Demonstrations have been held around the Pacific to mark the anniversary of West Papua‘s declaration of independence when the Morning Star flag was first raised.
It’s 56 years since the Papua nationalist flag was first officially flown in the former Dutch New Guinea, shortly before Indonesia took control of the territory.
The Morning Star was subsequently banned.
At today’s flag Morning Star raising ceremony in Auckland, the New Zealand Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said it was important to maintain vocal about the issue.
“The West Papuan situation is essentially one of the most serious ongoing human rights abuses in and around the Pacific, which is our neighbourhood. So standing by or being silent starts to become complicity on our part and New Zealand’s always led on these issues.”
Ms Ghahraman said diplomatic pressure should be kept up on Indonesia to push for human rights improvements in West Papua.
The New Zealand MP said diplomatic and trade pressure should continue to be applied on Indonesia to push for human rights improvements in West Papua.
The flag was subsequently banned after Indonesia took control of the former Dutch New Guinea in 1962.
Ms Ghahraman says human rights abuses in Papua persist and New Zealand should keep the issue on its agenda with Indonesia.
She also says action needs to be taken to halt the destruction of Papuan rainforest.
“I would like us to move to a place where we regulate trade in such a way where we don’t trade in a way that benefits from human rights abuyses incluing environmental atrocities,” she said.
“So I would like us in our law to take into account the way that products are made and the way that resources are gotten before we buy these things.”
The West Papuan Morning Star flag of independence – banned in Indonesia – has been raised on an official local government flagpole in Auckland’s Aotea Square as solidarity protests have been held around the Pacific.
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, a defender of human rights, praised the flag-raising action yesterday when speaking to a small crowd of supporters including visiting international free speech advocates.
“New Zealand has always led on these issues and in a very proud way,” she said.
She said to remain silent in the face of ongoing human rights violations in Papua by security forces amounted to “complicity”.
West Papua Action Auckland spokesperson Maire Leadbeater said it had been the first time official permission had been granted for the flag-raising on a flagpole in front of the central city Aotea Centre.
In Indonesia, protesters raising the Morning Star flag risk up to 15 years in jail.
Last year, more than 200 people were arrested in a flag-raising protest in the capital of Jakarta and authorities used water canon to quell the demonstration.
The Auckland flag-raising marked the 56th year since the Morning Star was first hoisted on 1 December 1961 alongside the flag of the Dutch colonial authorities before Indonesia invaded the territory.
“We are all Melanesian,” said Deputy Prime Minister Joe Natuman. “We are family. We regard it as an obligation to help one another.”
Mr Natuman recounted the history of West Papua from post-WWII days, and remarked at the end that the struggle for independence was not only a struggle against colonialism, but a struggle against corporate and commercial interests too.
“It’s not just Sukarno and Suharto, it’s also American big business that’s involved,” Mr Natuman said. “We’re not just fighting colonial powers. It’s big business too.”
This is the first time a senior figure in the Vanuatu government has publicly criticised the USA and its mining interests in relation to the issue of West Papuan independence.
The nation’s sense of duty in helping to make all of Melanesia free was made manifest yesterday when the government of Vanuatu officially transferred the historic Crow’s Nest building to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.
The building will be shared with local creative collective Further Arts. Mr Natuman is a lifelong supporter of West Papuan independence.
He was the first speaker in the ceremony marking the official opening of the West Papuan mission in Vanuatu.
He was joined by Prime Minister Charlot Salwai, Lands Minister Ralph Regenvanu, Parliamentary Secretaries Johnny Koanapo and Andrew Napuat, as well as the President of the Malvatumauri, the head of the Vanuatu Christian Council and dozens of Vanuatu-based independence activists.
This week also marks the annual conclave of the ULMWP leadership, along with senior militants as well.
Internationally known figures Octovianus Mote, Benny Wenda and several other independence leaders were also present. Some declined to be identified or photographed due to fear of retaliation by Indonesian authorities or their proxies.
The day was nonetheless a happy one, and a few drops of rain were insufficient to quench the spirits of a movement that, for the first time in two generations, finally has a place to call home.