"Flagging" Support for the The Free Papua Organization?

"Flagging" Support for the The Free Papua Organization?

Tempo Magazine
Yuliawati, Tjahjono E.P.
Cunding Levi

Flagging Support

The Free Papua Organization does not rely on guerilla rebellions any more. There is no central figure.

A MAN painted his face with red, blue and white colors. On his bare chest he sketched a white star encircled by red. Under the star he drew five lines in blue, red and white.

The drawing on the man's body seemed to represent the Morning Star flag (the symbol of Papuan independence) at a celebration of the Free Papua Organization (OPM) at the tomb of murdered independence fighter, Theys Hiyo Eluay. The celebration in Jayapura did not involve the raising of the Morning Star.

At the end of the celebration some people were seen waving small Morning Star flags. Previously, the Papua Police Chief, Inspector-General F.X. Bagus Ekodanto had prohibited the raising of the Morning Star flag.

Even without raising the flag, the Papuan People's Declaration that contained the December 1, 1961 declaration of a sovereign West Papua State was read by Thaha Muhammad Alhamid, Secretary-General of the Papua Presidium Council. He also made a statement rejecting the result of the 1969 Act of Free Choice in front of hundreds of visitors that packed Theys's graveyard, which is known as the memorial park of freedom and human rights abuses.

This declaration of independence was heard again after a long silence since December 1, 2003. Present at the celebration were Papua Presidium Council Chairperson, Tom Beanal, and Papua Traditional Council Chairperson, Forkorus Yoboisembut.

It seemed that this year the Papuan independence movement had a powerful energy. On October 15, International Parliamentarians for West Papua was established in the office of the British parliament, in London. This organization is gaining support from parliament members from around the world. Two British parliament members, one Vanuatu parliament member, and one Papua New Guinea parliament member gave their support.

Since political reform in 1998, the OPM has not relied on the strength of guerilla warfare in the jungles. According to one of its ex-leaders, Nicholas Messet, the guerilla movement no longer has any great strength. The guerilla group lives in the Wamena hinterland between Papua and Papua New Guinea.

They do not have ammunition. They just have bows and arrows," said Nicholas to Tempo, Wednesday last week. Some figures from the guerilla Papuan National Army such as Seth Rumkorem and Yakob Hendri Prai choose to stay abroad.

After political reform in 1998, pro-democracy groups and human rights fighters inspired the struggle for West Papua's independence. Like mushrooms in the rainy season, movements sprouted everywhere. There were human rights fighters, women's rights fighters, advocacy for rights of indigenous people, and environment conservation movement.

* * *

A FLAG is not just a symbol of a struggle for independence. For the OPM the type of flag denotes the group and the mission it bears. The struggle for Papua's independence can be divided into the majority group using the Morning Star and the group that acknowledges 14 Stars.

The 14 Stars group celebrated their independence day on December 14, 1988. This group was led by Thomas Wainggai who died in 1996 in Cipinang Prison, Jakarta. The successors of 14 Stars movement are, among others, Jacob Rumbiak and Herman Wainggai, who was later granted asylum in Papua New Guinea and Australia.

In 2006, Herman brought 43 Papuans to seek asylum in Australia. Later, four asylum-seekers, namely Hana Gobay, Yubel Kareni, Yunus Wainggai and Anike Wainggai, returned to Papua.

14 Stars movement idealizes independence for Papuan people and their unification with the Melanesian race that spreads throughout Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji.

According to Nicholas Messet, 14 Stars group gradually weakened after Thomas Wainggai passed away. "They just crowd up in a mailing list," said Nicholas. One group, a derivative of 14 Stars movement founded by Jacob Rumbiak, is the West Papua National Authority.

They are preparing a congress of West Papua National Authority, next year. "We want to unite various elements of organizations aspiring independence for West Papua," said President of Congress Authority, Rev. Teriyoku. There is also a West Papua National Coalition for Liberation that is oriented toward 14 Stars. This organization was founded on December 20, 2005 by Richard Yoweni.

* * *

The Morning Star was for the first time hoisted on December 1, 1961 by the Dutch Resident in Jayapura. The flag dubbed Bintang Fajar or Sampari (which means 'morning star') was flown with the Dutch red, white and blue flag.

There are at least four organizations that now acknowledge the Morning Star as the symbol of independence. They are the Papuan Traditional Council, the Papuan Presidium Council, the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, and some student groups.

The Papuan People's Congress lasted from May 29 through June 4, 2000 under Theys Eluay's leadership and was the embryo for the Papuan Traditional Council and the Papuan Presidium Council. Theys was the charismatic and popular central figure.

After Theys died in 2001 one of the movement's figures, Tom Beanal, took over his position. During 2002 through 2007 Beanal was the Chairperson of the Papuan Traditional Council serving concurrently as the Chairperson of the Papuan Presidium Council.

The Papua Traditional Council claimed the number of its members as reaching tens of thousands. The chairperson of the Papuan Traditional Council, Forkorus, said that the branches of the Council include seven customary regions, among which are the bordering area with Papua New Guinea, Saireri, Animba and Jayawijaya.

According to the head of the Papuan Traditional Council for Asia Pacific, Yorrys Raweyai, the Council sustains its international communication to find solutions for various human rights violations in Papua. The push for independence from the Papuan Traditional Council, said Yorrys, is part of the political process.

Internationalization of issues of human rights advocacy is also brought up by International Parliamentarians for West Papua. Central figures in this organization are the Wamena-born political activist, Benny Wenda and a British minister, Rev. Richard Samuelson. Both were influenced by two British parliament members, Lord Harries of Pentregarth and the Hon. Andrew Smith M.P. to join the group.

According to researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Muridan Widjojo, Benny Wende also succeeded in influencing activists and students. The establishment of International Parliamentarians for West Papua in October 2008, whose leaders are, among others, Buktar Tabuni and Dominggu Rumaropen, is the result of coordination with Benny.

The influence of Benny is admitted by student activist, Marten Goo. Benny Wenda, said Marten, often made inflammatory remarks among students by telling them the experience of his parents being slaughtered by the military. "At every meeting and discussion through the mailing list he always relates the story," said Marten.

The student organizations are the Papuan Students Front, Papuan Students Alliance, Association of Central Mountain Students, and United Struggle Front of West Papuan People. According to Marten, besides employing demonstrations, they often socialize their ideas. "We can be called enlighteners for the people," he said.

According to Muridan, organizations in Papua working on the struggle for independence have weakened slightly since the loss of a central figure with the death of Theys. The problem of tribal culture also affects the organization's leadership. Everyone wants to be the leader," he said.

This tendency, according to him, renders the independence organizations less dangerous. But the conflicts must be ended soon. "If the government still applies repressive policy, they will prevail," he said.