Jayapura, Jubi – Sixty years ago, December 1, 1961, the Morning Star flag of West Papua was raised for the first time in front of the Nieuw Guinea Raad Building in Jayapura City. Now, the building is known as the Papuan Arts Council Building.
At that time, chairman of the Papuan National Committee Willem Inury said in his speech, “Today, December 1, 1961, we are raising the flag of West Papua on a building that has not been completed”. The raising of the Morning Star flag on that day became a symbol of the Dutch Government’s political recognition of the founding of the state of West Papua.
Willy Joost Mirino, a senior journalist and editor of Suara Perempuan Papua, wrote in his article titled “Papua Council, Gait History and Revitalization” on October 10, 1961, that Nieuw Guinea Raad member Nicolash Jouwe used the right of initiative to designate the Morning Star flag as the Papuan National flag. Meanwhile, the song Hai Tanahku Papua composed by IS Kijne became the national anthem of West Papua.
Though the raising of the Morning Star flag in 1961 was not accompanied by the Proclamation of Independence of West Papua, first President of the Republic of Indonesia Soekarno strongly responded against the event. Soekarno started the Trikora (Tri Komando Rakyat – a strategy for mobilizing the nation) campaign on December 19, 1961 in Yogyakarta, to annex what Indonesia called West Irian. Trikora’s operational command, the Mandala Command for Liberation of West Irian, which was a planned invasion, was led by General Soeharto, who later became the republic’s second president.
The proclamation of Papuan independence was declared long after the first raising of the Morning Star flag. On July 1, 1971, Brig. Gen. Zeth Rumkorem proclaimed the independence of Papua at the Victoria Headquarters. During the proclamation, Rumkorem and his supporters raised the Morning Star flag and sang the anthem Hai Tanahku Papua.
Zeth Rumkorem was a former First Lieutenant of the Indonesian Army from IV/Diponegoro Military Command. Maj. Gen. Samsudin in a book entitled “The Upheaval in the Border” said that Zeth Rumkorem was a graduate of the Army Officer Candidate School from the Infantry Education Center in Bandung. He acknowledged Rumkorem’s military skills on the battlefield.
In preparing the proclamation, Rumkorem was also assisted by a graduate of the National Police Academy, Second Lt. Barnabas Fairyo. They led their troops to the jungle that stretches on the border between West Papua and Papua New Guinea (PNG). Zeth Rumkorem finally obtained political asylum and went to Greece, he eventually died in the Netherlands. Fairyo, meanwhile, settled in PNG.
Rumkorem’s proclamation was not the only proclamation of the independence of the West Papuan nation. On December 14, 1988, Thomas Wanggai and his supporters proclaimed the Republic of West Melanesia at Mandala Square, Jayapura City. The event prompted the arrest of several Papuan figures including students and Wanggai himself.
Wanggai and supporters of the Republic of West Melanesia carried the Bintang 14 flag, but the Morning Star flag that was flown on December 1, 1961, continued to become the symbol of the West Papuan independence movement.
The raising of the Morning Star on December 1, 1961 is not listed in Indonesian history textbooks but lives in the memory of the indigenous Papuans. It fuels their dream of achieving independence.
The New Order regime under President Soeharto and through the military have always prohibited the raising of the Morning Star flag. Many Papuans have been killed, persecuted, and imprisoned because of the Morning Star flag.
The Morning Star flag was only allowed to fly in Papua in the era of President Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, on December 1, 1999 to be exact. Gus Dur appreciated the Morning Star as a cultural symbol of the Papuan people.
Gus Dur believed that there was nothing wrong with raising the Morning Star, as long as it was flown side by side with Indonesia’s Red and White flag. On July 6, 2007, Gus Dur explained his reasons for allowing the Morning Star to be raised in Papua, “Morning star is a cultural flag. If we think of it as a political flag, the fault is ours,” said Gus Dur at that time, as quoted by Merdeka.
However, during the era of President Megawati Soekarnoputri and President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the government yet again opposed raising the Morning Star. When the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) submitted a proposal for regional symbols and flags, the central government instead issued Government Regulation No. 77/2007 on Regional Coats of Arms, which banned the Morning Star from being used as a regional symbol or flag.
However, indigenous Papuans never forget the historic event on December 1, 1961, when the Morning Star was first raised. In fact, from time to time, new figures emerge to continue efforts to demand recognition of Papuan independence, even after the government made a policy prohibiting the raising of the Morning Star.
In 2014, leaders of the Papuan independence movement gathered in Port Villa, the capital of Vanuatu, a country in the South Pacific. Vanuatu facilitated a meeting of leaders who agreed on the formation of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).
“In December 2014, Papuan leaders declared the ULMWP. Then in June 2015 at Honiara, the ULMWP was accepted as an observer at the Melanesian Spearhead Group,” ULMWP executive director Markus Haluk to Jubi.
The Papua Special Autonomy has been going on for twenty years. Papua has also successfully organized the National Games in its land. However, every December 1, the security forces are always busy with the same thing, chasing people who commemorate December 1 and raising the Morning Star flag. This time, December 1, 2021, the condition remains the same. After twenty years of the implementation of the Papua Special Autonomy Law, has the Papuan problem been completely resolved? Whose fault is it? Gus Dur said the fault is …. (*)
Reporter: Dominggus Mampioper
Editor: Aryo Wisanggeni G