I’ve been on the road for nearly 6 months. I’ve covered well over 10,000 kilometers. I’ve met with 8 Members of Parliament and Senators. I’ve participated in about 65 events to raise awareness about the ongoing human, indigenous and environmental rights issues in West Papua. And now, it’s time to wrap this thing up. I’ve got an 11 day ride heading from Canberra to Melbourne starting today, and then I’ve got this to look forward to – https://www.facebook.com/events/167155150150255
On December 1st, which is recognized as West Papuan Flag Day, we will ride in peaceful force, as a group of solidarity cyclists into Melbourne to stand in friendship with students, politicians, activists, cyclists, musicians and (most importantly) members of the West Papuan refugee community in Melbourne to commemorate this auspicious occasion. On December 1st, 1961, the West Papuan Morning Star Flag, which it is now illegal to display in Indonesia, was first raised. This was during a time of great hope for the West Papuan people, who were on the cusp of gaining their independence through a partnership with their formal colonizers the Dutch. This dream never came to fruition, though, as Indonesia came in with it’s military in 1962 and began over 50 years now of what has been called a ‘slow-motion genocide’. I feel so incredibly honoured that the Pedalling for Papua campaign is being given the opportunity to play such a central role in this day’s events in Melbourne, and especially that this is how the campaign will be wrapped up.
It’s been one hell of a journey. I’ve ridden through the multi-hour ascents of Canada’s Rocky Mountains and the endless flat grasslands of our prairies. I’ve sweated my way into the humid metropolis’ of New York and Washington, D.C. I’ve been charmed by the rolling countryside of Scotland and the United Kingdom. I’ve been awe-struck by Dutch society’s incredible pragmatism regarding bicycles and public transportation. I’ve ridden too slowly along the East Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, distracted by dozens of seals at play. I’ve been deafened by the cries of lorikeets, cockatiels and kookaburras throughout the bustling animal wonderland that is Australia.
I’ve met with politicians, musicians, activists and artists. I’ve performed in churches, art galleries, universities, living rooms, pubs, coffee shops, theatre spaces and cafes. I’ve been called ambassador by West Papuan refugees, and have over and over again been given the blessing of a strong mandate to continue sharing the story of their people and their land throughout the world.
And meanwhile, for West Papua, the story rolls along. A heroic effort by the Freedom Flotilla to bring awareness to the situation in West Papua along with restoring ancient alliances between the Indigenous peoples of Australia and West Papua was threatened with military force. West Papuan asylum seekers, who left home fearing reprisal from the Indonesian military for their support of the Freedom Flotilla, were misled and relocated to an unsafe border camp in Papua New Guinea. Vanuatan Prime Minister Carcasses Kalosil questioned Indonesian sovereignty and raised the question of West Papua at a recent UN General Assembly. West Papuan activists found their way into the Australian consulate in Bali to ask that the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott push for the release of political prisoners in West Papua, who continue to sit in prison, away from their homes and families, for being involved in peaceful acts of dissent. And this situation will continue until Indonesia is convinced that story of West Papua has enough political clout on the global stage to demand a closer look, and a peaceful dialogue. To quote my friend Jason Macleod, “…One of the reasons the Indonesian government has not engaged in dialogue is because it is not worth them investing political capital in doing so. In other words the conflict in West Papua has not become enough of a problem for them, both domestically and internationally…”
This campaign has always been about leveraging narrative capital in order to create civic engagement with this story and the issues within. It is up to those of us who know about the story to keep on spreading it, and I am very much counting on those of you who I’ve met through my journey, who have stumbled across the campaign resources online, or who simply are looking for a way to positively participate in this fancy new global society of ours, to continue sharing the story and offering your support. And along with donating, signing the petition, sharing some of the campaign videos as well as the P4P EP (album), here is one simple way that you can join in:
I am asking folks from all along the route I’ve taken these past few months to send postcards of support to political prisoners in West Papua. These will be delivered to the prisoners themselves, and we ask that they be written generally instead of to any specific person so that nobody is excluded. If you are looking for some inspiration please visit Papuans Behind Bars, and if you’re keen to send one along just follow the instructions on the image below.
And now I’ve got to get moving. Although I feel spine-tinglingly close to the end of this journey, I’ve got to stay focused on the road ahead. I have my audiobook download, tent dried out, electronics safely wrapped in foam, and my bear spray from Canada still reassuringly tucked into my handlebar bag. I’ll update when and where I can on the road for the next week and a half, and send as many pictures from Australia’s beautiful South Coast as often as a travellers wifi connection permits.
Peace and Bike Grease,