The Flag That Still Won’t Go Away

May 1, 2013 is coming. This writing is an anticipation. A result of looking around. An effort to reflect the present. And write down why the title of Robin Osborne’s writing in 1987 is still relevant: the flag just won’t go away.

Yes, the flag hasn’t gone away. And now with May 1 approaching, it has been 50 years. Fifty years since UNTEA legally gave Indonesia full authority over West Papua. Fifty years, and the flag is still here. After 50 years together, it seems like the flag is here to stay.

For most of us, these years have not been good ones. These 50 years have been 50 years of tears. Fifty years of unexplained deaths. Fifty years of injustice. Fifty years of mistrusts to military operatives. Fifty years of village raids. Fifty years of constant wariness. Fifty years of having to keep our guards up.

The flag won’t go. Not only because we refuse to let go, but because circumstances made letting go impossible. How can we let go when we turn around and see young people die without explanations? How can we let go when we have to expect alcoholics taxing us our money? How can we let go when feeling safe is a luxury? How can we let go when good education and health treatment is something beyond our reach? How can we let go when we still have to fight to reclaim our identity?

But mostly the flag is still here because we cannot have a normal life. The flag is still here because being ignorant is impossible. The flag is still here because we cannot afford being ignorant, or rich, or healthy, or safe, or being ourselves.

It has been almost 30 years after Robin wrote that essay, and yet it is still true; the flag won’t go away, and everyday it becomes more likely that it’s here to stay.

NB: A reflection, inspired by the 1987 essay of Robin Osborne, ‘The Flag That Won’t Go Away’, printed on Inside Indonesia

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