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West Papua freedom flotilla fears activists will ‘rot in jails’


ABORIGINAL ELDER KEVIN BUZZACOTT, on board the West Papua 'freedom flotilla' says campaigners on board the flotilla will ‘rot in jail’ if the Australian government refrains from helping them if they get into trouble.

The flotilla has gathered a range of pro-independence campaigners on the journey going from Lake Eyre in northern Southern Australia, via New South Wales and the Queensland coast, across the Torres Strait to Daru in Papua New Guinea and finally Merauke in West Papua, where the flotilla is scheduled to arrive early September.

The objective was “to free our brothers and sisters up there with all the bad stuff that’s happening”, Buzzacott said in an interview with Pacific Scoop.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Australian authorities had informed the freedom flotilla that local laws and penalties would apply in PNG and Indonesia.

“We’ve given them this warning. Therefore, should they end up in prison as a result of breaching the law of Indonesia or PNG we’ve got no obligation to give them consular support,” Carr said.

The West Papua freedom flotilla consists of three boats and 18 people.

The comment from the Australian foreign minister was not appreciated by Buzzacott, who was one of the chief organisers of the flotilla and captains one of the boats.

“It’s a shocking, shocking statement by the foreign minister Carr, and also one of the opposition, Julie Bishop. Pretty sad.

“I think these people should resign. I think they should be forced to resign. They can’t be in that high position and make statements like that,” Buzzacott said.

The Aboriginal campaigner outlined the consequences of not being helped by Australian authorities.

“We’ll be jailed and drawn out of the water by the Indonesians if we go too far, too close or something, and rot in the jails over there.”

Indonesian authorities have labelled the freedom flotilla “a cheap publicity stunt”.

An Indonesian minister told The Guardian that if the flotilla entered Indonesian waters “the armed forces will take measures”, and said that “the use of weaponry may not be necessary”

“There’s over 50,000 troops waiting for us. You know, three little yacht boats, and they’re gonna blow us out of the water. It’s like a war thing. We’re not about war. We’re about peace,” Buzzacott said.


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