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Solidarity with West Papua
On 1 December 2009

Updated with photos

27 November 2009

Tuesday, 1 December, marks the forty-eighth anniversary of the West Papuan Declaration of Independence from Dutch colonial rule - sometimes referred to as West Papua Independence Day - and as in previous years, the Day will be marked by solidarity events around the world, including in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This page has four sections:

  • About West Papua,
  • The importance of 1 December,
  • 'Messages of solidarity' - something you can do wherever you are to add your voice to those who are calling for justice, peace and self-determination for the people of West Papua, and
  • Details of the solidarity events in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

  About West Papua

    Since 1963, West Papua has been occupied by the Indonesian armed forces. For the past forty-six years, the people of West Papua have been subjected to gross human rights violations including rape, torture, cultural genocide, murder and massacre - more than 100,000 West Papuans have been killed. Thousands of West Papuans are currently living in camps in Papua New Guinea; and others are forced to live in exile around the world because it is not safe for them to go home.

    Multi-national corporations in cahoots with the Indonesian authorities have exploited West Papua's natural resources to an extraordinary degree. This has caused massive social dislocation, devastation of rain forests, pollution of streams and rivers on which the local people depend for their survival, and serious human rights violations in areas where multinationals are active. [1]

    There have been repeated ongoing calls from West Papuan leaders for dialogue to turn West Papua into a 'land of peace', but the Indonesian authorities have ignored these. The number of Indonesian troops deployed in West Papua continues to increase; in 2007 it was reported that there were plans to build up the troop presence along the border with Papua New Guinea, and to deploy a new third division of Indonesia's Kostrad (strategic reserve command) troops 'to patrol Papua border areas and other conflict-prone regions' [2]. It is estimated that the proportion of soldiers in West Papua is around one soldier for every 44 civilians.

    In June 2007, following an investigative mission in West Papua and Indonesia, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders stated: "The Special Representative is deeply concerned by the testimonies that she has heard indicating the continuing activities of the police, the military and other security and intelligence agencies that are aimed at harassment and intimidation of defenders or to restrict their access to victims and to sites of human rights violations.

    "She found this trend more pronounced in the Province of West Papua. She has heard credible reports of incidents that involve arbitrary detention, torture, harassment through surveillance, interference with the freedom of movement and in defenders' efforts to monitor and investigate human rights violations. She was also informed of cases where human rights defenders were threatened with prosecution by members of the police and the military. It was alleged that when defenders have attempted to register their complaints, this has been denied and the defenders threatened. She is also concerned about complaints that defenders working for the preservation of the environment and the right over land and natural resources frequently receive threats from private actors with powerful economic interest, but are granted no protection by the police. She is particularly disturbed by allegations that when defenders expose abuse of authority or other forms of human rights violations committed by the security apparatus, they are labelled as separatists in order to undermine their credibility. The Special Representative believes that this trend places human rights defenders at greater risk and must be discouraged by the concerned authorities." [3]

    TAPOL has reported that the level of intimidation against human rights defenders, political activists and religious leaders by military and intelligence personnel has increased markedly since the visit of the UN Special Representative. [4]

    As well as the direct violent repression by Indonesian armed forces, armed militias are being created, similar to what happened in East Timor.

  The importance of 1 December

    1 December is the anniversary of the 1961 West Papuan Declaration of Independence from Dutch colonial rule, and it is observed by people in West Papua and by solidarity groups around the world.

    In West Papua people mark the day in a variety of ways, including raising the 'Morning Star' (the West Papuan flag) - in previous years the Indonesian military and police have responded with increased violent oppression around this day, arresting and killing those they perceive as pro-independence activists.

    On 1 December 2004, among the West Papuans arrested were Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage who organised peaceful celebrations and raised the Morning Star in Jayapura, the capital of West Papua. On 26 May 2005, an Indonesian court sentenced Philip to fifteen years imprisonment and Yusak to ten years.

    More recently, on 11 July 2009, a local resident suspected of being involved in a ceremony in which the Morning Star was raised was shot in the stomach and subsequently died during a military operation in Mantembu and Yapen villages. [5]

    Also in July 2009, members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) reportedly raised the West Papuan flag and the United Nations' flag in the yard of a house in Jugum village - in August, they were approached "by representatives of the government, religious leaders and the Jaya Wijaya district police to discuss lowering the flag, and a meeting was held with members of local human rights NGOs and the local tribal council. However no compromise was reached".

    Subsequently, "on 5 September at around 5am, armed soldiers and police officers arrived in the village from Wamena to conduct a 'sweeping operation' (a targeted operation to intimidate, usually involving the destruction of property) against the OPM, but they found neither the members nor the flags. However according to witnesses they proceeded to set 30 houses alight (pictured above, right and here), seemingly at random, and shot four pigs. They then threatened villagers with bursts of gunfire, scaring many of them into the surrounding forest. Some of the residents remained in the forest for two weeks out of fear, and many fell sick due to the lack of food and medical treatment. " [6]

    Earlier this month, three Papuan men were convicted of rebellion for raising a pro-independence flag in January 2009 - Roni Ruben Iba, a hotel security officer, was sentenced to three years in prison, while Isak Iba, a civil servant, and Piter Iba, a farmer, received two years each. [7]

    On 16 November, two men were arrested, questioned and subsequently charged with rebellion for raising the Morning Star at the Papua People's Council in Jayapura. [8]

  Messages of solidarity for the people of West Papua

    You are invited to add your voice to those of people around the world who are calling for justice, peace and self-determination for the people of West Papua by writing a message of solidarity to go on the web page at

    If you would like your message included there, please send your name, address*, occupation / position and organisation (optional), and message to Peace Movement Aotearoa, email [* only the town / city part of your address will be put on the web page, not your full address].

    If you can help distribute 'Messages of solidarity' forms from stalls, or in newsletters or other mailouts, the printable copy of the form is available here.

  West Papua solidarity events for 2009

  • Auckland: Tuesday, 1 December
    • Symbolic flag raising, at 4.30pm on Queen Street close to the Town Hall. Organised by the Indonesia Human Rights Committee, for more information contact email.
    • Indonesia Human Rights Committee Annual General Meeting, with guest speaker Catherine Delahunty MP, sponsor of the important bill on deforestation and also active member of International Parliamentarians for West Papua, 6 pm at the Pacific Media Centre, AUT building, corner Queen and Wakefield Streets. Please bring a contribution to a shared meal if you can; for more information contact email.

  • Wellington: Tuesday, 1 December
    • Gathering in solidarity with the people of West Papua - join us to fly the Morning Star, with the opportunity to write a personal message in support of justice, peace and self-determination for West Papua if you wish, 1pm in parliament grounds. Organised by Peace Movement Aotearoa, for more information contact email.

  • Christchurch: Tuesday, 1 December
    • Stall and flag raising, from 11am to 2pm, in front of the Cathedral, Cathedral Square. Organised by Christian World service and Arena, for more information please contact email or email.
    • Film screening - 'Sampari', a documentary on the Act of Free Choice, and other short films, starts 7.30pm, upstairs meeting room, Christian World Service, 4/159 Manchester Street, free entry. Organised by Christian World service and Arena, for more information please contact email or email.


[1] See for example the section on the Grasberg / Freeport mine in Fanning the Flames: The role of British mining companies in conflict and the violation of human rights, War on Want, November 2007: 24-25

[2] Open briefing for Forum Leaders on Human Rights in West Papua, TAPOL, 9 October 2007

[3] Special Representative of the Secretary General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders concludes visit to Indonesia, 12 June 2007

[4] TAPOL, as at note 2

[5] Police and soldiers burn houses and destroy resources in Papua's Bolakme district, Asian Human Rights Commission, 27 October 2009

[6] Asian Human Rights Commission, as above

[7] Release Papuan flag-raisers, Human Rights Watch, 18 November 2009

[8] Human Rights Watch, as above.

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