North Britain and West Papua: Worlds Apart?

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by Jack Johnston and Andy Gray

As West Papuans fight for their right to a referendum on self determination, Scotland’s SNP majority government calls the shots on when and how Scotland will hold its independence referendum.  Half of West Papua’s population doesn’t consider themselves Papuan whilst Scotland’s national identity traces its origins back nearly a millennium. Whereas Scotland counts on historical ties with powerful neighbours, large proportions of Papua never knew of the outside world before the 1960s.   While Scotland’s diasporas keep a close eye on events back home, West Papua is possibly the least publicised contemporary genocide.

The re-establishment of the Scottish parliament adds the missing keystone to the legal system, the education and university institutions, banks and other features of state that Scotland never gave up when its King became King of England. Papua has no political history before 1960, save a few Dutch colonial outposts around the coast and verbal accounts of how tribal relations were back then.

Papua’s hundreds of mutually unintelligible languages mean that Indonesian is used for inter tribal communication. Gaelic has its own BBC channel and Scots with its impressive literary legacy  is understood by all and  increasingly recognised as a national language.

The pan West Papuan national identity that does exist is largely a response to the common oppression they have suffered at the hands of the Indonesian state. Papuan leaders are ‘disappeared’ or languish in jail, massacres are brought down on those opposing centralized misrule. Violence over Scottish independence is the laughable preserve of unionist scaremongers.

Scotland’s independence poses very real problems to the EU, riddled as it is with regions bent on secession from member states. It also threatens the UK’s role as US’ lap dog.

Papuans, like Melanesians, aspire to join The Pacific Islands Forum but their plea for observer status has been thwarted by Indonesia.  Likewise they are denied membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. West Papuans feel betrayed by their ‘big brother’ Papua New Guinea which could use its independence to champion their cause. Only Vanuatu regularly speaks up for West Papua in international circles.

Scotland is the location of the UK’s nuclear arsenal and is situated centrally in a region that gives its name to a crucial military alliance – The North AtlanticTreaty Organisation.  It also possesses the majority of the UK’s gas, oil, fishing, fresh water and renewable energy potential.

Indonesia extracts more money from Papua  containing as it does the world’s biggest gold mine amongst an immense wealth of resources than from any of its other provinces.  Papua’s independence could trigger secessionist ambitions across the archipelago so ending end Java’s empire.