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Leaders across West Papua have demanded controversial author Jared Diamond apologizes for describing them in his new book as warlike, and strengthening the idea that Indigenous people are ‘backwards’.
The West Papuan leaders attack Diamond’s central arguments that ’most small-scale societies (…) become trapped in cycles of violence and warfare’ and that ‘New Guineans appreciated the benefits of the state-guaranteed peace that they had been unable to achieve for themselves without state government.’
Mr Diamond makes no mention of the brutality and oppression suffered by the people of West Papua at the hands of the Indonesian occupation since 1963, which has led to the killing of at least 100,000 Papuan tribal people at the hands of the Indonesian military.
Benny Wenda, a Papuan tribal leader, said to Survival, ‘What he (Jared Diamond) has written about my people is misleading (…) he is not writing about what the Indonesian military are doing (…) I saw my people being murdered by Indonesian soldiers and my own Auntie was raped in front of my eyes. Indonesia told the world that this was ’tribal war’ – they tried to pretend that it was us that was violent and not them – this book is doing the same. He should apologize.’
Markus Haluk, a senior member of the Papuan Customary Council, added, ‘The total of Dani victims from the Indonesian atrocities over the 50 year period is far greater than those from tribal war of the Dani people over hundreds of thousands of years.’
Matius Murib, Director of the Baptist Voice of Papua, condemned Diamond’s assertion that tribal peoples live in a ‘world until yesterday’. He said, ‘This book spreads prejudices about Papuan people (…) that Indigenous Papuans still display a way of life from hundreds of years ago. This is not true and strengthens the idea that Indigenous people are ’backwards’, ‘live in the past’ or are ‘stone age.’
Reverend Socratez Yoman, Head of the West Papuan Baptist Church, has also demanded an apology from Mr Diamond to the Papuan people.
Dominikus Surabut, currently jailed for treason for peacefully declaring West Papuan independence, described the relationship of Indigenous West Papuans and the Indonesian state as political apartheid. In a statement smuggled out of his jail cell, he said, ‘This is the very nature and character of colonial occupation of Indigenous peoples, where they are treated as second class citizens whose oppression is justified by painting them as backwards, archaic, warring tribes – just as suggested by Jared Diamond in his book about tribal people.’
Survival International and TAPOL received the messages of outrage following condemnation of the book by Survival last week. The book has since been the subject of heated debate during Mr Diamond’s visit to the UK.
Read a longer version of these statements (pdf)
Read more about why Jared Diamond is wrong