Kerry Smith, Brisbane – Community members gathered on December 1 to raise the West Papuan flag in the lobby of weapons company Thales' Brisbane office. The action was held to protest Thales' weapons exports to Indonesia and call upon the company to recall its weapons from West Papua, where they are used by Indonesian forces to contain the movement for independence.
"Thales Bushmasters have been spotted in West Papua. Our friends over there send us photos of pieces of exploded Thales missiles that they find on the ground," said activist Lilli Barto.
"This company has blood on its hands. They need to stop arming regimes that violate human rights, no matter how profitable the practice may be.
"They are fueling genocide and dispossession; they are implicated in the war crimes committed by their customers."
Less than 1300 kilometres from Darwin, West Papua has been struggling for self-determination since it was a Dutch colony. Formally, it is a region of Indonesia – the result of a United Nations agreement brokered by the United States in the 1960s.
Thales is one of many companies that manufacture weapons in Australia for sale to the Indonesian forces. Others include BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Electro Optic Systems and Rheinmetall Defence.
Indonesian security forces have a long record of human rights violations and have been condemned by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Asian Human Rights Commission. These include widespread rape, torture, political assassinations, razing of villages, imprisonment of West Papuan community leaders, severe curtailment of freedom of expression, and denial of access to journalists and human rights observers.
It is considered an act of treason to raise the West Papuan morning star flag.
"We have regular contact with West Papuans in Australia and on the ground in the region, they tell us what is going on there," said Bartolo. "Logging companies are buying up the forests where people live, then they send the army in to drive people off the land so that it can be logged. Then when the forest is gone, they turn it into palm oil plantations.
"The military protects the property rights of the companies at the expense of the human rights of the people."
Peace In Papua, which coordinated the protest, has vowed to continue to peacefully disrupt businesses that they say fuel the conflict in West Papua. They describe their strategic goal as "ending all weapons exports and transfers from Australia to Indonesia, as one part of a broader struggle for disarmament, demilitarisation, and decolonisation across the world".