Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lusk gets taste of international politics

Lusk gets taste of international politics

Posted: Wednesday, Nov 19th, 2014

LUSK - On occasion, even small towns can play a role in the contentious realm of international politics. Such has become the case for the high-plains town of Lusk, which is now serving as the temporary home of General  John Anari, leader of the National Liberation Army of West Papua.

Anari came to town on Saturday, October 18, at the invitation of Lusk resident Thomas Bleming.  He left temporarily on Sunday, October 26, to meet with Alfred de Zayas, the United Nations Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, and to establish a United Nations office for West Papua in New York. Anari is now back in Lusk, busying himself with the arrangement of speaking engagements around the state of Wyoming. With Bleming’s help, Anari hopes to share his perspective on the struggle between West Papuans and the Indonesians.

“I came to Lusk, Wyoming to meet with Thomas Bleming, who I have known through social media for the last four or five years,” Anari told the Herald. “Tom and I had planned to meet in Phenom Penh, Cambodia, last November. However, due to my personal security concerns, the meeting did not take place. While here in Wyoming, Tom is hosting me at his home and arranging for me to be interviewed by media organizations. We are also arranging speaking engagements.”

West Papua was a Dutch colonial dependency until 1962, when the Kingdom of the Netherlands turned the province over to the United Nations. In 1963, West Papua traded hands yet again, with the United Nations turning the region over to the Indonesian government. Six years later, West Papua was formally absorbed into Indonesia. Indonesian rule, however, has not gone uncontested. Several groups, including Anari’s National Liberation Army of West Papua, have been waging a low-level guerrilla war with Indonesia. The conflict has led to allegations of atrocities on both sides. Attacks have been conducted on Indonesian military and law enforcement and settlers of Indonesian descent have been the victims of kidnappings. Anari and other advocates of Papuan independence accuse the Indonesians of police state tactics, including exploitation, the ruthless suppression of free of expression and violence against civilians.

“In the past 53 years, the Indonesian military has murdered more than half a million people,” said Anari. “They have also exiled half a million people. The situation right now is that the National Liberation Army of West Papua controls 90 percent of the rural areas, while Indonesia controls the cities. They have taken our nation’s resources, oil, copper, gold, and natural gas. Nothing is returned to the native people. Our national flag, the Morning Star flag, which looks a lot like the American flag, is not permitted to be flown in public. Anyone publicly displaying the Morning Star flag can be imprisoned up to 15 years.”

Anari claims that he is making peaceful political activism and education his goals while residing in Lusk. The general’s campaign to inform Americans is intended to counter an alleged blackout of the facts concerning the situation in West Papua. Anari believes that Americans have been kept in the dark concerning Indonesian occupation of West Papua. Public ignorance, says Anari, is attributable to a friendly relationship between the United States government and Indonesia.  Anari asserts that this relationship has actually resulted in Western support for the Indonesian side of the conflict. The general claims that western support of the Indonesian military is forcing pro-Papuan independence forces to resort to armed conflict with their occupiers.

“The Indonesian military is guilty of genocide,” said Anari. “My mission is to do what I can to publicize what is happening in my country and to garner support for our struggle. The American public is not aware of our struggle for independence. The United States is a signatory of the U.N. Convention on Genocide. Yet Britain, France, Australia, as well as the United States has provided the Indonesian military with arms and aircraft, including Apache helicopters that the Indonesians use against the civilian population of my nation. They use them against our military forces as well. I came to the United States to offer a peaceful solution to this conflict through the U.N. However, I feel that we will have to resort to armed struggle to win our freedom and independence. Our pleas for a peaceful solution to this conflict are not being heard in the halls of Washington D.C.”

Anari contends that there are parallels between the pro-Papuan independence movement and the American Civil Rights movement. The general believes that his coalition of 15 separate rebel groups holds much in common with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Freedom Riders of the sixties, at least from an ideological standpoint.  While speaking across Wyoming, Anari hopes to draw audiences’ attention to these commonalities.

“I am a great reader of American history,” said Anari. “Back in the fifties and sixties, your nation was embroiled in the civil rights struggle. Many people, both black and white, suffered and died to see justice prevail. The civil rights movement was non-violent. In the end, black American were given their rights as full American citizens. The problem we face in West Papua is that in the past non-violence has been met with brutal force. Indiscriminately, the Indonesian military has murdered and continues to murder anyone who simply speaks of freedom.”

Ultimately, Anari and the National Liberation Army of West Papua hope to see a transferral of government power from Indonesian authorities to their representatives. Such a transferral of power would be overseen by U.N. authorities. Anari believes that the support of Wyoming residents and Americans in general will help realize this goal. He even hopes that business ties between West Papua and Wyoming can be solidified following the establishment of a new West Papuan government.

“I am very impressed with your state,” said Anari. “Once liberation comes, I want to come back and meet your governor and try to do business with your state in the fields of energy, road construction, and other infrastructure matters.”

Given the controversial nature of Anari’s message, it has yet to be seen how audiences across Wyoming will respond to calls for support of Papuan independence. Anari , however, feels that he has received a warm reception from Lusk residents. He intends on staying in Lusk until March of 2015, when he will return to West Papua to carry on with his cause.

“In the short period I have been here, I have met several of your residents,” said Anari. “The locals have welcomed me. As the months go by, I hope to meet more. Lusk is a nice town. It’s a bit isolated, but a far cry from New York City. You should be proud that you are the least populated county in the whole United States. I am a man of the country. I live in the jungle, away from society. But I must say that my trip so far has given me great insight and knowledge.

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