This morning at 10am the Freedom Flotilla to West Papua hit the water and began its epic journey to Cape York and across the Torres Strait, bound for West Papua.
Today’s launch comprised a fleet of 5 yachts, 9 kayaks, 3 sailing dingies and a catamaran which departed Marlin Marina to a chorus of “Papua Merdeka” (Free West Papua). So far two boats are confirmed to be undertaking the historic journey to West Papua however additional vessels are sailing in solidarity through Australian waters.
A crowd of 120 including local Indigenous peoples, West Papuans, Federal Member for Leichardt Warren Entsch, Greens Candidate Johanna Kloot, Maritime Union of Australia members, along with activists and musicians from around the country gathered for the send off.
Asked for his opinion on the Freedom Flotilla, Warren Entsch, MP said today,
“I think any way we can raise the profile here, I’m a very strong supporter of recognizing the identity of the West Papuan people. I think that they have been oppressed for far too long and I think its more about resources than what it is about anything else”.
Mr Entsch went on to say “at the end of the day it is critically important that the culture and identity of the West Papuan people needs to be retained.”
The vessels are carrying a cargo of sacred water from the Mound Springs of Lake Eyre in South Australia where the journey began, along with the ashes of fires from Aboriginal Sovereign Tent Embassies around Australia. These will be offered to West Papuan elders to re-unite the spirit and cultures of two peoples whose lands were once joined.
“We must bring the water and the fire, the love and the music to heal the country and move in solidarity,” said Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, Arabunna Aboriginal Elder and Freedom Flotilla founder.
Freedom Flotilla co-founder Jacob Rumbiak, who has been warned by Indonesian generals that the flotilla may be met with a military response, spoke today of the journeys peaceful intentions.
“Today is also Indonesian Independence day. We congratulate the Republic of Indonesia for winning their freedom from colonial power. We wish to share with them the feeling of being free, that is why we as West Papuan’s struggle today to achieve our Independence as they have done,” he said.
“They should not be afraid of this mission to uphold the human rights of people wherever they live”, added Mr Rumbiak.
Original Nations Passports were issued today to Freedom Flotilla participants recognizing Indigenous peoples rights to grant access to their custodial lands.
Participants on the Freedom Flotilla will be communicating their message to the world on ‘Pogcast’, recorded via satellite phone from the flotilla’s flagship The Pog, highlighting the human rights abuses against West Papua’s Indigenous population.
The Pog was prevented from departing with the flotilla today due to mechanical issues with the dry docks’ gantry crane.
The Freedom Flotilla will make land at Cooktown in the coming week to meet media and locals before making their historic crossing of the Torres Strait. This is a particularly emotional part of the journey for West Papuan Freedom Flotilla member Amos Wainggai, who landed by boat near the remote Cape York town in 2008 as an asylum seeker.