On 1st December many old Dutch veterans who served in Dutch New Guinea will again raise the Morningstar flag to commemorate and support the Papuan rights to self determination. This letter was written by one of the elders of a Papuan tribe. It is now 55 years ago that the Dutch were told to hand New Guinea over to Indonesia and many veterans haven't forgotten the day that the Dutch Government became their 'Judas'.
Dear New-Guinea veterans.
55 years ago you had to lay down your weapons and put away the Morningstar national flag. You were forced by political leaders to end your task in West Papua, formerly Dutch New Guinea, with all the consequences that came to pass. You fought in the name of the Morningstar and you lost your comrades in the process. This is why, when you continue to carry the Morningstar in your military parades year on year, this is seen as more than a tribute to the comrades you lost during the war. You carry the flag with pride and therefore you continue to bring hope to the Papua people. You have not forgotten us.
The Morningstar remains banned in West Papua, people risk prison and even their life if they are seen to raise it.
And we, in the Netherlands? For us it is our duty: a New-Guinea veteran parade without the Morningstar will not have worth - "No Morningstar" means "No Parade".
On behalf of Free West Papua campaign The Netherlands and the West Papua People
I have had a few exchanges with an old veteran who served in Dutch New Guinea (now West Papua) between 1961 and 1962. He hasn't directly responded yet to all the questions I asked him in my first email correspondence but his feelings about leaving New Guinea in 1962 are still very strong.
In his first response to me he explained that he continued to serve in the army after his return to the Netherlands, eventually making it to the rank of Captain and his last year spent as observer for the UN for Syria and the Gaza Strip. He now sends me a regular newsletter, published for old New Guinea veterans, with updates on the current situation in West Papua
He writes about his experience of serving and leaving New Guinea in 1962:
"I see this period as a black page in our country's history as we made a promise to the Papua people that we would give them the right to self-governance but in the end we couldn't give them this. Many old veterans still feel bad about this".
A recent article in the Guardian offers a depressing and shameful insight into what happened to the Papuan population of Papua and West Papua since the Dutch were forced to hand their former colony over to Indonesia. Since 1962 the Indonesian Government carried out its transmigration programme, settling thousands of Indonesians onto their new territory in order to outnumber the Papuan people. The Indonesians also directly benefit from the exploitation of the gold and copper mines found in West Papua, mined by American companies that have shown no consideration for the devastating effects on the natural resources that the Papuan communities depend on. The full article can be read here: Counting The Cost.