Comprehending West Papua
7 February 2012
From the impact of posting mobile phone footage on YouTube to the notion that hopes for greater autonomy are futile, a new e-book from the University of Sydney brings together myriad perspectives on West Papuans' quest for self-determination.
Comprehending West Papua, edited by Professor Peter King, Jim Elmslie and Camellia Webb-Gannon from the University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, is a collection of papers and essays from an eponymous conference held at the University last year. The book brings together the thoughts and observations of West Papuan intellectuals, religious leaders and independence activists from around the world.
A province of Indonesia with 'Special Autonomy' since 2001, the region's indigenous Melanesian population has for long advocated and agitated for greater self-determination and independence. This has been strongly opposed by Jakarta.
"For those seeking to understand the conundrum of West Papua this book represents an intellectual feast," says co-editor Elmslie.
West Papua Media site founder Nick Chesterfield devotes a chapter to the rise of citizen journalism to counter the lack of mainstream media coverage of West Papua.
"Today's mass Papuan movement is mainly urban, educated, innovative, nonviolence based and significantly embracing of the power of citizen and social media as a key plank of civil resistance strategy," says Chesterfield, whose West Papua Media Alerts website provides an anonymous repository for footage often filed by Papuans fearful for their safety.
Arguing against the widely held view that West Papuans need independence, Franz Albert Joku from IGSARPRI (Independent Groups Supporting the Autonomous Region of Papua in the Republic of Indonesia) says it is time for Papuans to give up their quest for a radical change in constitutional status.
"Special Autonomy now forms a constitutional framework within which the government system in Papua must be made to operate," he argues. "Its formulation took many man-hours and bitter debates both inside and outside the parliamentary system, and it therefore must be nurtured and protected at all costs."
While they don't share Joku's point of view, Professor King and his colleagues included it to give the publication balance: "It's a strength of the book that he's in there.
"Combined with the truly global spread of the rest of the contributors, an alternative perspective makes this a highly authoritative compilation of viewpoints on West Papua."
Comprehending West Papua will be officially launched by NSW Green Party MP Cate Faehrmann at the University's Macleay Museum at 6pm this evening.
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