The event was part of a global network of celebrations including an Original Nations passport ceremony at the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne. It took place in the shadow of the death of young activist Kainus Tabuni on Wednesday May 29th.
The flotilla is spearheaded by Uncle Kevin Buzzacot and has evolved over ten years since it was conceived at the thirtieth anniversary of the Canberra Tent Embassy. Following a ceremony at Lake Eyre on July 25th the flotilla will make its way overland to Brisbane and up the cost to Cairns. The flotilla itself will sail from Cairns on August 17, following concerts and ceremonies. Check the flotilla’s facebook page.
It aims to bring international attention to the rampant killing and oppression of the West Papuan people by the Indonesian military.
The public meeting at Turnstyle Community Hub in Laura St last night heard that the flotilla is aware that the Indonesian military plans to intercept the flotilla and hope that international attention brought about by the social media will help protect their safety.
Young activist Kainus Tabuni was shot dead on Wednesday May 29 2013. Leader of the West Papuan National Committee (KNBP), Mako Tanubi was assassinated in public in June 2012 by the Indonesian government. The movements leaders are regularly arrested and beaten, meetings broken up and headquarters destroyed.
At least 100,000 West Papuans have been killed by the military since the Indonesian took control of the country in 1969 using an illegal act known by West Papuans as the Referendum of No Choice. This well documented international crime, in which one thousand Papuan tribal elders were forced at gun point to vote on a referendum handing over control of the country to the Indonesian government, is celebrated by the Indonesian government with a surreal statue in which a giant Indonesian soldier is supported by tiny, naked West Papuans.
Despite Indonesian and Australian government denial that the genocide is taking place only hundreds of kilometres from the Australian coast, footage smuggled out of the country clearly depicts a warzone in which 30,000 armed police and military, suppress a population of around two million West Papuans. This is the highest ratio of military to civilian control in the world.
Flotilla organisers in Melbourne discussed the role of the Freeport mine and the Australian government with the Turnstyle meeting. Freeport mine is the biggest gold mine in the world and Indonesia’s largest taxpayer. In 2011 Freeport paid the Indonesian government $2billion in taxes alone. The government also owns 19 percent of the mine. US shareholders received a further $1.8 billion.
The meeting then screened the documentary, Goodbye Indonesia which shows the Indonesian Intelligence forces bizarrely texting death threats to the leader of the Free Papua movement as they hunt him down.
Posing as birdwatchers, the film makers record interviews with leaders of the movement, including one tribal elder who was part of the Referendum of No Choice. After spending a night in the swamp surrounded by the intelligence forces hunting them and their subjects two very scared journalists flee the country.
Following the release of the documentary on Al Jazeera television, a minister in the Indonesian Government Ms Dewi Fortuna Anwar observed that any movement toward independence is illegal under Indonesian law and is not afforded the right of free speech. “However, I do not think it is the policy of the Indonesian government to carry out violence against activists without due process of law,” she said.
Whether that constitutes plausible deniability or simply denial is a matter of conjecture.
What is clear is that the attempts by the Indonesian and Australian government to contain the genocide to the remote highlands of the world’s second largest island have failed. Online activists and the independent media will take this issue to the world and, hopefully, restore justice to this tragically betrayed region.
The author, Geoff Ebbs, is the Greens candidate for Griffith.