Indonesia: Separatists And Terrorists

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November 12, 2011: At the Freeport mine complex in Papua, the two month strike continues. Nearly 40 percent of the 23,000 workers are striking, most of them the lowest paid unskilled locals. The strikers are local Melanesians (culturally very different from the Malays who comprise most of the country's population). The gold/copper mine is the largest in the country and the single largest source of revenue for the government. The miners originally wanted a large (ten times or more) wage increase (to $17.50-$43 an hour). But most of the miners also want independence for Papua (the western half of New Guinea Island.) The violence is mainly about strikers preventing non-striking workers entering or to keep management from bringing in new workers. The strike has reduced mine output by 95 percent.

The strikers have reduced the demands to a pay raise of about twice what they are currently making. Many of the strikers are impatient, and the government is more inclined to agree to a doubling of pay for the lower-level Melanesian workers. The government fears that these militant workers will provide a source of more violent separatist rebels. The army wants to strike back harshly and on a large scale against the separatists. For this reason, soldiers are believed responsible for some of the "separatist" attacks. There has been some evidence to back this up. The Indonesian army has operated like this in the past.

Indonesia is determined not to lose Papua, the way they did nearby East Timor (also populated largely by Melanesians). Papua is much larger, and populated with a less-educated population with a more tribal culture. As Papuans gain more education and political skills, Indonesia will have more difficulty holding onto the place. At the moment, the government is trying to tag the separatists as violent. But the evidence for this is often murky, and the Indonesians security forces have often carried out secret attacks and tried to blame them on someone else.

The army is receiving $15.5 billion over the next three years to replace old weapons and equipment. The army expects to get a lot for their money by purchasing Cold War surplus gear from Europe and America. Many countries, especially in Asia and South America, have used this approach and are satisfied with the results. This reassures some critics who note that the Indonesian Navy purchased most the ships of the former East German navy after the Cold War ended. But the Russian type ships did not do well in Indonesia, and made Indonesians wary of Cold War leftovers.

While Islamic terrorist activity has been largely suppressed throughout Indonesia over the last few years, military intelligence analysts still can detect a lot of enthusiasm for Islamic radicalism. Studies have revealed that nearly one percent of the population leans that way (1.8 million out of 246 million). The pro-terror Indonesians tend to be concentrated in a few parts of the country (like Aceh, the westernmost province and the only one to use Islamic law.) The government has managed to neutralize a lot of Islamic terrorist activity by mobilizing more moderate Moslem organizations to work against the radicals. Indonesia always had a less violent form of Islam, one which was actually hostile to the more radical forms imported from the Arab world. Once the Islamic radicals were tagged as foreign, and violent, they lost any possibility of widespread support, and found themselves facing an often hostile population.

November 7, 2011: In Papua, police in the Freeport mine complex were fired on, and one officer was wounded.

October 25, 2011: In Papua, a security patrol around the Freeport mine complex was fired on. There were no injuries.

October 24, 2011: In Papua, three employees of the Freeport mine complex were shot by unknown persons (believed to be militant strikers or Melanesian separatists). Elsewhere in Papua a local police chief was shot dead, apparently by two more separatists, but it is unclear.

October 20, 2011: Outside the provincial capital of Papua, a separatist demonstration (over 5,000 people) was broken up with gunfire by the police. At least five people were killed, and over twenty were arrested.

October 17, 2011:  Police arrested an Islamic terrorist leader (Yadi Al Hasan), who belonged to JAT (Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid). Hasan was responsible for organizing several terror attacks this year.

October 15, 2011: At the Freeport mine in Papua, three security personnel were shot dead, three others were wounded.

 

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