December 1, 2016 should be a celebration for West Papuan independence.
Instead, the day will mark 55 years of what should have been a sovereign nation; 19 days after the Dutch left their colony, Indonesia invaded and have occupied ever since.
It’s a sad tale of genocide and assimilation – and resource exploitation.
Irreplaceable rainforests are being lost and the island has some of the largest copper and gold mines on the planet.
It’s also well established that the population is now less than 50 per cent West Papuan.
Half a million people are believed to have been killed in this time.
And this is all happening on Australia’s doorstep.
West Papuan activist, filmmaker and UN ambassador Wensi Fatubun was in the Shire last week in support of a new project headed by Blue King Brown’s Carlos Santone.
‘Australian government wants to forget about us,’ says Wensi, and he spoke of how raising the issue of independence in West Papua can land you in jail.
As for media access, Wensi says it is open but not free.
‘Foreign journalists are always led around by officials so they have no access to anyone who would speak against.’
Wensi also spoke of chronic lack of access to doctors in villages. ‘They are not empowering us with modern health and education,’ he says.
High HIV rates
‘They are killing our culture; the use of condoms in brothels – which are Indonesian run – is discouraged for example. HIV rates are very high.’
The UN – which is largely funded by the US – gave control to Indonesia in 1969 with The Act of Free Choice – it is referred to by West Papuan activists as the Act Of No Choice.
And then in 2006, the Lombok Treaty was signed, signalling agreement between Indonesia and Australia.
It has helped to stifle any real criticism from our leaders.
But West Papua is not alone Wensi says; Vanuatu is a longtime supporter, and just last month, six Pacific Island countries raised the West Papuan issue in the UN.
‘The issue will be again raised before the UN in March 2017’, says Wensi.
Rize of the Morning Star
A new project from Blue King Brown’s Carlos Santone is called Rize of the Morning Star (ROTMS) and its first film clip/song is Sorong Samarai by artist Airileke.
Santone, who is based part time in Byron Shire with Nattali Rize, says the politically motivated record label was co-founded in 2012 with Airileke and West Papuan musician and activist Ronny Kareni.
To shoot the clip, he says a small team travelled from the tip of West Papua (Sorong) to the tip of PNG (Samarai), ‘capturing the culture and identity of one people, separated only by a colonial border’.
‘West Papua contains the most culturally diverse people on Earth, with more than 1,000 languages, and has the third largest tract of rainforest in the world.’ He says, ‘Using music as a key unifier and amplifier, ROTMS have successfully organised some of the largest scale international free West Papua solidarity actions to date’.
For more, visit www.rizeofthemorningstar.com.