ONE year from now the People of Papua will mark the 50th anniversary of their independence from the Dutch and the raising for the first time of the Morning Star flag. Today, the raising of that flag is considered a crime in the Indonesian-annexed territory of Papua. In the Pacific, the Morning Star flag has become a symbol for the enduring struggle of a people for recognition, an end to arbitrary arrest and torture and the wish for self-determination.
A gradual groundswell has started in Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Hawaii in support of the Papuan struggle. At universities and colleges, in churches and villages the people of the Pacific have awoken to the fact that within their region there are those who do not have freedom.
Even the media has started to pay attention to the deaths of Papuans at the hands of security forces. Twenty years ago journalists would not have touched the issue. Groups have started to call loudly and consistently for self-determination in Papua and an end to human rights abuses by the security forces and the government of Indonesia.
This action combined with regular protests, advocacy and awareness campaigns has forced Indonesia to send high-level delegations to the region. It has gone as far as to fund the Pacific Islands Development Forum in an effort to show a friendly face of to the people of Small island Development States.