Dear Friends in solidarity with West Papua, Timor-leste and progressive
Many of you would be aware that this magnificent act of solidarity for the people of West Papua, which was inspired by Kevin Buzacott, Arabunna Aboriginal Elder, is now under way. The Flotilla is due to set sail from Cairns for West Papua on 17 August .
This action reminds me of the 1992 Missao Paz em Timor/Peace Mission to Timor that was organised and funded by Timor solidarity supporters in Portugal. I was honoured to be invited to participate in that Mission on the MV Lusitania Expresso, which was both a great adventure for those involved and also raised the issue of human rights violations in East Timor internationally just a few months after the Santa Cruz Massacre of 12 November 1991. There were about 120 participants from over 25 nations.
At the time of the Peace Mission to Timor I was a member of the Campaign for an Independent East Timor (CIET), which became the Australian East Timor Friendship Society (AEFTA) after Independence. CIET was actually formed in June 1975 before the invasion. From the early days, we deciced to speak out about West Papua because the crimes of the TNI began there in 1962, 13 years before it invaded East Timor.
Not all solidarity groups adopted this approach, but in the early days, it was hard to get people to see what the issue was. We felt that we should show that the TNI has committed genocide and crimes against humanity in West Papua, Aceh, East Timor and parts of Indonesia itself.
I describe the TNI as the largest terrorist organisation in our region and it is shameful that the Australian government and opposition support the occupation.
In 1977, I met Jack Rumere, a former OPM guerilla at an SCM National Conference southg of Adelaide. He encouraged me to visit Wewak in PNG so that OPM people could get me illegally across the border. As it turned out, the OPM people in Wewak needed a lot more time to get me across the border, so that did not happen. However, a spent a few days with West Papuan refugees in the town.
One night, they sang a number of West Papuan guerilla songs which I recorded on a tape recorder lent to me by Denis Freney, who was the founder of the CIET groups around Australia. The singers also sent a message of solidarity to FRETILIN, which was then the only resistance to the TNI in Timor.
On a trip to Europe just after, Denis took the copies of the recording and played it to Indonesian political refugees in Holland. They responded by singing Indonesian independence songs, which they recorded. One of the songs was “Hello, hello Bandung”, but they changed the word “Bandung”to “Dili”.
I met Rex Rumakiek in Port Morseby and many years later, Jacob Rumbiak stayed at my house on a few occasions when he came to Adelaide to promote the West Papuan cause before the AWPA SA group was founded. In 1987, CIET SA brought Jakub Prai to Australia to raise awareness about West Papua. He visited Adelaide, Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania. Bob Brown who was then the Greens Member in the Tasmanian Parliament lent us $500 at the time and later, the Hobart Timor Committee had fundraisers to repay the loan.
It is important to spread the news about the Flotilla far and wide so that we ensure that the whole world is watching and that the Indonesian military’s genocidal and human rights violations in West Papua are highlighted and become common knowledge.
It is very important that we encourage as many people as possible to support the Freedom Flotilla and spread the word about human rights abuses ocurring in West Papua.
It is especially important that we raise the issue of human rights with
candidates in the coming federal elections. People need to be challenging them about what they are going to do to improve human rights in our region and in other places as well as justice and compensation for all the victims of Indonesian military human rights abuses.
As Kevin Buzacott has 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
Andrew (Andy) Alcock