Sunday, October 28, 2007

Free Papua Movement

The Free Papua Movement (Indonesian: Organisasi Papua Merdeka, abbreviated OPM) is a separatist organization established in 1965 which seeks independence for Western New Guinea from Indonesia.

The territory is currently administered by Indonesia as the provinces of Papua and West Irian Jaya. Since its inception the OPM has attempted diplomatic dialogue, conducted West Papuan flag raising ceremonies (illegal under Indonesian law), and undertaken militant actions.

While the organization, and in turn Papuan independence, is not supported by the significant immigrant Javanese population, it is supported by many indigenous Papuans (Melanesians) who consider themselves to have no cultural or historical ties with Austronesian Indonesians. According to OPM supporters, Indonesian administration of West Papua is a military occupation.

"The Free Papua Movement (OPM) is not the all-pervasive revolutionary organization some believe it to be. ... anti-government dissidents have virtually no liaison with each other, receive no outside assistance or direction, and are generally incapable of mounting and insurrection in the face of the relatively large Indonesian military establishment in West Irian. Grievances and anti-GOI sentiment are quite real, however, and there is little question that a great majority of the non-Stone Age Irianese favor a termination of Indonesian rule."

"Opposition to the GOI stems from economic deprivation over the years, military repression and capriciousness, and maladministration. Limited efforts of the GOI to rectify these problems to date are generally "too little and too late," and it is uncertain whether the Indonesians will actually try to ameliorate the sources of local discontent in coming years."

"The Free Papua Movement (OPM) is widely believed to be the core of opposition to the Indonesian Government in West Irian. But it is difficult to track down the OPM as an organization, although not because its security is tight or people unwilling to talk. On the contrary, everyone talks about the OPM; it has few, if any, secrets, and many Irianese [West Papuans] proudly proclaim they are "members" of the OPM."

"A foreigner travelling in West Irian has no difficulty in contacting anti-government activists. They stop you on the street and groups of them gather around when you visit a native village; in short, no one is reluctant to discuss the OPM and their reasons for disliking Indonesians. One American missionary explains this by saying that "the Papuans simply are unable to keep a secret."

"Of course, information known to foreigners is also available to the Indonesian authorities, the Army, and even to the most casual observer. ... Regarding the magnitude of the opposition to Indonesian rule, probably a decided majority of the Irianese people, and possibly 85 to 90 percent, are in sympathy with the Free Papua cause or at least intensely dislike Indonesians."

U.S. Ambassador Francis Joseph Galbraith (1913-1986) June 1969.

While Galbraith's observations largely hold true today, Military oppression of Melanesian West papuans has accelerated in recent years. The suppression of information regarding Indonesian Military activities in the province is almost complete.

The Morning Star flag represented the territory of West New Guinea from 1st December 1961 until 1st October 1962 when the territory came under administration of the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) following a referendum involving a handful of West Papuan delegates chosen and coerced by Javanese authorities. The legitimacy of the referendum has been contested by Melanesian West Papuans ever since. The flag is commonly used by the West Papuan population including OPM supporters to rally Self-determination human rights support and is popularly flown on 1st December each year in defiance of Indonesian domestic laws.

The flag consists of a red vertical band along the hoist side, with a white five-pointed star in the center. The flag was first raised on 1 December 1961 and used until the United Nations became the territory's administrator on 1 October 1962.

After national elections in January 1961 a New Guinea Council consisting of 28 members were sworn into office by Governor Dr. P.J.Platteel on 1st April 1961 and the Council's inaugurations on 5th April 1961 were attended by Australia, Britain, France, Holland, New Zealand and other Pacific Forum nations with exception of the United States.

An emergency session of this Council on 19th October 1961 in response to news that the Hague was considering submitting to US pressure to trade the West New Guinea territory first to United Nations and then Indonesian administration; elected a National Committee to draft a Manifesto for Independence & Self-government, design National flag (Morning Star) and select a national anthem ("Haitanahkoe Papue" / Hail to our Soil Papua).

The full New Guinea Council endorsed these actions on 30th October 1961 and the first Morning Star flag was presented to Governor Platteel on the 31st October 1961 who says "Never before has the oneness of the Council been put forward so strongly."

The official raising of the flag took place during a day of celebration on the 1st December 1961 with National Committee Chairman Mr Inury saying "My Dear compatriots, you are looking at the symbol of our unity and our desire to take our place among the nations of the world. As long as we are not really united we shall not be free. To be united means to work hard for the good of our country, now, until the day that we shall be independent, and further from that day on."

Design of the flag is credited to Nicholas Jouwe, The Netherlands recognized this national symbol on November 18, 1961. The flag is also known as the "Morning Star" (or, natively the "Bintang Kejora"). The similarity to the flag of the United States is intentional, and the similarity to the flag of Cuba is incidental, as Cuba's flag is also derivative of that of the United States.

Jouwe was a member of the Council, and after the annexation of West Papua by Indonesia, he remained in the Netherlands as an advocate of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM).

To this day, the Morning Star is flown by advocates in the Netherlands, Vanuatu, Australia and wherever committed members of the Melanesian diaspora come together. Special ceremonies take place on December 1 of each year, to commemorate the proclamation of the intention to create the Republic of West Papua in 1961.

The flying of the "Morning Star" has been a particular source of controversy over human rights abuses by Indonesian authorities, and in relation to numerous illegal activities undertaken by the Indonesian Military, mostly in relation to West Papua's vast mineral wealth.

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