Opinion: The British Empire: A legacy of violence?
HONOLULU (AP) – I have just returned from a trip to West Papua, which is now an independent state of Papua New Guinea. (It is also called New Guinea.) A visit to West Papua is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You enter with a sense of apprehension. Then, you see for yourself the astonishing power of history being created. History has been made. The violence is over.
A little more than 40 years ago, West Papua was conquered by the forces of the Indonesian military. The violence continued for 20 years. When I arrived in 1969 as a Peace Corps volunteer in what had just become an independent country, there were still killings everyday. I am told about these killings every three hours all over the country.
The reason that the violence continued is rooted in the Indonesian military’s attempt to make the people in West Papua disappear. The military wanted to make its own people disappear. The military did this by creating a culture where killing was the only way to go, rather than working for peace and human rights.
As I went up and down the streets, some of the civilians I met shared their memories of how they had lived. I heard how the military had killed their children. I heard how the troops killed their grandchildren. They had been made to believe that they did not exist. The military used the local language, English, to talk to them. They told them how to live in a way that would show them to be irrelevant. How to show them that they were not important.
The violence continued for 20 years because the Indonesian military was only interested in the elimination of the people they did not wish to have in their country. They did not care about the people. They killed their own people. The soldiers were not interested in being good fathers. They were interested in becoming dead men.
In the 30 years from 1975 to 2001, there were no peace processes. Violence continued. Human rights were suppressed. The UN Security Council imposed economic sanctions on Indonesia, which have affected its people’s livelihoods. The economy became ruined. Tens of thousands of people lost their livelihoods. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes. Some of the most impoverished people I know now live in one of the least-developed places on the planet.
The violence continued under the