COMMENT: By Luisa Tuilau and Ronny Kareni
As West Papua’s Morning Star flag marks its historic 59th anniversary today on December 1, the Wan Musik Wan Sing virtual concert for West Papua has brought together artists from across our solwara with a Song for Freedom that traverses a sonic celebration with the West Papuan people.
One of the good things West Papua appears to have proven, is that amid the ongoing oppression, songs of Merdeka (Freedom) amplify West Papua’s self-determination movement as a cause for celebration—and as an unstoppable form of Talanoa dialogue.
In Fiji and across the Pacific, Talanoa dialogue is a process of inclusion and participation, and of storytelling and decision-making for the collective good.
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So too, the Wan Musik Wan Sing, opens the mat to regional musicians and poets to celebrate the richness of our Pacific togetherness and our forms of deep relationships, as we weave in reverence with customary and contemporary beliefs and practices.
The virtual concert is harnessing Wan Musik’s intrinsic power to unify and inspire Pacific youth to act on Indonesia’s blatant violations of West Papuans’ human rights.
Malia Vaurasi, Youngsolwara Fiji chairwoman, together with Youngsolwara Pacific, drum up support to mobilise and connect with regional partners—including Pacific Island Associations of NGO (PIANGO), Pacific Conference of Churches Youth, USP Human Rights Alumni and Rize of the Morning Star, in unravelling positive messages.
“We hope to bring attention to West Papua’s struggle for self-determination and build solidarity, but also we seek to show our Papuan brothers and sisters that they are not alone,” Vaurasi said.
Spirit of solidarity
She is hopeful “that people-to-people relationships and spirit of solidarity remain Pacific’s greatest source of strength”.
In the uncontainable spirit of solidarity, last month the Forum Secretariat held a Talanoa session on West Papua’s human rights and the Pacific civil society organisations, churches and social movements that urgently called on Forum Leaders to continue to engage the sensitive issue of West Papua at the upcoming Leaders meeting.
In echoing the current PIF chair to intervene on the issue of West Papua, Youngsolwara Pacific youth movement support the call, given that the timing of the visit has not been finalised by Indonesian government.
It remains a challenge of when this visit is going to happen and whether it will be reported back in time at the Forum Leaders meeting in 2021.
Meanwhile, the growing recognition of West Papua national anthem of Hai Tanah Ku Papua (or My Homeland Papua) and the Morning Star flag, is reminiscent of a story of hope and of a possible future of a statehood.
It is the very spirit in the anthem that brought together more than 15 artists from around the Pacific to sing the tunes that Papuans have been singing for decades.
Australian-based West Papuan trio, Black Sistaz, who are daughters of the Black Brothers, the famous West Papuan band topping the Indonesian music chart in 1970s, echoed such sentiments about freedom for their homeland and to the people in ‘Yenures’.
Rise of the Morning Star
Renowned Fiji artist Seru Serevi sings of the Morning Star rise, and singing to the same tune is Papua New Guinea icon Sir George Telek, who begs the question of ‘husait bai helpim ol’ or who will help them?
The troubles Telek’s kin experiences is best described in his opening lines—san i go daun, san i kamap na wari stap yet long ol West Papua (til the sun sets, til the sun rises, the troubles still remains in West Papua).
Adding to the list, artists include Nattali Rize from the urban roots Blue King Brown band calling on All Nations to “Rize” together; to popular singer Vanessa Quai, and reggae-island El Professor band of Vanuatu cries for “Merdeka” and solidarity, which is echoed by Kanaky reggae artist Lyrik Kanak Gong.
Breaking through the music chart in PNG recently is Esta Pacifica with her reflection of Mangi West Papua, and also emerging artist and poet, Krystal Juffa — a rare opportunity to work alongside a member of the Black Brothers band, Bettay Bettay, with a soulful tune that reflects on the need to Set Me Free from colonial brutality.
The exciting stard-filled line-up of Fiji artists, with the likes of Natalie Raikadroka and Tiny Sounds, Naseda band, Paulini Bautani, Mark and Olsen, as well as poets Anna Jane Vea and Tamani Rarama, is evidence of a growing momentum of positive force to reckon with on West Papua.
This is evident in Sorong Samarai, a band of rising stars and living legends of PNG and West Papua, bringing an insight into the aspirations of freedom for West Papua.
The aspiration of a nation of West Papua whose statehood is robbed at a gunpoint, begins after Indonesia’s failure to secure the UN vote in the 1950s to claim the non-self-governing territory.
Cold War by proxy
The Cold War by proxy paved the way for Indonesia to enforce the principle of “uti possidetis” on the 19th day of the Morning Star flag raising ceremony, and exert its alien territorial claims by forcefully removing the declared Independent Republic of West Papua.
In other words, West Papua only experienced freedom for 19 days. Until now, West Papua’s legal and political status remains a critical Talanoa dialogue.
The stalemate between the legal norms of self-determination on the one side, and the fictional concept of “territorial integrity”, means the UN dream of eradicating colonialism is not over. The year 2021 sadly marks the beginning of another decade of the struggle of eradicating colonialism.
Meanwhile, the land of West Papua will continue to be remembered as the birthplace of the Morning Star, that has guided hunters and gatherers, and seafarers from all over first nations Pacific, Melanesia and Aboriginal Australia, to and from West Papua’s shores for thousands of years.
And from Sorong to Samarai, so too, the dawn of a new day comes with the rise of the Morning Star to guide the people to freedom.
Luisa Tuilau is a human rights defender and part of Youngsolwara Pacific. Ronny Kareni is an Australian-based West Papuan musician and activist.