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New Guinea, West Papua: Warning about Protest Flotilla

By Val Ellis last modified Aug 28, 2013 01:55 PM
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr is warning a group of Australian protesters planning to sail to West Papua on the island of New Guinea that they face up to five years' jail under Indonesian law.

Published: 2013-08-23 00:00:00
Countries: Indonesia , Australia , Papua New Guinea

Normal cruising yachts planning to visit the island of New Guinea, in particular West Papua, should beware of getting caught up in the flotilla of protest boats planning to sail to the islands in the near future. The Authorities might not be very sympathetic and it will be essential that all your paperwork is in order.

West Papua is part of Indonesia and there have been various movements to become independent from Indonesia over the last few years.The flotilla mentioned is headed for West Papua which is the western half of the island New Guinea. Indonesian police say that the group of Australian activists who are planning to enter the disputed West Papua region by boat will be detained and possibly arrested.

About 30 Australian and West Papuan activists plan to set sail from Cairns tomorrow  (18th August 2013) in three boats, calling themselves the "Freedom Flotilla".

Deputy chief of Papuan police Paulus Waterpauw says unauthorised boat arrivals will be intercepted by the navy and probably detained by immigration authorities.

Mr Waterpauw says anybody in the group who has a criminal record, or is on the country's wanted list, will face arrest.

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has also issued a strong warning to other countries, saying they should not violate Indonesia's sovereignty. Mr Yudhoyono reasserted that the Papuan provinces were an inseparable part of Indonesia. He says the Papuan provinces are part of Indonesia and that should be respected.

Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natelegawa has dismissed the planned voyage. "Yet another one of those cheap publicity stunt[s]," he said.

Mr Natelegawa says Indonesia has been in contact with Australia but has not asked it to prevent the boats from leaving.

The group comprises about 30 Australian and West Papuan activists, film-makers and Aboriginal elders.

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