Indonesia: Sacrifices Must Be Made


February 9, 2012:  In the last year the police have been brutal against separatists in Papua and very lax against Islamic radicals attacking Christians and Moslems who do not follow strict lifestyle rules. The government believes it is following the votes by tolerating the police brutality (which has been common in Indonesia for decades). Most Indonesians do not want Papua (the western half of New Guinea, the fourth largest island in the world) to be independent. In addition to lots of valuable natural resources there's lots of unused land that can be occupied by Moslem migrants from crowded parts of the country. But that causes friction because the native Papuans are Melanesian, who look quite different from the majority Malays. Moreover, the Melanesians tend to be Christian while the Malays are almost all Moslems. The Malays are better educated and run the government and police. There are a lot of Melanesians outside of Papua and they are increasingly subject to violence by Malay Islamic radicals.

The lax police attitude against Islamic radicals, who are becoming increasingly violent, is the result of an unspoken arrangement whereby the Islamic radicals will not take part in fatal Islamic terrorism (except against Indonesian Christians and Moslem sects considered heretics but not on a large scale) or attacks against the government. In return, the police rarely intervene when Islamic radicals attack Moslems or Christians who are drinking or acting in an "un-Islamic" fashion. If Islamic radicals get too unruly (as they tend to do) politicians will note the polls and crack down. But at the moment, the politicians are feeling quite satisfied as they have suppressed Islamic terrorism, kept the Islamic radicals under control (unless you're Christian, Melanesian, or an eccentric Moslem) and suppressed the Papuan separatists.

In Papua, police and prosecutors have been particularly harsh. Police are very violent against arrested Papuans and prosecutors charge many of those arrested with treason and terrorism, without much proof. But this kind of treatment is popular with the majority of Indonesians, who are Malays. These tactics are not working.

In Malay Indonesia the Islamic radicals are getting more violent and the police are pushing back when they detect an unseemly increase in violence. Islamic schools and radical Mosques are being raided and radical leaders prosecuted. But the punishments are not severe, and when the radicals get out of prison they are unreformed and even more popular with their followers.

February 7, 2012: In Papua, a Malay policeman was shot dead while patrolling the perimeter of the Freeport mine.  The gold/copper mine is the largest in the country and the single largest source of revenue for the Indonesian government.

January 9, 2012:  In Papua, workers returned to work after a four month strike at the Freeport mine. They were supposed to have resumed work last month but there were more disputes over subcontractors refusing to rehire all the strikers (some of whom were seen as poor workers and disruptive as well).While all this was going on two foreign contractors for the mining company were found murdered today, apparently by gunfire. Ten people have been killed, all of them Malay contractors, since the strike began in September. Not all workers went on strike but nearly 40 percent of the 23,000 workers did, most of them the lowest paid unskilled locals. The strikers are local Melanesians. The miners originally wanted a large (ten times or more) wage increase (to $17.50-$43 an hour). But most of the miners also want independence for Papua.  The violence is mainly about strikers preventing non-striking workers entering or to keep management from bringing in new workers. The strike reduced mine output by 95 percent.

December 26, 2011: In Papua, workers returned to work after a three month strike at the Freeport mine. The company finally agreed to a 39 percent pay increase. But the company insisted on punishing 500 strikers, so the 8,000 striking workers stayed off the job.



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