THE OPEN CAGE

Daniel Start 1997

Indonesia Expat - - TOP 10 -

In Oc­to­ber 1995, Daniel Start (then 22), a re­cent grad­u­ate in nat­u­ral sciences from Cam­bridge Univer­sity, ar­rived in Jakarta to lead a team of Euro­pean and In­done­sian sci­en­tists on an ex­pe­di­tion to Irian Jaya (as Pa­pua was called back then). Their aim was to gather bi­o­log­i­cal data for a pro­posed na­tional park. The team com­prised five In­done­sians, four Bri­tons, one Dutch­man and his preg­nant Ger­man wife. In Jan­uary 1996, they were ab­ducted by the sep­a­ratist Free Pa­pua Move­ment (OPM) and held hostage for 130 days. Two of the In­done­sians and nu­mer­ous Pa­puan civil­ians were killed dur­ing a con­tro­ver­sial res­cue op­er­a­tion, in which the In­done­sian Army’s Spe­cial Forces (Kopas­sus) used a white he­li­copter that re­sem­bled those used by the Red Cross. Bri­tish mer­ce­nar­ies were also in­volved. Start pro­vides a rivet­ing ac­count of the hostages’ or­deal. He sym­pa­thises with the rebels and laments their sit­u­a­tion, as well as In­done­sia’s in­her­ent fail­ure to un­der­stand Pa­pua. It’s one of the best books on Pa­pua and well worth find­ing a copy.

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