France and US military sales to Indonesia: West Papua and Christians

France and US military sales to Indonesia: West Papua and Christians

Noriko Watanabe and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

America and France – similar to other democratic nations – are quick to condemn China concerning human rights. However, human rights are selective depending on the economic and geopolitical angle. Hence, irrespective of whether democratic nations including America, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom – or nations including China, Iran, and the Russian Federation – human rights mean little when it comes to military sales and respective geopolitical concerns.

The announcement of important military contracts procured by Indonesia concerning advanced military weapons from America and France sums up the hypocritical human rights narrative. After all, how can nations be concerned about Muslims in Xinjiang and Buddhists in Tibet – however, the same nations care little about Christian Papuans in West Papua.

Indonesia plugs the Javanese angle alongside other ethnic groups moving to West Papua. Also, the Islamic angle is altering the religious dynamics of West Papua. Hence, indigenous West Papuans – often abused for being dark-skinned – face cultural, ethnic, political, and religious marginalization.

America said, “The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Indonesia of F-15ID Aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $13.9 billion.

Further information released by America said, “The Government of Indonesia has requested to buy up to thirty-six (36) F-15ID aircraft.” 

Prabowo Subianto, the Defense Minister of Indonesia, uttered, “We are planning to acquire 42 Rafale aircraft… We started this today with the signing of a contract for six aircraft, to be followed soon with another for 36 with necessary support and simulators…”

In 2020, Reuters reported, “In the past year there have been sporadic and deadly attacks involving security forces and indigenous Papuans, including the killing of several Papuan minors and a pastor in recent months… The United Nations human rights body on Monday expressed concern over reports of extrajudicial killings and escalating violence in the region.”

Modern Tokyo Times said, concerning West Papua and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, that “The non-Muslim indigenous of West Papua (Indonesia) and the Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bangladesh) have been abandoned by the international community for decades, the result being enormous negative ethnic changes, Islamization, and cementing the rule of Bangladesh and Indonesia respectively. Hence, the mainly Buddhist ethnic groups of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and predominantly Christian Papuans face the brutal reality of Islamization, ethnic nationalism being pushed for geopolitical purposes, and losing control over natural resources. Therefore, the indigenous of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and West Papua are being forced on the margins, while various Islamic religious networks are pushing the religious angle.”

Related to a statement by the West Papua Council of Churches (WPCC), Free West Papua says, “The council points out that expansion of military and police bases in West Papua is ‘camouflage to hide the occupation of the Land of Papua for the benefit of exploiting natural resources’. In the central highlands, the focal point of Indonesia’s military operations, the enormous Wabu Block gold deposits were discovered recently, sparking a rush to exploit the natural resources against the wishes of Indigenous Papuans.”

The Guardian reports, “Indonesia has controlled West Papua since invading in 1963 and formalizing its annexation through the controversial, UN approved, ‘Act of Free Choice’. Security forces are accused of severe human rights violations during the occupation with an estimated 500,000 Papuans killed.”

The President of the Fellowship of Baptist Churches of West Papua, Reverend Socratez Sofyan Yoman, said, “We have received reports that at least 60,000 Papuan people from our congregations have currently evacuated to the surrounding districts, including some who have crossed into Papua New Guinea.”

Overall, the major military sales of America and France to Indonesia highlight how hollow human rights are to both nations. It will also further setback the demands of the West Papuans to be free from Indonesian rule. After all, the vested economic, geopolitical, and military sales come first to all leading powers – irrespective of whether democratic or undemocratic.

Pity the West Papuans! FREE WEST PAPUA West Papua


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