Freedom flotilla sails into West Papua

The freedom flotilla is welcomed in West Papua. Photo: freedomflotillawestpapua.org.

The West Papua Freedom Flotilla released this statement on September 12.

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Evading the Indonesian navy, two tiny boats met near the Australia-Indonesia border to ceremonially reconnect the indigenous peoples of Australia and West Papua. The ceremony was the pinnacle of a 5000 kilometre journey beginning in Lake Eyre, in which sacred water and ashes were carried and presented to West Papuan leaders.

While the Freedom Flotilla’s flagship the Pog sailed towards West Papua, the world watched its progress via a live satellite tracker onboard the vessel, providing a much-needed distraction for the clandestine ceremony to take place in an undisclosed location off the south coast of Papua.

The cultural exchange of Indigenous elders was held in secret, due to threats made by Indonesian government ministers and military officials that the navy and airforce would “take measures” against the peaceful protest, and had not ruled out the use of lethal force.

Soon-to-be Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop had also stated that Indonesia may do “whatever it wishes” to stop the peaceful protest.

During the momentous ceremony Arabunna elder Uncle Kevin Buzzacott presented the sacred water from the mound springs of Lake Eyre, along with ashes from the Aboriginal tent embassies around the country, to senior West Papuan leaders.

The exchange was intended to reunite the cultures of the two indigenous peoples, whose lands where once joined before being separated at the end of the last ice age, and as a symbol of support for the West Papuans’ 50-year-long struggle for freedom and justice under Indonesian military occupation.

Earlier this year, Buzzacott called out to all people to join him on this journey to West Papua. He said: “We have a responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters from across the water. We must bring the water and the fire, the love and the music to heal the country and move in solidarity.”

Returning from the historic event Buzzacott said: “We came in peace, not like those other politicians who are coming selling arms to the Indonesian military, like the Americans who just last month sold them Apache attack choppers, those are to be used against West Papuans, and they know it.”

“We made that dream that we’ve been building with [exiled West Papuan leader] Jacob Rumbiak since 2000, we made it happen,” he added.

Rumbiak said: “The spirit of the movement is still alive. Our people face many challenges for their freedom but they still show us today the determination and imagination to continue the struggle.”

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