West Papua Independence Day

West-Papua-Flag-300x182Today, the 1st of December, marks West Papua’s original independence day when the Morning Star flag was first raised in 1961.

The Dutch had prepared West Papua for independence. However, within months, the Indonesian military invaded – determined to include the resource-rich land as part of their nation.
The United Nations declared that West Papuans were to be given the “opportunity to exercise freedom of choice” through consultation and a referendum, with voting rights for all adult males and females. However, it was only a bogus referendum that followed, with 1026 Papuans (out of 1 million) picked to vote in 1969. Under severe duress, including threats of torture and death, they voted to remain part of Indonesia. The UN shamefully sanctioned the result.

Since then, West Papuans have been slaughtered, tortured, raped, culturally oppressed, discriminated against, denied the most fundamental freedoms and have seen their homes burned to the ground.  

The Morning Star flag is recognised as the national flag of West Papua and continues to be the defining symbol for a Free West Papua – “Parpua Merdeka”. Today it is illegal to raise this flag in West Papua and people who do face arrest, torture and long jail sentences. On this day, people from around the world raise the Morning Star flag to stand in solidarity with the West Papuans. Over the past several years the international community, including a number of the Pacific nations, has become increasingly aware of the West Papua situation and is advocating for their freedom. 

The DLP maintains its position that there must be a new, and proper, vote for independence by the indigenous people of West Papua.

DLP calls for all political parties to join nation-wide Solidarity Day in support of West Papuans on December 1st

Click here for full media release: Premier Andrews called to support Solidarity for West Papuans

Excerpt below:

The Democratic Labour Party Member of Parliament, Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins today introduced a motion into the Victorian State parliament calling for:

“the Government to show support for the plight of the people of West Papua by establishing a West Papuan Solidarity Day, including a public raising of the Morning Star Flag, commencing Thursday, 1 December 2016 and continuing on 1 December each year until the United Nations free vote is held.”

Dr Carling-Jenkins advised the parliament that: “West Papua was forcibly annexed by Indonesia in 1962 and since that time the West Papuan people have suffered from atrocities such as torture, murder, rape, oppression, forced removal of their children, and other crimes against humanity by the Indonesian authorities.

The Democratic Labour Party Federal Secretary, Stephen Campbell, states that the DLP believes there has been a decades long cover up by consecutive Australian governments who have turned a blind eye to the sufferings of the West Papuan people in return for favourable treatment by the Indonesian government.

“Surely history has taught us that no good can come by ignoring the sufferings of oppressed people” Mr Campbell stated.

“How can we, as Australians, deal with any nation who can invade a neighbouring country then treat the citizens of that country with the sort of inhumane treatment the Indonesians have handed out to the West Papuans? Has East Timor taught us nothing?”

The Democratic Labour Party is calling for all political parties to join them in their call for a nation-wide Solidarity Day in support of the West Papuans on December 1st.

“The DLP will be contacting every party in this country and asking for them to turn up with their supporters in every capital city in Australia on December 1st” Mr Campbell said.

“This is one time when party politics must disappear. None of us should seek anything except justice for the West Papuan people and the full compassion of the Australian people.”

Where’s the commitment to help our tortured and oppressed West Papuan neighbours?

In the previous West Papua post, I provided an overview of the history of West Papua and the atrocities that have been inflicted upon Papuans by the Indonesians. In this post I will talk more about why Australia has been ignoring the issue, and who in our Parliament has been taking a stand.

 

Diggers will tell stories of Papuans running under heavy Japanese fire during World War II to pick up wounded Aussie solders bringing them to safety.

 

But for over 40 years, Australia has been ignoring the plea for help of the very people who risked their lives with outstanding bravery to save our own.

 

Australia’s position solidified in 2006, when the Howard government signed the Lombok Treaty with Indonesia, reaffirming the recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua, a position held by successive Australian governments to this day. Indeed, this was reiterated by Kevin Rudd in a meeting with the Indonesian president in July 2013.

 

When it comes to West Papua, all we have done over the years is express ‘concern for human rights in the region of Irian Jaya’ (West Papua), but not once has it been taken as a serious issue.

 

But let me be crystal clear: Australia has moral and legal obligations to pursue, through its close relationship with Indonesia, an end to the atrocious human rights abuses happening there.

 

Australians want action on this. A Newspoll survey in 2006 found support for West Papuan self-determination to be over 75%.

 

Thankfully, there are some members of our Parliament who doing what they can to help our abused, oppressed and forsaken Papuan neighbours.

 

Two minor parties in Parliament have found in each other unlikely allies: the Greens and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).

 

Last year, DLP Senator John Madigan moved a motion that the Senate expresses its condolence at the death of Ms Vikki Riley, a campaigner who dedicated her life to helping refugees and the people of West Papua and East Timor. The government and opposition failed to support the motion, because Ms Riley’s involvement with West Papua was “in conflict” with Australia’s foreign policy.

 

And because the motion contained the name “West Papua”, instead of the Indonesian name “Irian Jaya”.

 

The DLP and the Greens have continuously been questioning the Foreign Minister on Australia’s involvement in promoting and encouraging human rights in West Papua. The usual responses have been less than satisfactory, no surprise there.

 

Unfortunately, one of these two parties has been playing politics and not the issue.

 

In November 2011, DLP Senator Madigan supported a Greens motion in support of West Papua, which was knocked down by the house, but the Greens did not return the favour when Madigan put up a similar motion only moments later. See Hansard pages 9502-9504.

 

While the Greens website outlines a general commitment to human rights and justice, the DLP website clearly shows the Party’s commitment to West Papua, with practical steps that can be taken. You can read the DLP policy here.

 

 

 

By Vince Stefano

Atrocities in West Papua, but our government continues to turn a blind eye

Any decent Australian would be shocked if they knew what was happening on our country’s doorstep.

 

Massacres, tortures, the burning of villages, rapes, economic and political marginalisation, cultural suppression. All being inflicted upon people in a land situated only 250km from Australian soil. But I bet you don’t hear about it. That is partly because the Indonesian government doesn’t allow human rights monitors or journalists access into this region.

 

The land I am talking about is West Papua, the Indonesian western half of the Island of New Guinea.

 

West Papua is a land rich in many different natural resources and species of wildlife. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, the ethnic roots of indigenous West Papuans are Melanesian.

There are stories of Papuans running under heavy Japanese fire during World War II to pick up wounded Aussie solders and bring them to safety.

 

But for over 40 years, Australia has been ignoring the plea for help of the very people who risked their lives with outstanding bravery to save our own.

 

It shames me to be an Australian. It really does.  Let me paint the picture for you.

 

Once part of the Dutch East Indies, West Papua was not handed over to the Republic of Indonesia in 1949 with the other territories. The Dutch claimed it did not belong to Indonesia due to its cultural and historical differences.

 

The Dutch were preparing West Papua for independence. A national legislature was formed, the first Papuan Congress was held, and “West-Papua” was adopted as the name of the country along with a national anthem, the Morning Star as the national flag and a Constitution of 129 articles.

 

Conflict followed. The Indonesians would not rest until they had this resource-rich land.

 

The United Nations intervened and declared that West Papua was to be under Indonesian control on the proviso that within six years, Indonesia would give West Papuans the “opportunity to exercise freedom of choice” through a referendum.

 

“All adults, male and female” were to be eligible to participate in a vote of self-determination, in which West Papuans would determine whether to be independent or become a part of Indonesia.

 

In 1969, Indonesia conducted a referendum, “the Act of Free Choice.” Only 1026 Papuans, representing a population of one million, were picked to vote. Under severe duress, including threats from Indonesian military officials to cut their tongues out and kill their families, they voted to remain part of Indonesia.

 

Ever since, the West Papuans have just wanted to be free: “Papua Merdeka”.

 

The atrocities that have taken place since then have been horrifying. Indeed, some claim it has been nothing less of genocide.

 

West Papua was meant to be an independent nation. It may be a far-fetched ideal for now, but what West Papuans rightfully want and need today is freedom.

 

Freedom from Indonesian oppression: freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, equal economic and political rights, peace and security.

 

But it gets worse. Indonesian Detachment 88 was trained and funded by Australia as a counter-terrorism unit, as part of our military relations with the neighbour. This detachment ended up being sent to West Papua where it tortured and killed innocent Papuan people.

 

Yep, Australia’s hands are dripping with blood.

 

Why has our government been so quiet? I will delve into the ‘why’ in the next West Papua blog post.

 

 

By Vince Stefano