and Ertsberg Mountain are any indication, then West Papua will continue to reveal vast mineral wealth. The world's richest cooper deposit is located at Ertsberg Mountain, at the US corporation Freeport Sulphur's mine. It was at Freeport's opening ceremony in 1973 that Indonesian president Suharto not only named the newly constructed mining town, Tembagapura, but renamed West Papua as well. Henceforth, West Papua has been referred to by Indonesians and appears on most Western maps an Irian Jaya, or "Victorious Irian."

According to one Indonesian source in 1982, Freeport employed 452 expatriates (mainly Americans and Australians), 1,850 Indonesians, and only 200 Papuans - and they were on the lowest end of the job ladder. Furthermore, the huge revenues generated at Freeport have brought no benefit to the local population. Part of the mining complex is located on the traditional hunting ground of the Amungme people, who live from gardening and hunting. Not only have the Amungme not received any compensation for their lost lands, but protests have been met with cruel forms of imprisonment, an outright bombing of Ilaga village in 1977, and forced resettlement (Reinbardt 1977).


West Papua is one of the few remaining parts of the world still covered with primary forest. Overall, Indonesia's forests are second only in extent to Brazil in land mass and constitute nearly 10 percent of the world's remaining rain forests (secrett 1986:78). Yet the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates and annual loss of 550,000 hectares of forest between 1976 and 1980 alone. Worse, estimates of deforestation in the early 1980s vary from 0.6 to 1.5 million hectares a year (TAPOL 1988a:37).

In 1988, the Anti-Slavery Society declared Indonesian forestry operations in West Papua "a generally exploitative system of logging at the expense of the local people who lose their forests, often with little to no compensation, since forests are considered to be a `national' asset under the basic forest law of 24 May 1967" (TAPOL 1988a:37-38). A typical example is the case of a South Korean company, PT You Lim Seri, acting on behalf of the Indonesian concessionaire PT Kebun Sari. In Demta, 70 km west of Jayapura, the company paid compensation to the local people in the equivalent of US $.50 a hectare for 400,000 hectares. The company was able to earn an estimated $45 a hectare on this land. By the time the company had exported 24,000 cubic meters of unprocessed logs, land clearance and road construction had caused soil erosion and landslides, polluting the water supply of the village of Ambora and Muris as well as damaging coastal fishing.

The most classic case of exploitation of West Papuan forestry resources and labor occurred in 1982. The 70,000 Asmat people have a territory of some 27,000 km, of which 20,000 km were covered with forest. The Asmat live in villages of 300-600 people on a vast coastal swamp bordering the Arafura Sea. Trees are central to the culture of the Asmat - so much so that many studies have been undertaken on this tribe and its ornate wood carvings and distinctive music. In the 1950s, when mission-sponsored sawmills began to provide cash wages to the Asmat, traditional concepts began to change.

In the 1970s, Jakarta-based timber companies used local military, police, and civilian officials of force Asmat villagers to go into their own forests, cut down ironwood and mahogany trees, and float them downriver to waiting ships. Although the rate had been fixed at Rp. 3,500 (rupiahs) per cubic meter, villagers often received that amount only after having handled an entire trunk. Frequently the pay was withheld for months at a stretch. All local officials were involved in the racket and were handsomely paid off by the companies. For the companies, it was a no-risk venture, involving little capital investment; even the cost of tools supplied to the villagers was deducted from their wages. Asmat were browbeaten, by local government officials, into accepting logging jobs. Those who refused or who protested faced charges of subversion or of "undermining government development plans."

The compulsory log-felling scheme not only exploited forests that were the property of the Asmat, but undermined their social and cultural traditions, disrupted village life, and led to numerous human rights violations. "The result could be the total annihilation of the Asmat people," declared the Catholic bishop of Agats, an anthropologist who has worked in the region for 20 years. An Indonesian environmental group warned that the Asmat were "on the brink of cultural starvation after a decade of enforced ironwood logging," where whole families were forced to travel with the men, for as long as six seeks at a stretch, and villages were left vacant.

The 1982 revelations about the rape of Asmat prompted a Jayapura newspaper editor to comment:

The timber racket in Asmat is in fact nothing new. I went to Asmat in 1978... The things that go on behind these operations makes one's hair stand on end. The people are whipped with stingray fish-tails, soldiers use firearms against men and women, young and old. People are forced to stand out in the blazing sun, teachers are slapped in the face by members of the armed forces. People are forced to do kerja bakti, children are left to go hungry in the barracks, missionaries who come to the defence of people's rights are threatened with physical violence.

Human exploitation of the weak and ignorant occurs not only in Asmat but in many places throughout Irian Jaya, including the towns and the provincial capital. (Tifa Irian 10/16/82)


The seas surrounding West Papua are rich in marine life. The shallow Arafura Sea to the south is one of the most fertile prawning grounds in the world. The deep Banda Sea to the west contains a rich variety and quantity of fish such as tuna, yellow fin, and skipjack. Similarly, there are many varieties in the northern waters, from Sorong to Jayapura.

As with other capital ventures, West Papuans are hardly employed at all. Most overseas capital has come from Japan, which itself has come under strong criticism: "Foreign enterprises (Japanese particularly), with larger capital and modern technology, are adding complex burdens to the traditional lives of already suffering fisher people. Fisheries of greater capacity, from trawlers on the one hand to land-based industrial sectors on the other, are causing them problems" (Junko et al. 1984:103).

West Papuans have been especially critical of revenues derived from the territory not being used for such vital services as public health and alternate food supplies. As Moore Lappè and Collins (1978:9) wrote:

The relationship of hunger to land turns out not to be a question of quantity; hunger has far less to do with the amount of land than with who controls it. Who controls the land determines how to will be put to use, if at all, and who will benefit from its fruits... Neither the size nor the growth rate of a country's population is today the cause of hunger. Both hunger and rapid population growth are symptoms of the same disease - the insecurity and poverty of the majority resulting from the monopolizing of national productive resources by a few.


As tragic as West Papuans being exploited for their labor and natural resources certainly is, the massive Indonesian transmigration program known as transmigrasi is having an even greater adverse effect upon the Melanesian people as West Papua. Budiardjo and Liong have written that, primarily due to Indonesian policies toward its 26th Province, West Papuans are now "confronted with the dispossession of their homeland. The result has been nothing less than a death warrant for Melanesian culture west of the 141 meridian (TAPOL 1988a:45).

This systematic dispossession of West Papuan land involves the illegal seizure of land for transmigrant Javanese from Indonesia. Addressing the method of this program's funding, Wertheim wrote that "under the present Suharto regime the old myth of an over-populated Java and the under-populated Outer Islands appears still to haunt not only the minds of the Indonesian present rulers, but also of those determining the policies of the World Bank and other Western donors of so-called development aid' co-operating in the IGGI (Inter-governmental Group on Indonesia)" (Otten 1986:1).

Specifically, funds are provided by the World Bank, World Food Program, the European Economic Community, Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, West Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United States, and the United Nations Development Programme (Gault-Williams 1987b). Wertheim added that the Indonesian

military power-holders are, in spite of all the [program's failures experienced in the course of the past decade, intent upon putting the most ambitious quantitative targets into practice, being mainly motivated by strategic and security considerations... the transmigrasi strategy, far from being operated in consultation with the people concerned and on a voluntary basis, is both in the area of origin and in the locality of destination largely being effectuated through sheer compulsion and deceit. (Otten 1986:1-2)

Indonesia's 1984-1989 five-year plan called for the movement of 5 million people from Java, Madura, and Bali specifically to those areas that resist Indonesia's imposed sovereignty: Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, the South Moluccas, East Timor, and West Papua. Over the next 20 years, it plans to move some 65 million more people to Javanize the Fourth World territories claimed by Indonesia. So far, between 400,000 and one million Javanese peasants and retired military personnel have been resettled on Melanesian land. The Indonesian government has envisioned having Javanese outnumber Melanesians four to one by the turn of the century (Gault-Williams 1987a:40).

The Asian-stocked Indonesians are implementing the transmigration program fully aware of its impact on indigenous peoples, with "development" justified as compensation enough (Otten 1986L 172). Minister of Transmigration Martono stated in 1985, "By way of Transmigration, we will try to realize what has been pledged, to integrate all the ethnic groups into one nation, the Indonesian nation... The different ethnic groups will in the long run disappear because of integration... and... there will be one kinds of man" (Colchester 1986:89).

A commitment to cultural pluralism does not exist in Indonesia, despite the fact it is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the worlds. As Australian journalist Peter Hastings (1982) has pointed out, Indonesia's transmigration program, particularly in East Timor and West Papua, "is aimed primarily at creating a cordon sanitaire where the Indonesian government is uncertain of local loyalties and wishes to dampen the activities of local dissidents like the OPM [Free Papua Movement] in Irian Jaya." Another Australian journalist, Robin Osborne, has come to the conclusion that "it is now clear that in Irian Jaya the prime aim of the [transmigration] programme is to quell local separatist feelings by sheer force of numbers" (Gault-Williams 1987a:40).

The military commander of the OPM, Seth Rumkoream, in 1984 attested to the land swindles going on throughout West Papua: "Now there is no discussion or bargaining: people are deprived of their traditional land rights, and ordered off their land by the government which then pays whatever compensation in considers adequate" (Osborne 1985:131-132). In addition to Cultural Survival, groups such as Survival International, the Indonesian Human Rights Campaign (TAPOL), the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), and Friends of the Earth have pointed out that transmigrasi has not only resettled Javanese, but the resulted in "the spread of poverty; forced displacement of indigenous peoples from their homes, communities and lands; deforestation and soil damage; destruction of local governments, economies, means of sustainable resource use; forced assimilation programs; widespread use of military force to `pacify' areas and to break local resistance by bombing and massacring civilians" (IWGIA 1986).

Worldwide Support for Indonesian Actions

Amazing as it may seem, the Republic of Indonesia is supported in a variety of ways in its programs of cultural extermination, land dispossession, and outright exploitation of indigenous peoples throughout the Indonesian archipelago and in East Timor and West Papua. In addition to the diplomatic support given by such forums as the United Nations, most of the key player countries support Indonesia financially and militarily (Retboll 1984).

Recognition of human rights abuses, cultural genocide, and murderous denial of indigenous self-determination has not prohibited Indonesia from gaining significant bilateral and multilateral aid from the Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI), an international aid consortium set up under the direction of the World Bank. Every year the IGGI meets in the Netherlands to determine Indonesia's economic needs and provide aid accordingly. Seventeen countries now regularly attend IGGI meetings, including almost all the countries of Western Europe as well as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The World Bank has, until recently, contributed most of the aid, with the remainder coming from the IGGI member states in the form of bilateral aid (Gault-Williams, in press).

As a result of IGGI handouts, Indonesia became the world's sixth-largest debtor state by 1986, with a total foreign debt of more than £37 billion and a debt-service ratio (the percentage of export earnings needed to service the foreign debt) already in excess of 30 percent. By the end of 1988, the debt-service ratio exceeded 40 percent (TAPOL 1988a:114). The IGGI agreed, in 1988, to grant the ailing Indonesian economy a record US $5.7 billion granted in 1987. Japan alone accounts for $2.3 billion of this total (TAPOL 1988b).

Project and program aid, totaling US $4.01 billion, are tied to projects agreed upon between the donor country or agency and Indonesia, and untied programs utilizing the grant over a five-year period. In 1988, the IGGI decided to grant $2.4 billion in a new form of assistance known as "special aid," which provides especially favorable terms of convertibility into rupiahs. This aid is a reserve of foreign currency that can be drawn on, by Indonesia, within a year and sold on the foreign exchange market to finance imports. The rupiah proceeds will be used to cover the rupiah costs of government projects. This huge chunk of aid will therefore help to reduce Indonesia's balance of payments deficit and finance the government's budget deficit. This assistance is described as being "outside the IGGI scheme" (Jakarta Post 6/17/88). A number of IGGI countries agreed to give part or all of their 1988 aid in the form of an outright gift - these include Australia and Canada (100 percent ), the Netherlands (60 percent), and the United States (57 percent) (Tempo 6/24/88). According to one Indonesian daily. IGGI aid to Indonesia is now larger than that given by aid consortiums to any other country (Kompas 6/17/88).

For many years, the Indonesian armed forces have relied heavily on the United States for military supplies and training. The 1980s, however, have seen a significant change in the composition of Indonesia's arms trade with foreign countries (Franke 1983). Increasingly since the late 1970s, Indonesia has turned to arms dealers in other major weapons-exporting countries such as the United Kingdom, France, West Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands, as well as South Korea and Yugoslavia. The most wide-ranging weapons supplies now come from the United Kingdom. Contrary to the claim that "we would not grant an export license if we thought that the equipment was likely to be used for the purposes of repression," there has been an upsurge in British military exports to Indonesia for that very purpose (British Aerospace News August 1988).

Indonesia is now also developing its own military industrial complex, the centerpiece of which is the IPTN, Indonesia's aerospace company. The rise in Indonesia's budget for military hardware, which began in 1978-1979, was made possible when "Project Aid" (the term includes export credit, the kind of which the IGGI is so instrumental in providing) was put up for procurement. In attempting to explain the huge sums of money taken up by the Indonesian military, the Indonesian regime has been painted as one whose priority is on development. Because the nature of the Indonesian political system involves the "dual function" of the military as a political as well as military force, "sizable portions of the defense budget [are] funded unconventionally." What has been called the "crypto-military spending" element cannot be ignored in any attempt to analyze Indonesia's military spending. Even so, "a complete and accurate evaluation of the total economic effects of implementing the `Doctrine of Defense and Security' is, unfortunately, beyond reach at the moment because of the absence of relevant data and information" (Kuntjoro-Jakti and Simatupang 1987:iii, 131).

Yet development as justification for ethnocide clearly cannot be rationalized. It is for these reasons that the OPM continues to gain popularity within West Papua. Melanesian peoples throughout the western half of New Guinea look to the OPM as their only hope in the face of increasing Javanization. As Survival International's Marcus Colchester (1986:97) has written, the imposition of the Indonesian government's policies, which are designed to favor its own interests rather than those of tribal minorities within its sphere of control,

is leading to the destruction of tribal communities, the elimination of their ways of life and their replacement by an educational and economic system over which they have almost no control. For the peoples involved, this process of cultural annihilation and assimilation, where not actively resisted, is having a profoundly disturbing and disorienting effect. Torn out of the social and cultural fabric that has given their lives meaning for thousands of years, the tribal peoples of Indonesia are being forced to become part of the vast depoliticised peasantry that makes up the body of the nation.

Nowhere is this tragedy so little known and so under-reported as in West Papua, the place that no longer exists, but is, rather, called Irian Jaya. Its people, due in large part to Western assistance to Indonesia, are quickly becoming strangers in their own land.


1. Irian: acronym for Ikut Republic Indonesia Anti-Netherlands ("follow Indonesia against Holland"), and Indonesian slogan from the campaign to acquire West New Guinea. From Iryan: "steamy land rising from the sea" (Biak language); Jaya: "victorious" (Indonesian).

2. Kerja bakti is an Indonesian term that implies that villagers are performing their tasks as a labor of love, and thus do not expect to be well compensated. One missionary explained: "Villagers are forced to work without pay on development projects... [government officials] arrest people on petty charges and keep them in detention to do kerja bakti."

3. Countries, ranked in order of amount of aid (top to bottom), include; Japan, France, United Kingdom, West Germany, Netherlands, United States, Italy, Canada, Australia, Spain, Switzerland, Austria and New Zealand.

4. Countries and agencies, ranked in order of amounts given (top to bottom), include: Japan, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Netherlands, United States, France, and West-Germany.


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