Everyone has heard of Papua New Guinea but few know much about its western neighbour – West Papua. Comprising the western half of the Papua New Guinea island; the province has been ruled from Indonesia since 1963, when the UN, with the proviso that the native Papuans be given the chance to decide their own fate, transferred power to that country. In 1969, the ‘Act of Free Choice’ gave 1,064 Indonesian appointed Papuan officials the chance to decide whether or not to become independent or remain part of Indonesia. Unsurprisingly, they chose the latter.
Since 1969, Indonesian relations with West Papua have been characterised by violence and widespread oppression. The University of Sydney estimates that more than 100,000 people have died in crackdowns during the last half century – no small number in a country with a population comparable to that of Wales. Free West Papua is a campaign based in the UK, which aims to create a free and independent West Papua. Activists such as Benny Wenda, chairman of the Koteka Tribal Assembly, have faced torture as a result of their peaceful protests and many have been forced into exile. Others such as Filep Karma are serving long jail sentences for crimes as minor as raising the banned ‘Morning Star’ flag of West Papua at a rally. For this crime, Karma was handed a sentence of 15 years. More recently, the regime has moved to ban books it considers to be too ‘controversial’ and has been widely condemned by international NGOs for the murder of two Papuans by police in Manokwari last week.
So what can you do to help? This week sees the launch of a campaign by British beauty brand, Lush, who will be flying the Morning Star flag at all of their 99 UK shops, as well as promoting the Free West Papua campaign in store. What’s more, until the 14th October, 100 per cent of proceeds from The Smell of Freedom fragrance, £32 for 30g, will go to the campaign. Made using entirely natural ingredients, The Smell of Freedom was inspired by perfumer Simon Constantine’s time spent with three freedom fighters and includes notes of jasmine, neroli, black pepper and oudh. You can also get involved directly with Free West Papua by going to their website and finding out more about their latest campaigns, which includes one to help 73 men, women and children recently arrested by the Indonesian regime. Buying a new perfume might not sound like much, but sometimes; it really can help to change the world.
For more information, go to www.freewestpapua.org and www.lush.co.uk
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