Troops attack West Papuans

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Troops attack West Papuans

By Linda Kaucher

Indonesian military forces shot protesters trying to prevent them lowering the West Papuan independence flag in the south coast town of Timika on December 1. Approximately 30 people were injured by the gunfire, and at least 10 people were arrested.

Locals had raised the flag in Timika on November 10, with no adverse military reaction, and had said they would maintain a vigil around the flag until West Papua was granted a referendum.

On December 1, flags were raised across the territory to mark the 38th anniversary of the West Papuan declaration of independence. Indonesian authorities tolerated the flag raisings only on the condition that they were all lowered by dusk. Those in Timika sought to resist the military enforcing this.

Those arrested include Yosepha Alomang, an Amungme tribeswoman who has sued Freeport McMoran, the multinational which, with Rio Tinto, operates the giant Freeport copper and gold mine.

In Canberra, Leigh Hughes reports that a solidarity action was held outside the Indonesian embassy on December 1. Sixty West Papuan refugees and activists waved the West Papuan Morning Star flag in defiance of their antagonists.

They demanded recognition, independence and freedom for their people and called for the withdrawal of all Indonesian troops from the region.

Bob Brown, the only senator to support the struggle, argued that Australian politicians had failed the people of West Papua and Australia by supporting the suppression of democracy and self-determination in West Papua. "It is inevitable that West Papua will be free", he said.

James Vassilopoulos, representing the Democratic Socialist Party, denounced the rigged 1969 "act of free choice" that justified the annexation of West Papua, and called for a referendum on independence similar to that in East Timor.

John Ondawame, the international spokesperson of the OPM, the Free Papua Movement, recalled the shameful history of Indonesian occupation, the efforts of his people in attempting to end that control and their sacrifices made while struggling for freedom.

He called on the Indonesian government to apologise for its human and democratic rights violations, withdraw all military personnel and determine the date of a referendum on West Papua's future.