Shinta Maharani, Yogyakarta – Around 100 students from the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) along with various other organisations held a protest action demanding a referendum for West Papua at the Gajah Mada University (UGM) traffic circle in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta on Sunday December 1.
During the action, the students brought a variety of posters with messages rejecting discrimination, racism, colonialism, the arrest of pro-democracy activists, restrictions on reporting by the mass media and other forms of military pressure.
“A referendum is the most democratic demand”, said AMP National Chairperson Jhon Gobai at the protest on Sunday.
In his speech, the Papuan student said that Papua is not the red-and-white national flag of Indonesia but the Morning Star flag. The Morning Star flag is a symbol used by Free Papua supporters.
The students also protested all forms of criminalisation and the arrest of pro-democracy activists. They urged the police to release Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) national spokesperson Surya Anta – an activist arrested in October for fighting for Papuan liberation. They also condemned the criminalisation of lawyer and Papua rights activist Veronica Koman.
Yogyakarta, said Gobai, has become the centre for commemorating the birth of Papua on December 1, 1961. Actions commemorating Papuan independence are also taking place in Papua. But they are only being carried out through religious services because of military pressure.
“End military operations in Nduga which are full of violence and repression”, he said.
FRI-WP spokesperson Pranadipa Ricko Syahputra said that the Indonesian government should acknowledge that West Papua has been independent since December 1, 1961.
Indonesia and the United Nations, he said, must take responsibility and be actively involved, fairly and democratically, in an act of self-determination, straightening out history and resolving human rights violations against the people of West Papua.
He said that the UN must make a resolution to restore independence to West Papua in accordance with international law. “End racist discrimination and Indonesian colonialism in West Papua”, he said.
Although it is widely held that West Papua declared independence from Indonesia on December 1, 1961, this actually marks the date when the Morning Star flag was first raised alongside the Dutch flag in an officially sanctioned ceremony in Jayapura, then called Hollandia. And while the anniversary of the foundation of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) separatist group is often commemorated on December 1, the organisation was in fact established in Manokwari either in February or March (depending upon sources) 1965. The first declaration of independence actually took place on July 1, 1971 at the Victoria Headquarters in Waris Village, Jayapura.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Peringati 1 Desember, Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua Tuntut Referendum”.]