Indonesia: The Battle Cry Of Freedom


March 28, 2012:  Islamic terrorism has declined but not disappeared. There is growing unrest in Aceh, where Sharia law is creating more unrest because of opposition to living under religious law. There are still separatist rebels in Aceh as well. On the other end of Indonesia, in Papua, there is growing violence by locals who continue to oppose half a century of Indonesian occupation.

In Aceh (westernmost Indonesia), the most Islamic part of the country and the area where Moslem missionaries first landed centuries ago, police are still hunting Aceh separatists who did not accept the peace deal that put many former revolutionaries in control of the local government after elections four years ago. Many of the holdout separatists never turned in their weapons and still seek to gain complete independence for Aceh. Some of the “Free Aceh” gunmen are still willing to kill, or be killed, for total independence. This is very much a minority group but they are still out there in the hills. Out of a population of 4.4 million less than two percent of the Aceh population is non-Moslem and about twenty percent are ethnic minorities. An even larger minority opposes Sharia law, mainly because it did not, as promised, reduce corruption and improve the quality of government. The religious police, who harass and sometimes arrest people for "un-Islamic behavior" are particularly unpopular.

At the Freeport mine in Papua (easternmost Indonesia) production was again halted as groups of local workers fought each other. Hundreds of people have been killed or injured by strike related violence in the last six months. Most of the workforce are local Melanesians and foreigners who were brought in to replace some of those who struck. Eventually, most of the 23,000 workers got involved in the work stoppages, especially the lowest paid unskilled locals. 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 up to 95 percent. The company finally agreed to a 39 percent pay increase. The gold/copper mine is the largest single economic activity in the country and the single largest source of revenue for the Indonesian government. In the last two decades the government has received over $14 billion in taxes from the Freeport operations. The labor unrest in the last six months has cost the government several hundred million dollars in lost taxes on the mining operation. That sort of thing gets the attention of senior government leaders.

The Papuans, who were ruled as a Dutch colony for centuries, were granted independence by the Dutch in 1961, but a year later Indonesia invaded and no one went to the aid of the Papuans. The UN called for a referendum to determine what the Papuans wanted but Indonesia never allowed that to happen. The UN has continued to protest and pressure Indonesia but nothing has changed, except for growing separatist violence.

March 25, 2012:  In Papua a soldier was killed by a man with a knife. The killer got away in a car with some accomplices.

March 23, 2012: In Papua workers returned to work after a month-long strike at the Freeport mine.

March 18, 2012: In Bali counter-terrorism police killed five armed men who might have been Islamic terrorists. The five were trying to extort money from entertainment businesses serving foreign tourists. The money was to be used to finance terror attacks. But the five might have been common criminals using the terror angle to instill more fear in their victims.

March 10, 2012:  In Aceh six men (including three former members of the Free Aceh Movement) were arrested and charged with terrorism. The men had murdered or terrorized dozens of workers from other parts of Indonesia.

March 9, 2012:  In Aceh five men were caned (hit on the back six times with a flexible wooden staff) after being convicted by Islamic (Sharia) law for gambling. The five men publicly punished were part of twenty men convicted of Sharia violations in January. Some 250 people were arrested for Sharia violations in January.

March 8, 2012: In Puncak Jaya, Papua, unidentified gunmen fired on an army truck, killing one soldier. The gunmen were believed to be Papua separatists.

February 23, 2012: In Papua operations at the Freeport mine were suspended.




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