The story of “post colonial” begins on August 17, 1945 when Sukarno declared Indonesia an independent and independent and free nation. The Dutch colonization of Indonesia had begun in 1602 with the establishment of the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch controlled all aspects of Indonesian life and its great wealth of natural resources including its vast quantities of oil and natural gas until the Japanese military invaded in 1942. Sukarno became the newly independent Indonesia’s first president in 1945. Much of Sukarno’s popularity came from his strong opposition to colonialism and the exploitation of people and resources in poor and exploited lands. President Sukarno, ten years after becoming president of Indonesia, held a conference April 18-24 of 1955, the Bandung Conference to encourage and map out strategies for independent economic and social development free from the control or dictates of any European country, the U.S. or the USSR. Attendees of the first Bandung Conference included Burma, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, Indonesia, Pakistan. It was also attended by 18 other countries from Asia-Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Nepal, Peoples Republic of China, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Vietnam, Syria, Thailand, Turkey and Yemen. From Africa there was Egypt, Ethiopia, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Liberia, Libya and Sudan.
The Bandung Conference and the concept and creation of the Non-Aligned movement (not aligned with or under the control of Europe, the U.S. or USSR’s interests or influence) was seen as a threat, particularly to the U.S.. The very concept presented a grave threat to the hegemonic interests of the U.S.. Within three years of the conference many Indonesians would pay with their lives for the audacity of wanting to be free and attempting to control their own destinies and resources. Indonesia’s President Sukarno did seem to fully believe in and hold to the concept of Non-Alignment, wanting true independence, favoring neither Moscow or Washington. Indonesia did have a large communist party, the PKI, and this would be a factor in U.S. actions to come. Sukarno’s determination to maintain control over Indonesian Oil and other natural resources put him on a collision course with the U.S. Even though Sukarno had no affiliation with the PKI President Eisenhower labeled Sukarno a communist and his administration and the CIA went to work spreading misinformation and in 1957 and 1958 The U.S. began to carry out attacks on the civilian population. In 1958 the U.S. began to bomb Indonesian ships and airports in eastern Indonesia. On May 18, 1958 a B-26 piloted by Allen L. Pope after bombing a navel vessel at the port city of Ambon, he then flew over the city bombing a church and the central market, killing over 700 civilians. Pope was shot down and was imprisoned until February of 1962 when then U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy visited Indonesia. Pope was released as a good will gesture after Kennedy had spoken with Sukarno.
The Suharto Coup detate of September 30, 1965 and its subsequent mass killings began with a group of officers loyal to Suharto abducting and killing six generals that were loyal to Sukarno. Suharto then went immediately to spread the fabrication that the six were killed by the PKI and and military officers loyal to the PKI. In John Roosa’s excellent book on this subject “Pretext For Mass Murder” he writes “It has been difficult to believe that a political party, consisting entirely of civilians, could command a military operation. How could civilians order military personnel to carry out their bidding?” Numbers of those killed vary widely from 250,000 to a million Indonesian civilians. The main purpose for this crime was to destroy the Indonesian Left and to eliminate Sukarno with his Non-Aligned Movement.
In a May 1990 article on U.S. involvement in the coup, Kathy Kadane writes: “The U.S. government played a significant role in one of the worst massacres of the century by supplying the names of thousands of communist party leaders to the Indonesian army, which hunted down the leftists and killed them, former U.S. diplomats say. For the first time U.S. officials acknowledge that in 1965 they systematically compiled lists of communist operatives, from top echelons down to village cadres. As many as 5,000 names were furnished to the Indonesian army, and the Americans later checked off the names of those who had been killed or captured, according to the U.S. officials.” The U.S. was an active participant in one of the 20th century’s worst mass murders.
The Indonesian province of West Papua has been enduring one of the world’s longest running and most extreme cases of ongoing human rights abuse. On December 1, 1961, the First Papua Congress votes to rename the territory “West Papua” and the Morning Star flag was raised, signifying their nationhood, independence, and sovereignty as a nation. On August 14, 1962, Indonesia dropped hundreds of paratroopers into West Papua. In 1962, President Kennedy and the U.S. government forced the Netherlands to sign on he transfer of West Papua to Indonesia without Papuan consent.
Since that occurred, over 500,000 civilians have been killed. Thousands more have been raped, tortured, imprisoned, or have “disappeared” after having been detained. Many in the international human rights community see what is happening in West Papua as a deliberate, ongoing process of genocide of West Papua’s indigenous people. They cute the case of the “Biak Massacre” in which over 200 people including women and children were rounded up by the Indonesian military, loaded onto vessels, taken to the sea, and thrown overboard.
The use of torture by the Indonesian military on the indigenous population is widespread as is rape and sexual assault by the military and police against the indigenous population. The Indonesian military has been able to act with impunity with the full support of the U.S. and Great Britain.
Another faction in the West Papua story has been the U.S. mining company Freeport-McMoRan which mines copper and gold. In its original contract from 1967, Indonesia gave Freeport “the exclusive right to enter upon and to take possession of and to occupy the project area.” This resulted in the forced relocation of about 2,000 indigenous West Papuans. Since that time, the perceived needs and desires of both Freeport and the government in Jakarta always took precedence over the people of West Papua. Another joint project of the U.S., Great Britain, and Indonesia was the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. The U.S. and Britain gave Indonesia their blessings and millions of dollars worth of weapons and armaments to carry out the invasion with ease. By 1999 when East Timor regained its independence, 200,000 of the nation’s 700,000 population had been killed.
Aside from providing Indonesia with armaments, the U.S. regularly holds joint training exercises with the Indonesian military. They do this with the Philippines as well where over 1,500 extra-judicial killings of activists, human rights workers, and journalists have occurred since 2001 and are continuing to happen. These joint military training and exercises are the Asian parallel of the School of the Americas which has trained Latin American militaries and dictators to torture and carry out extra-judicial killings throughout Latin America since the end of World War 2. The parallels and ongoing practice has gone on far too long and can still be seen with regularity in The Philippines. Speak out to end extra-judicial killings whenever and wherever they occur.
I welcome your thoughts and ideas. -Brian McAfee [email protected]