Deakin University academic on palm oil production in West Papua

Deakin University’s DR EBEN KIRKSEY was keynote speaker at a conference in West Papua’s FRWP office in Docklands on 8 April 2018.  The American scholar’s interest in the Indonesian colony was launched brutally in 1998, when as an exchange student at Cendrawasih University investigating the subsistence qualities of indigenous communities, he witnessed two Melanesian students being shot by the Indonesian military.  Days later in Biak Island he witnessed the massacre of an estimated two-hundred West Papuans assembled around a 35m water-tower singing and praying for independence and self-determination.

Eben’s interest in justice has yielded a substantial array of critical and informative articles, books, and appearances.  In 2000 a Bachelor of Arts thesis Saya Makan Sembarang (I eat anything): the changing world of the Oge Mabe Mee in 2000 (Note 1); in 2002 a Masters thesis From Cannibal to Terrorist: State Violence, Indigenous Resistance and Representation in West Papua (Note 2); in 2008 a critical analysis of the role of the Indonesian military in the murder of two Americans near the Freeport mine in 2002 titled Criminal Collaborations with Indonesian investigative reporter Andreas Harsono (Note 3).

In 2010, he testified before House of Representatives Hearing in Washington Crimes Against Humanity: when will Indonesia’s Military be held accountable for deliberate and systematic abuses in West Papua? organised by Samoan Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (Note 4).  The hearing surprised and offended the Indonesian Government; even more so when the West Papuan leaders flown to Washington were introduced to officials at the National Security Council, U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of State.  At the time Eni Faleomavaega was Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, but throughout his long and successful career in US and Pacific politics he always promoted the issue of West Papua.  Some of his Samoan relatives are buried in West Papua and “their missionary service and sacrifice compels me to do what I can for the people they loved,”

In July 2013, he testified before the Biak Citizens Tribunal in Sydney, which was presided over by the Hon. John Dowd (former NSW Attorney-General; President, International Commission of Jurists-Australia) and Dr Keith Suter (Chair, ICJ NSW; Director, International Law Association-Australia).  Counsel Assisting the Tribunal were Gustav Kawer, a West Papuan human rights lawyer; and Professor Nicholas Cowdery (former NSW Crown Prosecutor; President, International Association of Prosecutors).  The tribunal followed the format of a Coronial Inquest (a formal inquiry into a death), with Counsel Assisting performing as prosecution and Other Interested Parties acting like defense attorneys critically evaluating evidence (Note 5).

In 2012 Eben’s Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Global Architecture of Power was published, an analysis of West Papuans’ practical, surprising, and freedom projects generated in the fissures of power exercised by Indonesian occupiers, global financial interests, and foreign governments (Note 6).  In 2017 South Atlantic Quarterly published his Lively Multispecies Communities, Deadly Racial Assemblages, and the Promise of Justice; an imaginative study of meeting spaces between humans and other species in West Papua that utilises ethnographic, historical, ethological, and genetic methodologies (Note 7).

On 8 April 2018 at the FRWP Office in Docklands (Melbourne) Kirksey focussed the attention of the audience with a drone-recording of a palm-oil plantation in Merauke and its devastating effect on the fragile environment, followed by a practical demonstration of the wide-spread use of palm-oil in products consumed by populations in mostly non-palm-oil producing countries.

Drone-video, Merauke Palm Plantation

Eben Kirksey, FRWP Office in Docklands, 8 April 2018

NOTE 1.  PDF, BA thesis: Saya Makan Sembarang (I eat anything): the changing world of the Oge Mabe Mee University of South Florida, 2000  Eben Kirksey, 2000

NOTE 2.  PDF, PhD thesis: From Cannibal to Terrorist: State Violence, Indigenous Resistance and Representation in West Papua University of Oxford, 2002  Eben Kirksey, 2002, State Violence, Indigenous Resistance and Representation in West Papua

NOTE 3.  PDF, Article: Criminal Collaborations: Antonius Wamang and the Indonesian military in Timika Kirksey and Harsono 2008  Kirksey-Harsono_Criminal-Collaborations

NOTE 4.  US Foreign Affairs Committe Hearing on West Papua, 2010
4.1  PDF  Transcript, US Foreign Affairs Committe Hearing on West Papua, 2010
4.2  PDF: Article, 2010  Article, US Foreign Affairs Committe Hearing on West Papua, 2010
4.3  Eben Kirksey’s testimony

NOTE 5.  Biak Massacre, July 1998
5.1  ‘Names without Graves, Graves without Names’ (Indonesian 1998, English, 2013)  Names-Without-Graves_Elsham-Papua-English
5.2  Website, Biak Citizens Tribunal, Sydney, 6 July 1998
5.3  ABC Report, Biak Citizens Tribunal
5.4  PDF, Article, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 June 2001  Biak Massacre, Australian cover up
5.5  PDF, Article, Eureka 2006  Biak Massacre, Eureka, 2006, Deathly silence by Kel Dummett

NOTE 6.  ‘Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Architecture of Global Power’ Duke University Press 2012. (Copies for sale at FRWP Office in Docklands).

NOTE 7.  Academic Article 2018  Eben Kirksey, Kirksey-Lively-Multispecies-Communities_Deadly-Racial-Assemblages

Featured Image: Torres’ Strait Pigeon

“You folk, conch shells shall be! Bailer shells you shall become! Pearlshells you shall become! Ducks you shall become! Native companions be! I go! Better that I should go! For white pigeons will come with me!”

Nyungu the hero ancestor to his children after Sivri, the Silver Gull, kidnapped Nyungu’s daughter and took her to Mabuig. Nyunguj gave chase, and then flew on to Papua. His children stayed behind and became the ducks and brolgas of the sandbanks and the shells of the sea-bed.

Nyungu lives on in the imagination and cultural reality of Torres Strait islanders and the essential connections between Papua to the north and the islands and Australian mainland to the south

BOB GOSFORD The Pied Imperial Pigeon;