The media have been busy reporting demonstrations, commemorating the 57th anniversary of morning star flag raising, a tradition of West Papua secessionist supporters. The main event this year was situated in Surabaya, second biggest city in Indonesia, where several hundreds of people gathered in peaceful rally, met by some nationalist counter-protesters, and safeguarded by the police.
The Protest In Indonesia
In spite of its peaceful nature, some protesters managed to squeeze some friction from the event. In Jakarta, some protesters complained that they were not allowed to hold protesting act in the center of Jakarta’s busiest business district. Responding to that, head of Menteng, Jakarta District Police Lt. Col. Deddy Supriadi testified that the protest organizers did not manage to attend mandatory hearing session, a day before the planned demonstration, therefore denied a permission to demonstrate in Jakarta’s most populated area.
In other parts of the world, the “Global Flag Raising” did not seem to gain much practical support from the global audience; or at least not as much as the Free West Papua movement would like to have.
According to the documentations done and published by the Free West Papua’s social media, there were 18 people celebrating in Oxford City Council (which was very problematic, and you will see why in this article), 16 people in Canberra, and 15 in London. Benny Wenda, a disputed global leader of Free West Papua movement, was also relatively silent. He normally posts multiple promotional and propaganda material on daily basis, but on the December 1st, he made only one statement as the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).
Other leaders and former leaders of ULMWP were also seemed to be dormant. Octo Mote, spokesperson of ULMWP, was relatively silent compared to his usual activities, without any post related to the 1st of December. Jacob Rumbiak, another executive member, has been inactive since 2017. Rex Rumakiek was also quiet in his social media accounts, and Leonie Tanggahma, a former female leader from ULMWP (before quitting in 2017) was also absent. None of the names aforementioned was seen in any photo or video during the 1st of December anniversary events anywhere in the world.
As for the non-Papuan activists, the usual names were also unusually quiet. Anthony Craig from New South Wales was unseen on Twitter. No post from USA, no update on events from Netherland, except a few in Den Haag.
But the biggest highlight is probably how Benny Wenda, the leader of ULMWP, posted a picture of him with the late Jean Fooks, former Lord Mayor of Oxford. They were seen in the picture with 15 other people, posing in front of a morning star flag.
Unfortunately, the photo was not taken at the day Wenda said he did. In fact, Jean Fooks passed away just three days before the 1st of December, 2018. The photo posted by Wenda on his Facebook page, claiming that he was welcomed by her on December 1st, 2018, was an outright and pitiful lie.
Foreign Politicians Behind December 1st Commemorations
When she became Mayor of Oxford in 2014, Jean Fooks admitted that she would lose her electability as a councillor in the district. Becoming a mayor pressured her to represent all Oxford citizens in equal manner, resulting in a drop of her popularity as a Liberal Democrat party member. As a lifetime councillor candidate of Lib Dem, Jean Fooks would need to take on a partisan issue to boost her electability, and the Free West Papua organization was a perfect avenue for her to do that. She was the mayor who authorised the flying of morning star flag at the Oxford City Council, with a publicity helped by Benny Wenda, a former Indonesian from Papua who became UK citizen. Unfortunately, Wenda continued to exploit her image as a lifetime-long public servant, much to the interest of himself and ULMWP, up to after her passing on 29th of November ago.
Similar case is currently happening with Catherine Delahunty in Bastion Point, Auckland, New Zealand. Catherine Delahunty, Marama Davidson (MP), Golriz Ghahraman (MP) and Maire Leadbeater are Kiwi politicians who support West Papuan independence in the name of human rights, claiming that academics have proven an ongoing “slow genocide”. Delahunty failed to get a re-election in 2017, and has been vocal about west Papua independence ever since.
The Green Party and its politicians will subsequently benefit some media exposure for going against the incumbent government. In August 2018, Foreign Minister of New Zealand, Winston Peters, stated that his country recognizes West Papua as a part of Indonesia. He also stated that the social and economic condition in West Papua was better than Papua New Guinea. He mentioned that even the people in Papua New Guinea will agree that the GDP and social conditions of West Papua are higher. In such situation, Delahunty and other politicians from non-incumbent coalition will gain popularity for polarizing themselves against the current administration.
The Papuans, and Indonesians in general, will have to stay alert of the strong influence coming from both foreign-citizen activists, and foreign politicians. Behind the beautiful photos of Papuans, Indonesians, and foreign citizens marching in the name of West Papua, there can be hidden agenda which may or may not be the best interest of the development of Papuan communities. In the democratic environment of Indonesia, peaceful protests are welcomed as a form of the sacred voice of the people. This conducive environment will not last without our communal effort to nurture it in unity as Indonesians.