Flying the flag for West Papua



Around the world yesterday people were raising the Morning Star flag in solidarity with the West Papuan people. In Auckland it took the form of a group of women conducting “guerrilla theatre” flag raising at three key intersections along Queen Street (see photo). I was in the support group.

December 1st is a special day for West Papuans because on that day, back in 1961, the Morning Star flag was raised for the first time. The then Dutch colonists were sympathetic, because they had put West Papua on the road to independence. However the hopes for a free West Papua were dashed after Indonesia troops invaded the country.

Today, West Papuans who raise the flag are harshly dealt with. One activist, Filep Karma is still in jail serving a 15 year sentence for leading a flag raising in Jayapura seven years ago on December 1st 2004. Amnesty International consider Filep to be a “prisoner of conscience” and have been pressing for his freedom.

When I wrote this blog reports on the December 1st flagraising ceremonies in West Papua were not yet in, but the Indonesia Police had been preparing to clamp down. On November 26 there were dozens of arrests following protests organised by the pro-independence West Papuan National Committee (KNPB).

Unfortunately, Indonesian Police are able to attack the demonstrations outside of a media spotlight, because foreign journalists are largely banned from visiting the territory. This was the subject of a big Avaaz internet petition a couple of months ago. 34,000 signatures were collected to call for freedom of the press in West Papua, allowing entry to foreign journalists, and an end to the killing of West Papuans.

West Papuan are still struggling to get much support from foreign governments, but it was pleasing to see the Vanuatu Prime Minister Moana Kalosil bringing up the human rights abuses in West Papua when he addressed the UN General Assembly in October. Our government shies away from raising such issues and, sadly, supports Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua.

There’ve been some creative protests for West Papua in this part of the world, not least the guerrilla theatre by the women of West Papua Action Auckland yesterday. [email:].

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In September a Freedom Flotilla, with Aboriginal elders on board, set sail from Australia to West Papua, but threats from the Indonesian navy prevented it from docking. One New Zealander, Tyrone Wood, was among the crew.


  1. I could never understand why the West suddenly recognised that Timor Leste had a good case for independence, but doesn’t seem to give West Papua any thought at all. Is it because there are not yet any West Papuan leaders who are willing to hop into bed with the Western mining and logging interests? This seemed to be the turning point in Timor Leste, after it had been pointedly ignored for many years.

  2. Is it not so that the world (UN, the large powers, and the “western”, supposedly “civilised”, democratic countries, their media and public) does generally not care a damn about the suppression, exploitation and ethnic cleansing of people, be they minorities, native populations with rights to their lands, any occupied people, that are marginalised and driven out by occupying populations, when they do not fight a full-scale guerilla or open war?

    West Papua largely goes under the radar, because the fight of the people there is only small scale, sporadic, yes not that successful, as they have not got the means and power to fight an occupying force with much military and economic clout in the region.

    There are few journalists heading there too, and the public here in New Zealand, like in Australia and elsewhere are too busy with their own distractions, nurtured by largely poorly informing, even misinforming or non reporting local mainstream media, like now Christmas shopping.

    Maybe things would be different, if the West Papuans would fight like the Tamils did in Sri Lanka for many years? Then I am sure attention would soon be there.

    Indeed, with the rapid, casual news-cycle in the media, it may require a full blown, bloody war, to raise attention, although I would not like that to happen, and would prefer all other efforts to be used. With the world, that is “developing” and “developed” countries and their large companies now desperate for oil, gas and many minerals, as well as tropic and other timber, more fish, and what else there may be, the plunderers will though become increasingly aware of the “fruits” of that land.

    But as Indonesia is a force that is not unimportant in this region, I fear that even Australia will not dare to raise too many issues re West Papua. Again we have a lost people, forgotten and passed by, by those that have ulterior, more self focused agendas and interests.

    We live in an increasinly de-humanised world. Everything is about economic aspects, numbers, profits and margins, and as humans we are viewed as “capital” and productive units, and if there is nothing to be got, better die and get out of the way, as you are to the ruling powers of “no value” and “interest”.

    Welcome to the world in 2013, it is also increasingly catching on here in New Zealand, under John Key the Dealer and Wheeler, and his gang of self promoting, self serving neo liberal exploiters.

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