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Concerns about the well-being of West Papua

Concerns about the well-being of West Papua

Anonymous's picture
Dear President Obama, Hello, my name is Tracey. I am a 22-year-old college student residing in Tacoma, Washington. First of all, I would like to tell you that the first time I ever voted in my life was when I voted for you to become my president. For the first time, I became aware of what was going on in the world of politics, and it was a new and exciting time for me. On the morning that I found out you were going to be our president, I immediately called all of my friends and family members to celebrate the news. I created a scrap book dedicated to you, and I saved every Obama-related article I could find for months. I had visions of sharing this scrap book with my children and grand-children in the future, describing what exciting times I had lived in, and how lucky I was to see our country’s first African-American president. You are the only politician who has ever given me hope for change, and I have placed a lot of faith and trust in you. The main purpose of this letter is to discuss with you the situation involving West Papua and Indonesia. As I am sure you are aware, there has been what some have called a “slow motion genocide” in West Papua for nearly half a century. When Indonesia gained rule over West Papua in the 1960s, very few people showed much concern for the well-being of the native West Papuans, and as the decades have gone past, the concern has grown very little. The Indonesian government is guilty of rape, murder, torture, and oppression of tens of thousands of innocent citizens. West Papuans cannot raise their native flag or openly criticize the government without risking the chance of vicious backlashes. It is not uncommon for activists who are fighting for West Papua’s freedom to be murdered by Indonesian soldiers or to simply disappear and never be seen again. A contact of mine, a very kind West Papuan man named Rex Rumakiek, informed me that during the 1960s, when he was a teenager living in West Papua, his brother had his legs shot by Indonesian soldiers, and this was followed by them disemboweling him in front of a group of onlookers. This is how they often make examples out of people who do not obey their senseless rules. Indonesia has defended their cruel practices by claiming that it is their way of defending their national integrity. What Indonesia is doing to the West Papuans has nothing to do with defense. Entire villages have been bombed. Indonesian soldiers with napalm and chemical weapons are plowing down natives who are still fighting with bows and arrows. I have found horrifying numbers of accounts of pregnant women being cut open in front of groups of people. This is not defense, this is genocide. I don’t know how familiar you are with the cultures of Papua, but the people are incredibly and beautifully diverse. Over 15% of the entire world’s languages are spoken only on the island of New Guinea. West Papuans are some of the very last remainders of what we all used to be. There are still hunter-gatherer tribes, and most people live off of the land. Many tribes have resided on the large island for as long as 50,000 years. Mr. President, these people are amazing and when they are gone, there is no turning back, and we will never again have such a wonderful connection to our history. As I have been learning more and more about West Papua and Indonesia, I have noticed that your name also keeps coming up in articles. I read that last year you allowed the Indonesian military to continue getting funds from the United States. Last November you took a trip to Indonesia and publicly praised them for their diversity and tolerance. Indonesia is a beautiful country that is also richly diverse with amazing people. But I am having a very hard time understanding how you can be so deeply involved with the Indonesian government without ever publicly mentioning the people of West Papua. I have brought up the topic of West Papua to dozens of people I see on a regular basis, and not one person I have talked to has already known about it. “West what? What is that?” is my most common response. People just do not know about it. If everybody is ignorant of this ongoing genocide, nothing is going to get done to stop it. The biggest fear I have is that the wonderful people of West Papua are going to cease to exist, and nobody will even notice. The idea of a culture that is 50,000 years old just disappearing is like a horror story to me. I cannot even fathom what sort of evil souls would want this to continue. You are the most powerful man in this country, and one of the most powerful men in the entire world. If anybody can do anything to raise awareness for the people of West Papua, it is you. Indonesia does not allow journalists into West Papua. They don’t even allow the Red Cross. They are blatantly refusing to assist these people, and the American people need to be made aware. We cannot live in ignorance and denial any more. With your connections to Indonesia, you have the power to change this and to help save the lives of thousands of innocent people who just want their homes back. I very badly want you to open up discussions of this situation. If people are just aware, they will be able to help. I know that you are a good man who cares deeply about other people. As a country, we need to be talking about this, and you are the one to get it started. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to read my letter. I care deeply about the people of West Papua, and I also care about and love my own country. I have faith that we can get together and make a difference. I greatly look forward to hearing back from you and learning about the situation from your perspective. Sincerely, Tracey