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  • Writer's pictureRed Line Producer

Episode 02. West Papua (Bows Against Helicopters)

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Only swimming distance from the borders of Australia lies the island of Guinea, where half the population is currently fighting to become free from an increasingly strict Indonesian government. Featuring helicopters, phosphorus, and corruption throughout, the West Papuan movement sees people dying every day at the hand of one of Australia's closest neighbours.



Raki Ap

  • Leading voice in the Free West Papua movement

  • Campaigns to the UN and has worked with the Dutch Ministry of the Interior

Dr. Janet Steele

  • Director for The Institute of Public Diplomacy and Global Communication

  • Professor of Media and Public Affairs

  • Published several papers about the East Timorese movement

Jason MacLeod

  • Educator, organiser and researcher who taught Community Development and Politics at the University of Queensland.

  • Teaches civil resistance training and education for people in non-democracies at the University of Sydney

  • Author of Merdeka and the Morning Star: Civil Resistance in West Papua


Part 1: Every Dog has its Day (00:53)

  • Raki Ap takes us through the demographic, geographic and historically overview of West Papua. Critically, we look at the state within the contexts of the island of Guinea and the wider Asia-Pacific.

  • We look at what sparked the protests and conflict; the inequality faced by West Papuans in the Indonesian health, education, and political systems.

  • We trace the colonial history of West Papua, looking at the transition process from the Dutch to the Indonesians and the unfulfilled promises of self-determination.

  • Indonesia has sought to suppress dissent in West Papua, including cutting off the internet, shooting at protesters and launching cyberattacks.


Part 2: A Pebble in the Shoe (11:15)

  • Dr Janet Steele helps us understand the West Papuan conflict in the context of its southern neighbour who successfully gained independence, Timor-Leste.

  • We trace the history of the state, through Portuguese colonial and revolutionary history, the Indonesian invasion 9 days after independence from Portugal, the respective Indonesian and Timorese perspectives on the impact Indonesia had, and the tens of thousands who died.

  • We look at the factors that made Timor-Leste's independence movement successful; how it started, the involvement of foreign press in publicising brutality of the Indonesian crackdown and the state of the Indonesian economy and government at the time.

  • Finally we look at the referendum itself; the international observation, the overwhelming support for independence, the immediate Indonesian violence following the results and the international intervention.


Part 3: Vested Interest (22:32)

  • Jason MacLeod runs us through on-the-ground situation in West Papua, and recounts how elders in West Papua who were involved in their accession to Indonesia was essentially at gunpoint.

  • We look at the military situation, which includes extra-judicial police operations from the civilian police, the paramilitary police and the counter insurgency police, as well as the growth of militia groups coordinated by the Indonesian military.

  • There is a drastic difference when comparing the violence and casualties on each side. With no violence towards civilians and a lack of military options, one of the only deaths the Indonesian military has suffered is one soldier who was killed by a bow and arrow.

  • Finally we analyse the geopolitical strategies in play; Indonesia is seeking to occupy and displace the West Papuans. Papua New Guinea has indicated some interest in uniting the island of Guinea, but lacks power or resources. Australia is involved in training Indonesian police and supports the Indonesian government as per the Lombok agreement.


The Red Line's West Papua Reading List:

We’ve put together some further reading for those of you looking for more resources to help you get across the geopolitics of West Papua.


Merdeka and the Morning Star: Civil Resistance in West Papua

Jason MacLeod



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This episode is dedicated to Patreon member Hunter.


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