Contrary to what the Indonesian government had expected, the locals of the chosen space port did not welcome the bosses of Tesla and SpaceX.
Elon Musk recently selected an island in Papua, Indonesia as a potential launch pad for the SpaceX program, but local residents did not welcome the plan. They believe that turning the island into a space port will destroy the ecological environment, causing the people here to “have a home but cannot return”.
In December 2020, Indonesian President Joko Widodo gave Elon Musk permission to use parts of Biak Island in the province of Papua. After consulting with the Papua provincial government and the local community, the parties are developing a space port as planned. Accordingly, Biak will become a “space island”, expected to “bring positive economic impacts” to indigenous people.
Launchers promote growth?
“The Papua provincial government believes that the construction of Biak Space Port will create conditions for Biak Numfor to become a hub and have a positive economic impact on the local government and community. The Indonesian parliament also believes that the construction of Biak Island into a space island will bring positive effects to the surrounding area, ”said the Indonesian government spokesman.
The Indonesian government said that with the space port planning, the Indonesian Aerospace Research Institute (LAPAN) will continue to conduct close consultations with the local community.
The east coast of Biak Island facing the Pacific Ocean, located 1 degree south latitude, is the ideal place to launch communication satellites into low orbit because it can save a lot of fuel. In addition, Biak Island near the natural resource production area also creates favorable conditions to become a priority choice for investors.
Elon Musk plans to launch 12,000 satellites by 2026 to form the Starlink network to provide high-speed and low-cost Internet service. In addition, the western part of New Guinea, home to the province of Papua, is rich in natural resources such as copper and nickel, which are the two most important metals used in Tesla’s electric vehicle batteries as well as satellite missiles. .
For the Indonesian government, President Joko Widodo’s vision now creates all conditions for Elon Musk to come to Indonesia, on the one hand to increase sales of nickel products, on the other hand to promote the island country to become a manufacturer. 2nd largest electric vehicle manufacturer in Southeast Asia. If the plan works, Tesla and SpaceX will accelerate resource development in Papua and West Papua.
In July of last year, Musk told Indonesian officials “if nickel can be efficiently mined in an environmentally sensitive way,” Tesla would offer “a long term contract of great value.”
The Papua division movement has been going on for decades
However, the Papuans on Biak Island strongly oppose this plan, believing that building a space launcher will increase deforestation activities, while increasing the Indonesian armed forces stationed on the island. and threaten the future of indigenous peoples.
The island’s tribal leader Manfun Sroyer even worried Elon Musk’s plan would prevent the islanders from staying in their homes. “This aerospace will cause us to lose our traditional hunting ground and destroy the natural environment in order to survive. But in opposition, we might be arrested. ”It is worth mentioning that in Papua province, where Biak is located, the separatist movement has been going on for decades.
In terms of ethnicity and culture, the Papuans are similar to the indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, as well as other countries and belong to the Melanesians. The main belief in the local area is also Christianity, which is different from Islam, which most Indonesians believe.
The western part of the island of New Guinea, home to the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, is known as New Guinea (the Dutch occupied during the colonial period) and declared independence in 1961. However, Indonesia, the country official independence in early 1950, immediately sent troops there. In May 1963, the United Nations finally passed a resolution to hand over sovereignty over the western part of New Guinea to Indonesia.
After a controversial referendum, the western part of New Guinea was formally incorporated into Indonesian territory in 1969. The Papuans have long opposed Indonesian rule and attempted independence. . For this reason, armed conflict broke out with the Indonesian government.
Conflict survivor Tineke Rumkabu said she wanted to send Elon Musk that Biak Island did not welcome the billionaire’s launch plan, “As a South African (Elon Musk was born in South Africa) he must know about racism and what the South African government did to blacks before. If you bring the industry here, that means directly sponsoring the Indonesian government to control the people. Papuans ”.
Exiled leader Benny Wenda of the West Papua Liberation Movement (ULMWP) told the Guardian: “Biak is a small island. Someone is destroying the ecosystem and threatening the survival of the people on the island. They just want to live simply and don’t let disaster hit this island. In addition to Elon Musk, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has a plan to set up a large missile launch site on the island of Biak by 2024.
Tesla is completing final steps to invest in Indonesia
Tesla wants to build an electric car battery factory in Indonesia. This project will bring economic benefits to both sides, so it is very welcomed by the Indonesian side.