World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


'We're Going To Their Aid'

'We're Going To Their Aid'

By Jenny Denton

The West Papuan Freedom Flotilla will set sail from Cairns on Saturday. A cultural exchange between Australians and West Papuans, it is a display of indigenous solidarity, writes Jenny Denton

A group of Australian Aboriginal, non-Indigenous and West Papuan activistswill set sail from Cairns for West Papuaon Saturday, on a journey that organisers describe as both cultural exchange and act of resistance.

Around 50 people have volunteered to take turns crewing two yachts up the coast of Cape York and across the Torres Strait to Daru Island, in southern Papua New Guinea, from where they hope to sail on to the Indonesian-controlled territory.

The group includes Aboriginal elders from South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, a Torres Strait Islander and one of the West Papuan refugees who arrived in Australia by outrigger canoe in 2006.

The voyage, which has been more than a decade in the planning and realisation, was inspired by a sense of solidarity between Indigenous Australian and West Papuan peoples, who share cultural connections as well as experiences of colonial brutality and a struggle for rights.

'The Freedom Flotilla is to explain to the world about the big family of Aboriginal and West Papuan and Torres Strait Islanders,' West Papuan leader Jacob Rumbiak told NM.

'This mission can also show people that the international community can take the lead as international peacekeepers to look after world peace and justice, starting from the Pacific region.'

Aboriginal elder Kevin Buzzacott, who is from Arabunna country around Lake Eyre, came up with the idea for a flotilla to West Papua 13 years ago. He said the aim was to help the indigenous people of West Papua by drawing international attention to their situation.

'The brothers and sisters up there are in trouble. They've been having difficulties with the Indonesian mob for some years, and it's been a silent type of war. What we're doing, because we hear them calling for our help, is we're going to their aid.'

Since the annexation of West Papua by Indonesia in the 1960s, reports of arbitrary arrests, torture, killings and atrocities by the military and police have emerged steadily from the territory.

In October last year Amnesty International Australia called for an end to police violence against demonstrators there,stating:

'The Indonesian security forces have a track record of unchecked abuses, including torture and other ill-treatment, and the use of excessive force against protesters'.

The flotilla group has already travelled 5000 kilometres by road from Lake Eyre to the Far North Queensland capital, visiting Aboriginal communities, holding musical and ceremonial events and picking up participants along the way.

While organisers emphasise that the mission is one of culture and peace, its hard political edge will not be overlooked by Indonesian authorities.

'We hope to raise awareness of the plight of the West Papuan people,' says organiser Izzy Brown, 'and also draw attention to the sovereignty issue of indigenous people worldwide and put the [Indonesian] government on notice that their jurisdiction is in question'.

The Indonesian government has revoked sailing permits originally issued for the flotilla yachts and rejected the group's visa applications.

The activists plan to enter foreign waters with 'Original Nations' passports created by Aboriginal elders and stamped with visas by Jacob Rumbiak, who is the foreign minister of West Papua's alternative, independent government. The Federated Republic of West Papua was set up inside the territory in 2011. Its president and prime minister have been convicted of treason and are currently in jail.

'We're requesting safe passage,' Brown said, 'and we're hoping that both the Australian government and the Indonesian government can work to provide that.'

From Cairns it will take the boats a week to reach Thursday Island and another two days to sail to the island of Daru. Organisers expect the flotilla to reach West Papua in September.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recentlyreaffirmedthe Australian government's support for Indonesia's control of the territory now officially known as the two provinces of Papua and West Papua.-

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Palestinian Refugees From Syria Face Worsening Situation

Palestinian women at a UNRWA distribution centre in the Jaramana refugee camp, Damascus, Syria. Photo: UNRWA/Carole Alfarah More>>

ALSO:

Greece Risks Prolonged Social Crisis

Greece’s severe financial crisis has bred social unrest and intolerance of the nearly one million irregular migrants living in the country (October 2012). Photo: IRIN/Kristy Siegfried More>>

Madagascar: Warning Of ‘rapid’ Spread Of Plague In Capital

Ny Hantra Andriatsifasoa survived the bubonic plague after being infected in Madagascar in 2011. Photo: IRIN/Tiana Randriaharimalala More>>

New Bird Flu Strain In Europe Threatens Poultry Sector

24 November 2014 – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO ) today warned that a new bird flu strain detected in Europe poses a significant threat to the poultry sector, especially in low-resourced countries situated along ... More>>

Mexico: Disappearances Reach Record Number This Year

The National Registry of Missing Persons acknowledges that from 2007 to date, there are 23,605 cases of disappeared persons; 40% have been reported during the current administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. More>>

Ban To Take Up Fight Against Ebola With All UN Organisations

Street sellers at Waterside market in central Monrovia, where there has seen a huge drop in customers over the past months due to the onset of the Ebola Virus Disease. Photo: UNDP/Carly Learson (20 November 2014) More>>

ALSO:

Darfur: UN-Backed Event Promotes Role Of Women In Peace

Darfur: amid mass rape allegations, UN-backed event promotes role of women in peace processes More>>

Ebola Cases No Longer Rising In Guinea And Liberia

In Conakry, Guinea, a mobilizer teaches children about proper handwashing techniques, which help prevent the spread of diseases, including Ebola. Photo: UNICEF/Timothy La Rose More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news