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The Morning Star, the flag of West Papua

Raise the Flag and Cry Merdeka

A traditional outrigger canoe arrives on Australian shores from West Papua

The first traditional Papuan boat, a canoe with outriggers, arrived on Australian shores this week from West Papua or the province of Irian Jaya, as the Indonesians have called it since 1962.

Alas, the Australian Department of Immigration is now so beyond redemption that it declares for days that the families "have not declared to seek asylum". Immigration secretly burns the boat and starts an investigation to identify any people smuggling in this "breach of border safety".

The government likes to remain ignorant about the fact that every person, no matter how little they know about the issues relevant for John Howard's Fortress Australia, can clearly see that these are people who sailed themselves to Australia, that they are no queue jumpers, and that they came to the nearest country to seek asylum from four decades of violence and killings, from reprisals and injust imprisonment, and all this for raising the Freedom Flag of West Papua, The Morning Star.

About this page

On this page, the background to the West Papuan circumstances, followed by what became the main photographs of the arrival of the West Papuans on 17 January 2006 from The Torres News. The photos are from photographer Damian Barker, and they are reproduced here with permission of The Torres News. As soon as DIMIA became aware of the work of Damian Barker and The Torres News, they declared a "no-fly-zone" around the area where the asylum seekers were camped. Nothing has changed since Tampa...

The page contents concludes with some downloadable documents and links to other resources. The downloads are documents you can print to make copies of The Morning Star, the flag you can fly - in Australia, but not in West Papua, where you get locked up for flying and displaying the Freedom symbol of West Papua.

Related pages

23 April 2006: TAPOL Human Rights Bulletin 181 (West Papua) - It seems that since December 2005 things are starting to escalate around West Papua, so it's not surprising that TAPOL dedicates a large section of this December Bulletin to the issues in Papua.

10 April 2006: Pieter J Drooglever, An Act of Free Choice? - the Papuans of Western New Guinea and the limitations of the right to self determination. An English summary of the Dutch Government-commissioned report into the handover of Irian Jaya to the UN under the New York Agreement in 1962 and the Indonesian - and stacked - Referendum of 1969.

31 March 2006: The Secret War Against The Defenseless People Of West Papua - "If the history of human rights is not the history of great power's impunity, the UN must return to West Papua, as it did finally to East Timor." Essays and writings by John Pilger, Clinton Fernandes and Marni Cordell.

4 February 2006: Rallying for the Papuans - Photo Reports from around Australia - Within a week of the 43 Papuans arriving near Weipa in Queensland, Australians voted with their feet, and rallies were held in several states. Here are the photos from Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin, as well as some images taken on Christmas Island.

31 January 2006: Free West Papua, Let Them Stay! - A forum in Fremantle about the West Papuan asylum seekers and their reasons for the trip from Merauke to Weipa in Queensland with Senator Kerry Nettle, advocate Kaye Bernard, Project SafeCom's Jack Smit and Australian West Papua Association supporter Ned Byrne.

22 January 2006: Inside the Grasberg Mine: an exasperating New York Times key feature investigation on West Papua's Freeport Mine. Published in December 2005, the article is already found on dozens of locations on the internet, and perhaps it's a study that will break the stranglehold on a situation that's both environmentally unsustainable, politically corrupt and an abhorrence in terms of human rights and ecological responsibility.

Raise the Flag and Cry Merdeka

Project SafeCom co-ordinator Jack H Smit outlines what happened since the Dutch relinquished colonial control over the country in 1962.

A Foreign Minister with a huge nose

Dutch Foreign Minister Joseph Luns

I remember Joseph Luns more because of his enormous nose paired with his highly erudite and eloquent manner of speech than because of anything else, but I forgive myself for that aberration.

After all, when I remember the time that Dad would switch on the Sunday noon Hilversum 2 radio station to listen to the weekly current affairs wrap-up, I was barely in my teens, we were always having Sunday dinner, and most of us in the family were still regarding that listening to the wireless on a Sunday as bordering on a worldly habit, quite out-of-line with our cleansed Calvinist-Protestant way of spending the Day of Rest The Lord had given us.

And I knew that Mr Luns - who had been the Dutch representative to the United Nations and who would later also serve as the Secretary-General of NATO - was a Catholic, because he had four Christian names and the mother of Jesus was one of them: Joseph Marie Antoine Hubert Luns.

Dad demanded absolute silence around the table that Sunday in 1962, when the Foreign Minister with the enormous nose shared the latest developments around the future of our East Indies' colony, Nederlands Nieuw-Guinea, with the Dutch population busy eating their Sunday dinner. For a while the news from Nieuw Guinea had not been good at all, and we were quite engrossed in following the news: our church had developed missionary posts in Boma, Kouh, Tanah Merah and Kawagit and the church's mission office had even hoped to expand its role to include the Baliem Valley and the Highlands soon, under the condition they would not cut into the territory of the Mennonites and other churches not linked to the Gereformeerde kerk.

President Sukarno had been increasing the pressure on The Netherlands. Missionaries did not get their visas renewed and some were accused of anti-government propaganda, because they encouraged the people they worked with, to make independent choices and form their independent discernment about the Indonesian government. For a while it even looked like the Dutch government was preparing for a military response to the incursions by Sukarno's army, and Luns - who was determined to keep New Guinea under Dutch rule - certainly fought for it, but no support was forthcoming from the United Nations, who under pressure from JFK and the United States, recommended the Dutch hand-over, a recommendation supported by the Kennedy administration in Washington, because Russia had an arms deal with Sukarno.

Eventually Luns lost his fight for the Dutch East Indies, and the Dutch lost their fight to remain involved with the self-governance movement in New Guinea they had supported so vigorously. The Foreign Affairs Minister's interests were largely triggered by his thorough knowledge of the bullying by Sukarno and genuine concerns for the well-being of the Papuans, or the deterioration of that well-being if Indonesia would rule the territory - and for the rest by his own ego.

Kennedy did not support the ongoing colonisation of the region because Russia had been helping Indonesia's weapons purchases, Sukarno kept pushing and my country signed the hand-over to the UN that same year with a great deal of pomp and ceremony, a great deal of political importance, and in my family we grieved for the loss of our caring love for 'those natives' for a long time following the hand-over.

The New York Agreement followed soon, which handed West Papua over to Indonesia for a period of six years, to be followed by an act of self-determination, and I grew up to become a teenager who was too tall and too thin for several years. But I nurtured a great deal of pride in the way the Dutch had redeemed themselves in the last few years of colonial rule over New Guinea: they had successfully facilitated, if not assisted and supported, the development of the Free West Papua movement, the missionaries had supported the raising of the flag of independence, The Morning Star, at times in front of their asbestos and timber church buildings in the villages, and had helped, supported by some Dutch politicians, the West New Guinea Council to be established. And the rally-cry Merdeka, which means Independence in both Malay and Indonesian, is a word I proudly learnt from the ministers' sermons in my church.

The Act of No Choice

The 1969 referendum of the people of Irian Jaya, as Indonesia now called West Papua, was called the Act of Free Choice, but up till today it is better known amongst the population as The Act of No Choice. A letter petition to Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan in 2001 states that

"...1025 Papuans from the population of 800,000 voted, under threat of having their tongues cut out, to remain a part of Indonesia."

With an attitude of utter contempt and recording a blatant lie, Indonesia proudly tells the Western world that the outcome of the referendum had produced a one hundred percent vote supporting the continuation of Indonesian rule of West Irian.

Much later, in the last few months of 2005, reports have been published that reveal the true state of affairs of the Act of Free Choice. The Dutch government commissioned a report, written by Professor Pieter Drooglever, which showed very disturbing facts about what really took place during the period of the referendum of 1969. Drooglever's conclusions condemn the United Nations - under the leadership of Secretary-general U Thant - for its failure to face the facts, a failure of the member states to get to the bottom of the issue, the failure of The New York Agreement and for failing to confront the immediate culture of violence and killings on the part of the Indonesian regime from that point onwards, for the next decades up till the present. Two links to the report:

The Drooglever Report

From the Drooglever report as well as from other sources, it became clear that the Indonesians simply replaced the notion of "Self-determination" in the UN Agreement with "autonomous rule" where they appointed governors in West Papua, but that violence and killings continued to a scale that a legal research group at Yale University used the term 'genocide' to describe what was happening. Some quotes from the summary of the Drooglever report:

"...Initially, the Papuan officials and policemen took over many of these tasks, particularly at local government level. At the same time, Indonesian soldiers and officials were pouring into the country in far larger numbers than planned and quickly took control. They exerted heavy pressure on the Papuans to choose their side publicly and to give up the dream of self-determination. Furthermore, the first signs of the violent action taken by the Indonesian military, which would also characterise the new administration in the coming decades, soon appeared. Rapid impoverishment ensued, together with a substantial decline in legal certainty and a loss of civil rights across the board. This was accompanied by a systematic breaking down of everything that harked back to the Netherlands, to be replaced with the Indonesian body of ideas on planned democracy. This led to increasingly negative reactions from the Papuans. The hinterland of Manokwari, in particular, was in a permanent state of opposition from 1965 onwards, which was combated with hard-handed military action. The number of victims quickly rose into the thousands."

"In 1971, the militant resistance movement OPM declared independence. This resistance was however harshly dealt with and in any case remained a marginal phenomenon. West Irian, now renamed as Irian Jaya (the victorious Irian), was declared an autonomous province which was under the responsibility of the Minister of the Interior. In reality the situation remained as it had been since 1963: an area under rather unsuccessful military rule, that continued to show all the characteristics of the preceding period. A forced cultural offensive came to nothing. Indonesia imposed its own norms on the Papuan population. Criticism or opposition was not tolerated and was harshly punished. It is difficult to estimate the number of people who fell victim to this. Figures running into the tens of thousands have been mentioned."

"A legal research group linked to Yale University found, in their report from 2003, the facts which had become known to them sufficiently serious to use the ominous word genocide to describe the situation."

"According to the statements of Papuans with a considerable knowledge of what was going on, not a day went by during the following decades when no one died or no one was seriously mistreated."

New Internationalist's summary

New Internationalist issue 344

In April 2002 the New Internationalist magazine did the world a favour by dedicating an entire issue to the West Papua situation. From the New Internationalist's summary of West Papuan history:

"Even though there has never been a war, almost all West Papuans can name at least one relative who has been beaten, raped, tortured or killed by the Indonesian armed forces since the Act of Free Choice.

Officially, more than 100,000 have died. Unofficially, the estimate is 800,000. In February 1999, 100 West Papuan leaders met with President Habibe in Jakarta and said that they had had enough: Indonesia must leave. The team flew back to a hero's welcome by the thousands waiting to greet them at the airport.

Until 1 December 1999, the Indonesians treated the raising of the Morning Star as an act of treason. Jails all over the country held Papuans imprisoned (some for up to 25 years) for raising their flag. The security forces surprised everyone by announcing that the raising of the flag would be permitted on 1 December 1999. In an emotional and peaceful ceremony, the capital city of Jayapura became 'Papuan owned' for a day. People throughout the country excitedly began preparations for the grant of independence that they thought would necessarily follow."

The killings and violence did not stop in 1999, there was just a short pause. The intermission in West Papua under president Abdurrahman Wahid soon came unstuck. Richard Chauvel and Ikrar Nusa Bhakti write [1]:

"The brief Papuan Spring indicated something of the fragility of Indonesia's position. The unprecedented (but not unrestricted) political space of late 1998 to late 2000 revealed how few Papuans envisioned a future Papua as part of Indonesia."

But then they also state [1]:

The policy established by Abdurrahman Wahid, Indonesia's first democratically elected president, proved untenable. Abdurrahman's attempt to accommodate Papuan aspirations within Indonesia created a space for Papuan advocates of independence to mobilize support for their cause. But successful mobilization of support for independence--by people who had been liberated by Indonesia--was an unacceptable affront to a nation experiencing multiple crises. The success of that mobilization revealed not only the fragility of Indonesian authority but also the lack of Papuan consent for Indonesian rule.

News from Copper and Gold

Below are some links and summaries of articles about the Freeport mine in West Papua. Freeport, also known as Grasberg, is the world's biggest gold mine and second-biggest copper mine. Unconfirmed sources quote staff numbers of approx. 20,000 workers, i.e. it is a boom mining town... Australia's Rio Tinto reportedly now has also a large stake in the Freeport mine.

There was a disturbing ABC Four Corners story about Freeport some years ago, reported by Mark Davis. The Four Corners Episode was called "Blood on the Cross". The ABC promo stated: 'Mark Davis investigates allegations about the role of the International Red Cross and the British military in a massacre in the Southern Highlands of Irian Jaya in May 1996. The story of what happened has never been told before.'

Murder at the Mine

Time Magazine (USA)
Feburary 17, 2003
By Simon Elegant
Reported by Jason Tedjasukmana, Timika

Investigations into an ambush outside a remote gold mine in Indonesia might reignite controversy about the nation's military.

Patricia Spier was heading home from a mountaintop picnic in Indonesia's eastern province of Papua when the ambush began. Out of nowhere, a hail of automatic-weapon fire perforated the two Toyota Land Cruisers in which the American schoolteacher and a group of her colleagues and husband were traveling in. "I was shot in the back and fell to the floor," Spier recalls.

Full story at

Freeport mine: the Cairns dispute

MUA website
September 11, 1997

International Purveyors, the company allied with the Howard Government in its war on the Maritime Union, is a front for Freeport McMoRan, infamous for its alleged desecration of Papuan sacred sites, environmental and human rights abuses...

Full story at

The complex story of Freeport

Denise Leith, The Politics of Power: Freeport in Suharto's Indonesia, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 2003

Inside Indonesia
Oct-Dec 2004
by David Tonkin

In late June 2004, the US government officially charged a West Papuan rebel leader for his role in the killing of two American and one Indonesian teacher in the remote highlands of the province in August 2002. The teachers worked at a school for the children of mining giant Freeport Indonesia employees, and were returning from a picnic at the time.

A preliminary Indonesian police investigation found a 'strong possibility' that the shooting was carried out by the Indonesian military. A subsequent investigation by the US State Department appeared to support this view.

Full story at

Freeport Says It Paid Indonesia $1 Billion Since 2004

Bloomberg News
January 17, 2006

Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. paid Indonesia about $1 billion since 2004, including protection money at the Grasberg mine that has sparked a U.S. government inquiry, Chief Executive Officer Richard Adkerson said.

Full story at

The West Papuans arrive

The Torres News photographer Damian Barker had the scoop when the boat arrived. The Torres News is an independent newspaper on Thursday Island, and they flew to the arrival location and made their pictures just in time - as soon as they were spotted the Howard government declared a "no-fly-zone" around the area where the asylum seekers were camped. The images are reproduced here with permission of Damian and The Torres News. Click on any of the links to The Torres News to read the article where the images were first posted.

On the ground with the West Papuan asylum seekers

January 2005
By Corey Bousen
Editor of The Torres News

The banner on the outrigger canoe, the vessel the West Papuans arrived in
The Howard government's efforts to dehumanise the issue of "boat people" were seen to their full effect yesterday when 43 West Papuan asylum seekers fleeing from Indonesian oppression were quickly rounded up by Australian authorities hell-bent on preventing the media from covering their arrival on remote Cape York after five days at sea.

After the West Papuans were spotted by authorities, a 32 km "no fly-zone" was immediately established surrounding the region where the refugees landed. Fortunately, as our helicopter pilot had checked special aviation notices along with the weather earlier in the day, we were able to twice fly over the refugees and their boat while taking photos and then land because we didn't know about the newly enacted restrictions. Our pilot says he would never have flown us down to the asylum seekers' landing site had he known about the restrictions.

While I attracted the attention of two police heading towards our helicopter, Torres News photojournalist Damian Baker made a covert dash up the beach, but was prevented from approaching the refugees by a third police officer. The Queensland police officers, who were also from our home base of Thursday Island, about 200km north of the landing site, wouldn't say much, but were quick to pass the buck to Australian Customs as the "lead agency" preventing us from speaking to the refugees.

The camping spot where the group spent the first few hours

We asked the police what they would do if we approached the refugees, who were about 50 metres away. After some consideration, we were told we would be arrested. When pressed on what charge, after some further consideration we were informed that it would be for "failing to following the directions of a police officer."

After secreting his camera's primary memory card in our helicopter, Baker said he was going to make a dash towards the refugees. I asked him not to do that because I didn't want to face subsequent legal bills that could prove onerous for a weekly newspaper of our modest size.

We can report, however, that the Papuan refugees all appeared to be in good health after their five-day ordeal: they were all able to get up and move away from the view of our camera after being instructed to do so by the Quarantine and Customs officials keeping a close eye on them.

The canoe is just visible at the bottom of the image of the group, preparing camp near Weipa

We're told that the asylum seekers' landing site about 30km north of Weipa was exactly where they were planning to come ashore. This was a great job of seamanship and navigation, given the antiquated state of their outrigger and the tricky weather conditions they faced.

As an aside, during our trip down to the landing site we also spotted an illegal Indonesian fishing boat 56 kilometres south of Thursday Island, the crew of which was obviously just heading back out to sea after camping out on the mainland. So while the authorities were able to quickly locate and detain 43 asylum seekers, they didn't appear to be too concerned about the illegal fisherman who, I must say, were obviously enjoying their time in Australia given their big smiles and enthusiastic waves at our helicopter. We used our chopper's radio to immediately report our sighting of the Indonesian fishing boat to our friends at Customs.

Thanks to the Cairns Post for paying for our interesting helicopter ride and a double, one-fingered salute to the Commonwealth Government and its bureaucratic minions who were unable to prevent us from getting the pics of the asylum seekers and putting human faces to the plight of these refugees fleeing Indonesian repression. (story sent by

Resources and downloads

Media releases

Flag-making: The Morning Star

The Morning Star, the flag of West Papua

The beautiful Morning Star has represented, for almost half a century, the will to have self-determination and freedom for the Papuan people and it has become the symbol for the West Papua Freedom movement, but many, many people have been beaten or imprisoned and worse for "illegally" flying the Morning Star. You can help the West Papua people and the refugees who just arrived in Australia by making copies of the Flag and using the Flag as a central symbol whenever you work for the cause of the West Papuans.

The Morning Star flag was designed by Nicolaas Jouwe, Chairman of the National Liberation Council of West Papua (and one of two Papuans who argued against West Papuan integration into Indonesian territory at the United Nations in New York back in the early 1960s). The 13 stripes represent the tribes, the red strip the political struggle, the morning star the star of hope, and the red-white-blue stands for gratitude. (from

In the WinZip file you're able to download below, you'll find a WORD document: This one-sided document prints in colour and creates two flags under each other, and each flag is also "mirrored" at the left for the back of the design.

All you need after printing is some kebab skewers and some glue, and you will have made two small flags.

Also in the WinZip file, you'll find a second WORD document with a larger flag. This is a double-sided document and it creates one larger flag, also "mirrored" at the left for the back of the design.

Then there are two larger JPG images - printable on an A4 sheet of paper, front and back, they make one flag. Please use your fantasy: you can string hundreds of small flags on a strong piece of twine at your supporting event for the Papuan refugees! Also in the WinZip file, two maps of West Papua.

Other websites