Casualties in West Papua on Flag Day
A deadly response to West Papuan expression of independence aspirations puts the Indonesian security forces in the spotlight again as thousands of people across the world took part in demonstrations to mark the West Papuan declaration of independence, in 1961, when the Morning Star flag was first raised.
Reports are emerging from Indonesia's Papua region that up to four civilians were shot dead by police and military on West Papuan Flag Day.
This comes as thousands across Indonesia and around the world, including New Zealand, took part in demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the West Papuan declaration of independence, in 1961, when the Morning Star flag was first raised.
The flag remains banned by Indonesian authorities.
Johnny Blades has more.
Many West Papuans continue to mark the anniversary which has become a bruised footnote of history. The bid for independence by the indigenous people of the former Dutch territory was subsequently ignored in the UN-sanctioned process by which Indonesia took control of the western half of New Guinea in the 1960s. This year, like each year on the anniversary of the failed West Papuan independence bid, Indonesian security forces increased their presence across Papua's towns. West Papuans tend now not to raise the flag at the ceremonies, but mark the day with prayer and togetherness. However reports are emerging from Papua that up to four civilians were shot dead by security forces in the town of Serui on the anniversary. The exiled West Papua independence leader Benny Wenda says dozens of people have been arrested, beaten and intimidated across West Papua for marking the day.
BENNY WENDA: It's like a war is going on in West Papua. And this year alone heavily militarised and every corner, every street. I just received phone calls everywhere. This year really almost every corner in West Papua the military was building up.
It wasn't just in Papua where demonstrations took place. Hundreds were subjected to teargas and many arrested by police after taking to the streets of Jakarta. Two foreign journalists - Australian Brodcasting Corporation's Archicco Fuilianno and Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen - were heavied by police and forced to erase their footage of the rally. A Morning star flag raising was held on the steps of New Zealand's parliament, attended by half a dozen local MPs. Another who attended was a Victoria University student Emalani Case, who said that as a Hawaiian, she felt obligated to help fellow Pacific Islanders who cannot necessarily stand for themselves.
EMALANI CASE: We were colonised and we have gone through a lot and we are still fighting for our sovereignty, but we can raise our flag and we can fight openly. And I look at the people there who are suffering all these injustices, who are abused, killed and imprisoned. You can be imprisoned for 15 years for just raising your flag whereas I can wear one if I want to. So I look at that as just a gross injustice.
Meanwhile a big march was held in Vanuatu's capital to mark West Papua's Flag Day. The Port Vila MP Ralph Regenvanu says support for their Melanesian kin in West Papua remains a constant for ni-Vanuatu.
RALPH REGENVANU: Despite all the instability in government, the fact that governments get deposed and new ones come in, the important thing in Vanuatu is that the chiefs and the churches continue to be active in advocating to the leaders of the country and civil society in general to continue to put pressure on the government to continue to maintain our stand with regard to total support for the independence of West Papua.
This year's Flag Day comes two weeks after the West Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma left a Jayapura jail after serving eleven years. His alleged crime: treason, for raising the Morning Star Flag.
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