Freedom flotilla faces uncertain reception
The West Papua Freedom Flotilla, a group of roughly 50 people on two boats departed the northern Australian port of Cairns on Wednesday 21 August to offer solidarity to people in West Papua resisting the military occupation.
The group includes Aboriginal elders, musicians and activists who are committed to trying to reach Merauke in southern West Papua in part of bring international attention to the escalating violence and colonial occupation.
The Freedom Flotilla has decided to take action now because in their words:
"Currently in West Papua military repression has intensified with the proclamation of the Federated Republic of West Papua, increasing mass mobilisations organised by the West Papuan National Committee (KNPB), and the escalating resistance to foreign rule by West Papuan society as a whole. The targeting of human and environmental rights groups has intensified since KNPB leader Mako Tabuni was assassinated in June 2012. Australian Government funded and trained military have been responsible for such illegal killings and torture of West Papuans, who are simply expressing their right to self-determination."
The response of the Indonesian state has been predictable with threats of violence and force against the flotilla should it attempt to enter Indonesian waters. The government has ordered the navy commander and the air force commander to patrol the area near where the boats are planning to land.
Background to the situation
The colonial occupation of West Papua by the Indonesian military began in 1969 with a UN-mandated vote, the so-called 'Act of Free Choice' (AFC) in which roughly 1,000 West Papuan elders were forced at gunpoint to vote to become part of Indonesia. The then dictator of Indonesia, General Suharto was aware that with the possible exception of China, no major power had any interest in opposing their position on what had been known as West Irian. To justify this anti-democratic method for determining the Papuan’s response to Indonesian rule, Jakarta consistently claimed that the vast majority of the Papuan population were in favor of staying with Indonesia and did not want the Act of Free Choice to take place. In their General Assembly report they wrote that this view was based upon hundreds of supporting statements which they had received from Papuans.
Despite the 1969 so called “AFC” and contrary to any claims by the Republic of Indonesia and the opinion of the United Nations and specifically the Decolonisation Committee of the United Nations, West Papuans as a State and as a people have never lawfully and freely exercised their rights to self-determination under international law. The 1969 so called AFC therefore should not defeat the rights of West Papua and West Papuans to the right to self-determination.
The people of West Papua have been continuously resisting (re) colonisation by Indonesia ever since.
New Zealand's role in it
Part of the Freedom Flotilla's aims are to highlight the involvement of the Australian government's actions in supporting and strengthening Indonesia's hold on West Papua. The New Zealand state is doing its best to lend a hand to this brutal oppression through the provision of New Zealand police officers in West Papua, the refusal of the New Zealand parliament to allow Papuan leader Benny Wenda to speak on a recent visit, and the continued strengthening of so-called 'anti-terrorism' joint activities between the NZ Police and Indonesians including the basing of a high-level Police official at the NZ embassy in Jakarta.
New Zealand's nefarious role in the repression of the people of East Timor has been well documented by Maire Leadbeater in her excellent book, Negligent Neighbour.
The NZ-based Indonesian Human Rights Committee has long advocated in support of the people of West Papua, and Peace Movement Aotearoa holds a flag raising of the West Papuan Morning Star flag (banned in West Papua) on 4 December every year.
West Papuan Freedom Flotilla sets sail for Indonesian territory
Indonesia warns it may use force against West Papuan Freedom Flotilla