Oleh Farid M. Ibrahim – Welcoming December 1, 2019 yesterday, activists from the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) and its supporters in a number of different countries held actions in which they brought and flew the Morning Star independence flag. Several activities were coordinated on social media through the hashtag #GlobalFlagRaising.
The Morning Star flag was first raised on Papuan soil on December 1, 1961 – long before the former Dutch colony became part of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) through the Act of Free Choice (Pepera) in 1969 which as internationally recognised by United Nations Resolution Number 2509.
Since then the Indonesian government has outlawed the flying of the Morning Star flag which has become a symbol of the OPM’s resistance.
Residents in the Australian city of Warrnambool for example, have for the last 10 years always taken part in commemorating December 1 as Papua’s independence day.
Moreover, in the inland city a number of people have established the South-Western Victoria Australian West Papua Association (AWPA).
On Sunday December 1 this year, the organisation held a Morning Star flag raising ceremony at the Warrnambool Civic Green which was attended by around 20 people.
According to AWPA spokesperson John Gratton Wilson, the activity was to show support for the Papuan people’s struggle and at the same time resistance against the Indonesian government’s banning of the Morning Star flag.
“I myself have personally witnessed how the Indonesian people treat the local (Papuan) population”, said Wilson as quoted by the local newspaper The Standard on Sunday.
“They see Papuan people as sub-human. But we know who is actually sub-human and the way they treat other people”, he said.
“It is wrong to ignore these human rights violations occurring in front of our eyes. The United Nations needs to acknowledge its own errors in the 1960s and give the right to self-determination to the Papuan people to be free from this brutal colonialism”, said Wilson.
“Papua will gain its independence, it’s only a matter of time”, he said.
Aside from Warrnambool, the Morning Star flag was also flown by Papua independence supporters in front of the Leichardt City Hall in Sydney.
Other cities in Australia also held activities supporting Papuan independence, particularly in Melbourne, which is the base for independence movement activist and United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) spokesperson Jacob Rumbiak.
In mid-September for example, hundreds of protesters held a long-march from a gathering point in front of the State Library in the centre of the city to Federation Square.
Shouts of “Free Papua” echoed along the length of Swanston St in the heart of Melbourne. Each time the speaker shouted “Papua”, the protesters responded with “Freedom”.
According to the ABC’s notes, over the last 20 years Rumbiak has resided in Australia after fleeing from Indonesia during the 1999 referendum in East Timor.
At the time, the former Cendrawasih University lecturer had been volunteer observer with the United Nations in East Timor, and was able to get on a plane bound for Australia. He become an Australian citizen in 2006.
Usually, around the time of the commemoration of the anniversary of Indonesian independence, free Papua actions take place in Melbourne.
Meanwhile on Sunday December 1, West Papua Action Aotearoa held a solidarity action in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington.
Activists arrived from various different cities including Dunedin, Christchurch and Auckland to protest human rights violations and support Papuan independence from Indonesia.
According to one of the action organisers, Jeremy Simons, although most New Zealand citizens know little about the struggle of the Papuan people, if they are informed about it, in general they offer their support.
A number of activist organisations, he said, received online threats because they showed support for the Papuan people’s struggle.
“Of course we’re concerned, because in all the years before no Kiwi activist received such threats”, said Simons as quoted by Radio New Zealand on Sunday.
Simons said that Papuan people who are living in New Zealand also supported the action although they were not prepared to turn up over concerns for the safety of their families in Papua.
Morning Star flag raising actions also took place in Fiji and cities in Britain, Belgium and Sweden.
In Papua itself meanwhile, human rights activist Veronica Koman, who is currently residing in Australia, posted a number of videos on her social media account showing activities related to the Morning Star flag.
One of these was at a church in Jayapura where a number of students wearing traditional Papuan clothing brought Morning Star flags when receiving sacramental bread from the pastor who was leading a religious service at the church.
At least three students appeared in the video shared on Koman’s Twitter account.
Several comments however about the video questioned why they received the host from the right side and then turn to the left.
“If you’re already standing on the rights side you have to exit on the right so you don’t bump into those on the left receiving the host. It doesn’t look like there’s Catholics”, read one of the postings commenting on the video shared by Koman.
According to an explanation by Koman about another posting, they four were Papua students with the initials MY, DT, PH and ED who wore traditional clothing who were later arrested inside the church for bringing the Morning Star flags.
Aside from Jayapura, Koman also shared activities of people commemorating Papuan independence on December 1 in various other places such as an event in Paniai which was attended by scores of people.
According to a report by the state news agency Antara, around 34 people were arrested on Saturday November 30 on charges of planning activities commemorating Papuan independence.
The Indonesian police reportedly deployed around 1,300 personnel to anticipate incidents related to the December 1 commemorations.
Police stated that they had reached an agreement with local governments in Papua to ban all activities commemorating December 1.
Despite this, commemorations did take place in a number of cities around the world.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “‘Papua Akan Merdeka’: Bintang Kejora Berkibar Serentak di Sejumlah Negara”.]