07/12/2012 08:34

Melanesian Institute releases book on West Papua conflict

By Fr Franco Zocca SVD – Melanesian Institute (Goroka)

07 DEC 2012. The big island of New Guinea is divided into two parts. The western part is a province of Indonesia. The eastern part is the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. The two parts have a lot in common: similar geography, rich in natural resources, indigenous Melanesian population and a history of colonisation by Europeans. The western part, now called West Papua, was a colony of the Netherlands (Holland) until 1963, when it was annexed by Indonesia. The Indonesian government immediately implemented its own colonising program. It took advantage of West Papua’s natural resources (especially minerals, oil, and timber), confiscated large tracts of customary land, and transferred tens of thousands of people from more densely populated islands of Indonesia into West Papua. According to the 2010 Census, half of the 4 million West Papuans are now non-Melanesian.

Many indigenous Melanesians in West Papua resented the takeover of their traditional land by Indonesia. During the last 70 years they have expressed their resentment in various ways, both violent and non-violent. Because of their opposition to Indonesia and their demands for independence, many Melanesian West Papuans have been jailed or killed; discrimination against Papuans is usual. More than ten thousand Papuan refugees have crossed the border and now live in Papua New Guinea.

The sad history of West Papua since 1963 is told by Dr Neles Tebay in a book recently published by the Melanesian Institute, Goroka. Dr Tebay also describes the efforts of Christian churches to bring peace to West Papua, so that Melanesians and non-Melanesians might live and prosper in harmony. The book’s title is “Reconciliation and Peace – Interfaith endeavours for peace in West Papua”, Point Series 36. It can be ordered from the Melanesian Institute in Goroka (mi.books@online.net.pg) at the price of K50. (cbcpngsi.org – giorgiolicini@yahoo.com)