Saturday December 1, 2019 marked the 58th anniversary of the first raising of West Papua’s symbol of independence, the Morning Star Flag.
The annual Global Flag Raising for West Papua is an international event where supporters around the world hold solidarity rallies and, on December 1, raise the Morning Star in support of the West Papua people and their right to self-determination.
This legitimate aspiration for self-determination was thwarted when an ‘Act of Free Choice’, popularly known as the ‘Act of NO Choice’, took place on August 2, 1969. This fraudulent vote involved a handpicked group of 1,025 West Papuans who were coerced, under the threat of violence, into voting for integration with Indonesia.
Former Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, Chakravarthi V. Narasimhan, conceded that the process was a “whitewash”. British diplomatic correspondence also admitted that “the process of consultation did not allow a genuinely free choice to be made”. Distinguished international jurists dismiss the 1969 vote as a “spurious exercise”, amounting to a substantive betrayal of the principle of self-determination.1
The rationale for the Global Flag Raising action was explained in the following terms by Raki Ap, spokesperson for the Free West Papua Campaign:
“The land of West Papua will always be remembered as the birth place of the Morning Star, which is the last glimpse of night as the sun rises. The Morning Star has guided seafarers to West Papua’s shores for thousands of years, and so too it will also guide us to freedom. The Morning Star is the symbol of our home, and represents our dream to live independently and in peace. This is why we will keep calling on our friends around the world to participate in raising the Morning Star flag alongside us, and continue asking them to show Indonesia they affirm our path to freedom and right to self-determination.”2
The Inner West Council in Sydney is to be commended for expressing its support for West Papua’s right to self-determination by flying the West Papuan National Flag at the Leichhardt Town Hall. This occurred on Friday November 29, as Council was closed on Sunday December 1, 2019.3
In response, Joe Collins from the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) commented, “This is the 10th year in a row that the Council has raised the Morning Star Flag on one of its Town Halls and more than ever we need to bring attention to the human rights abuses that are occurring in West Papua”.
He also noted: “Its tragic that Canberra seems to have difficulty raising the abuses in West Papua with Jakarta. Our Foreign Minister should be calling for Jakarta to release all West Papuan political prisoners and the Indonesian President who claims to have a special relationship with Papua, should release them as a sign of good faith to the West Papuan people”.4
View the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program ‘The War Next Door’ on the West Papuan independence movement, first shown on 12 May 2020.
1. Jennifer Robertson, ’The UN’s chequered record in West Papua’, Al Jazeera, March 21, 2012. Jennifer Robertson is an Australian human rights lawyer and co-founder of International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP). More information on ILWP can be found here.
2. Raki Ap, quoted in ‘Join the Global Flag Raising for West Papua!’, October 30, 2019, Free West Papua Campaign’s website.
3. An article published by The Independent in Britain predicted that the Morning Star Flag would be raised in “250 locations across 50 countries worldwide”.
4. Joe Collins, quoted in AWPA’s media release ‘West Papuan flag raising in Sydney 29 November’, AWPA’s website. Pictures of the Morning Star Flag being flown on the Leichhardt Town Hall can be found in this media release.