THE OPEN CAGE
Daniel Start 1997
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.