Haurahaela (left) with his motley crew raise the Papua flag at the northernmost point of mainland
Not quite so extra-terrestial, back on Earth, more than 40 years back to the future on December 22, 2010, a small group of eight Papuans made a small step for themselves but a giant leap for the Papuan movement when they landed at the northernmost tip of Australia on Cape York and raised the Papuan flag before being detained by Australian customs and towed to Horn Island to be detained.
This group of eight was the only one of a flotilla of 16 dinghies, carrying 122 people, which made it to Terra Australis – the great southern land - in an evasive cat-and-mouse game across the Torres Strait which ended in all of them being detained and sent back to Daru.
|One of the band of Papuans pointing out the signboard at |
Australia, needless to say, had egg on its face because of this serious breach of security by a bunch of amateurs from north of the border, who just wanted to point out that they were “Australian citizens”.
Eka Haurahaela, 38, from Ihu in Gulf province, was one of that motley crew in the dinghy which made it to Cape York.
“There were eight of us in that dinghy,’ he tells me.
“There were seven men and one woman.
“We managed to get to the Australian mainland because we travelled through the eastern side of Torres Strait, while the rest travelled on the western side, which is Saibai Island.
“Eight dinghies left Daru before us.
“We were the ninth dinghy which left.
“We left at about 7.30am.
“We travelled through the reefs, cut across through Tudo Island, Picnic Island and Waraberr Island.
“From there, we cut across to the mainland.
“We were at Cape York at about 3.30pm.
“There was security, but they were so late, because we had already passed through.
“We were heading to Bamaga (an Aboriginal and Torres Strait town on the mainland), but due to low fuel, we turned back.
A giant leap for Papua…the only dinghy to touch down on mainland
“We had already landed on the main (Cape York) when Australian customs arrived.
“They towed us to Horn Island and took us to the detention centre, where we were held for four days.
“On Saturday (Christmas Day), they flew us back to Daru.
“We told the authorities there (Horn Island) to send the rest of the team back to Daru and lock us, the leaders, so that we could defend our rights in court.
“They never accepted the offer.”
Haurahaela says they evaded all Australian security vessels until they were spotted by a helicopter.
“We were spotted by the helicopter between Waraberr and Picnic Island,” he recalls.
“They must have radioed those on the ground; however, they were slow in reacting.
“It was fortunate for the Australians that we ran out of fuel; otherwise, we would have made it to Bamaga on the mainland, a township of Torres Strait islanders and Aboriginals.
“It was an excellent route we took, one which was clear of security vessels.
“I was the first person on the dinghy to put my foot on the mainland.”
We are Australian…Papuans celebrating their arrival on mainland
Back in Daru, the Papua border crossers’ leader Jonathan Baure, was apprehended and flown to Port Moresby in an Australian plane where he was arrested and locked up by police.
The irony was that he never crossed the border to Australia, being in Daru all the time.
It was only on Tuesday this week, after 10 days including New Year’s Day in the lock-up, that he was released on K1, 000 bail to await his next court appearance next month.
On Wednesday this week, when I had a rendezvous with him, he looked a bit worse for wear because of an excruciating toothache which had been bothering him since his arrest.
“Jail was good!” he laughs.
“It was the best Christmas and New Year present I could have asked for.
‘My physical body was in the cell, but my mindset was that I’d already won.”
Baure – very much a photo-shy person - says up to 1,500 people could have crossed to Australia from Daru in a tour-de-force; however, various factors including shortage of dinghies because of the festive period stopped this.
They came from Northern, Milne Bay, Central, Gulf, Western and even Southern Highlands provinces, paying their own airfares and boat fares, as well as contributing generously to a cause they fervently believe in.
“There were close to 500 people ready to go across on that day,” Baure tells me.
“Priority, however, was given to Port Moresby people so there were only 122 people.
“Also, because it was Christmas, most of the dinghies were in their home villages.
“We could easily have mustered up to 150 canoes and dinghies, and put potentially about 1,500 people across.
“We could have had two boatloads, with up to 500 people from Moresby; however, MV Danaya was out for Christmas.”
Baure, 46, was born of a part Rigo (Central) and Tufi (Northern) father and part Ihu (Gulf) and Kalo (Central) mother.
“I spent 22 years of my life in Australia, schooling and working,” he says.
“I didn’t start this Papua issue here, I started it in Australia.
“In 2000, I went into the Melbourne Library.
“I saw a couple of books, including one called Australian Citizenship Instructions, a booklet from the Australian Department of Immigration.
“There’s a different section for different countries.
“I decided to look for the section that dealt with PNG.
“PNG became independent on 16th September, 1975.
“Prior to that date, Papua and New Guinea were two separate territories.
“Papua was a territory of Australia and people born in Papua acquired Australian citizenship by birth.
“New Guinea was a trust territory and people born in New Guinea were Australian-protected persons.
“The sentence that jumped at me was that 'people born in Papua became Australian citizens by birth’.
“I wrote to Australian Immigration asking about how I got my Australian citizenship and how I lost it.
“They wrote back and said I was an Australian citizen, but when PNG became independent, I lost it.”
Baure dug deep into colonial history, dating back to 1884, when Queen Victoria first took Papua as a British protectorate.
In 1901, when the federation of Australia came together, Papua was accepted as the seventh state of Australia
“On the citizenship issue, it’s a personal right; each individual’s got to make a choice,” Baure argues.
“On sovereignty, the question for Australia on uniting with New Guinea, or being a separate Papua, must be dealt with by the Papua people through a plebiscite.
“Both Australian and PNG parliaments did not have the legal authority to decide if Papua stayed with Australia or united with New Guinea.
“The Papua MPs in the House of Assembly did not have the right to decide for Papuans, and certainly, the New Guinea MPs did not have the right to decide for us Papuans.”
Baure started the Papuan movement in 2004 and its popularity has grown in leaps and bounds in Northern, Milne Bay, Central, Gulf, Western, and even ‘Last Papua’ in the Southern Highlands.
He fires a salvo at Papua politicians and lawyers, especially the latter, who he says have not helped and he has had to resort to engaging an Engan lawyer.
“I want to talk to all Papua politicians and leaders to introduce this Papuan citizenship issue as a private members’ bill on the floor of Parliament,” Baure says.
“I want to say to all Papua lawyers: ‘Shame on all of you!’.
“You have not guts to handle this Papuan cause.
“An Engan is handling my case.”