By Anne Noonan
It is now 55 years since the Morning Star flag was flown officially in West Papua for the first time on the 1 December 1961.
The West Papuan people continue to raise their flag as an act of celebration but also in protest against the injustices they suffer under Indonesian rule. They can face up to 15 years jail for doing so.
Jakarta is becoming increasingly concerned at the internationalisation of the issue of West Papua which is why the security forces have been cracking down on peacefully rallies organised by civil society organisations in West Papua.
The most recent crackdown was on the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) as they celebrated their eighth anniversary last week – 106 people were arrested in Sorong.
However, thousands of West Papuans have been arrested at rallies throughout the past year in West Papua. Although the majority of activists were eventually released, during the arrests activists were regularly beaten and in some cases faced torture.
In Sorong, police ordered a Papuan praying congregation to disperse, accusing them of separatism.
There has been a huge groundswell of support around the world and in the Asia-Pacific region on the issue of West Papua.
This support includes civil society organisations, churches and governments.
UN session support
Seven Pacific leaders raised the issue of West Papua at the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.
The Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu all raised concerns about the human rights situation in West Papua.
From the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said in a statement:
“The Solomon Islands is gravely concerned about the human rights violations against Melanesians in West Papua.
“Human rights violations in West Papua and the pursuit for self-determination of West Papua are two sides of the same coin.
“Many reports on human rights violations in West Papua emphasize the inherent corroboration between the right to self-determination that results in direct violations of human rights by Indonesia in its attempts to smother any form of opposition.”
Recently a new “Pacific Coalition on West Papua” was formed. The initial membership comprises the Solomon Islands government, Vanuatu government, Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) and the United Liberation Movement of West Papua and the Pacific Islands Alliance of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO).
Two new members are Tuvalu and Nauru.
Flag-raising ceremonies planned in Auckland on Thursday include:
- 12noon with the Asia Pacific Human Rights Coalition (APHRC) and Pax Christi at the Pacific Media Centre, Auckland University of Technology, WG1028.
- 5.30pm with Oceania Interrupted at the reserve off Waterfront Road and Coronation Road, Mangere Bridge, Auckland.