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John Passant

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August 2013



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The West Papua freedom flotilla

Just two hundred kilometres to Australia’s north lies West Papua, part of Indonesia.

In 1969, after  6 years of Indonesian brutality, in an act of Free Choice – it wasn’t – West Papua joined Indonesia. Instead of the 800,000 West Papuans voting, a hand picked group of 1026 tribal leaders, under intense pressure from the occupiers, voted to become part of Indonesia.

The result suited both Indonesia and the US, and Australia and the Netherlands, the former colonial master.

Indonesian rule is brutal. In 2012 Aljazeera estimated that 500,000 West Papuans has died as a result of the incorporation of the country into Indonesia. A program of transmigration has disrupted and destroyed traditional life. Of the more than 3 million now living in West Papua about half are non-Papuan.

Because West Papuans have resisted the occupation and genocide the Indonesian armed forces have repressed the indigenous population, abused human rights and killed both those fighting back and the innocent. The killers have included Australian trained special forces.

On 19 August the Freedom Flotilla – 3 boats and about 20 people – set sail from Cairns for West Papua to help the original people of both lands connect.  Here is how the editors in Socialist Alternative put it.

This idea came from Aboriginal elder Uncle Kevin Buzzacott. A few years ago he met with the West Papuan leader Jacob Rumbiak. They found that their traditional stories connected. Millions of years ago the land [Australia and West Papua] was also connected. It was one land and one family. So the idea came up that we should do a convoy back to West Papua, to reconnect.

Part of the focus is on the cultural connection with the land, the people and the stories. Uncle Kevin said “We’ve seen the West Papuans come here by boat. Why don’t we take this same issue back to their land, go and visit them and revisit the time when this land was one?” So we will take back the stories that we want shared. The morning star is one. The story is the same for the people of West Papua as it is for Aboriginal people in the north here in Australia and even in the south. So it is connecting back those stories.

It is also sharing the common struggle that the Indigenous mob here is facing and that the West Papuans are facing: the foreign occupation of the land, the land rights issue, the indigenous rights issue, the human rights issue. That is the objective, the idea behind this.

The Freedom Flotilla aims to draw the attention of the world to the repression of the people of West Papua and their legitimate demands for self-determination and independence. The Indonesian Government has denied the flotilla the right to enter Indonesian waters and  threatened to use the navy and airforce to intervene against the boats

Here’s what the always execrable Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said in a report from AAP on the 7 News website:

Our message to these fringe activists from Australia is that they risk breaching Indonesian immigration laws,” Senator Carr said.

“If they do end up breaching Indonesian law they will receive the normal consular support. But Indonesian and not Australian law will prevail.

“The Australian government has urged these activists not to engage in this high-risk behaviour.”

Senator Carr said members of the flotilla were perpetrating a cruel hoax on the people of the Papuan provinces, by suggesting Papuan independence was on the international agenda.

“The world recognises Indonesian sovereignty over its Papuan provinces, as do both sides of Australian politics,” he said in a statement.

Well Mr Carr, the bloodthirsty bourgeois world recognises lots of illegitimate rulers. Ordinary working people recognise justice and decency.

Which side are you on? I am on the side of those fighting for freedom for West Papua, Mr Carr. You and the Labor government are not.



Comment from Sara dowse
Time August 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm

FYI John. In the 1980s I worked on an ABC series called Relative Merits which was based on the West Papua struggle. The ABC did its best to kill it – it was shown but around midnight with no onscreen promotion.

Comment from jenelle
Time August 20, 2013 at 7:57 pm

when I see the Australian Aboriginal flag flying freely across our nation I am filled with pride and respect for our Indigenous people who have fourght hard to keep their culture alive. When the Morning Star flag flys so proud and free in West Pupua it will be a great day.

Comment from John
Time August 20, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Thanks Sara. What did it argue? Is there a link to Relative Merits online?

Comment from Andrew Johnson
Time August 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm

No, the United Nations has never alleged West Papua is part of Indonesia. That is from a fabrication published by Reuters in 1969.

West Papua is a UN trust territory which Indonesia is only administrating on behalf of the UN members. The UN members decided to occupy and to take responsibility for West Papua under article 76 of the UN Charter when they made General Assembly resolution 1752 (XVII) under article 85 of the Charter.

The flotilla is entitled to protection under article 76 of the Charter while in the waters and territory of West New Guinea.

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