From January to July 2020, more than sixty-five West Papuans were detained, put on trial and jailed for up to seventeen years. Their crimes? Protesting against racism and raising a flag. West Papuans’ attempts to salvage their dignity as humans and their self-determination as a people have led to indictments of “treason”, “criminal conspiracy” and “incitement”.
This criminalisation of Papuan human rights activists is only the latest instance in West Papuans’ history of oppression under Indonesian rule – a history that includes their loss of lands and freedoms, their subjugation to physical and psychological abuse, and their unfulfilled demands for self-determination. This volatile history forms the core of John Martinkus’s The Road. With experience reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Timor-Leste and Aceh, Martinkus, a four-time Walkley-nominated investigative reporter, is no stranger to extreme violence and gross injustice. Yet he reveals he has never seen “a people more systematically oppressed and isolated than the West Papuans”.