The following is a statement by Rachele Fruit from the Socialist Workers Party to the 20th Session of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, April 19-30.
My name is Rachele Fruit. I am the Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. I send greetings today in support of the decadeslong struggle of the people of West Papua for independence.
The people of West Papua, the last colonial outpost in the Dutch East Indies, briefly tasted self-determination after raising their Morning Star flag on Dec. 1, 1961.
As part of the wave of anti-colonial struggles after the second imperialist world war, the Indonesian national movement itself had won independence from Dutch domination in 1949.
With the backing of the John F. Kennedy administration in Washington, the Indonesian rulers invaded and annexed the ethnically and culturally distinct West Papuan territory in 1963. After six years of subjugation, a sham United Nations-endorsed “referendum” was put on in 1969. A show of hands by 1,026 hand-picked chiefs, not a vote of the country’s 1 million people, was used to justify the Indonesian rulers’ continued control.
This was under the dictatorial regime of General Suharto, who four years earlier had slaughtered over a million Communist Party members and labor and peasant activists.
In the decades since, the Melanesian people of West Papua have faced brutal conditions under Indonesian domination. Less than half the population of 4 million has access to electricity. Over a quarter of West Papuans live below the poverty line, more than twice the official average across Indonesia. West Papuans, including those studying in Indonesia, are often subjected to racist abuse by military authorities.
The Indonesian military and police have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of the indigenous people of West Papua and detained and tortured thousands in their drive to suppress opposition to Jakarta’s rule. But this has just fueled the opposition of the native population against the occupation and produced new generations of resistance. The people of West Papua call for self-determination.
Thousands of tribal people have been forced from their traditional lands. Rapacious capitalist firms from Indonesia to the U.S. and Canada, Australia, Japan and Malaysia, profit mightily from mining and forestry in the resource-rich territory.
It is in the interests of working people around the world — from here in the U.S. to neighboring Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific — to support the West Papuan people’s aspirations for independence. We all share a common enemy in the imperialist rulers from Washington, Canberra and other capitalist powers, who exploit and oppress working people at home and abroad in the name of profits.
Here in Atlanta, I and my party have had the great pleasure to join with fellow workers from West Papua in protests supporting their right to self-determination, the union organizing drive at Amazon and in activity opposing the U.S. rulers’ economic embargo against Cuba.
The people of West Papua deserve our support as they fight for their self-determination.