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West Papua still struggling for independence

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Issue: 35 Section: International News Geography: Pacific West Papua, Indonesia Topics: Mining, independence

March 17, 2006

West Papua still struggling for independence

by Gwalgen Geordie Dent

The Australian government has moved 43 West Papua refugees to refugee processing on Christmas Island, according to SBS News.

The island made headlines in 2001 when the Australian government moved 420 asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to Christmas Island and refused to allow them to apply for refugee status.

The asylum seekers claim to have left Indonesia's West Papua province because of government violence. According to an article written by journalist John Pilger, 10% of West Papua's population has been killed since Indonesia began its occupation of the province in 1949.

West Papua, known in Indonesia as Irian Jaya, only comprises 1% of the population of Indonesia, but with 21% of the land mass, it is home to a wealth of natural resources, including gold, copper, nickel, wood and oil. West Papua is home to the "world's largest gold reserve and third-largest copper deposit," according to Pilger. Life expectancy and government provisions, however, are lower than in the rest of Indonesia, and infant mortality is higher.

In January, four teenagers on their way to school were killed by the Indonesian military, according to activists stationed in West Papua. One of the teenagers was a close relative of members of the 43 refugees currently being held on Christmas Island. Nick Chesterfield from the Australia-West Papua National Authority suggested that the killings were in retaliation to the refugees leaving Indonesia.

Geordie Gwalgen Dent

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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