Southeast Asia Theater
Another escalation in the ongoing struggle in West Papua. From AP, March 20:
Calm returned to Papua Province yesterday after three days of tension following a deadly protest against a massive US-owned gold mine in the eastern Indonesian province.
A rather ironic way to note the 20th anniversary of the "People Power" revolution that ousted longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. Those who marched in Manila to commemorate the revolution over the weekend did so in defiance of a state of emergency that bans all public gatherings. (BBC, Feb. 27) And one of those arrested in the alleged plot against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is a hero of the 1986 revolution. Details from this Feb. 27 Al-Jazeera account:
The latest escalation of the secret war in West Papua is even more eclipsed from the news than usual by the current hideous escalation in Iraq. But, as we witnessed in India last month, tribal peoples armed with bows and arrows are confronting state security forces with automatic weapons to defend their lands. You can be sure they are paying closer attention in the board rooms of Freeport McMoRan...
Indonesia's Environment Ministry is evidently caught between ecologists and nationalists demanding a tougher line on foreign corporate polluters and a judiciary that seems beholden to the corporate shadow government. The New York Times noted Feb. 17 that under the terms of the $30 million out-of-court settlement (termed a "goodwill agreement"), the government will drop its $135 suit filed against Newmont Mining of Colorado after villagers near its gold mine at Buyat Bay in North Sulawesi developed tumors, rashes and other illnesses caused by mine waste. From the Jakarta Post, Feb. 18:
Multiple ethnic struggles in Indonesia made headlines over the New Year's weekend. On Jan. 2, local police announced they have detained at least one man in connection with the New Year's Eve bombing at a Christian market in Palu, Central Sulawesi, in which seven people were killed and 56 wounded. The town is some 300 kilometers west of Poso, where three Christian schoolgirls were decapitated on their way to school Oct. 29 by presumed Islamic militants. The province has seen escalating violence between its roughly equal Christian and Muslim communities. (AKI, Jan. 2)
Well, more than 40 years after the damage is done, the government comes clean on the lies that got the US into the Vietnam War. We guess it must be official now that its in the New York Times. But even the Times (whose own recently-sacked Judith Miller similarly parroted White House malarky) notes the disturbing sense of deja vu here. Its good to see this in print, and its good that Miller got the sack—but is the world going to have to wait 40 years before the full story of Bush's WMD deception is revealed? And by then how many will have been killed in Iraq?
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) is calling for support for a congressional letter to Indonesian President Yudhoyono now circulating in the US House of Representatives. The letter asks Yudhoyono to end ongoing military operations in West Papua and open up the province to international observers.
The Indonesian government and the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM) signed a peace deal in Finland Aug. 15 aimed at ending the local war which has claimed 15,000 lives in over 29 years. "This is the beginning of a new era for Aceh," said former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who mediated the talks. "Much hard work lies ahead." Efforts to end the conflict quickened after the tsunami in December, which devastated much of Aceh. In the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, big screens were set up in the main mosque so that people could witness the signing in Helsinki.