Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Amazon sells the Morning Star, the flag of West Papua, prompting me to post the following intelligence report...

When I was a teenager, I actually attended a meeting in Stockholm featuring a Swedish anthropologist who spoke in support of the Free Papua Movement or OPM, the illegal separatist movement in West Papua (then Irian Jaya), the western half of New Guinea which is under Indonesian administration. There was even a small solidarity group for the OPM in Sweden. I don't remember its name, but they published a small magazine named Merdeka (ironically an Indonesian word meaning "Freedom").

Why would anyone in Sweden be interested in West Papua? It's strange, but not as strange as it sounds. During the 1970's and 1980's, Sweden exported arms to Indonesia, then ruled by a repressive right-wing regime embroiled in several armed conflicts. The peace movement and the activist left, which were still relatively strong, naturally opposed any support for Indonesian strongman Suharto. A number of even shadier arms deals surfaced during the 1980's (Bahrain and East Germany, unless I'm mistaken), making arms exports and manufacturing a hot domestic topic. Also, Sweden was supposed to be neutral and a champion of human rights! The East Timor Committee (which opposed Suharto's regime in Indonesia) was relatively well known, so the small band of enthusiasts who formed the OPM solidarity group did fit a context of sorts. In the end, however, very few people signed up, although the pro-OPM meeting was surprisingly well attended.

This is the flag used by the OPM, known as the Morning Star Flag. While the flag has been unbanned, the OPM is still waging a low-intensity armed struggle against Indonesia and to some extent Papua New Guinea, accusing the latter of collusion with the Indonesians. A BBC documentary called “Forgotten Birds of Paradise” has been made about the conflict, but I haven't seen it.

OK, enough intelligence information for today. Agent Ashtar, signing off!

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