One small yacht, the Pog, has set sail west from Thursday Island towards West Papua. Her crew, a dedicated group of six from Australia, New Zealand, Kenya and West Papua are determined to complete their mission to build global solidarity and highlight the abuses of human rights and land rights carried out under the Indonesian occupation of West Papua.
Freedom Flotilla co-founder Izzy Brown responded to statements made to Fairfax yesterday by Captain Goeroh Ardianto, Indonesian Navy Spokesperson suggesting that the Freedom Flotilla may potentially be armed, “We come in peace, bearing no arms. We have been absolutely clear about this from the beginning of our journey at the sacred mound springs of Lake Eyre in Arabunna country. We are letting them know our location via our satellite tracker which is available for the world to see up on our website.”
“If one unarmed yacht carrying six people justifies a military response from Indonesia, what would they have done if their country was invaded by tens of thousands of paratroopers, marines and army personnel as happened to our land West Papua in Operation Trikora in 1962?”, questioned Jacob Rumbiak last night.
Ruben Blake responded to claims from Captain Ardianto that the 2,500 troops reported to have been shipped into Merauke on August 28th, 2013 was just a ‘normal rotation’, “What kind of ‘normal’ situation is a constant military presence of atleast 5000 military personel in a town of 80,000? The massive troop numbers are there to be mobilised against the local population, and clearly they are on alert at the moment not only to stop our boat, but to be ready to crack down against any peaceful demonstrations or welcoming ceremonies taking place.”
The troops arrived in Merauke on the same day locals gathered to prepare a welcome ceremony and garlands of flowers to present to the Freedom Flotilla participants, and the same day that in Sorong four customary leaders were arrested and charged with treason after organising a congregation to pray for the safe passage of the Freedom Flotilla.
Captain Ardianto stated further to Fairfax yesterday that if the group was unarmed, “we’ll try to have some dialogue with them”. Izzy Brown responded last night, “We are unarmed and we very much welcome the opportunity for dialogue. We have satellite phones and a UHF radio on board The Pog and we want very much to have an open dialogue whereby we can request safe passage to Merauke to bring the sacred mound spring water from the Australian desert to West Papua.”
The Pog is expected to reach the West Papuan border in the coming days. Daily updates are being recorded direct via satellite by 3CR Community Radio in Melbourne and are available as Pogcasts on the website, www.freedomflotillawestpapua.org