13.8 C
Byron Shire
May 22, 2024

Incarcerated in West Papua, my son endured a six-month ordeal

Latest News

We Like to Tiki: Caper festival closing party this Sunday

North Byron Hotel is the official watering hole of Caper Byron Bay Food & Culture Festival 2024. To celebrate...

Other News

What do young people want and what do they think needs to change?

The ‘Your Voice, Our Future’ survey has been launched and is asking young people to put forward their views on what is important to them. 

Contraband, Chile’s 9/11 and black ops 

Putting the life of local adventurer Chris Dewhirst into print would be no easy task. But he’s managed to do it, in part, with Everest Guns & Money.

Embarking on adventure

The 2024 Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour comes to Brunswick Heads and the Picture House is calling all adventurers, thrill-seekers, and lovers of the great outdoors. With only two screenings scheduled for 23 and 24 May, tickets are selling fast.

Northern Rivers will host the 2025 and 2027 NSW Bowls Championships

Ballina is set to host the 2025 and 2027 State Bowls Championships that will see over 900 competitors vying...

Angels Beach Drive, East Ballina temporarily closed today

Angels Beach Drive, East Ballina has been temporarily closed due to a broken water main just north of Prospect Bridge.

Garry Simes racks up 25 finishes at Australia’s oldest ironman triathlon

Ballina Triathlon Club member Garry Simes has achieved the milestone of finishing the Port Macquarie Ironman Australia race, one...

Saul Dalton, second from right, and friends.
Saul Dalton, second from right, and friends.

Susan Skyvington

Before gaining independence in 1999, East Timor endured 24 years of brutal suffering under Indonesian occupation. Are we aware, do we care that this is today being repeated in West Papua?

Just 200km from Australia, the western half of New Guinea island, formerly Irian Jaya, West Papua also wants freedom from Indonesia, but is being violently oppressed.

My son Saul Dalton was detained for six months in this remote province, inadvertently caught up in both independence struggles.

A a young graduate, Saul went as a UN-sponsored witness to the referendum in East Timor. Proud of him for his social conscience, unusual among his materialistic Gen X cohort, I was also concerned. Massacre was predicted if the vote went against Indonesia retaining East Timor.


A violent bloodbath did ensue. Saul hopped onto an inter-island ferry to escape trouble. Or so he thought. Ten days later he landed up in Irian Jaya. Out of the frying pan into the fire. John Howard had just sent Australian-led troops into Timor to quell the slaughter.

Indonesia hated Australia for this intervention, for their loss of face. Saul was arrested on boarding a short flight back to Darwin. At midnight, driven into dark remote jungle, he was sure this was where his life would end.

Indonesian foreign minister Ali Alatas gloated next day to his Australian counterpart Alexander Downer at a New York UN meeting: ‘We are holding one of your countrymen’.

I went to try to get him out. From Byron paradise plunged into Papua hell. I was told, ‘We do not like your country, we will not help your son. We have photographed him in Darwin wearing a Falintil [the ET resistance movement] t-shirt demonstrating against the Republic of Indonesia.’

My naive plea, ‘But we were all supporting East Timor,’ did not help.

Alone, defended only by a police-appointed non-English-speaking lawyer, Saul was put through a drawn-out trial on charges of misusing his visa (endorsed by the Indonesian Consulate in Darwin with ‘Pro-UNAMET’, to assist in the UN mission to East Timor) for espionage, for trying to wrest this province from the Republic of Indonesia – sent moreover by the Australian government!

The Morning Star flag designed by Markus Wonggor Kaisiepo in 1961 has become a symbol of the independence movement.
The Morning Star flag designed by Markus Wonggor Kaisiepo in 1961 has become a symbol of the independence movement.


The Papuan prosecutor told me, ‘I know your son has done nothing. I am being asked to bring these false charges against him as a payback to Australia’. Young Melky Huka, who had helped Saul, died suddenly, mysteriously.

Eventually my son was released. A case of straying into the wrong place at the wrong time. They had not caught a big spymaster, just small fry. Face had been saved.

We were asked to write a statement to General Siagian, head of armed forces of Irian Jaya, to never speak out against the Republic of Indonesia.

Through our long ordeal, the legacy of which is PTSD, we learned about this most remote, secret, sinister place, of its exploited natural beauty and rich resources, its brave, gentle freedom-loving people. I have met human rights lawyers and advocates, tribal and church leaders, musicians, artists – all have lost loved ones, land, and livelihood. But not their spirit.

Saul was held near giant US-owned Freeport, the world’s largest gold and third largest copper mine (200,000 tons of copper ore per day). Freeport’s four per cent royalty is the single largest contribution to Indonesia’s GNP.

It pays millions of dollars to Kopassus, the ‘elite’ Indonesian military unit, to provide security to the mine.


That is also why Saul was arrested: no-one is meant to go there, to reveal what is happening in this last innocent Shangri-la being brutally raped behind closed doors.

I witnessed a kilometres-wide swathe of mining waste descending from the glacier-topped mountain of gold to the sea, decimating rainforest, rivers and villages along its path. Papua’s rainforest, home of exotic birds of paradise, is being destroyed.

In 2004 Yale Law School concluded that genocide is occurring, half a million of West Papua’s people massacred since Indonesia appropriated it in 1969. Australia is complicit in turning a blind eye, and our taxes are paying for Kopassus training.

• Free West Papua activism

An Australian site for human rights in West Papua is at freewestpapua.com.au.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. the scale of the destruction going on in West Papua and Papua New Guinea is unbelievable … we have turned our back on the whole island and let the vampires the life out of it, and that is exactly what is going on..military owned corporations are running amuck over there, non both sides of the stupid iinsignificant border … most of it is being carried out by muslim workers, North & South Korean, Chinese and Malaysian funding and infrastructure with a whole web of company fronts, like “Korindo”, “Rimbunan Hijau” and their corporate. the point is Australians are the market for most of the products companies like Nortruss, Goodman Fielder, and cVegetable oil 477,471) they are laughing all the way to the bank..Australia is a sad joke, we do nothing to stop the destruction, we contribute by buying food products with palm oil, next we will be buying their white rice which is planned to be grown on a massive scale in PNG & West Papua by 2017 buying food products with palm oil, next we will be buying their Halal beef grown in West Papua, when all the forest is gone…


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Spice Palace: a mecca for Middle Eastern dips and spice mixes

Victoria Cosford The business was a natural fit for Bec and Tom, new owners for the past few months, of this successful little operation.  Spice Palace,...

Byron Rebels continue strong run in local rugby union

The Byron Shire Rebels put on 83 unanswered points against Lismore Rugby Club last weekend at Shultz Oval, capping a good day for the...

Garry Simes racks up 25 finishes at Australia’s oldest ironman triathlon

Ballina Triathlon Club member Garry Simes has achieved the milestone of finishing the Port Macquarie Ironman Australia race, one of Australia’s premier events, for...

Outdoor pickleball courts for Alstonville

Alstonville now boasts tournament-standard pickleball courts that opened to an enthusiastic crowd and players earlier this month. The eight new tournament-standard outdoor courts have been...