Voices from the Front Lines: For All Life – On the frontlines of Papua

3 December 2019

“For all life” €“ this was the cry echoed across the opening of both the Indigenous People’s Pavilion and the Plenary on day one of COP25. “For the lives of our children, our grandchildren, and future generations.” This seems a simple sentiment , but for those defending environmental justice and human rights on the frontlines, this sentiment continues to go unheard €“ and indigenous lives are the price being paid. Yesterday the Indigenous People’s caucus stood in solidarity with the Papuan people for the raising of the Morning Star Flag, a symbol of Papuan independence from the occupying state of Indonesia. On December 1st, four Papuan people were arrested for raising this flag in Papua, which is illegal in the Indonesian occupied territories.

In 1962 the United Nations facilitated the transfer of administration of West Papua from the Dutch colonisers to Indonesia. Following that, in 1969 the United Nations oversaw the so-called “Act of Free Choice” referendum, in which West Papuan leaders would vote for or against Papuan independence. Around a thousand tribal representatives were escorted at gunpoint and forced to vote in favour of Indonesian sovereignty. Since the 1970s, the extraction of minerals, especially gold, within Papua has been a key part of Indonesian economic growth. The logging of Kwila for global export has been equally important. An estimated 100,000 Papuans have since been killed by the Indonesian government, as they stand in protection of their lands, resources and their sovereignty. Strong military acts of violence and repression continue to inhibit free speech, free media, and free internet access.

Violence towards indigenous people continues to be facilitated by states and international bodies on behalf of extractive industries. Free West Papua is just one of a myriad of frontlines across the globe including Standing Rock in the United States, the Amazon rainforest, Djab Wurrung in Australia, Ihumātao in Aotearoa and beyond. These communities continue to put their lives on the line in protection of the environment and their sacred relationships with place and people. The need to address systemic violence against indigenous people and the environment by extension must be at the forefront of all climate justice. For all life €“ for the life of our lands, our waters, our forests, our ice and our people €“ that is the basis of true climate justice.   

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