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Solidarity with the people of West Papua
on 1 December 2010

Updated with photos from Wellington

November 2010

Wednesday, 1 December, marks the forty-ninth anniversary of the West Papuan Declaration of Independence from Dutch colonial rule, sometimes referred to as West Papua Independence Day. In West Papua people mark the day in a variety of ways, including raising the 'Morning Star' (the West Papuan flag) - despite the threat of arrest and murder - as in previous years, the Day will be marked by solidarity events around the world, including in Wellington and Auckland (see details below).

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 and Wellington.

  About West Papua

    Since 1963, West Papua has been occupied by the Indonesian armed forces. For the past forty-seven 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]

    Earlier this year, human rights activist and documentary filmmaker Wensi Fatubun was forced to flee West Papua [5] after death threats, just days before the handcuffed body of his friend, journalist Ardiansyah Matra’is, who had also been threatened, was found naked in a river. [6]

    Last month, Al Jazeera released a video showing two Papuan men from the Puncak Jaya region being tortured by Indonesian soldiers [7] - the Indonesian government confirmed that the video was authentic, and said the soldiers involved had been "unprofessional" [8] as though this was an isolated event, rather than part of a systematic policy of intimidation. Yet documents leaked from Kopassus (the most notorious unit of Indonesia's armed forces) in early November indicate that Kopassus is engaged in "murder [and] abduction" and "show that Kopassus targets churches in West Papua and defines civilian dissidents as the "enemy"." [9]

  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. Yusak was released earlier this year, but Filep remains in prison. [10]

    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. [11]

    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." [12]

    In November 2009, three Papuan men were convicted of rebellion for raising the Morning Star 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. [13]

    Less than two weeks ago, on Saturday, 20 November, nine people were arrested after unfurling the Morning Star flag in a village in Jayawijaya district, the local police chief said they are "likely to be named suspects on charges of plotting against the state". [14]

  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 2010

  • Auckland: Wednesday, 1 December
    • Join us to raise the West Papua Morning Star flag - 12 noon, in Aotea Square near the Apex of the Town Hall. Organised by the Indonesia Human Rights Committee, for more information contact email.

  • Wellington: Wednesday, 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.


[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] On a mission to expose abuses in West Papua, Teoh El Sen, 19 November 2010 -

[6] As at note above, and Two environmental reporters found dead; threats to journalists escalate, IFEX, 11 August 2010

[7] Shock over Indonesia torture video: footage obtained by Al Jazeera shows men in uniform torturing West Papua farmer, Al Jazeera, 18 October 2010 -

[8] Indonesia confirms authenticity of torture video: Video filmed on mobile phone shows native Papuans being tortured by Indonesian soldiers, Guardian, 22 October 2010

[9] Documents leak from notorious US-backed unit as Obama lands in Indonesia: secret files show Kopassus, Indonesia's Special Forces, target Papuan churches, civilians, Allan Nairn, 10 November 2010

[10] Amnesty International has a campaign to free Filep Karma

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

[12] Asian Human Rights Commission, as at note above

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

[14] 9 people arrested for displaying West Papua flag face lengthy prison sentences, West Papua Media, 22 November 2010

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