Category Archives: Editorial & Columns

OPM / ULMWP Final Declaration

“I as the founder of the Free West Papua Movement or Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) want to acknowledge and support the United Liberation Movement of West Papua that it is a political organisation that carries the spirit of OPM that will continue the struggle and fulfill its final mission, which is establishing the full independence and sovereign Republic of West Papua.”

Faces of West Papua struggle from left to right: Andy Ayamiseba, Benny Wenda, Barak Sope, Rex Rumakiek, and Paula Makabory pose with final declarations

Faces of West Papua struggle from left to right: Andy Ayamiseba, Benny Wenda, Barak Sope, Rex Rumakiek, and Paula Makabory pose with final declarations

The statement has been sent by Jacob (Yakob) Prai from his home away from home in Sweden on December 28 of 2017, after meeting the Chairman of ULMWP, Benny Wenda.

The statement under official OPM letterhead states, “Therefore, in the name of God, this holy struggle, the ancestors of Papua, all our fallen heroes, the tears and suffering of the people of West Papua that continue to struggle from the jungles of New Guinea, mountains, valleys, islands, prisons, refugee camps as well as all those who live in exile in many parts of the world, that I as the leader of OPM and the founder of the struggle of free Papua, fully support and give full mandate to Mr. Benny Wenda as the leader of ULMWP and the political wing of OPM, to carry out the task as the leader of the nation of Papua.

“I thank the leaders and the people of West Papua, I hope that this recognition serves as a guideline to free the nation of Papua from Indonesian colonialism.”

His statement has received unanimous endorsement by the ULMWP Executive in the lobby of the Grand Hotel in Port Vila.

In a separate statement to support Jacob Prai’s historic confirmation of support for ULMWP, Executive members Andy Ayamiseba (for Legal CounseL) and Rex Rumakiek (for National Liberation Army of WP) declare, “We, the undersigned senior members of the independence movement of West Papua, the OPM recognise the importance of national unity in our struggle for independence.

“We also recognise the role undertaken by respected leaders of Vanuatu to bring about unity in the West Papuan struggle.

“Two national leaders in particular need commendation.

“They are the current Deputy Prime Minister, Honourable Joe Natuman and former Prime Minister Barak Maautamate Sope.”

The statement reminds the world about how West Papua’s first application to join MSG was deferred on the grounds that the movement lacked broad based support.

Deputy Prime Minister Natuman requested the formation of a West Papua Unification Committe that brought together West Papua leaders to Vanuatu where the Saralana Declaration of Unity was signed by all representatives of West Papua factions present.

Another historical leader, Barak Maautamate Sope has a long history of uniting different factions of the West Papua independence movement. In 1985 he invited two key leaders of OPM, Jacob Prai and (now deceased) Brigedier General Seth Rumkorem led by (now deceased) Theys Elluay, to Vanuatu where they signed a memorandum of understanding to work together. In 2000 he (then Prime Minister Barak Sope) included the two groups in his delegation to the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York. The Vanuatu Mission at the UN also facilitated an audience with the Decolonization Committee of 24.

The signing ceremony of the Port Vila Declaration was also witnessed by Andy Ayamiseba and Rex Rumakiek, who also signed the ‘Statement in support of Mr. Jacob Prai on his recognition and support for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua‘.

Barak Sope also graced the signing ceremony at the Grand Hotel.

Asked to update the readers on what it was that prompted him and the late Father Walter Lini and other leaders of the Independence Struggle to take the stand that they took, he said the colonial history of all Pacific Islands were similar – cruel. “This is why Father Lini and all of us declared that Vanuatu would not be completely free until West Papua was free because today it is still colonised by Indonesia,” Sope says.

He criticizes Australia and Indonesia for alleged human rights abuse on West Papuans. “East Timor was the same and Vanuatu stood firmly for the freedom of the Timorese. Last year my wife and I were invited to Dili by the President of East Timor who awarded me the Order of East Timor for Vanuatu’s stand with its people for their freedom,” he says,

In addition he says Portugual had colonised East Timor and later Indonesia annexed it until under international outcry, it gave in to its freedom. Now Indonesia is doing exactly the same thing to West Papua.

When Sope was secretary general of the Vanua’aku Pati and Secretary of Foreign Affairs, he was mandated by Father Lini to unify FLNKS of New Caledonia and West Papua. “Now FLNKS is a member of MSG and yet, all the processes were done even before MSG was born. To get Prai and Rumkorem to come together, I had to travel to Europe to invite them to come to Vanuatu along with Brother Andy and Brother Rex,” he recalls.

He says Prai and Rumkorem were afraid of each other but at the end of it all, they agreed to unite and the Port Vila Declaration was signed at his family home on Ifira in 1985. “So today I am proud to know that Jacob Prai and the miltary arm of West Papua have agreed to become one with ULMWP,” Sope concludes.

ULMWP leaders say its endorsement signals their final declaration ending approximately 50 years of independence struggle as they prepare to attend the Melanesian Spearhead Group Meeting in Port Moresby next week, to hear the outcome of their application for full membership to join MSG. In fact they have already left and VCC representative Job Dalesa confirms the Chairman of ULMWP, Benny Wenda and Octavianus Mote have been allowed to attend the MSG meeting next week.

Meanwhile Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ralph Regenvanu says as far as he was aware on Tuesday this week, West Papua was not on the MSG proposed agenda.

He has since written to the relevant authorities to make sure that West Papua is included, and promised to follow up on the issue with a phone call to his Papua New Guinea counterpart yesterday afternoon.

The Minister says after three o’clock yesterday afternoon that he was not able to get through to his PNG counterpart on the phone but that he has written to the MSG hosts to remind them to make sure that West Papua is on the agenda. “I am leaving for PNG tomorrow (today) and I will make sure that West Papua is included on the agenda”, he concludes.

OPM / ULMWP Final Declaration was originally published on PAPUAPost.com

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Indonesia is losing Melanesia

Indonesia is losing MelanesiaVanuatu Dailypost –  – On Sunday last week, New Zealand-based analyst Jose Sousa-Santos commented on Twitter that “Indonesia’s attempt at buying support from the Pacific region seem to have little to no impact on Melanesia’s stance on [West] Papua.

”That’s one of those pesky observations that’s neither entirely right nor entirely wrong. The truth is: Indonesia is winning almost every battle… and still losing the fight.

Conventional wisdom used to be that Indonesia had built an impregnable firewall against Melanesian action in support of West Papuan independence. Its commercial and strategic relationship with Papua New Guinea is such that PNG’s foreign affairs establishment will frankly admit that their support for Indonesia’s territorial claims is axiomatic. Call it realpolitik or call it timidity, but they feel that the West Papuan independence doesn’t even bear contemplating.

Widespread grassroots support and its popularity among progressive up-and-comers such as Gary Juffa don’t seem to matter. As long as Jakarta holds the key to economic and military tranquillity, Port Moresby’s elites are content to toe the Indonesian line.

The situation in Suva is similar. Fiji First is naturally inclined is toward a more authoritarian approach to governance. And it seems that the military’s dominance of Fiji’s political landscape dovetails nicely with Indonesia’s power dynamic.

Many argue that Fiji’s relationship is largely mercenary. It wouldn’t flourish, they say, if the path to entente weren’t strewn with cash and development assistance. That’s probably true, but we can’t ignore the sincere cordiality between Fiji’s leadership and their Indonesian counterparts. The same seeds have been planted in Port Vila, but they haven’t take root.

Until recently, Indonesia’s ability to derail consensus in the Melanesian Spearhead Group has ensured that West Papuan independence leaders lacked even a toehold on the international stage. In the absence of international recognition and legitimacy, the Indonesian government was able to impose draconian restrictions on activists both domestically and internationally.

Perhaps the most notorious example was their alleged campaign to silence independence leader Benny Wenda, who fled Indonesia after facing what he claims were politically motivated charges designed to silence him. He was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom, but a subsequent red notice—usually reserved for terrorists and international criminals—made travel impossible.

In mid-2012, following an appeal by human rights organisation Fair Trials, Interpol admitted that Indonesia’s red notice against Mr Wenda was ‘predominantly political in nature’, and removed it.

Since then, however, activists have accused Indonesia of abusing anti-terrorism mechanisms to curtail Mr Wenda’s travels. A trip to the United States was cancelled at the last moment because American authorities refused to let him board his flight. It was alleged that an Indonesian complaint was the source of this refusal.

Independence supporters claim that Indonesian truculence has also led to Mr Wenda being barred from addressing the New Zealand parliament. His appearance at the Sydney opera house with human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson received a standing ovation from the 2500 audience members… and an irate protest from Indonesian officials.

Not all of Indonesia’s efforts are overt. Numerous commentators made note of the fact that Vanuatu’s then-foreign minister Sato Kilman visited Jakarta immediately before his 2015 ouster of Prime Minister Joe Natuman. Mr Natuman, a lifelong supporter of West Papuan independence, was a stalwart backer of membership in the MSG for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, or ULMWP. He was unseated bare weeks before the Honiara meeting that was to consider the question.

Mr Kilman, along with Indonesian officials, vehemently deny any behind-the-scenes collusion on West Papua.

But even with Vanuatu wavering, something happened at the June2015 Honiara meeting that surprised everyone. Solomon Islands PM Manasseh Sogavare stage-managed a diplomatic coup, a master class in Melanesian mediation.

In June of 2015, I wrote that the “Solomonic decision by the Melanesian Spearhead Group to cut the baby in half and boost the membership status of both the ULMWP and Indonesia is an example of the Melanesian political mind at work. Valuing collective peace over individual justice, group prosperity over individual advancement, and allowing unabashed self-interest to leaven the sincerity of the entire process, our leaders have placed their stamp on what just might be an indelible historical moment.

”Since then, the sub-regional dynamic has undergone a transformation. Mr Kilman’s administration suffered a collapse of unprecedented proportions following corruption charges against more than half of his government. The resulting public furore seems—for the moment at least— to have catalysed a backlash against venality and personal interest.

If the rumours are true, and Indonesia did have a hand in Mr Kilman’s palace coup, the tactic hasn’t worked since. A pair of no confidence motions—not very coincidentally on the eve of yet another MSG leaders’ summit—failed even to reach the debate stage.

Kanaky’s support for West Papuan Independence has never wavered, but given their semi-governmental status, and their staunch socialist platform, Jakarta would be hard pressed to find a lever it could usefully pull.

For his part, Sogavare has survived more than one attempt to topple him. Hi sown party leaders explicitly referenced his leadership on the West Papuan question when they tried to oust him by withdrawing their support.

In a masterful—and probably unlawful—manoeuvre, Mr Sogavare retained his hold on power by getting the othercoalition members to endorse him as their leader. His deft handling of the onslaught has raised him in the estimation of many observers of Melanesian politics. Some claim that his dodging and weaving has placed him in the first rank of Melanesia’s political pantheon.

In Vanuatu as well, once bitten is twice shy. Prime Minister Charlot Salwai raised eyebrows when he not only met with the ULMWP leadership, but accepted the salute of a contingent of freedom fighters in full military regalia. The meeting took place at the same moment as MSG foreign ministers met to consider rule changes that, if enacted, will almost inevitably result in full membership for the ULMWP.

The MSG has traditionally operated on consensus. If these rule changes pass muster, this will no longer be the case. It is a near certainty that Indonesia will do its utmost to avert this.

Mr Sogavare has demonstrated an inspired approach to the situation: If the MSG won’t stand for decolonisation in the Pacific, he asks, what is it good for? This rhetoric has become a chorus, with senior politicians in Vanuatu and Kanaky joining in.

Mr Sogavare is, in short, embarked on his own march to Selma. And he is willing to allow the MSG to suffer the slings and arrows of Indonesian opprobrium. He is, in short, willing to allow the MSG to die for their sins.

Whether we agree or not with the independence campaign, there is no denying the genius of Mr Sogavare’s ploy. His willingness to sacrifice the MSG for the cause takes away the one lever that Indonesia had in Melanesia.

His key role in orchestrating an end run around the Pacific Islands Forum’s wilful silence is another trademark move. When human rights concerns were simply glossed over in the communiqué, he and other orchestrated a chorus of calls for attention to the issue in the UN general assembly.

Manasseh Sogavare and his Pacific allies have found a strategy that is making the advancement of the West Papuan independence movement inexorable. As Ghandi demonstrated in India, as with Dr King’s campaign for civil rights showed again and again, anything less than defeat is a victory.

Without losing a single major battle, Indonesia is—slowly, so slowly—being forced from the board.

Indonesia is losing Melanesia was originally published on PAPUAPost.com