West Papuan independence day marked in Aotearoa

West Papuan self determination day was marked in both Auckland and Wellington this year. On the 1st of December 1961 West Papuans raised their flag the Morning Star, for the first time. Sadly their short time of self-determination was short lived. In 1962 Indonesian soldiers, led by future dictator Major General Suharto, invaded the territory and viciously repressed the indigenous people. Even since then the Indonesian Military has killed around 100,000 West Papuans and sold the land’s vast natural resources, such as copper and gold, to multinational corporations, such as mining giants Rio Tinto and Freeport McMoRan. These companies have destroyed West Papua’s environment and in co-operation with the Indonesian Military, forcibly displaced West Papuan people from their land.

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West Papuans still raise the Morning Star flag every December 1st, even though doing so can result in long prison sentences. Two West Papuans, Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage, are currently serving 15 and 10 year prison sentences for flying the Morning Star on December 1st 2004. This year at least 20 people were arrested for raising the flag illegally in the mining town of Timika.

In Wellington last Thursday Peace Movement Aotearoa and Green MP Nandor Tanczos raised the Morning Star outside Parliament. In Auckland last Saturday the Morning Star was raised outside the NZ Defence Force HQ in Grey Lynn, to protest the NZ Army training Indonesian Army officers. A young woman, who said she had been sent by the Indonesian Embassy, took photos of the flag raisers. This wasn’t the only attention we received from the Indonesian government.

To our surprise the spokesman for the Indonesian President condemned the Indonesia Human Rights Committee (IHRC) for giving Papuans 'false hope' and 'provoking confrontation and conflict' by flying the Morning Star flag. It seemed quite strange that we were singled out when the West Papua solidarity movement in Aotearoa has a lot less prominence in the media than in other places, such as Australia. I guess it shows we must be having an impact.

Following the flag raising the Indonesia Human Rights Committee hosted a forum ‘ASEAN and Human Rights’, attended by around 40-50 people. It was our version of the 'ASEAN at Forty conference held earlier this year at the University of Auckland – a stuffy elite gathering addressed by conservative academics and the former Indonesian Foreign Minister and apologist for the Suharto dictatorship, Ali Alatas.

At our forum Maire Leadbeater gave a speech outlining the history of the conflict in West Papua and the situation there today. Dennis Maga, a trade unionist from the Philippines spoke about the death squad killings of Filipino unionists and activists being committed by the US backed Arroyo regime. He compared the situation to the ‘dirty war’ carried out by right-wing death squads in the 70s and 80s against leftists in Chile and Argentina. Naing Ko Ko, a trade unionist and former political prisoner from Burma drew on his impressive knowledge of international relations in South East Asia to speak about the origins of ASEAN and its role in the region. Green MP Keith Locke talked about how ASEAN was originally started by states that could hardly be considered democracies, such as Suharto’s Indonesia and Malaysia ruled under the Internal Security Act.. He also outlined the human rights situation in each of the ASEAN countries. Cameron Walker spoke about the recent ‘terror raids’ in Aotearoa and how the Terrorism Suppression Act criminalizes those supporting struggles for human rights and justice in both Aotearoa and around the World.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post.