Home Info Why Academics are Wrong About West Papua Separatism

Why Academics are Wrong About West Papua Separatism


Following the murder of 19 construction workers and 1 Indonesian soldier in Nduga, West Papua by the OPM (West Papua Liberation Army) separatist group, the responses from around the world have been various. Most people would, and did condemn such act of terror and inhumanism. Some academics, however, tried to bring more analytical and rather amusing perspectives.

The global audience is being continuously misinformed by “experts” who spoke to the media and framed both the massacre and the criminals positively.

Camellia Webb-Gannon, an anthropologist from University of Sydney, had suggested that it was “too early to blame the separatists” for those 20 deaths. She believed that the conflict between West Papua separatist groups and Indonesian government has been going for so long, that the conflict has reached a point of “frustration” for the separatist group. She, somehow, believed that such “frustration” might justify the brutality of OPM to certain point.

From legal point of view, countries such as United Kingdom and Australia understand that West Papua is an internal affair of Indonesian administration, and they fully recognize the sovereignty of Indonesia over the region. The international society cannot, and should not give the same political recognition to a violent group such as OPM, or Free West Papua movement in general.

Camelia “Cammi” Webb-Gannon as Green-Left

Webb-Gannon is an academic with Green-Left background, belonging to people in Australia who champion socialist values and environmental approach. She shares the political position of Catherine Delahunty, Marama Davidson, Golriz Ghahraman and Maire Leadbeater, whom are all supporters of various secessionist movements in many countries, including Free West Papua in Indonesia. In Australia and New Zealand, the West Papuan issue is a fast track to gain partisan political support. For academics like Webb-Gannon, specializing in West Papua has given her the chance to join the West Papua project at the University of Sydney.

(Image: Increase in Webb-Gannon publications. Source: Google)

From a strict anthropological point of view, Webb-Gannon might have a reason to say that Melanesian population in Papua has different culture than the rest of Indonesians, an so on (albeit there is a glaring fact that Indonesian archipelago contains numbers of races, languages and cultures). However, she needs to understand that there are domestic and international political consequences of everything that happens in West Papua. What she has done during interviews about the Nduga Massacre (01/12) is actually putting a sugarcoat to terrorist act.

A Misunderstanding of Political Situation: Sugarcoating Terrorism

Regardless of what her justification was, it was cruel to easily dismiss the killings of powerless construction workers just like that. What Webb-Gannon failed to see was that the OPM members have been employing the basic tactics of terror and radical movements.

First, they create small circles of radical communities, especially in highland areas such as Puncak where they are distant from the reach of mainstream media and government facilities. These circles are managed by expert agitators who repeatedly force the local residents to consume their propaganda, portraying Indonesian institutions as a an evil entity which needs to be exterminated from Papua and West Papua.

Second, they hide themselves in a bigger Papuan community, in order to protect themselves from investigation and arrests. They are basically using the rest of the civilian population as a human shield against the defense mechanism from Indonesian policemen and soldiers. This tactic also creates a social pressure for the Papuan population to support people whom they see as their own “brothers” inside the violent movement. Terrorist groups often use blood relations and communal traditions to hold the majority of the population as hostages for their political interests.

Third, they blur the lines between the radical separatists, moderate, and the nationalist Papuans. This way, they are creating the illusion that the number of separatism supporters are bigger than it actually is. This also enables the group to project the image of West Papua as a total rebellion towards Indonesia. This image is then being sold to the world as the truth, where in fact it is really not the truth. This image is what academics like Webb-Gannon has been perpetuating and circulating around the world.

If Webb-Gannon continues to misunderstand, or even disregard the political aspects of West Papuan issues, the global audience will be continuously misinformed by the authority called “academics”. There is a monopoly of West Papua discourse in academic realm by Australian scholars, and such simplistic point of view from Webb-Gannon is only exacerbating the whole situation.

Source : https://www.abc .net.au/radionational/programs/drive/fallout-from-separatist-violence-in-west-papua/10586996

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