Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State, the Honorable Condeleezza Rice, testified before the House International Relations Committee. During the hearing, Congressman Faleomavaega asked Secretary Rice to support West Papua New Guinea’s right to self-determination and excerpts from his statement are included in this release.
“In response to President Bush’s State of the Union address in which he talked about ‘our generational commitment to the advance of freedom’ and in which he said ‘America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world’ and that ‘our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures,’ I want to bring to your attention the plight of West Papua New Guinea,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“There is a consensus among many that the Island of New Guinea was settled by a people from West Africa. In 1883, the Island of New Guinea came under colonial rule and was partitioned by three western powers. The Dutch claimed the western half while the British and the Germans divided the eastern half.”
“In 1949, the Dutch granted independence to the colonies of the former Dutch East Indies, including the Republic of Indonesia, but the Dutch retained West Papua New Guinea and in 1950 prepared the territory for independence. Indonesia, however, upon achieving independence, demanded all former territories of the Dutch East Indies and Portuguese Colonial Empires, including West Papua and East Timor and, under the leadership of military Dictator Sukarno, sent troops to militarily occupy both slaughtering and murdering some 100,000 West Papuans and over 200,000 East Timorese.”
“In 1962, the United States mediated an agreement between the Dutch and Indonesia but without any West Papuan representation. Under terms of the agreement, the Dutch were to leave West Papua and transfer sovereignty to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority, known as UNTEA, for a period of 6 years, after which time a national election would be held to determine West Papua's political status. But almost immediately after this agreement was reached, Indonesia violated the terms of the transfer and took over the administration of West Papua from the United Nations.”
“In 1969, Indonesia orchestrated an election that many regarded as a brutal military operation. In what became to be known as an ‘act of no-choice,' 1,025 West Papua elders under heavy military surveillance were selected to vote on behalf of 809,327 West Papuans on the territory's political status. The UN Representative sent to observe the election process produced a report which outlined various and serious violations of the United Nations Charter.”
“In spite of the "duly noted" report and in spite also of testimonials from the press, the opposition of fifteen countries and the cries of help from the Papuans themselves, West Papua was handed over to Indonesia in November 1969. Since the Indonesian government seized control of West Papua , the Papuans have suffered blatant human rights abuses, including extrajudicial executions, imprisonment, torture and, according to Afrim Djonbalic's 1998 statement to the United Nations, ‘environmental degradation, natural resource exploitation, and commercial dominance of immigrant communities.’”
“It might be fair at this point to note that West Papua New Guineans differ racially from the majority of Indonesians,” Faleomavaega said. “West Papuans are Melanesian, believed to be of African descent. It might also be fair to point out that the United States rendered no assistance to West Papua. In fact, as early as 1961, Robert Johnson of the National Security Council Staff wrote a letter to Mr. Bundy, the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, noting that the United States ‘must conclude that it is in our interests that a solution be devised which will lead to accession of West New Guinea to Indonesia.’”
“In other words, it was our national policy to sacrifice the lives and future of some 800,000 West Papua New Guineans to the Indonesian military in exchange, supposedly, for Sukarno and Sukarto to become our friends, and yet they organize the most repressive military regimes ever known in the history of Indonesia. And now, as of 2005, the U.S. intends to certify full IMET for Indonesia while our brothers and sisters in West Papua New Guinea live a struggle of our making.”
“Madame Secretary, the U.S. essentially confined the people of West Papua to a life without liberty and as Ghandi said, ‘To deprive a man of his natural liberty and to deny him the ordinary amenities of life is worse than starving the body; it is starvation of the soul. This said, I am hopeful that we will make right our wrongs, particularly as we now have a President who has publicly stated that ‘we are all part of a great venture – To extend the promise of freedom in our country, to renew the values that sustain our liberty, and to spread the peace that freedom brings.’ In my opinion,” Faleomavaega said, “the President’s mantra must and should include West Papua New Guinea.”
In his State of the Union address, President Bush said, ‘As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you’ and I am hopeful that this means the Administration will support West Papua’s right to self-determination through a referendum or plebiscite sanctioned by the UN as was done for East Timor – not by the barrel of a gun – but by the casting of a vote for as Gandhi said, ‘Till we are fully free, we are slaves.’”
“Madame Secretary, I would like to hear your views about the people of West Papua New Guinea, their struggle to be free, and whether or not there is commitment on the part of the U.S. to help them live, not as slaves, but in freedom as envisioned by President Bush and by all Americans,” the Congressman concluded.