Militarism in the Asia Pacific
SoS 2006, UQ, BrisVegas, July 11, 2006
I was going to talk to you about the War on our own doorstep, and how the Indonesian military or TNI, have, as a client of Western capital, run roughshod over the rights of people in our region, and in West Papua in particular….
However this reality is certainly not that simple, and certainly the fault does lie exclusively with Australia the US and UK, and to think that we are at fault exclusively would be shortsighted at the least, and dangerous to boot. Rather it is an understanding that we are facing a beast with an ancient history of more than 3000 year old culture of impunity. This talk will obviously be just skimming the surface of something the Australian people must pay more attention to. In fact, this could easily be a book or a 13 part series (if anyone feels like making one, please see me after this!).
The key to instability in our region is the fact that the largest immediate threat is not a regular military force or this great phantom of Al Qaeda. It is also not the US, believe it or not. It is the TNI, an International Mafia of Terror. This military comes from the ancient Javanese caste of ksatria, or the warriors. If you are born a boy, and your father and grandfather are ksatria, then “destiny” will claim you. This is just the way it has been for a very long time, and the ksatria together with a brahmin caste, have forced the Javanese forced to adhere to this strange mix of Hinduism and Islam (the only form of Islam where the elite kept the caste system contraty to the Qu’ran). Observance of Human rights has never been a strong point, and many whole cities have been put to the sword over the last few thousand years.
Indonesia itself is as mythological as the great Garuda. It is a community of communities held together, as always over the last several thousand years, by the glue of violent force, blind obedience and suppression by the Javanese empire. The fathers of Indonesia, were of course the puppet governors of the brutal Japanese occupation, and the history of Indonesia, both pre and post Suharto, has had a strong discrimination against non-Javanese. The only distinct commonality was the shared experience of brutal Dutch colonialism.
Indonesia itself was founded on a germ on an idea, that Land belonged to the people and not to a far distant metropolitan power, and no-one should have power over another. Many thousands upon thousands of brave patriots fought and died for the concept of self-determination and Merdeka! – which is a deep spiritual concept so much more than just independence and freedom. Merdeka is the clearest demonstration that there is nothing more powerful than when a people decide they will be free. However, this was not to last……
So what happened to the ideal?
It would be simplistic to just blame the West, although the pressures of the cold war certainly played a part, the CIA’s role in overthrowing Sukarno certainly contributed to this. Western support and silence – fear at upsetting the angry tiger – certainly initially armed the TNI to massacre over 5 million people (and growing) since 1965, and to militarily occupy East Timor, Aceh, the Malukus and of course West Papua. In 1953-57, all Dutch business was nationalised, and the Indonesian army were appointed (in particular the Speical forces), to manage the economy. They became the new capitalist class, and their interests were no longer serving the people (as was their revolutionary aim), but to serve themselves. Dynasties, most famously the Liem/Suharto dynasty, but also the Simbolens and the Prabowos, and the formation of the Darul Islamist movement which became Jemaah Islamiyah.
The history of the TNI shows one distinct pattern. Wherever their influence is to be felt, or there is money to be made, there is terror, dispossession, and bombings. To quote the International Crisis Group in its report “Recycling Militants in Indonesia: Darul Islam and the Australian Embassy Bombing”:
“The links of some of the West Java DI leaders with the army were reinforced in 1965-1966 when they were offered weapons in exchange for help in attacking suspected communists (PKI) in West Java, Aceh, and North Sumatra. Danu Muhamad Hassan reportedly even believed that a soon-to-be-notorious officer, Ali Moertopo, saved the DI leadership from annihilation in 1966 by intervening with Soeharto when he thought the latter intended to use the cover of the mass killings that year to wipe out other political enemies, including Darul Islam.6”
Jemaah Islamiyah was formed in 1978 by one of the Kopassus founders General Ali Murtopo to create terror to drive people away from supporting moderate Islam, as this wwas a threat to Suharto. The pesantaren or schools were formed and funded by the Yayasans or youth foundations run by the TNI, as they are to this day. Every act of terror is connected to the TNI, including (or especially) the Bali bombings.
According to Umar Abduh, convicted terrorist and former JI member : “So there is not a single Islamic group, either in the movement or the political groups that is not controlled by Intel. Everyone does what they say.”
That’s right, John Howard’s trusted friends in the region are the very ones who killed 88 Australians too. And his partner in the “War on Terror”, President Yudyohono (an indicted war criminal former commander of East Timor) is also a part of this. Why do you think they just released Abu Bakr Basyir?
The US economic machine is critical in both providing the cause and effect of the military occupation and domination of West Papua. To date, credible but very conservative estimates are of over 400,000 people killed in West Papua by the TNI, with Kopassus in control. There is one catalyst: the world largest mine, the Huge Freeport gold and copper mine.
Freeport mine is and had been the cause of human rights abuse, destruction of environment, institutional violence against women, and is part of the problem. Tens of thousands of people have been killed by the TNI security forces in the Freeport project area, funded at over US$50 million per year by Freeport McMoRan. The environmental devastation wreaked by the company is unparalleled, with poisoned tailings washed into the Aikwa river, poisoning all animal and plant life in its path and wider, and destroying medicine and food sources for the Kamoro and Amungme peoples. One can even see the tailings mess from space.
Freeport is the case in point. Freeport McMoRan, and their parent Rio Tinto, face a critical dilemma. Because they have fed the beast so greedily, it had grown accustomed to largess.
And herein lies the nub: just 20% of the TNIs funding comes from the state. The rest they have to grab through business activities and protection rackets. This business include, to name but a fraction: illegal logging with Rimbunan Hijau (see Terror-razing the Forest), oil palm plantations, illegal mining, methamphetamine production, export of designer drugs and steroid and other drug running (a large proportion of ecstasy in Australia still comes from the military in Indonesia, a drug that was and is infamously used to give to militias before they go on a orgy of killing – it ain’t a love drug!). Also all prostitution, most nightclubs and illegal breweries are controlled by the TNI (although to be on the safe side, they also run the Islamic Defenders Front that burn these places down.) They also own massive construction firms to rebuild the buildings burnt. It is, as the London Mafia say, “all a nice little earner”.
Suharto’s little brother, Liem Siew Liong (closely connected with the Malay Tiong family of Rimbunan Hijau infamy), was the creator of much of this. Liem Siew Liong was put in charge of Strategic Economic Planning. Suharto’s eldest son, Sigit, then married Liem Siew Liong’s daughter. After 300,000 people in Bali were turned into blood, Liem Siew Liong ran the majority of business in Bali. After the marriage, Liong divided the “Balinese” business empire between the Sigit “brand” (hotels, beer, nightclubs, drugs, tourism, prostitution and gambling, including the infamous “Tommy’s Laundry” Casino on Christmas Island, site of the new detention centre); Bambang “brand” (mega construction and sport); Tutut “brand” (mega bridge, road, infrastructure construction and military supplies and arms); Tommy brand (automotive and aerospace import and manufacturing). Suharto’s granddaughter, Shanti, was made to be the co-ordinator for all logging, forestry, pulp, paper and plywood and forest products manufacturing activity.
There is a such a historical connection with the founders of Kopassus, so we should be in little doubt that any economic operation in West Papua will always be a front for Kopassus and its penchant and plans for domination, subversion, terrorism and security disturbances.
Given this, whenever there is any threat to the TNIs control, it will crack down on the people hard. It is in this context that the West Papuan people, led by students just like you, took to the streets on March 15 and 16 to defend their wantoks against the human rights abuses and oppression generated by the Freeport mine and occupation of West Papua. Students from the main university, UNCEN Cenderawasih (Bird of Paradise) in Abepura, just outside of Jayapura, took to the streets to defend their wantoks. Students, including Indonesian supporters, had also just been involved in the occupations of the PT Freeport HQ in Jakarta, which resulted in most of that building getting destroyed in the process. The military were incensed at this challenge to their 43 years of impunity and so issued orders to take out this movement.
The events of March 16 were captured on film by Father Peter Woods, who played it to the world when he got back to Australia a few days later. Immediately after the demonstration, students fled to the jungle behind the university where 16 bodies were later found at the most heavily guarded rubbish dump in the region.
I have just returned from a gruelling and harrowing mission to the West Papuan border to attempt to locate the entire university student body of West Papua, reportedly in hiding somewhere in the jungle to escape the brutality of the TNI. The results are not so good, with over 200 feared murdered, 23 in prison and 202 missing. We only accounted for 150 of these young leaders.
Students fanned out across West Papua, some hiding for a week, some heading east, and some trying to return to their houses only to find them burnt down and their families missing. The TNI were close behind them, and shot at sight. One group I met with described to me the helicopters chasing them and shooting randomly when they got to an area they had information the students were hiding in. One group tried to flee by boat, but the navy chased them down, rammed the boat and stabbed to death one student first in the water, then in the boat. They picked up three others and they are all in prison, being tortured daily.
A key student leader described in harrowing detail the situation with his mother. “After the March 16 clash at UNCEN, and at the18th (Saturday), Intel (POLRI) arrested my mother, then took her from the house to the university. They wanted to kill her in front of the university but she was struggling and shouting hard, and so they took her to POLDA and tortured her, burned her with cigarettes and beat her up for three days at the gaol. After three days, KOMNAS HAM and MRP came to the Police station and took her out from the station in an unconscious condition. Right now, she reported all these facts to KOMNAS HAM, and the police are harassing her daily to find me. Her life is in danger. After this they sent the Intel and are still doing so, to find out where I am.”
It has been confirmed through various sources that this is the case, although we are trying to get through to KOMNAS HAM for access to their documents to expand on the circumstances and status.
The TNI are currently massing on the border, preparing for an invasion of PNG. There is a massive buildup of heavy combat military hardware to find the students, and to launch an invasion across the border to PNG.
This invasion is imminent, and this will draw us into a conflict. At each border crossing there are four tanks, and in an area where the students were suspected there are now 2500 soldiers hunting them down. From the north coast to Sengi, there are 14,500 troops, and 13,500 to the south coast. On the PNG side, there are, well, 5 (five) soldiers.
Kopassus has always been the angkatan anjing penjagga (army guard dog) for Suharto and has always had its eyes on the resource of Papua New Guinea, ever since Suharto commanded Operasi Mandala, the invasion of West Papua. We must stand up against it. Even people in the ADF have asked people in Australia to get behind West Papua, as we do owe them our freedom. Tens of thousands of Papuans died defending us in World War Two, we owe them our very existence. Isn’t it time we fought for them?
Australian people must take action now, and be prepared. Kopassus wants war, and maybe some wars do need to be fought, albeit with different means, that are sustainable and non-violent, future building, not future destroying. The alternative is the total genocide of a people, again. We have true power in the countries that buy the goods from Indonesia, and it is time to take some strategic economic action by targeting their money makers. The Free West Papua campaign has come a long way in six months, and we need more people to take up the call and join with us.
We can make a difference here in Australia and it is our support that will help end this genocide. The actions of our government in appeasing Indonesia are so shameful that even Johnny’s own party are splitting like the mountains around Freeport. The change of our Immigration law is the same as the Swiss border guards turning back the Jews to the Nazis. Will you stand by and let our nearest neighbor suffer the genocide that has been going on for 43 years, or will you do something about it. We – ordinary people – did it with East Timor, and we can do it again. We need every university in Australia to have activities around West Papua and to organise in solidarity with their sibling students on our doorstep. We have already managed to make a very spectacular intervention at the Rio Tinto AGM in Melbourne earlier this year, and get the issue staying on the front page of the corporate media. We need volunteers and head inside. Let us together hear the cry of freedom of West Papua, raise the Morning Star Flag and Cry Merdeka!