Source: New Statesman
The theft of West Papua’s mineral wealth must end. The province’s courageous resistance movement deserves nothing less.
When General Suharto, the west’s man, seized power in Indonesia in the mid-1960s, he offered "a gleam of light in Asia", rejoiced Time magazine. That he had killed up to a million "communists" was of no account in the acquisition of what Richard Nixon called "the richest hoard of natural resources, the greatest prize in South-east Asia".
In November 1967, the booty was handed out at an extraordinary conference in a lakeside hotel in Geneva. The participants included the most powerful capitalists in the world, the likes of David Rockefeller, and senior executives of the major oil companies and banks, General Motors, British American Tobacco, Imperial Chemical Industries, American Express, Siemens, Goodyear, US Steel. The president of Time Incorporated, James Linen, opened the proceedings with this prophetic description of globalisation: "We are trying to create a new climate in which private enterprise and developing countries work together for the greater profit of the free world. The world of international enterprise is more than governments . . . It is a seamless web, which has been shaping the global environment at revolutionary speed."
Suharto had sent a team of mostly US-groomed economists, known as the "Berkeley Boys". On the first day, salutations were exchanged. On the second day, the Indonesian economy was carved up. This was done in a spectacular way: industry in one room, forests and fisheries in another, banking and finance in another. The ultimate prize was the mineral wealth of West Papua, almost half of a vast and remote island to the north of Australia. A US and European consortium was "awarded" the nickel and gold. The Freeport company of New Orleans got a mountain of copper. Forty-two years later, the gold and copper make more than a million dollars profit every day.