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

 

Ban Condemns Killing Of Former Lesotho Military Commander

United Nations Secretary-General today condemned the killing of Lt. Gen. Maaparankoe Mahao, former Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, on 25 June, near Maseru. More>>

Ban Welcomes US Supreme Court Ruling On Same-Sex Marriage

Ban welcomes US Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing right to same-sex marriage Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) pride march. Photo: OHCHR/Joseph Smida More>>

UN Agency Welcomes EU Measures On Refugee Arrivals

Afghan refugees in front of the abandoned hotel Captain Elias on Kos Island, Greece, where hundreds of refugees and migrants are waiting for their registration. Photo: UNHCR/J. Akkash More>>

Increase In Voluntary Blood Donors Can Save Millions Of Lives

Increase in voluntary blood donors can save millions of lives, UN health agency says on World Day More>>

Kenya: Funding Shortage Means Food Cut To 500,000 Refugees

Funding shortage forces UN agency to temporarily cut food aid to 500,000 refugees in Kenya More>>

UN Launches Education Appeal In Fight Against Child Labour

12 June 2015 – The United Nations has announced it is marking the 2015 edition of the World Day Against Child Labour with a call for the international community to invest in quality education as a key step in the fight against child employment ... More>>

Pope Francis & UN Agency On Sustainability Of Agriculture

Pope Francis (centre) with delegates to the 39th FAO Conference during a special audience at the Vatican. Photo: FAO More>>

South Sudan: Call For De-Escalation Of In-Country Conflict

Women and children have suffered devastating attacks in South Sudan’s Unity State. Photo: UNICEF/South Sudan/Sebastian Rich More>>

Burundi: Emergency Support To Refugees Fleeing Burundi Crisis

Burundians fleeing pre-election violence rest on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a gruelling 22-hour boat journey. More than 100,000 Burundians have fled over the past month, arriving in Tanzania, Rwanda and ... More>>

Afghanistan: Commitment To Advancing Women's Rights

While the outgoing senior United Nations rights official in Afghanistan said she expected the human rights advances made “will be sustained, will not be rolled back, and will not be sacrificed,” she lamented the high level of violence against ... More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news