Pacific Media Watch

29 August 2013

WEST PAPUA: Thousands march in support of Freedom Flotilla

Supporters of the West Papua Freedom Flotilla in Manokwari. Image:

AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch / Radio New Zealand International / Thousands of people in West Papua have taken to the streets to show support for the boatload of Australian activists due to arrive there early next month.

A crowd of 2500 people gathered in the north-western town of Manokwari this week to raise the banned Morning Star flag and welcome the pro-independence campaigners, according to the West Papua Freedom Flotilla website.  

An activist based in Manokwari, Yoab Syatfle, said a large crowd voiced its support and said the event was significant as it was the first sea convoy for peace and justice to travel to the Indonesian-ruled province.

The West Papua Freedom Flotilla was warned by Indonesia not to enter its waters illegally, and said the boats had no clearance.

One of the flotilla organisers, the Aboriginal elder Kevin Buzzacott, told Pacific Media Watch recently that all the campaigners have been issued “Aboriginal passports”. 

He added that authorities in the Indonesian-controlled territory of West Papua would not accept their passports.

“We’ll be jailed and drawn out of the water by the Indonesians if we go too far, too close or something, and rot in the jails over there”, he said.

There was also a second celebratory protest in the town of Fakfak, situated on the western coast of West Papua, where hundreds of supporters gathered under the name of the Festival of Peace and Justice for the West Papuan people.

Australian rallies
A rally was also held in Melbourne this week by the West Papuan Refugee Community.

“Ninety people attended to celebrate the Freedom Flotilla’s courageous and brave creative act of resistance, and protest Indonesia’s deployment of warships and jet fighters to meet the peaceful flotilla of three small yachts”, the Freedom Flotilla wrote in a press release.

Shirley Shackleton, the widow of a journalist killed by Indnesian troops in 1975 and who campaigned for East Timor to become independent, held an appeal condemning Indonesia’s rule of West Papua.

She claimed a recent US$500 million Indonesian purchase of Apache helicopters from the US were made so Indonesia could assert its control over West Papua.

“I want to know who’s going to invade them (Indonesia)? Tonga? Tassie? What’s it for? It’s for the West Papuans. We all know that”, she said.

Watch Shackleton’s eight-minute appeal here

Further solidarity actions are being organised in The Hague in the Netherlands and Port Moresby today, Brisbane (September 2), and Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney on later dates.

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Daniel Drageset

PMW contributing editor 2013

Daniel Drageset is a Norwegian radio journalist who graduated with a Master in Communication Studies degree at AUT University.