• Short Summary

    This is the Djajapura residence of the United Nations Special Envoy on West Irian - Mr.

  • Description

    This is the Djajapura residence of the United Nations Special Envoy on West Irian - Mr. Fernando Ortis Sanz. The street where I'm standing was filled with some two-hundred West Irianese calling for freedom of speech last April.

    As far as demonstrations go, the number was small - but it was significant in that this was the first time the world heard of any open protest against Indonesian authority in the former Dutch territory. The people gathered here because they believed the United Nations would help them. This they still believe - although at least six people were arrested immediately after the demonstration and remain in custody today - despite an assurance given to Mr. Ortiz Sanz that nobody had been arrested or would be. There are no demonstrations in West Irian today...But from the moment a visitor like myself enters the territory, he's a target for clandestine contacts from People claiming to be members of the Operasi Papua Merdeka...the "Free Papua Movement". They'll hand you letters -- like this one -- addressed to the Australian nation..The letters carry all sorts of allegations against the Indonesians..Here are some quotes...

    "Indonesian shots its propaganda to the world that it is carrying out its ascertainment of the people's opinion in West Irian in a democratic manner. This is untrue nonsense.." and further on: "Undisciplined troops have now been stationed in the villages. They are not just pursuing OPM men, but are looting and destroying the property of the people. Pigs, chickens and goats are shot and eaten, the fruits and vegetables in the gardens are carried off and the young plants destroyed and burned. Many huts in the villages have been burned. Girls are stolen at gunpoint from their parents, and forced into prostitution...."
    The letter is headed "Statement by the People of West Irian.." It is signed; but I cannot identify the standing of the man who wrote it. It's almost impossible to assess how much following the OPM receives from the people. Wherever I went in the territory I found people were reluctant to talk openly about what was going on.

    This is the entry port for visitors to West Irian...the island of Biak off the Northern Coast. It's widely regarded as a major centre of OPM activity. Today it's quiet. There appear to be no more soldiers here than anywhere else in Indonesia.

    Children play in the harbor as they have since the first colonial days. The ships are unleading supplies from Singapore and Djakarta without any significant port security. Yet there were undertones of tension. At the police head-quarters and at an army barracks, the Indonesian flag flew at halfmast. When I asked the reason, nobody there would tell me why.

    An Indonesian citizen from Sumatra when I met casually, surprised me by delivering a diatribe against his own countrymen. He said there was no freedom of speech -- and the people on Biak were afraid to talk. He claimed that although the assembly members had been freely chosen at one election witnessed by the United Nations -- elsewhere on the island they were appointed by the authorities.

    I attempted to see the Island's military commander - an airforce major - but was told he was busy. We were not permitted to enter the airbase -- nor the naval base on the far side of the island. Both these bases are claimed to be housing political detainees arrested in a security sweep through the island from the middle of April.

    Meanwhile, in the capital of Djajapura, Indonesian and Australian officials have opened a continuing dialogue on the problem of West Irian refugees...the Territory's Military Commander Brigadier General Sarwo Edhie has described these as "simple people" who'd gone into the jungles on the premise they'd get military training. He said they'd gone over the border because they felt guilty for what they had done -- and feared punishment. He save 'ordinary people' can cross the border any time they like..but adds that people trying to distribute what he termed "propaganda " were criminals and would be pursued. One of these was shot dead just outside the town, shortly before we arrived...He was a courier -- and I was told he had his hands up and was calling for mercy.

    These days Djajapura is quiet with an under-current of urgent activity as the United Nations Fund for West Irian tries to repair an infrastructure crippled by years of neglect - and it's alleged widely - by plunder. But because of the difficulty in getting equipment and supplies to the territory - ships won't call unless they have a minimum guarantee of six-hundred tons of cargo - the FUNDWI programme is grinding along in low gear. Before wresting control of this territory from the Butch, the Sukarno regime premised West Irian liberation from colonialism and a better way of life. Papuans who once believed this now say they were given empty promises.

    It is in fact that some twelve million dollars - half the total finance of the UN fund for West Irian - will be devoted merely to rehabilitating equipment and facilities left behind by the Dutch.

    There are tremendous natural barriers which would severely curb development projects backed by even a well-financed administration. In the highlands, airstrips can only be located in the relatively few places where valleys don't plunge almost vertically from the very crest of mountain ranges. These were problems which hampered development by the Dutch...for the Indonesian administration, which has few aircraft, and almost no communications links - the only answer has been to lean on the missionary groups who opened up the country in the first place and whose mission stations have become the point of contact for the people.

    This is Wamena, the administrative centre of one West Irians eight regencies - Djajawidjaja - and the major settlement in the central highlands. The Indonesians themselves admit that ninety percents of these highland tribesmen know little or nothing of the meaning of the act of self determination. They have no wider interest than in continuing to live under the same traditions and rights as they always have. Whether they are able to enjoy these a minimum guarantee seems debatable. Wamena is it the fortunate position, that it can regularly receive supplies...its airstrip is big enough to take a DC three...but in the satellite centres tucked in almost inaccessible corners of the mountains...troops and police - cut off from an assured supply of goods and companionship - have been known to steal livestock for food and assault women in the villages. Reliable sources say these instances are not wide-scale, but they do occur...

    This is Bokondini - a settlement balanced on the fringe of a gorge, fifteen minute flying time away. The local administration officer have is said to be a good man for the job. He has removed those who've incurred the peoples displeasure. But that the central administration merely transferred them to other areas of the territory. Many of a "Siberia" a place they neither like nor want to remain in. They have little in common with the place either ethnically, culturally or religiously. Most of them are Moslem in an alien Christian society.

    Lately, United Nations observers have been active in moving through these outlying areas...but their travelling began late. They've seen less than twenty percent of the selective process which formed the Consultative Assemblies throughout the territory...and the role has been confined within the terms of reference of the 1962 New York Agreement...They have the right of observation only - not to make any judgments nor express any opinions. This was stressed by their head of mission - Mr. Fernando Ortiz Sanz, who has said - and I quote: The United Nations has not been given by the New York Agreement any authority for taking decisions in this problem, so I do not feel the United Nations should be forced to make express comments on the results of the Act of Free Choice..."
    This then is the territory which in just over two weeks' time is to stage an act of self determination provided for in an agreement signed in New York in 1962.

    A senior diplomat who's studied the agreement carefully - and who's travelled West Irian widely - has described the formality as (quote) a diplomatic farce.

    On the other hand, of the few West Irianese who know anything of the real implications behind it - most believe there IS a United Nations guarantee that the people's choice will be observed. The fact that they are wrong and the United Nations role has been merely to advise the Indonesians, will only be brought home on August the seventeenth...when the result will be announced by the Indonesian President in Djakarta. No informed observers - least of all the Indonesians - believe there will be any other decision than that the spokesmen now appointed will decide that the territory should remain with Indonesia. President Suharto himself has said that any other decision would be considered a betrayal...now over to Jim Revitt in Kuala Lumpur.

  • Tags

  • Data

    Film ID:
    VLVABR7IHGCUFN85LYSP6TUN82Y4E
    Media URN:
    VLVABR7IHGCUFN85LYSP6TUN82Y4E
    Group:
    Reuters - Source to be Verified
    Archive:
    Reuters
    Issue Date:
    01/01/1969
    Sound:
    Unknown
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Stock:
    Black & White
    Duration:
    00:06:19:00
    Time in/Out:
    /
    Canister:
    N/A

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