Evading the Indonesian navy, two boats met near the Australia-Indonesia border, to ceremonially reconnect the indigenous peoples of Australia and West Papua and handover sacred water and ashes carried onboard the Freedom Flotilla, to be presented to West Papuan leaders. This marks the successful completion of the "scared mission" of the Freedom Flotilla, which travelled 5000 km beginning in Lake Eyre, late Aug, a press release issued on Friday said.
The Freedom Flotilla to West Papua sought to build global solidarity for the self-determination of West Papuans and highlight the abuses of human rights and land rights carried out, under what the organisers called, Indonesian occupation of West Papua.
During the symbolic ceremony, indigenous community leader and Arabunna Elder Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, presented the sacred water from the mound springs of Lake Eyre, along with ashes from the Aboriginal Tent Embassies around the country, to senior West Papuan leaders.
Freedom Flotilla to West Papua“Sacred Mission” Accomplished After Symbolical Ceremony at Sea
The names of the West Papuan leaders have not been released due to fear of their safety.
According to the press release, the exchange was intended to reunite the cultures of the two indigenous people, whose lands were once joined before being separated at the end of the last ice age, and as a symbol of support for the West Papuans' 50 year long struggle for freedom and justice under Indonesian military occupation.
The press release clarified that, the Freedom Flotilla's flagship; "the Pog" which left Thursday Island towards Indonesia was in fact a distraction tactics, aimed at diverting the attention of Indonesia security, so that the clandestine meeting ceremony could take place, at an undisclosed location off the south coast of Papua.
However, the release did not state whether "the Pog" will now return considering that the "mission" has been declared complete.
The cultural exchange of Indigenous elders was held in secret, due to threats from the Indonesian agencies, organisers said.
As mentioned, Indonesian authorities had warned organisers that the navy will intercept the Flotilla and arrest the activists. Recent reports had said, around 2500 security personnel have arrived at the Flotilla's proposed destination port of Merauke, anticipating trouble.
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 controversial referendum of elders. The legitimacy of the referendum has all along been questioned, as the West Papuan elders who participated in the referendum, 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.
The outgoing Australian foreign minister Bob Carr had called the protestors on Freedom Flotilla "fringe activists" and termed their attempt to make the unauthorised landfall at West Papua as "high-risk behaviour." He said the world recognised Indonesian sovereignty over its Papuan provinces.
The Australian foreign minister -elect Julie Bishop has also maintained a similar position, stating that Indonesia may do "whatever it wishes" to stop the peaceful protest.
Earlier this year, indigenous leader, Uncle Buzzacott had given a call to all people to join him on this journey to West Papua.
"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."
Returning from the ceremonial meeting, Uncle Buzzacott said "we came in peace, not like those other politicians who are coming selling arms to the Indonesian military, like the Americans who just last month sold them Apache attack choppers, those are to be used against West Papuans, and they know it."
"We made that dream that we've been building, since 2000, we made it happen," he added in elation.
Meanwhile, another community leader Jacob Rumbiak said, "the spirit of the movement is still alive. Our people face many challenges for their freedom but they still show us today, the determination and imagination to continue the struggle."
The release said the participants from the West Papuan side have since returned across the heavily patrolled border and are lying low in West Papua due to fear of reprisal by Indonesia agencies.
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