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West Papua Separatist Movements (Indonesia)

Irian Jaya

Last modified: 2008-12-13 by ian macdonald
Keywords: indonesia | irian jaya | west papua separatist | morning star flag | west melanesia |
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[Irian Jaya - Independists] by Sammy Kanadi

The flag of the main West Papuan separatist movement opposed to Indonesia rule and so may (in some quarters at least) have claim to be the flag of Irian Jaya.
Stuart Notholt, 8 February 1996


See also:

Other sites:


Morning Star flag

The Morning Star flag is the flag of West Papua and is the same as the flag of former Netherlands New Guinea. It has 13 horizontal blue and white stripes, at the hoist a vertical red stripe with a white star in the center. The design is from Nicolaas Jouwe in Hollandia (nowadays called Jayapura, 1963-1969 Sukarnapura). The 13 stripes represent the tribes, the red stripe the political struggle, the morning star is the star of hope, and the red-white-blue stands for gratitude. It was adopted on 20 November 1961, and on 1 December 1961 it was hoisted for the first time, next to the Dutch flag (a horizontal staff was attached to the top of the flagmast for this). I don't know when the flag was officially abolished. Probably on 1 October 1962 when the Dutch passed the government to UNTEA (United Nations Temporary Executive Authority), but surely before 1 May 1963 when it was transferred to Indonesia and renamed Irian Barat [West Irian]. (It was fully integrated in Indonesia in 1969, and renamed Irian Jaya in the 1970s [1976?]). When on 1 July 1971 the republic of West Papua was declared by the Free Papua Movement, the Morning Star was adopted again, but (of course) forbidden by the Indonesians.

I have a photocopy of a page from a publication of the provisional government of West Papua. It shows the flag with dimensions, but these must be wrong! A:B:C:D are 2:3:7:8, where A: flag height; B: flag length; C: width of the red stripe; D: size of the star. That would mean that eg. the star is four times the flag height! Taking a ruler I came to the next dimensions:
- ratio of the flag 2:3
- horizontal stripes all equal (so 1/13h of the flag height)
- red stripe is 3/11th of the flag length
- star approx. 2/3th - 7/8th of the width of the red stripe
Mark Sensen, 20 November 1999

The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) news reported this morning that the 'morning star' flags were flown alongside the Indonesian flag.
Jonathan Dixon, 2 December 1999

What we saw here (Portugal) on TV was the actual hoisting of one "morning star" flag in front of a huge crowd. The flag is like our GIF in FOTW, with a darker shade of red and perhaps with a narrower red field. The hoisting of the flag seems to have been pretty peaceful. No indonesian flags where in sight anywhere.
Jorge Candeias, 3 December 1999

From KABAR IRIAN ("Irian News") by Ottis Simopiaref
JAKARTA, Indonesia (January 19, 2000 - Straits Times/AFP/Kabar Irian)

SEPARATISTS RAISE INDEPENDENCE FLAG AGAIN IN PAPUA An estimated 3,000 people attended a separatist flag-raising rally yesterday in Indonesia's remote Papua province, formerly known as Irian Jaya, a rights group said.

The ceremony was held outside the home of independence activist Alex Duith in the Taminabuan area of Sorong district, the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (Ihrstad) said in a statement.

The "Morning Star" flag was hoisted side by side with the Indonesian standard at 10:00 a.m., the group said.

Ihrstad said the group had permission from the local authorities, but police said they knew nothing of the ceremony and would not have given permission if they had known.

Phil Nelson, 20 January 2000

An article from The New York Times (1 December 1961, p. 4) reported:

Hollandia, Friday, Dec 1 (AP) - Netherlands New Guinea changed its name today to West Papua and few a brand new Papuan flag. The change in the colonys [sic] will not be official until the rule books are changed at The Hague.
   One third of the new flag is a field of red, which stands for courage. In the center of the red field there is a large white star, which represents the Papuan people. There are seven blue horizontal stripes symbolizing the country's diverse languages and people. Six alternating white stripes stand for the island's six divisions, which some day may be provinces.
"Andrew", 10 July 2006

The flag and national seal were design on the evening of 19th Oct 1961 by an emergency session of the New Guinea Council which had been elected in January and inaugurated on 5th April 1961 with the Australian senate, NZ, French, and various Pacific nations attending (with the noted exception of the United States - Kennedy was just beginning to be indoctrinated by McGeorge Bundy that month on reasons the US should consider the territory a colony to be traded to Indonesia, Bundy told Kennedy that it was to buy Sukarno's friendship, but I suspect it could have more to do with the hundred billion dollars of gold & copper the Bundy & Lovett families wanted Freeport to mine).

The UNTEA just outlaw public rallies , Indonesia didn't recognise the elected New Guinea Council and did not need to abolish the Morning Star has it is an act of treason under Indonesian domestic law to flay any flag other than Indonesia's. Although article 28 of the Indonesian constitution protects free speech and expressions such as fag raisins, this does not include anything they consider contrary to the enforcement of Indonesian unity.
"Andrew", 13 April 2008

According to recent news, the flag is still banned in West Papua and its hoisting is still the case of bloody events. Quoting the "Antara News" Agency, 12 August 2008:
"Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) Commander Gen Djoko Santoso said the hoisting of the "Bintang Kejora" (Morning Star) flag in Papua recently proved that separatists were still active in the country's most-eastern province. "Flying a flag other than the Red-and-White in this republic is a form of separatism," the TNI chief said at a seminar here on Tuesday. He was referring to the hoisting of the Bintang Kejora flag in Wamena in Papua`s Jayawijaya district which sparked an incident in which a local resident was killed on Saturday. [...]"

Ivan Sache, 13 August 2008


Dimensions of the flag

Flag sites on the Internet usually display the West Papua flag in 2:3 or 3:5 proportions. In many events, it is always in 1:2 proportions. Although maybe there's no official specifications sheet for this flag, it is more common in Papua that people hoist the 1:2 flag.
Sammy Kanadi, 24 August 2000

Use of the Flag

From "Indonesian Observer/Kabar-Irian", 7 September 2000:
Irian Jaya Police Chief Brigadier General S.Y. Wenas yesterday ordered his personnel to continue a crackdown on separatist flags flying in the country's troubled easternmost province. West Papuans are no longer allowed to have T-shirts, caps, bags or any other belongings featuring separatist slogans, Wenas told Antara in the Irian Jaya town of Fak Fak. He claimed the decision was taken at the request of locals who do not want security conditions to become unstable in the province, also called West Papua.

President Abdurrahman Wahid declared during a New Year visit to the province that the separatist flag could be raised, but later said it must only be raised alongside, and lower than, the Indonesian national red and white flag. Wahid has said Jakarta will not tolerate any independence move by Irian Jaya, but has said it would instead accord the province special broad autonomy before the end of the year.

Last month, the president told military leaders in the East Java town of Malang that Papuans could hoist separatist flags until after the national assembly in August.
Phil Nelson, 8 September 2000

On 23 October 2001, the Indonesian Parliament approved the bill about autonomy for the Province of Papua (former Irian Jaya), including also right to use its own "independence flag" (BBC's formulation). Evidently, the blue-white striped flag with the red hoist field including the white star is meant. 
Jan Zrzavy, 23 October 2001

Papua (was Irian Jaya) was recently offered a wider autonomous status - last week if I'm not wrong. But the council of "native" people/tribes rejected that offer, since its basic demand - that is 100% independency - wasn't issued. Two items mentioned in that offer are Irian Jaya will be called Papua and the widely used flag of Papua (blue and white lines, red triangle, and white star) is recognized and can be use as cultural symbol rather than a political movement symbol.
Yustinus Sembada, 24 October 2001

The flag will not be the one with a red triangle but with a red transverse stripe, I guess.
Jan Zrzavy, 24 October 2001


Significance of the Design

 A publication by the Pacific Concerns Research Centre describes the flag as the white morning star symbolises the light and the hope for a new day and a new era. The star is embedded in a red field symbolising the blood shed by the Papuan people in their struggle for self-determination and the stripes are blue and white and stand for the ocean and the land.
Zane Whitehorn, 19 February 2001


History of flag

The Revolutionary Provisional Government of West Papua adopted a flag and arms on 19 October 1961 in Dakar, Senegal. The Dutch government recognized these symbols on 18 November 1961 (Government Gazettes of Dutch New Guinea 68 and 69). In 1962/63 Indonesia occupied this territory, annexed it and renamed it West Irian. On an unquoted date the arms for the province were granted. On 1 July 1971 in the region of Markas Victoria, the Revolutionary Provisional Government of West Papua reclaimed independence and started the struggle against Indonesian occupation. The flags and arms were readopted.
Jaume Ollé, 8 October 1999

Coat of Arms

The coat of arms of the province West Irian: Bottom a brown field (2/3) with 3 grey/white columns on a white wall; the (heraldic) right branch is golden; the left branch is green/white (cotton). The rope holding both together is red. In the top of the shield (1/3) is below a blue sky, on which is written 'IRIAN JAYA', a mountain with three white mountaintops. The border of the shield is gold-colored.
Jaume Ollé, 8 October 1999, translated by Jarig Bakker, 9 October 1999

The COA of former Dutch West New Guinea adopted on Oct 19th 1961 has a motto of " SETIA,DJUDJUR,MERRA".
What is the meaning ? Is this Dutch or Latin ?
Nozomi Kariyasu, 24 August 2002

The motto is not Dutch I can assure you. I presume Indonesian/Malay. In an online Indonesian dictionary I found: Setia = Loyal/faithfull. I couldn't find djurdjur and merra.
Mark Sensen, 25 August 2002

Wasn't the adopting of a COA (and flag) in 1961 part of an attempt to forestall annexation by Indonesia? Why would they have adopted an Indonesian motto?
Ned Smith, 25 August 2002

I believe the motto is "Setia, djudjur, Mesra" with Mesra translating as "friendly". I don't know the meaning of djudjar but I presume there could be a variation of the spelling (like Djakatra is now Jakarta).
As for why the West Papuans would include an Indonesian motto on their coat of arms when they were trying to remain independent from Indonesia, I would guess that because Bahasa Malay/Indonesian was/is the lingua franca for the region, there was a greater chance that a West Papuan looking at the Coat of Arms would understand it than if it were in English/Dutch/local dialect.
Zane Whitehorn, 26 August 2002

I have read a while ago in one of the heraldical handbooks when I was learning my first things about heraldry about mottos something of the sort - they are often in foreign language for many different reasons - weather to look "scolarly" or to express (teritorial) aspiration or something else.
Therefore, they may be nothing surprising finding someone is using language of someone else in his motto. However, there is to be expected a good story behind it :-)
Željko Heimer, 26 August 2002


Free West Papua Movement

Organisesi Papua Merdeka

[Free West Papua Movement] located by Jarig Bakker  

From www.converge.org.nz/wpapua/opm.html is the flag of The Free West Papua Movement, OPM (Organisesi Papua Merdeka). The flag is in fact the coat of arms with text.
Jarig Bakker and Santiago Dotor, 28 December 1999


World War 2 separatist flag

[World War 2 separatist flag] by Rob Raeside

The book, "West Papua: The Obliteration of a People", by C. Budiarjo & L.S. Liong (1988 edition), refers to the Japanese occupation of what was then Netherlands New Guinea and the Papuan resistance movement known as Angganita which arose opposing the Japanese and all other non-Papuans from West Papua and independence for the island. The movement's flag was an inverted Dutch tricolour, symbolising the reverse roles of the Papuans and their then colonial overlords.
Zane Whitehorn, 15 November 2000

Just stumbled on the following, which might interest you:
"A messianic movement rocked some of the Geelvink Bay islands in the 1938-1943 period. In the face of the brutal Japanese suppression in 1942, it began to exhibit nationalistic overtones. Its flag was the reversed Dutch flag, with the morning star of Biak legends in the blue banner and a cross in the white one."
(Geelvink Bay is in Western [Indonesian] New Guinea)
The reference for the above is:
Veur, Paul van der (1963): Political Awakening in West New Guinea. Pacific Affairs 36 (1), pp 54-73.
Mikael Parkvall, 24 April 2004