Papua students demand independence referendum at December 1 rally in Yogya

Kumparan – December 1, 2023
Papuan activist pictured a December 1 rally in Yogyakarta – December 1, 2023 (Pandangan Jogja)

Around one hundred protesters from the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) held a demonstration at the zero kilometre point in front of the central post office in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta on Friday December 1.

The action was held to commemorate December 1, which is beloved to mark the anniversary of West Papua's declaration of independence.

Yogyakarta December 1 action coordinator Denis Irawan said that the aim of the action was to demand a referendum so that the West Papuan people can determine their own future.

"We fully support the West Papuan people determining their own future through a referendum", said Irawan on Friday.

Irawan said that the West Papuan people want to be given an opportunity to determine their own future, whether or not to remain part of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) or to become their own sovereign nation.

In 1969 the West Papuan people were actually given an opportunity to determine their own future in a UN sponsored plebiscite known as the Determination of the People's Opinion (Pepera). The plebiscite however only involved 0.2 percent of the West Papua population.

"The Pepera process was also conducted under military coercion and intimidation so the Papuan people agreed to integrate with Indonesia", he continued.

Irawan emphasised that Papuan independence as a sovereign nation had already been declared on December 1, 1961. West Papua also had its own flag, state symbol and national anthem.

It is based on this they are demanding the Indonesian government give the West Papuan people the opportunity to hold a referendum and determine their own future.

"The West Papuan nation is a nation that is already independent, therefore we demand that the West Papuan people must be given an opportunity to determine their own future", said Irawan.


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. The first declaration of independence actually took place on July 1, 1971 when the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) unilaterally proclaimed West Papua as an independent democratic republic.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Marking December 1, Papua students in Yogya demand referendum".]