In 2010, Biwangko, Jason MacLeod and Maire Leadbeater, met with student activists in Jayapura, the capital of West Papua. All of the young people present had been beaten or jailed by the Indonesian police for nothing more than peacefully demanding a referendum on independence. Some of them had been tortured and all knew people who had been killed by the Indonesian police. Many of them had been targeted simply for being young and black.
Maire and Jason mentioned that both the New Zealand and Australian Governments were funding and training the Indonesian police. Maire asked the Papuans present, ‘what do you think about that? The Papuan students were horrified that their neighbours in Australia and New Zealand would be supporting the Indonesian police in any way. One young man jumped to his feet, looked at Maire and Jason directly and shouted, ‘F#*k Australia and New Zealand!.
Maire went on to organise a campaign to stop New Zealand government funding for a controversial community policing program with the Indonesian police. Maire's success and the challenge to be a good neighbour from those young Papuans got Rosa and Jason, and other friends, thinking about how we might organise a similar campaign to enable people in Australia and elsewhere to stand up for West Papua. That's where the Make West Papua Safe campaign started.
Since then Peter Arndt from the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Brisbane and Rebecca Langley have joined us. Our friends from TAPOL are also involved. Papuans from the West Papuan diaspora have also become active. But the key relationships are with people inside West Papua. We have gotten to know the families of the five school children killed by the Indonesian police and military in Paniai. The family members, Church leaders and Papuan human rights defenders have asked people outside West Papua, in countries whose governments defend and fund the Indonesian police, to use their privilege and power to nonviolently disrupt and ultimately stop foreign government support for the Indonesian police. If you are from a place like Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, other parts of Europe, Canada or the United States of America – all countries who prop up the Indonesian police occupation of West Papua – our friends from inside West Papua have a very simple message: ‘foreign government support for the Indonesian police in West Papua only creates more effective human rights abusers.
Working together – Papuans inside the country and their friends outside the country – with a smart strategy, we can win.