Protesters, Supporters Greet OPM Founder

Protesters, Supporters Greet OPM Founder

The Jakarta Post, Jayapura
Nethy Dharma Somba

Welcome back!: Free Papua Organization co-founder Nicholas Jouwe (second left) is welcome by Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu.

(right) upon his arrival Sunday at Sentani Airport in Jayapura. Nicholas has been in Indonesia since Friday, after more than 40 years in exile in the Netherlands. ANTARA/Oka BartaWelcome

back!: Free Papua Organization co-founder Nicholas Jouwe (second

left) is welcome by Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu (right) upon his arrival Sunday at Sentani Airport in Jayapura. Nicholas has been in Indonesia since Friday, after more than 40 years in exile in the Netherlands. ANTARA/Oka Barta

Co-founder of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) Nicholas Jouwe arrived back in his homeland of Papua on Sunday after more than 40 years in exile abroad.

He received a warm welcome from families and communities, but at the same time protesters from a pro-independence group were present who opposed his having changed his position.

After engaging in peace talks with Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie on Friday, Nicholas returned to Papua to hold a dialog with local leaders in the country's eastern most province.

This is his first visit to Papua since Indonesia took control of the formerly-Dutch ruled territory in 1963.

Nicholas agreed during the meeting with Aburizal on reconciliation between the Indonesian government and the OPM.

Upon his arrival at Sentani Airport in Jayapura, Nicholas received a warm welcome from dozens of extended family members.

He looked affected by emotion as he was greeted with a traditional welcome dance by local people.

Among those welcoming him were Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu, Papuan-born Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Freddy Numbery, and Papua Police chiefBrig. Gen. F.X. Bagus Ekodanto.

On his way to the airport's VIP room, Nicholas bowed low and kissing the ground.

But outside the airport gate, dozens of pro-independence Papuan students staged a rally against him

They carried banners reading,, "Welcome, Immediately End Oppression" and "You Started It, You (Who) Should End It, Welcome".

Protest coordinator Viktor Yeimo told reporters that Nicholas's return should end "oppression" against Papuans.

"The homecoming of our father should immediately end oppression. There have been many victims whose bodies have turned into bones because of this struggle. Someone has to be responsible for this. "Pak Nick Jouwe's homecoming should not be politicized, and there should be no certain interests behind his return," Viktor said.

Nicholas did not reply to the protesters.

Freddy said Nicholas' arrival back in Papua was at the invitation of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who wanted to show the 84-year-old rebel leader recent developments in the region, now divided into Papua and West Papua.

>From Jayapura, the capital of Papua, Nicholas will fly to Wamena

and Timika (also in Papua), where he will visit the site of the US-based mining giant PT Freeport Indonesia. He will then also visit Manokwari, the capital of West Papua.