Letters to the Editors

Dear Editors,

My family and I have never been to Bali or the rest of Indonesia and don’t intend to travel there until the country undergoes considerable real change. Despite the tentative moves towards a more democratic Indonesia, the same powerful, corrupt Javanese military and ex-military political/business elite controls and represses the country. The vast majority of people live in poverty and the small educated and privileged few exploit them and the nation. So essentially the mindset of the ruling elite is unchanged and the system that supports them remains intact.

Indonesia is supposed to have a new liberal leadership with the election of new president Jodo Widodo, the first president to be elected from outside the Javanese military/political elite. But the Australian public in the furor over the fate of two the Australians and others facing execution are getting a glimpse of the stance of Widodo (and other influential Indonesian leaders) on human rights, justice and compassion.

Of all the areas of Indonesia, West Papua, the richest resource region is suffering the most, with the people there getting the least social and economic benefits and the native West Papuans living under a brutal Indonesian army occupation. West Papua has the world’s largest copper and gold mines, but with corruption and injustice rife the West Papuans endure poverty and inequality while the wealthy Javanese elite and foreign companies are further enriched. The minerals, rainforests and other resources of West Papua are being exploited with negligible benefits to the local people and resulting in pollution, deforestation and destruction of wildlife and habitat. The main beneficiaries of the resources wealth are Indonesia, USA and Australia.

In 1961, West Papua was promised independence from their former Dutch (Netherlands) colonial rulers, but Indonesia wanted to take over the country to get access to the vast mineral and timber resources of West Papua. The USA forcibly pressured the Netherlands to give West Papua to Indonesia. Indonesia was eventually given interim control of the territory until West Papua’s future was decided. West Papuans were not consulted about this. The United Nations did promise the West Papuans they would have a say in determining their own destiny. What actually happened in 1969 was not a free referendum, but a so-called Act of Free Choice and it was a farce. Indonesia specially selected 1,025 people and forced them at gunpoint to vote for incorporation with Indonesia.

Since the invasion and occupation of West Papua the Indonesian army and police have carried out a policy of slow systematic genocide against the indigenous West Papuans. Before the Indonesian invasion, the native West Papuans were 98 percent of the population; today they are only 48 percent. It is estimated that 500,000 West Papuans have been killed or have disappeared since the Indonesian invasion. Indonesian military and police carry out regular operations in the rural areas, which result in houses being burnt and civilian villagers being terrorized, beaten, tortured and killed. Many West Papuan leaders and activists are being held as political prisoners for engaging in peaceful protests or other acts of resistance and even for raising their voices against Indonesian oppression. Some are serving 15 years in prison for merely hoisting their people’s flag, The Morning Star. While others have been shot and killed or cruelly tortured for this action.   

Bali is the regional headquarters of the military operations for West Papua. While oppression, gross human rights abuses and atrocities continue in West Papua people of conscience should not holiday in Bali or the rest of Indonesia or buy products made there. This may unfortunately affect some ordinary Balinese and other Indonesians, but it will mainly impact the privileged few of the Javanese political/military/business elite who (with the large foreign corporations) dominate business operations and who gain the most from exploiting the resources of West Papua and also own most of the hotels, airlines, travel agencies, other tourism ventures and commerce in Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia.

The Indonesian army also operates legal enterprises and illegal businesses, either by itself or through criminal gangs with military connections from timber logging and tourism, to alcohol, gambling, drugs, protection rackets and prostitution.

Behind the sham democracy the old Javanese fascistic and feudal military regime is still the real power in Indonesia. And as long as it’s reactionary policies dominate the country nothing will really change in Indonesia. As was the case in South Africa, East Timor, Burma, etc., pressure and actions from outside did play a role in supporting and encouraging fundamental change.

The West Papuan people continue to struggle against oppression and for freedom and independence and deserve support. Our actions in speaking up on this vital issue and exposing the oppressive situation that exists in West Papua can play a constructive part in helping to promote genuine change there.

—Steven Katsineris. March 2015Letter to the Editors

Dear Editors,

There is nothing wrong with our public schools and the professional teachers who work there. Efforts to reform schools are a monumental waste of effort and a charade for enhancing private profit at the public’s expense. To find a problem with student test performance we have to look deeper into a society whose values don’t recognize the value of education.

While many view student test performance inadequate, teachers should not be blamed. To become a certified teacher, one must obtain a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, pass numerous additional tests, get fingerprinted and background checked and undergo a three year period of probationary employment prior to being granted tenure. In addition, there are requirements for continuous education. To jeopardize the career of teachers at this point by tying their performance to test results would be a grave injustice. Those concerned about incompetent teachers can be relieved to know that they can still be removed much easier than incompetent politicians. The way to improve student test performance is through improving students’ receptivity to the teaching process.

Students in today’s schools are pawns in a corporate dominated culture that treats every student as a consumer and negates the benefit of good teaching and good parenting. As a result of corporate pressure, students become obsessed with materialism, and have increasing difficulty relating to the purpose of an education. Whether it’s a cell phone, television, video game or movies, corporations target our students using intense psychological pressure to encourage consumption. Parents are frequently duped into believing that many of these objects are benign babysitters for their children allowing them some much needed time to relax. But these products have an insidious way of countering any benefits of good parenting and can result in aberrant behavior, adversely affecting academic performance. Students become unwittingly caught in a maelstrom of corporate consumer culture and it is increasingly difficult to rescue them.

Corporate values are directed at children long before they enter school, usually through trips to supermarket or preschool television programs. When a child enters school, it becomes the job of the teacher to reverse the impact of these corporate messages and try to instill values that will actually benefit the student in the long run. For the teacher, this is akin to swimming upstream against a very strong current. As a result, student academic performance suffers not due to poor teaching but to the influence of corporate/consumer values, which many students find easy to embrace. Most alarmingly, it is this very corporate culture that wants us to hand over our students to a charter school model, which has absolutely no long-term demonstrated success.

If the goal is to improve student test performance, leave teachers and their unions alone and work to limit the power of corporations by overturning Citizens United to ensure our children are not hopelessly shackled to corporate consumer culture.

— George Damasevitz

Dear Editors,

My position on the election result is that all the Zionist parties have the same agenda, that is the same aims and policies of dispossessing, repressing and getting rid of the Palestinians and continuing to strengthen and build the Zionist state of Israel. The different Zionist factions—“right,” “centralist” or “left”—just use different tactics to achieve that purpose.

So whatever Zionist party is in power the situation of the Palestinians will be unchanged, they will continue to suffer the same level of brutal oppression. It’s just that some Zionist parties will be more subtle than others and pay lip service to “peace talks” and the “two-state solution” while continuing the occupation and building more settlements. Whereas, Netanyahu is more blatant and open about it and this will mean the world will see Israel more clearly, without the illusions of a peace partner it has tried to maintain over the years. This will accelerate the isolation of Israel and the eventual falling apart of the Zionist, colonial, settler-state project.   

Netanyahu is just one leader of a bad bunch of Zionist fascists, but at least he is more honest about Israel’s treatment and intentions towards the Palestinians. He is the most unashamed, and therefore best able to expose the real character of Israel to the world.  

Jericho Shopkeeper Mahmoud Rweished, 28, said he wanted Netanyahu to win and explained his attitude stating, “You might find this strange, but actually Netanyahu is the ugly face of Israel, I want the world to see only this face of Israel. Any other face is fake and unreal,” (The Australian, March 19, 2015.) I think this statement expresses well the true situation in Israel and the bearing Israeli elections have for the Palestinian people.   

—Steven Katsineris, March 2015