23 Dec 2016

'Everything can be burnt' - West Papua in the Jokowi era

7:47 pm on 23 December 2016

On an island with the third largest rainforest in the world live an indigenous people who are quickly becoming a minority in their own land.

Sitting north of Australia and occupying the western half of New Guinea is West Papua - a land rich in natural resources which was formally absorbed into Indonesia in the 1960s following the withdrawal of Dutch colonial administration.

Indonesia's Papua region: the provinces of West Papua and Papua

But West Papuans were largely excluded from that decision and for the past 50 years they have raised concerns about the infringement of their basic human rights in modern Indonesia.

Joko Widodo's government has rejected these concerns saying living standards are improving for people in the Papua region, which appears at odds with the growing number of demonstrations by West Papuans calling for a legitimate self-determination process and an end to rights abuses.

Regardless, Indonesian rule means the face of West Papuan society is changing rapidly, but RNZ International journalists Johnny Blades and Koroi Hawkins found that the core ideology of these Melanesian people is not easily destroyed.

Written and produced by: Johnny Blades
Camera: Koroi Hawkins
Editor: Jeremy Brick