Friday, November 16, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Trump’s Asia Policy Is Mostly about China – Analys...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Trump’s Asia Policy Is Mostly about China – Analys...: Trump’s Asia Policy Is Mostly about China – Analysis Nearly two years on, the Asia policy of US President Donald J. Trump’s administr...

Trump’s Asia Policy Is Mostly about China – Analysis

Trump’s Asia Policy Is Mostly about China – Analysis

Nearly two years on, the Asia policy of US President Donald J. Trump’s administration is beginning to take shape. With the exception of its attempt to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, it is mostly about China, or more accurately, what other countries can do to help it win its struggle with China for dominance in the region. Indeed, that seems to be the common prism through which a patchwork of US Asia initiatives is originating and being implemented. Its Asian allies and friends are beginning to see it this way and that US strategic policy toward them is much more about advancing its position vis a vis China than their own priorities.  They are responding accordingly.

Here is the context and their probable perspective.

US China policy is now clearly a mix of containment and confrontation. The new US National Security Strategy released in December 2017  characterizes the US-China struggle as “a geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order… “. It also labels China as a “revisionist power” meaning that the U.S. thinks China wants to change the existing rules, norms and values that govern relations between nations. This is the “international order” that the U.S. helped build and now leads, and for which it is the principle arbiter and beneficiary. Following this lead, the US Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act that identifies China as the primary threat to US security and proposes a “whole of government” counter-effort.

Doubts regarding the more strident tone and tenor of US-China policy were laid to rest by US Vice President Michael Pence’s 4 October ‘it’s us or them’ speech. He bluntly criticized China across the board and declared that “China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies”.  Confirming the policy shift, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said “The recent policy of the Trump administration to act against China has taken the Chinese by surprise _ _ _”

To combat the China ‘threat’, the official US strategy is to ” redouble [its] commitment to established alliances and partnerships, while expanding and deepening relationships with new partners that share respect for sovereignty, fair and reciprocal trade, and the rule of law.” This means the U.S. is increasing pressure on its allies and friends to support its new more belligerent China policy.

Its strategy is manifest in its grand vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”.  The core principles of the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ include freedom of navigation, the rule of law, freedom from coercion, respect for sovereignty, private enterprise and open markets, and the freedom and independence of all nations.   These are all elements of its new China policy.  So is its enhanced military and political relations with Taiwan. Within this framework, the U.S. is proposing – and pushing for – a renewal of the “Quad” – a potential security arrangement among the four large democracies of India, Australia, Japan, and the U.S. . To Asia, the intent of the Quad is to constrain and contain China’s burgeoning military power.  The U.S. is seeking to “reinforce India’s maritime capabilities as a net provider of security in the Indian Ocean region and beyond.”

Let’s look at some specifics. Although promulgated before Trump became President, the implementation of the 2015 US Asia Pacific Maritime Security Strategy complements its overall strategy regarding China. It declares that the U.S. is enhancing its defense posture in Southeast Asia. Its intent is to strengthen “our military capacity to ensure the United States can successfully deter conflict and coercion and respond decisively when needed.” To accomplish this, the U.S. is “working together with our allies and partners from Northeast Asia to the Indian Ocean to build their capacity to address potential challenges in their waters and across the region.”  Presumably this means first and foremost combating the China “threat”. The Strategy specifically warns that “we see countries developing new technologies that appear designed to counter [existing US] advantages.   This is a reference to China’s anti-access/area-denial strategy to keep the U.S. military out of its near waters in a conflict.

US policy initiatives toward Southeast Asia and allies like Australia and Japan are a derivative of its policy of containment and confrontation of China. They are dominated by what these countries can do to support this effort. The U.S. appeals to them to support its Freedom of Navigation Operations challenging China’s claims in the South China Sea—or to at least undertake their own. The U.S. wants them to join its maritime domain awareness network and is assisting them to do so.  It asks them to allow it to base or “rotate” its troops and equipment on their territory or to facilitate their presence and missions in the region by providing refueling locations for its planes gathering intelligences on China. For those that can, like Australia and Japan, the U.S. wants them to provide military assistance and training to key countries in the region to enhance their capacity to assist the U.S. in a time of need. Perhaps most important, the U.S. wants them to publicly welcome and support its political position and military presence in the region. So far the results are embryonic and mixed.

The U.S. is also making increasingly strident attempts to counter China’s growing soft power.  Because the US cannot hope to match China’s economic largesse, it’s soft power increasingly relies on the attraction of its economic and political values and the shared commitment of its allies and friends to democracy and the existing US led international order. Thus the U.S. has launched a campaign touting these values publicly condemns China’s value and behavior, and warning others of China’s nefarious intentions – in general and in particular in the South China Sea.  Moreover it has stepped up its “diplomatic” efforts to persuade Southeast Asians to support its policy. In January, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Indonesia and Vietnam. His mission was to begin implementing the new US Defense Strategy that calls for expanding and transforming Washington’s network of alliances and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific into a “networked security architecture”. In late July/early August US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the Shangri-la Dialogue and the ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore. Aside from the lobbying he did there, he also visited Malaysia and Indonesia presumably pushing this policy that at base is aimed at China.

Ironically, the more the U.S. hardens its policy against China and increases its pressure for support from the region, the more its “soft power’ wanes. Its ‘allies and friends’ in Southeast Asia in particular do not want a confrontation between the U.S. and China – at least one that will involve or negatively affect them.

Their particular concern is that the intensifying competition for influence and military dominance in the region could spill over into their domestic politics with the U.S. and China each supporting its supporters and opposing its opponents.  This happened during the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and it could happen again. They rightly fear that in the supposed words of Thucydides “the strong will do what they can and the weak will suffer what they must”.

So Southeast Asian leaders are doing the best they can to preserve a modicum of independence and security for their nations. They are hedging between the two. As former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd puts it  “many US allies may decide to hedge their bets, waiting until it becomes clearer whether the US [policy] shift will be permanent and whether it will succeed.” Meanwhile they are increasingly aware that they are becoming pawns in a US-China ‘Great Game’ and that the policy of the U.S.  – – as well as that of China – –  towards them must be viewed through this prism.

*Mark J. Valencia, Adjunct Senior Scholar, National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haiku, China

This piece first appeared in the IPP Review.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: INDONESIAN prisons will soon start spawning even m...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: INDONESIAN prisons will soon start spawning even m...: INDONESIAN prisons will soon start spawning even more jihadists A new law is funnelling more radicals into the ordinary prison popula...

INDONESIAN prisons will soon start spawning even more jihadists

INDONESIAN prisons will soon start spawning even more jihadists

A new law is funnelling more radicals into the ordinary prison population

AMAN ABDURRAHMAN was first arrested in 2004 following an accidental explosion during a bomb-making class near Jakarta. But his career as a jihadist really got going in prison, where he has spent 12 of the subsequent 14 years. Until recently Mr Aman was able to run a militant propaganda campaign from his cell. He translated some 115 articles from Islamic State publications into Indonesian and uploaded them online. He also recruited volunteers to go fight in Syria—all from behind bars. He became IS’s “most important ideological promoter” in Indonesia, according to Sidney Jones of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), a think-tank in Jakarta. Abu Bakar Basyir (pictured), a radical cleric on death row for masterminding bombings in Bali in 2002 that killed more than 200 people, first befriended Mr Aman in prison and then distanced himself from him because he was “too hardline”.

Indonesia’s 477 prisons were built to house 125,000 prisoners. They are currently crammed with more than 254,000. One facility, in the province of South Kalimantan, holds 2,459 in a space meant for 366. An officer at a high-security prison in Jakarta says it is not uncommon for 15 inmates to be placed in a cell of nine square metres intended for three people.

Graft flourishes. Earlier this year a raid by the KPK, an anti-corruption agency, revealed cells with air-conditioning, flat-screen televisions and private bathrooms. Even the KPK could not get into several cells, because the keys were kept by their occupants.

Small wonder, then, that jihadists have been able to recruit and organise freely from prison. Authorities were shocked to discover that a gunman involved in an attack on civilians in Jakarta in 2016 was a former prisoner who had served as personal masseur to Mr Aman while in jail. He had been granted an early release just months before for “good behaviour”.

Abu Husna is another man who organised terrorism from jail. He leads one of the two main Indonesian factions supporting IS (Mr Aman leads the other) and is a former cellmate of Mr Basyir. Baim Maulana, a former weapons-procurer for jihadist groups and separatists in the province of Aceh, describes how Abu Husna and fellow IS supporters controlled certain parts of the maximum-security prison in which he used to be held: “This included the kitchen at one point.” Mr Maulana received an invitation for a meal with Abu Husna, who wanted Mr Maulana to work for him. “I couldn’t refuse at that point, so I left it open-ended—surviving in prison was already tough as it was without rejecting their offer,” Mr Maulana says.

Terrorist inmates sit atop a “moral hierarchy” in prison and are often regarded by other inmates as enlightened, at least in comparison with drug offenders and petty criminals, says Taufik Andrie of the Institute for International Peace-Building, which helps released extremists reintegrate. “They act like pesantren (Islamic school) leaders,” he says, “and are given a lot of privileges in jail amongst inmates”. Amir Abdillah, who helped build the bombs used in an attack in Jakarta in 2009, says, “Radicals offer fellow inmates a chance to atone for their sins and pray together.” Mr Amir says that when he was arrested, he was convinced he “was doing the work of God and would be respected even in prison”.

The key to stemming the spread of radical ideology among inmates, argues Mr Andrie, is segregating the hardliners. “This unfortunately does not happen in ‘medium-security’ prisons or in centres where detainees await trial,” he explains. Until 2016, when Mr Aman was transferred to a maximum-security prison, he could receive visits from admirers. Some of his visitors went on to commit a series of bombings of churches and police posts in Surabaya in May. The same month Mr Aman reportedly mediated between police and pro-IS inmates at another prison after they seized control of part of the building and slit the throats of five police officers.

Since the bombings in May the authorities have been trying hard to disrupt terrorist networks. A revision to the anti-terrorism law allows suspects to be arrested pre-emptively and held for up to three weeks (a judge can extend the detention to as much as 290 days). A spike in arrests has followed; there are only 466 people convicted under terrorism laws in Indonesia’s jails, but since June some 350 suspected terrorists have been arrested.

In the absence of reforms to the prison system, however, this campaign is likely to make things worse, not better. “It is not clear how already overburdened detention centres, prosecutors, courts and prisons are going to cope,” writes Ms Jones in a recent IPAC report. In all likelihood, thrusting so many radicals among other prisoners will simply create more terrorists

The Economist

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia is moving into election mode

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia is moving into election mode: There will be sweeping general elections in Indonesia in April next year for the presidency, the national parliament, provincial parl...

Indonesia is moving into election mode

There will be sweeping general elections in Indonesia in April next year for the presidency, the national parliament, provincial parliaments, and at the regional level across the nation. Australians might go to the polls around the same time, but there will be a big difference in scale. In Australia, around 16 million voters will go to the polls, while in Indonesia over ten times this number ­– nearly 190 million people – are enrolled to vote.

The main contest at the national level in Indonesia will be between the incumbent, President Joko Widodo, and the challenger, Prabowo Subianto. From one point of view, this looks like being a rerun of the contest five years ago. In 2014, Jokowi (as the President is universally known) and Prabowo also squared off.

In 2014, it looked as if the contest between Jokowi and Prabowo would be close. Jokowi was a civilian newcomer to the national political stage promising reform. Prabowo, with a strong military background, had long experience in elite politics in Jakarta and had good financial backing for his presidential bid.

Things look different this time around. At this stage, Jokowi seems to be in a strong position. Numerous polls in recent months have put him comfortably ahead of Prabowo.

But with five months to go to the polling day on 17 April, there is still time for Prabowo to make up lost ground. To close the gap, he will need to take any chance he can to discredit Jokowi – in social policies, economic affairs, international relations, and anywhere else he can find an opening to land a blow.

The Prabowo camp is playing politics with major China-supported programs to suggest that Jokowi’s drive to build infrastructure in Indonesia is too dependent on foreign support.

Recent statements from Prabowo suggest that he is keen to present himself as a true nationalist, second to nobody in his love for people and nation. Jokowi, Prabowo has implied, is inclined to be too friendly to foreigners.

Last month, for example, the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were held in Indonesia for the first time in the nation’s history. The meetings were a major event, providing Indonesia with a key opportunity to showcase national economic potential.

Nevertheless, Prabowo saw a useful opening to score points off Jokowi. Noting that humanitarian rescue programs were underway in Sulawesi after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Palu in September, Prabowo called for the IMF-World Bank meetings in Indonesia to be curtailed. The money saved, he said, should be used to help the disaster survivors in Palu.

It is certainly true that all possible efforts are needed to respond to the crisis in Sulawesi. But the suggestion that the IMF-World Bank meetings should have been be cancelled at short notice was pure political grandstanding. Over 12,000 visitors from nearly 190 countries were scheduled to arrive in Indonesia. Prabowo, playing the nationalist card, was clearly aiming to suggest that Jokowi preferred to meet with foreign visitors rather than attend to the urgent needs of disaster survivors within Indonesia.

Prabowo’s team has played other nationalist cards as well. Just a few weeks ago, a leading member of Prabowo’s election team questioned whether China’s support for a key infrastructure project in Indonesia should be accepted. Prabowo’s brother, well-known businessman Hashim Djojohadikusumo, has been providing financial support to Prabowo’s presidential bid. As part of Prabowo’s team, Hashim called for a review of China’s involvement in a proposed US$5.4 billion high-speed rail link between Jakarta and Bandung.

On one level, Hashim’s suggestion that the planned Jakarta-Bandung rail link be reviewed was reasonable. It is always important to consider whether large infrastructure projects make sense. But the project is now well advanced. To cast doubt on the construction of the rail link at this stage is hardly helpful.

The Prabowo camp is playing politics with major China-supported programs. The aim is to suggest that Jokowi’s drive to build infrastructure in Indonesia is too dependent on foreign (in in this case, Chinese) support.

Perhaps it is too early to take much notice of these pre-election manoeuvrings. Five months is a long time in politics. Much can happen in Indonesia between now and April.

But the overall campaign patterns are already clear. Jokowi will project a steady-as-we-go message, emphasising stability and his well-known concerns with the personal lives of Indonesians in urban areas and villages across the nation. Prabowo will aim to undermine Jokowi’s narrative of his role as a simple man of the people and will work to present an alternative vision.

Prabowo will need to build credibility across Indonesia before his challenge can be seen as posing a real threat to Widodo’s re-election in April next year. At this stage, Jokowi looks strong and the election is his to lose.

Lowy Institute

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: New Featured Release Title “The Silk Road Wars”

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: New Featured Release Title “The Silk Road Wars”: New Featured Release Title “The Silk Road Wars” Author: Frank Spencer Historical Fiction ISBN-13: 978-1-925230-54-3 Use this n...

New Featured Release Title “The Silk Road Wars”

New Featured Release Title “The Silk Road Wars”

Author: Frank Spencer

Historical Fiction

ISBN-13: 978-1-925230-54-3 Use this number in your publication


RRP $24.95

Sid Harta Publishers, Melbourne Australia


The Book


The Silk Roads created a vast trading empire which made China the wealthiest of nations. This also made China the prize other nations strived to plunder. Throughout the Ming Dynasty the great wall was extended and strengthened and a formidable army was created to fight off the many and regular invaders.
In the reign of the last Emperor the Ming army had undergone a major transformation. Conscription had been introduced and a special elite unit created. This unit was led by a General who was a master in the Art of War, a giant who was to become China’s greatest warrior and his father who was a wizard in designing and manufacturing devastating weapons of war.
When the mighty army of King Porus of India crashed through the great wall and his allied nations throughout the Mediterranean took control of the Silk Roads the Ming were ready. They fought back with great vigour and although always outnumbered their superior strategies and superior weaponry more than levelled the odds.
Over the next ten years they fought a bloody campaign. In the many great land and sea battles Britain emerged as the prime antagonist. She was building a mighty navy and an empire to rival those of Alexander the Great, Persia and the Romans. China and Britain remained bitter enemies and in conflict well into the age of steam and dreadnought battleships.


Author Bio

Frank Spencer is a retired Organisational Psychologist. He has a Masters Degree in Organisational Psychology and has implemented change strategies in many of Australia’s leading organisations. He has worked with world leaders in organisation development and pioneered a remuneration system based on role rather than job which can also function as a change strategy. His system is licensed to the Institute of Managers and Leaders and Frank manages remuneration structure projects on their behalf. This is his second novel.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Where to now? 40 year...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Where to now? 40 year...: Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Where to now? 40 years after the big economic expe... : Where to now? 40 years after the big economic experimen...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Where to now? 40 years after the big economic expe...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Where to now? 40 years after the big economic expe...: Where to now? 40 years after the big economic experiment that changed China ·          Deng Xiaoping’s push for ‘reform and opening u...

Where to now? 40 years after the big economic experiment that changed China

Where to now? 40 years after the big economic experiment that changed China

·         Deng Xiaoping’s push for ‘reform and opening up’ launched China’s rise from the wreckage of the Cultural Revolution to the world’s second-biggest economy

·         To mark the 40th anniversary of the start of the process, the South China Morning Post takes an in-depth look at the forces that shaped that transformation

When China embarked on sweeping economic change 40 years ago, buttons and elastic bands were at the forefront of the new era.

Vendor Zhang Huamei, who sold the small items from a desk in an alley behind her home in the southeastern city of Wenzhou, became the first entrepreneur in the country to be granted a business licence as a sole proprietor.

Until then, Zhang and other businesspeople like her had to be on the alert for authorities trying to stifle the budding but “bourgeois” private sector emerging in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution.

“[Before I got a licence], we had to flee and hide our stock when inspectors came [to clamp down on street vendors],” she said.

“But in 1979, [local officials] came to tell me that I could apply for a business licence, so I did.”

In the four decades since, her button and textile business has risen and fallen and risen again, following many of the twists and turns in the path to “reform and opening up” taken by the country as a whole.


That era began in late 1978 when the ruling Communist Party’s top decision-making body, the Central Committee, met to end ideological turmoil, set aside class struggles and open the door to experiments such as private ownership.

The push was driven by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and was the start of a new pragmatic period in which the results of economic policy would determine the value of the approach.

In the intervening years, the party has continued to loosen state control in many economic and social activities, legalising private ownership, allowing market competition and opening up to foreign investment and trade.

The changes have transformed China from one of the world’s poorest countries into the globe’s second-biggest economy. Businesspeople have joined the party and China promotes free trade on the international stage.

But the bottom line set by Deng in 1979 remains in place: there can be no challenge to the party’s rule.

As China confronts new challenges such as slowing economic growth and a trade war with the United States, observers continue to question just how far the country can go along the road to economic reform without political change.

In his trip to southern Guangdong province last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping signalled that he was willing to press on with the process set in motion 40 years ago. At the same time, he is also unlikely to depart from the course he has taken since coming to office – of centralising power and revigorating ideological campaigns.

The ‘Three Benefits’

When Deng started his push for reform and opening up, his goals were to prevent a recurrence of the Cultural Revolution and to salvage communist rule devastated by the decade of chaos and Mao Zedong’s personality cult.

At 74, Deng was at the centre of Chinese politics for a third time and the country was in ruins from the decade of turmoil.

“Deng was personally purged during the Cultural Revolution. Reform and opening up was his reflection on the Cultural Revolution, it was also a collective reflection by Chinese [about how to get out from the shadow of it],” Guangzhou-based historian Yuan Weishi said.

The new direction was set in December 18-22, 1978, when the party’s Central Committee, chaired by Deng, formally abolished the “Two Whatevers”, a principle that upheld whatever Mao said was the truth, and replaced it with the principle of “Practice is the Sole Criterion of Testing Truth”.

Liu Ji, former deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a top party theorist who advised former president Jiang Zemin, said the new slogan meant that China did not have to abide by everything Mao had said.

“We needed to experiment to find out what was correct,” Liu said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post.

“Originally the most important feature of socialism was state ownership, but Deng set aside the debate about ownership. Another feature was the planned economy, but Deng dismissed these two features of socialism. All he was talking about was to unleash the productivity [of a country].

“Without Deng, the Communist Party would have been over even before the end of the Soviet Union.”


In the following years, party meetings and state media echoed the call to “liberalise mindsets”, unleashing a wave of experiments, including the setting up of many special economic zones, firstly in the coastal provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, and then in Shanghai and the north.

In the eastern province of Anhui, the residents of Xiaogang village were among the first to cross the line of collective ownership by dividing up the land owned by the commune and allowing farmers to harvest the crops they grew. The move did not give the farmers official ownership of the land but they could take personal ownership of the yields.

In neighbouring Zhejiang province, Zhang was being granted her pioneering business licence.

“It made a huge difference because I could do business openly from then on,” she said.

Deng’s reform drive nearly came off the rails in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which brought conservative voices to the political fore. The conservatives questioned the value of the new economic direction, prompting Deng to head to Shanghai and Guangdong to spread his message. It was on his 1992 trip to Guangdong that he declared that “development is the hard truth” and all open debates about whether reform policies were capitalist or socialist should stop.

Instead, support should go to whatever reforms benefited productivity, the overall strength of the country and living standard of the people, he said.

“The ‘Three Benefits’ principle broadened the definition of socialism. It was very important,” Liu said.

“I think Deng had no dogma about socialism, the only criteria is the … principle – whether it can make China rich and strong.”

The approach culminated in 2001 with China’s admission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its formal integration into the international market economy.

By then Deng had died but Jiang was at the national helm. Liu, said Jiang agreed to make concessions to the WTO and change China’s economic regulations because he was convinced that globalisation was an irreversible trend.

Jiang’s decision, Liu said, was a continuation of what Deng had laid down.

“In terms of reforms, Jiang actually didn’t create anything new. He basically followed Deng’s reform and carried it through,” he said.

In 2002, the party adopted Jiang’s “Theory of the Three Represents” as part of its charter, allowing capitalists to join the organisation.

Today, China has the world’s biggest cache of foreign reserves, it is the second-biggest economy after the United States and its share of the world economy has grown from a mere 1.8 per cent in 1978 to 18.72 per cent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Ezra Vogel, emeritus professor of social sciences at Harvard University, said Deng’s approach unleashed much of that change.

“The success of Deng’s reform and opening policies – which brought a fundamental change in policies from the previous 20 years of excessive leftism and allowed Chinese to learn recent developments in science, technology, and management from the entire world – provided the base for rapid economic growth that enabled China to achieve unprecedented growth for four decades,” Vogel said.

Politics of change

While China has been willing to embrace market reforms, the Communist Party has been reluctant to embark on political change.

In the past four decades, there have been intermittent attempts to better define the functions of the party and the government, and introduce some election procedures and transparency in the selection of party officials.

China has also allowed elections at the village and county levels, but a crackdown on protests in the Guangdong village of Wukan in 2016 over the jailing of a popular former village chief showed that the party would maintain an iron grip at the grass-roots level.

Western-style democracy has never been on the agenda, and the ultimate goal of any kind of institutional reform is to improve the ability of party rule.

But Vogel said one important political reform by Deng was the establishment of a modern civil service.

“Deng undertook political reforms of establishing regular term offices, introducing the exam system which raised the qualifications of office holders and provided them added understanding of the issues faced by the government,” he said.

“After 1978 the training of officials in management and the introduction of information from abroad allowed more room for expression of diverse opinion.”

Deng also tried to ensure collective leadership in the top party echelon, to avoid a repeat of the unchecked power Mao enjoyed. But these efforts were never successfully institutionalised.

Alarmed by protests and posters calling for democracy, Deng ordered a crackdown in 1979 and set a boundary for China’s political and institutional reform: the “Four Cardinal Principles”, which made it clear that the party would not allow anything to challenge its rule.

The principles were a straitjacket for political change. Even in the 1980s when Deng commissioned former premier Zhao Ziyang to research ways to distinguish the role and functions of the party and the government, the party was still to be the dominant player.


Wu Guoguang, who was part of Zhao’s team, said in previous reports that Deng only wanted to improve administrative efficiency, but Zhao wanted to go further.

In his memoir, published in Hong Kong after his death, Zhao said he had no intention to institute Western-style democracy, but he wanted to increase transparency in the party and the government, introduce elections within the party, and have more room for public expression and the participation of other political forces.

“When economic reforms got deeper, the resistance from the conservative forces in the party got bigger. Without political reforms, it is difficult for economic reforms to drill deeper,” Zhao wrote.

Those efforts were aborted after the Tiananmen crackdown and political reforms were never again open for discussion.

“The 1989 Tiananmen [crackdown] was a watershed … After Tiananmen, there was no political reform at all,” said Wu, now a political-science professor in the University of Victoria in Canada.


But a pro-government scholar disagreed, citing elections at the village and county levels, changes to the household responsibility system that occurred in places like Xiaogang, and even market reforms that allowed private enterprises as evidence of political change.

“Many people said China only conducted economic reforms and there was no political reform, it was wrong. The Chinese economy and politics are inter-related and interact. Political and economic reforms cannot be separated,” said Li Junru, former deputy head of the Central Party School and a party theorist during Xi’s administration and that of his predecessor Hu Jintao.

“Without ironing out the relationship between the government and the enterprises, how can you build a market economy?”

40 years on

Forty years on and China is six years into Xi’s administration. Just like Deng, Xi has had to confront a party at the crossroads, with the upper ranks riddled with corruption and membership seen as a vehicle for advancement rather than a reflection of belief.

Xi has responded to these challenges by adopting a strongman approach – sending thousands of corrupt officials to jail, reshuffling party and government officials to root out factions, purging businesspeople who helped political elites channel money overseas, and tightening control over the media, arts, and education.

In March, Xi also made sweeping changes by merging and restructuring party and government bodies, such as putting the State Administration for Religious Affairs and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office under the party’s United Front Work Department. Instead of separating the government from the party, Xi has pushed for the party to oversee every aspect of the country.

“[Xi’s top aide] Wang Huning believes in new authoritarianism. What China needs is [to establish] systems, but authoritarianism is always music to the ears of politicians,” a former senior government official said.

Xi’s strongman style has helped him to crush opposition voices, but the approach raises the risk of mistakes that China can ill afford.

“The most important tool to make cadres work now is using self-criticism sessions, but who would be sincere in such sessions?” a researcher specialising in party organisation said, referring to meetings where cadres must admit their failings.

Xi has repeatedly pledged to deepen reforms but just how far he will and can go remains unclear, particularly as China grapples with slowing growth, a trade war with the United States, and pessimism in the private sector.


Observers were looking for signs late last month when Xi made his own high-profile trip to Guangdong amid rising concerns in the business world that the party was favouring state industry at the expense of the private sector. By visiting private companies in the area, Xi signalled that the party would continue its support for the private sector and that economic reforms and opening up would continue.

The party has also held a number of high-level meetings to indicate its support for entrepreneurs. On November 1, the president underlined the message to a group of businesspeople, including Robin Li of Baidu and Pony Ma of Tencent.

“Some have argued that the private economy has completed its mission and will fade out … Some have wrongly argued that setting up party cells and labour unions in private businesses is intended to control private enterprises … All these statements are completely wrong and do not conform to the party’s policies,” Xi said.


Vogel said the reform and opening up drive started by Deng would continue under Xi, although the current president might adopt a different methodology.

“Many of the reforms introduced by Deng still continue, but Xi has tightened the controls over the government and society and extended the micro-management while Deng concentrated only on the major issues and left more room to specialists below him,” Vogel said.

But Vogel said it was impossible for the party to maintain a tight political control forever.

“With over a million students studying overseas and tens of millions of tourist visits abroad each year, it is impossible to have tight political control over the thinking of Chinese citizens,” he said.

“Just as tight controls were loosened after 1976, so it is possible that controls over expression of different views will again be loosened at some point. Chinese citizens are too thoroughly intertwined with events around the world for Chinese leaders to be able to enforce long-lasting tight control over thinking.”


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: BP In West Papua – Slow Mot...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: BP In West Papua – Slow Mot...:   Note – This article was written by Michael Gillard and published on  New Matilda .com .This is an important and rare investigative ...

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: BP In West Papua – Slow Motion Genocide, High Speed Profit


Note – This article was written by Michael Gillard and published on New is an important and rare investigative piece on West Papua. Gillard’s work here illustrates the urgent need for journalists to have unrestricted access to West Papua. Indonesia currently oppresses journalistic freedom and freedom of speech.

Earlier this year, New Matilda sent British journalist Michael Gillard into West Papua, one of the most dangerous regions on earth for reporters. Michael’s goal was to hold to account a well known multinational operating beyond proper scrutiny in one of the world’s poorest regions. This is what he found.

BP is profiting from a giant gas field in West Papua while the indigenous population face ‘slow motion genocide’ under Indonesian military occupation, an undercover investigation by New Matilda can reveal.

The oil giant is collaborating with the army and police who are implicated in the killing and torturing of pro-independence activists as part of an escalating militarisation to secure West Papua’s gas reserves.

Indonesia jails foreign journalists who enter the occupied country without permission. Even the United Nations’ human rights rapporteur has been refused entry.

However, New Matilda snuck into the remote and forbidden land where BP is operating a US$10bn gas field called Tangguh to bring this exclusive report on the human rights quagmire.

Posing as a doctor, the undercover reporter travelled around the highly militarized Bintuni Bay and found evidence that behind a carefully crafted veil of corporate social responsibility, after fifteen years in West Papua, BP is endangering human rights and failing to deliver ‘a material improvement in fundamental living conditions’ of some of the world’s poorest people.

New Matilda can reveal that while still claiming to operate a ‘community-based security approach’:

§  BP security guards are spying on the local community and passing intelligence on ‘disruptive individuals’ to the military.

§  Well-armed Indonesian security forces are now secretly stationed inside the oil company’s base; And

§  Retired senior Indonesian police and military officers are running an ‘elite cadre’ of BP guards armed with stun guns and rubber bullets who are given ‘behaviour profiling’ training in how to spot agitators.

The self-styled ethical oil company is using counter-terrorism to justify these measures. BP is expanding the Tangguh operation at a cost of US$4bn and says it needs to vet thousands of construction workers coming from the Indonesian mainland for possible infiltration by Islamic terrorists.

But even the Indonesian counter-terrorism agency accepts there is no evidence that home grown Islamic militants, some returning from Syria, are operating in West Papua, let alone in the Bintuni Bay area.

Critics fear that the counter-terrorism is a cover for increasing state surveillance on the growing student and social movements seeking political freedoms and ultimately self-determination for West Papua.

The head of the Papuan organisation that provided human rights training to BP security told New Matilda that a network of undercover military intelligence agents is also targeting peaceful social movements in Bintuni Bay, who are being swept up in mass arrests.

The militarisation of BP’s Tangguh operation comes as a recent Amnesty International report on West Papua documented 95 extrajudicial killings by soldiers and police in the last 8 years and thousands of unlawful political arrests.

But even the Indonesian counter-terrorism agency accepts there is no evidence that home grown Islamic militants, some returning from Syria, are operating in West Papua, let alone in the Bintuni Bay area.

Critics fear that the counter-terrorism is a cover for increasing state surveillance on the growing student and social movements seeking political freedoms and ultimately self-determination for West Papua.

The head of the Papuan organisation that provided human rights training to BP security told New Matilda that a network of undercover military intelligence agents is also targeting peaceful social movements in Bintuni Bay, who are being swept up in mass arrests.

The militarisation of BP’s Tangguh operation comes as a recent Amnesty International report on West Papua documented 95 extrajudicial killings by soldiers and police in the last 8 years and thousands of unlawful political arrests.

The scandal of a two-tier health system

West Papua is one of the richest countries in natural resources, with an abundance of gas, gold, copper, fish and timber, yet the ethnic Melanesian population of 3.5m is the poorest in Indonesia and its colonies.

In Bintuni Bay, rural Melanesians, supposedly with tribal rights to the huge offshore gas deposits, continue to live in poverty and are treated as second-class citizens by Indonesian migrants who run the economy and have a significantly higher life expectancy.

Rural Melanesian families are also being devastated by high rates of infant mortality, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV, the latter first introduced by migrant Indonesian prostitutes.

Last week, BP reported bumper profits of US$3.8bn, double those of the previous year. Yet in Bintuni Bay New Matilda found:

§  A flagship BP sponsored health clinic serving 3,000 people has been without electricity for six months because the generator was not installed.

§  Melanesian villagers are given a cheaper anti-malarial drug while BP employees are treated with a more expensive brand.

§  Tuberculosis, a disease linked to poverty and poor housing, is on the rise but since 2002 BP has resettled just a handful of communities and only because it needed their land to build its base.

The communities were rehoused in new model villages but the inequality caused by neglecting the vast majority of remote villages on the north and south shores of Bintuni Bay has caused resentment and division, which Indonesian security forces are exploiting to justify applying counter-insurgency tactics.


Wake up to the slow motion genocide

Senior figures in the clergy and politics have told New Matilda that the international community and United Nations must now face up to its responsibility to confront multinational companies and Jakarta over their conduct in West Papua.

British peer, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the former bishop of Oxford, said it was “high time the world woke up to the slow motion genocide” taking place and questioned the involvement of one of Britain’s biggest companies.

“BP are siphoning off West Papuan resources to Indonesia blind to the brutal repression going on around them,” he said. “Ever since Indonesia invaded West Papua in 1961 Papuans have been bitterly repressed, with hundreds of thousands being killed. The Indonesian Government are desperate to hide what is happening from the rest of the world.”

Benny Wenda, the recently elected leader of the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua (UMLWP), who was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom 16 years ago, accused BP of “supporting an illegal occupation [and]operating in the middle of a genocide”.

British Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has long supported Wenda and West Papuan independence and endorsed a petition that the UMLWP leader presented to the United Nations last year.

Alex Sobel, a Labour MP and chairman of the British parliament’s all-party group on West Papua, called on BP to pull out of the country until it becomes self-governing.

“BP are operating amid clear human rights abuses. They should learn the lesson of Shell in [Nigeria] and withdraw from West Papua until such time the West Papuans are in control of their land.”

In September, Vanuatu and two other Melanesian nations called on the UN to investigate human right abuses and put West Papua on the decolonisation list of non self-governing territories. Jakarta responded with mass arrests of protestors.

Successive British and Australian governments have ignored the escalating human rights situation in West Papua. Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, is a major trading partner of both countries and a key ally of the West in the war on terror.

The UK has spent over one million pounds since 2014 training Indonesian police units, including Detachment 88, the counter-terrorism unit set up after the 2002 Bali bombings. The British government admitted in July that it has no way of monitoring if British arms sales to Indonesia are being used in West Papua.

Australia has an estimated AUS$10bn of direct investment in Indonesia a third of which is in the mining sector. For years the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has worked closely with the military in West Papua to protect the world’s largest gold mine and second largest copper mine.

Lord Harries said: “I once reminded a senior Indonesian official about his government’s repression in East Timor. He replied that East Timor was of no value to them but the resources of West Papua were highly valuable and they would hold on to them come whatever.”

BP beyond scrutiny

In 2000, BP rebranded itself as an environmental and human rights friendly oil company. Out went the green shield and in came a Helios sun logo and new slogan that it was ‘beyond petroleum’.

Two years later, engineers and construction workers started to develop the Tangguh field in West Papua, which has 14 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves underneath Bintuni Bay.

Two unmanned platforms were built in the pristine eco-system, where fishing is the main means of subsistence, to transport the gas 22 miles by subsea pipelines to cooling or liquefaction plants on the south shore at Babo.

Prince Andrew visited Tangguh as the UK’s trade representative just before the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) was shipped for sale in 2009 and the petrodollars started to flow back to BP headquarters in London.

All was looking good for the oil giant until the following year when the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform exploded, contaminating the Gulf of Mexico and killing 11 people. To pay off the US$65bn compensation and clean-up bill, BP had to start selling off assets.

The gas project in Bintuni Bay was not on the list. In fact, so important is Tangguh to BP and its partners from China, Japan, and Korea that international banks have funded almost US$4bn to construct a third liquefaction plant and two new offshore platforms by 2020.

The majority of the LNG it produces will be sold to Indonesia, making Tangguh vital to Jakarta’s energy security and its expansion a national strategic infrastructure project.

Resource-rich but remote places such as West Papua are attractive to BP because of tax incentives and a lax regulatory environment compared to the developed world. And the violent stranglehold of military occupation in West Papua, where journalists enter illegally at their peril, puts the oil giant largely beyond scrutiny.


The act of killing

Control of West Papua was established by a brutal invasion where an estimated 30,000 Papuans were killed between 1965 and 1969 by US-backed Indonesian security forces.

The soldiers were fresh from murdering over 500,000 suspected communist sympathisers in their own country, as described in British documentary maker Joshua Oppenheimer’s much lauded film, The Act of Killing.

Indonesian military intelligence then rigged a controversial vote among selected Papuans in 1969, which to its discredit the United Nations went along with.

“The so-called Act of Free Choice which resulted in Indonesia claiming West Papua was a total fraud,” said Lord Harries. “As a British foreign minister once said [in parliament], 1,000 handpicked people were ‘largely coerced’ to agreeing to integration with Indonesia.”

Since the invasion, a policy of ‘Indonesianisation’ through displacement then mass migration has relegated Papuans to little more than a supply of menial labour and a curiosity because of their many tribal cultures – penis gourds and bow and arrows are used to promote the leading coffee chain and bakery in West Papua.

Meanwhile, Jakarta continues to market West Papua to the outside world as an eco-paradise for big spenders who can dive in Raja Ampat or trek the rain forests of the Arfak Mountains. Boutique travels firms also take tourists on human safari where they can be photographed with dancing forest tribesmen.

Even Hollywood is in on the swindle. A Cate Blanchett-narrated documentary, Journey to the South Pacific, on West Papua’s marine environment – told through a happy-go-lucky Melanesian boy and his smiling friends – assures viewers that life for them ‘flourishes’ above the sea when, in truth, they are condemned to poverty, illiteracy and underemployment.

We don’t want another Colombia

“The take over by Indonesia, with control of every aspect of economic and political life, has left its people a minority in their own country, repressed and subjugated,” said Lord Harries.

“Papuans are becoming foreigners and foreigners are becoming Papuans – and it is supported by the World Bank,” said Wenda, who lives in Oxford, where the local council is considering awarding him a ‘freedom of the city’ honour alongside Nelson Mandela. Back in Jakarta, he is considered a terrorist and someone BP has conspicuously avoided.

Critics argue that a truly ethical energy company would never have gone into West Papua. But BP claimed it would operate to the highest corporate social responsibility standards.

It did not want to repeat the public relations disaster of its involvement in Colombia in the late 1990s.

Back then, this reporter exposed how BP, working with ex-SAS private contractors, funded and shared intelligence with the Colombian security forces, who were responsible for ‘cleansing’ any hint of peaceful opposition around the oil fields of Casanare.

Unlike Colombia, West Papua has no foreign-backed and well-armed insurgency but a rag tag group of around 300 poorly trained men from the central highlands whose arsenal includes stolen guns and homemade spears.

BP accepts that the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) or Free Papua Movement does not operate in the Bintuni Bay region.

The greater threat comes from government security forces, says Yan Christian Warinussy, director of LP3BH, a local human rights organisation who BP asked to train its security guards between 2006 and 2008 as part of its ‘community based’ approach for Tangguh.

Since BP’s arrival, Warinussy said his organisation has logged a marked increase in reported incidents of violence in the Bintuni Bay area associated with disputes between BP security guards, other employees and contractors. The disputes are over land, the environment and domestic violence. “We have data. The increase is 30% to 40%,” he said. By contrast, BP says it has not self-reported any human rights abuse allegations.

There are also labour rights problems inside the BP base, including racism by Indonesian contractors towards Melanesians. Contractors are expected to hire only indigenous people for unskilled labour, 93% for semi-skilled and 12% for skilled jobs.

When it started constructing its base, BP set up what it called the Tangguh Independent Advisory Panel, drawn from former US congressmen and a retired British diplomat. A Melanesian businessman, who ended up working for BP, was added to the mix.

The men – former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle, retired diplomat Gary Klein, and Augustinus Rumansara, a Papuan who chaired the Asian Development Bank – receive a salary for their time advising BP on a range of issues including recruitment. They fly to West Papua for just over a week to meet local power brokers, visit the base camp and model villagers before writing an annual report based on statistics supplied by BP that is published online.

The panel’s latest report and BP’s response to it accepts that the oil company is nowhere near meeting its target of a skilled Papuan workforce by 2029. The current level is just over 50% and the term ‘Papuan’ is not confined to Melanesians but migrants who have been living in the colony for 10 years. Recruitment programmes have all failed, the panel revealed, and after 15 years Melanesians are almost totally absent from higher skilled or supervisory roles.

Spying on the locals

Gardatama Nusantara is the Indonesian private security contractor that manages the locally employed guards around BP’s installations. The company is run by retired Indonesian army and police and works closely with former officers employed by BP’s internal security department, an insider told New Matilda.

This revolving door eases the sharing of intelligence with the military, which has always sought a greater role in protecting the Tangguh gas field and now has one thanks to the expansion of a third liquefaction plant.

Warinussy is also worried about military intelligence (BIN) targeting popular organisations in Bintuni Bay. “Now many people from BIN are in the community dressed like civilians,” he said.

The panel flagged the problem to BP in its December 2015 report. It said there was a “strong view by BIN that public security forces must be more active at Tangguh and in the community… Senior members of BIN were displeased with access of public security to Tangguh and communication with BP. BIN sees a need for greater intelligence and early detection of potential unrest … to avoid conflict. The continuing dispute regarding [villagers]compensation was cited as a source of local anger and a potential threat to Tangguh”.

The panel, which cautioned against intelligence sharing, did not return to West Papua for two years, but its latest report, published in December 2017, heralds a remarkable volte face; one which BP has enthusiastically embraced, much to the delight of the Indonesian police and army.

“Increased intelligence gathering and sharing is critical for detection and early warning of any suspicious activity. Tangguh security should continue to encourage the local community to share information with BP about new arrivals and any unusual or secretive activities to detect any threatening behavior or incendiary language related to Tangguh,” the panel said.

It also recommended that BP security should be “enhanced with more effective weapons to frustrate if not overcome an armed attack”. Pepper sprays, rubber bullets, stun guns, drones and unspecified ‘other devices’ should be given to an ‘elite cadre’ of guards.

New Matilda can reveal that since December 2017 matters have escalated even further. Believing this undercover reporter was working for BP, an Indonesian security manager based at Babo revealed that a small garrison of at least 10 well-armed ‘soldiers’ have been stationed inside the base camp since May this year. BP says they are police, and based there to provide a more rapid response to ‘high level security threats’. These new Indonesian security forces have ‘limited exposure’ to the community, the oil company insists.

Benny Wenda, who escaped to the UK from a Papuan prison 20 years ago, called the increasing militarisation of Bintuni Bay a ‘timebomb’. Warinussy agrees with him. The leading Papuan human rights advocate fears militarisation of the gas field will ‘create problems’ similar to those 350 miles away in another part of West Papua, where the US firm Freeport and Anglo-Australian miners Rio Tinto worked closely with the military to protect the world’s largest gold mine and second largest copper mine.

Rio Tinto, however, has recently sold its interest in the Grasberg mine to an Indonesian company.

BIN blames Free Papua rebels (OPM) for its repressive response to social movements around the mines. But there have been reported cases where intelligence officers have planted evidence and used spies to incite violence to justify clamping down on the unarmed independence movement.

As much as 80% of the military’s income comes from the businesses and facilities it protects, creating a culture of extortion and corruption in the public security forces alongside impunity for human rights abuses.

BP says it pays the energy regulator for any non-lethal police and military assistance to avoid accusations of direct aid. But it has no control over what Jakarta does with the revenues.

Since 2010, BP has paid US$670,000 to the police. The company’s latest accounts show US$266,000 cash payments to the police for joint security operations in 2016. There is no similar disclosure about any payments to the military.

Lord Harries points out that whatever funding mechanism for protection BP hides behind in West Papua, the minister responsible for security in the occupied country is a former general who the UN indicted in 2003 for war crimes in East Timor. His political appointment is a shining example of how impunity works in Indonesia, said the peer.

Fifteen years of development failures

The Tangguh Independent Advisory Panel was set up in 2002 by BP’s then chief executive, John Browne, because, he would later admit, past corporate social responsibility efforts were little more than ‘prettying up’ villages.

Ten villages had to be relocated to make way for the BP base in Babo. Brand new wooden huts were built outside the exclusion zone but near the shore, so villagers could continue shrimping and fishing.

Inevitably, the creation of these trophy villages, which raised a few out of their immediate poverty, caused resentment among the many in the rest of Bintuni Bay who live in cramped, wooden housing without electricity and access to clean water.

Tuberculosis, an illness associated with poverty, is on the rise, a health worker in Babo told this undercover reporter. “There are many cases. It is a big problem because many people live in one house without ventilation,” said the source.

The panel had warned about a development gap between the north and south shore since the beginning of BP’s presence in Bintuni Bay. Fifteen years later it said: “Although basic infrastructure, like walkways and jetties, churches and mosques, are improved from a decade ago, there is still little local health care, almost no land transportation (especially in the north shore), minimal education, poor housing and, in many cases, no reliable electricity.” The panel’s 2015 report also concluded that the projects BP had put in place to close the development gap were failures.

Three years on, little had changed. The latest panel report included this devastating finding. “Many of the long continuing issues relating to relations with Papuans remain unresolved. These include claims by local tribes for compensation, delays in providing north shore housing and electricity, recruitment and promotion of Papuan workers.”

The panel suggested that in the absence of any progress on housing by 2018, BP should build a token bridge, building or walkway in a village as a demonstration of “good faith” and compensation for the 15-year “delay”.

God, however, is doing good business in Bintuni Bay, where various Christian groups are fighting for the Melanesian soul. New churches are being erected in the expanding town of Bintuni on the north shore despite the lack of housing in the surrounding villages.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick, a former British diplomat who was on the panel from 2002 to 2009, called the lack of progress in developing the north and south shores ‘depressing’. BP says it is ‘proud’ of its track record in the area.

The oil company and current panel prefer to blame the north and south shore development gap on dysfunction in the local and national government, failing to recognise the possibility that Jakarta has little interest in raising the standard of living of indigenous people and sows instability among its community leaders.

Most of the gas royalties from Tangguh have yet to be released by Jakarta to West Papua and the system of distribution is opaque, prone to corruption and breeds division.

BP has failed to help train Melanesian community leaders in how to manage the royalties for the greater good. It is indicative of a wider inequality in education between Indonesian and Melanesian children in West Papua.

After 15 years, BP has failed to deliver its promise to build a ‘flagship school’. The panel has suggested the oil company quickly constructs a fully functioning one in time for the opening of the new US$4bn liquefaction plant and offshore platforms in 2020.

This general lack of investment cannot be explained only by a lacklustre approach from Jakarta to its troublesome colony.

While Melanesians are drowning in poverty, BP is now swimming in petrodollars; so much so that it is due to pay US$10.5bn in cash to buy Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP’s oil and gas shale interests in the US. Crude prices dropped in 2014 but have  soared and are now at US$72 a barrel. BP says it breaks even at US$50.

The failure after 15 years to close the development gap in Bintuni Bay should also be seen in the context that the West Papuan struggle is largely ignored internationally and BP is operating beyond real independent scrutiny because its operation is so remote and the military prevent outsiders from coming in.

BP was therefore able to ignore its original promise to close the development gap. It then waited for Jakarta to approve the Tangguh expansion project in 2016 before making further promises, which it is still failing to honour.


When the gas is gone

Sustainable employment is going to be a big problem for poorly educated and under skilled Melanesian villagers when the gas is gone.

BP has failed to fully upgrade the fishing fleet of Bintuni Bay villages, who still use non-motorised dug-out canoes to shrimp and fish.

Separately, BP promised to ‘empower local people’ through an indigenous sustainable employment programme and points to its flagship enterprise, Subitu – a micro clothing factory in the town of Bintuni, with a retail shop in Sorong – as ‘tangible evidence’ of success.

The BP panel warned that failure here would “reflect badly” on the company. When this undercover reporter visited the factory Indonesians were clearly in management positions and a handful of Melanesian women were carrying out the manual labour.

The sustainability of Subitu in a post-gas economy is highly questionable. The business is kept afloat by orders for work clothing emblazoned with the logos of BP, Tangguh and its international sponsors. The shop in Sorong that sells these items is run by young trendy Indonesians and would not look out of place in central London. But it is unlikely that its line of clothing will become the must have fashion items of impoverished future generations of Melanesians when the gas is gone.


Death by preventable disease

Many of the best Melanesian minds end up working for the multinationals in West Papua. Dr Pascali is one of them. He has spent the last 17 years at BP and was part of the team that conducted the initial base line study of the local population’s health.

Malaria used to affect 24% of the Bintuni Bay population in 2004 but is now down to 7% thanks to BP sponsored health clinics in villages, he told this undercover reporter, who was posing as a doctor.

The energy giant has achieved this, said Pascali, by giving villagers a cheaper Mefloquine generic, while BP employees receive the more expensive Larium brand. “It’s BP policy,” he explained.

Villagers and employees of the energy giant are also screened for HIV, which was initially caused by the transmigration of infected Indonesian sex workers.

Bintuni town is where workers with cash come to drink and pay for sex. Brothels are ‘underground’ and associated with warungs (Indonesian-run food stalls), said Dr Pascali. “Blacks get infected and infect their wives because they don’t wear condoms. She would suspect infidelity if he did.”

HIV and AIDS awareness posters inexplicably use a picture of a Papuan man in full tribal head gear, further stereotyping the indigenous population as backward savages.

In Babo, a health worker explained how local women had driven out the prostitutes. Nevertheless, “HIV is on the rise and malaria going down,” he said.

A 22-year-old man had died just before this undercover reporter visited the flagship Babo clinic, which serves 3,000 people. It was the first case in 2018 and one of five cases of HIV since 2015.

All visitors to the health clinic are screened for HIV and those infected given Hetero, an Indian-made retroviral drug. This year eight patients are receiving the treatment in a population where women outnumber men.

The Indonesian doctor in charge of the Babo clinic was supportive of BP, who he said had donated an incubator and birthing equipment. But he admitted that the clinic had no electricity during the day.

A health worker took this undercover reporter aside and explained what had transpired. “The generator was destroyed in a fire in February. [The clinic] asked BP to help put out the fire but it refused citing its standard operating procedure. We had to use buckets,” the source recalled.

The Indonesian government provided a new generator in May but when New Matilda visited it had still not been installed because of wrangling with a contractor.

Health records in Babo show there have been seven cases of infant mortality since 2016. The main cause was intrauterine growth restriction and one case of sepsis, which are associated with malnutrition and inadequate health care.

If someone is seriously unwell the clinic in Babo will try to stabilise the patient while others look for a boat to make the three-hour journey across the bay to the town of Bintuni.

By contrast, BP has a chartered private plane to fly its employees out of Babo to a hospital within one hour.

BP maintains that its best security lies in good community relations. But that in turn depends on honouring its development promises and not encouraging locals to spy on each other and share intelligence with a brutal occupying force implicated in human rights abuses.

John Paul Getty, the famously parsimonious oil magnate, gave the most truthful answer to the question many indigenous Papuans ask. Why are we so poor when our country is so rich?

The meek, he said, may well inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights.

Michael Gillard is a roving freelance journalist writing about corruption, corporate misfeasance and organised crime. He is the author of two books and former member of The Guardian and Sunday Times investigation units. He’s also the winner of the prestigious UK Journalist of the Year, from 2013.