Who profits from War on West Papua?
On July 6, 2022, Wage Peace launched War on West Papua, a website that traces the international suppliers and facilitators of Indonesian state violence in the occupied lands of the Papuan people. July 6 is the anniversary of the 1998 Biak Massacre in West Papua, where Indonesian soldiers used German boats, US planes, French machine guns and English rifles to massacre hundreds of people at a protest for independence. The War on West Papua website focuses on the military equipment used in atrocities like the Biak Massacre. We see the terror inflicted in the name of ‘investment’ and ‘security’ as a logical consequence of the weapons, training and political-diplomatic support foreign nations provide. The site is intended to be a resource for solidarity activists in weapons-producing countries, to enable us to take meaningful action in our own towns and cities to end the violence in West Papua.
The indigenous peoples of West Papua have been struggling for freedom from extractivism and Indonesian military occupation for 60 years. Exploited by the Netherlands during the 18th and 19th centured, on December 1, 1961, West Papuans had called for decolonisation and raised the Morning Star flag. Dutch colonial authorities ignored the people and instead brokered a UN agreement to hand control to Indonesia. A full-scale Indonesian military invasion began 1963.
Indonesian state violence is supported by foreign states and weapons corporations as a business investment. Indonesia imports billions worth of weapons each year from Europe and the US. Exported weapons and skills transfers further act to ensure that ‘trade partnerships’, aka extractivist projects, continue to generate profit despite the efforts of local people to save their rivers, farmland and forests. We know that Indonesian state violence against West Papuans originates in the corporate boardrooms of the global north, where politicians, investors and arms dealers plan their profits. Our site, waronwestpapua.org, details the weapons sales that emerge from these boardrooms, and provides the names and addresses of the arms dealers who are making a killing in West Papua.
The idea for waronwestpapua.org arose in a conversation between peace activists from Australia, West Papua and the UK. The site was then co-created by Wage Peace, from Australia, War Resisters International, based in London, and Pasifika from Vanuatu. Research began in 2020. We looked at various government records, United Nations reports, databases compiled by the peace movement and accounts of human rights violations in West Papua. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, was invaluable. Wikipedia was very handy, too. To accurately trace which weapons had harmed people in West Papua, bizarrely, military ‘fan’ groups and social media accounts were our best sources. Individual soldiers and police openly and proudly display and name the guns, vehicles, missiles, tanks, helicopters they are using, posting images completes with dates and locations. Entering this online world, where heavily armed men boast about their capacity for violence, was horrible. The deeper violence, however, is found on the websites of the multinational corporations selling these weapons.
To view the marketing materials and websites of companies like Thales, Rheinmetall, BAE, Elbit, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon is to look the death cult of late-stage capitalism right in the eyes. The dystopia they present, of a world ‘kept safe’ by organised violence, is matched by a profound aesthetic dissonance. Clean and cool colours, design and text is deployed to describe technology that maims, burns, explodes and literally tears human bodies apart. Arms dealers speak of ‘soft target acquisition’ when what they mean is ‘kill other people’. The language and imagery of these sites are so sanitised you could easily believe the world they operate in is devoid of life forms. No soil, no plants or animals and definitely no blood, skin or bone. The disparity between this technocratic, dehumanising discourse and the emotive, bloody, embodied accounts of our friends in West Papua could not be greater. Of all the difficult material I encountered while working on War on West Papua, the weapons company content was far and away the most disturbing. Look, be shocked and block!
Since 2018 Wage Peace has worked in collaboration with activists in West Papua and across the diaspora towards our shared goal: demilitarization and decolonization of Papuan lands. Over five years Wage Peace has run actions at many Australian sites where state violence is produced, sites of Indonesian military and police training, sites of ‘investor diplomacy’ and sites of policy making. We have run multiple actions at Australian Federal Police and SAS facilities, where Indonesian special forces train as part of a ‘military cooperation’ deal with Australia. We have engaged in political correspondence, arranged meetings between West Papuan human rights activists and parliamentarians, organised press conferences and exposed Australia’s links to Indonesian militarism. All the while, we were discovering more about the weapons companies making millions from Indonesian occupation.
In 2022, Wage Peace launched a new campaign connected to waronwestpapua.org, to focus our activism sharply on the Australian branches of global weapons corporations that export to West Papua. Peace in Papua is a direct-action campaign targeting the factories and offices of arms dealers selling to Indonesia. During 2022 we organised sit-ins, occupations, and blockades at the factories, offices and conventions where violence against Papuans is manufactured. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Thales, Elbit and EOS have all had a taste of our disruptive tactics.
On August 28 2022, Peace In Papua activists closed the Rheinmetall factory in Brisbane Australia, standing across the gate holding ‘War Begins Here’ banners. Workers were unable to enter to make weapons for more than 2 hours. Activists also held memorial photos of people killed by security forces in Papua during 2020-22.
In September 2022 Peace in Papua activists teamed up with friends from Rheinmetall Entwaffnen to blockade Germany’s largest arms manufacturer: Rheinmetall. Over the past twenty years Rheinmetall has exported hundreds of tanks, bombs and munitions to Indonesia. In 2014 Rheinmetall signed an agreement with Indonesia’s state-owned PT Pindad to manufacture Rheinmetall ammunition in Indonesia.
On September 2, 2022, West Papuan activist Raki Ap traveled from his home in Netherlands to join the blockade camp at Rheinmetall’s main factory in Kassel, Germany. There, Raki joined anti-militarism activists Rheinmetall Entwaffnen and Peace in Papua to reveal the impact of weapons and militarism in Papua. After the discussion, friends from Germany, Netherlands and Australia took action in front of the main Rheinmetall factory, demanding ‘Stop selling weapons to Indonesia’ and ‘Return the land of the Papuan people’! The mobilization in Kassel continued for a week.
Solidarity Without Borders / Solidaritas Tampa Batas
The civil resistance in West Papua is steadfast, creative, diverse and growing. Wage Peace is working closely with organisers in West Papua towards our shared goal of ending Indonesian state violence in the occupied territory. Papuans are calling for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops and the start of peaceful dialogue. We are calling for a ban on military exports to Indonesia, a suspension of joint military and police training, and an end to diplomatic silence about the violence. Solidarity and peace activists in Aotearoa, Germany, Korea and the US have aligned with the Peace in Papua program and are taking action to end Indonesian state violence in West Papua. Waronwestpapua.org has all the information you need to adapt this campaign to your own context. Contact us any time you want to connect, browse our resources at Wage Peace, or just head to your local arms dealer and tell them their business is killing us!
Towards the freedom of all.