Australia, on Tuesday issued a warning to its activists groups taking part in the Freedom Flotilla to Indonesia's Papuan province.
In a statement issued from Jakarta, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr termed the protestors as "fringe activists". Carr advised them not to engage in this high-risk behaviour and called their efforts to suggest that Papuan independence was on the international agenda as "perpetrating a cruel hoax on the people" of the Papuan provinces.
The "Freedom Flotilla" is a convoy of three yachts carrying approximately 50 West Papuan and indigenous Australian protestors bound for the Indonesian territories of West Papua. If all goes to plan, they intend to make an unauthorised landfall in Indonesia's West Papua by early September.
Carr said that the activists could face up to 5 years jail for immigration and other offences if they enter Indonesian waters without approval. "The world recognises Indonesian sovereignty over its Papuan provinces, as do both sides of Australian politics," Carr said.
Meanwhile in Indonesia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a stern warning to other countries, saying they should not violate the country's sovereignty. Authorities are meanwhile bracing up for a show down. They have warned that that the navy will intercept the Flotilla and arrest the activists.
Separatist Movement in West Papua
The separatist movement in West Papua dates back to the 1960s. A Dutch overseas territory until 1962, West Papua acceded to Indonesia in 1969 following a referendum of elders.
Separatists have all along questioned the legitimacy of the referendum which was called the 'Act of Free Choice'. They term it as the 'Act of No Choice' as 1025 West Papuan elders were assembled under threat and Indonesian military surveillance to vote on behalf of nearly 1 million West Papuans regarding the territory's political status.
Following the referendum, Indonesia declared West Papua as a military operation zone. The Indonesian military is alleged to have systematically repressed the Papuan separatist movement. Activities groups claim that some 100,000 West Papuans have been killed by Indonesian security forces.
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