Sunday, October 28, 2007
The Free Papua Movement (Indonesian: Organisasi Papua Merdeka, abbreviated OPM) is a separatist organization established in 1965 which seeks independence for Western New Guinea from Indonesia.
The territory is currently administered by Indonesia as the provinces of Papua and West Irian Jaya. Since its inception the OPM has attempted diplomatic dialogue, conducted West Papuan flag raising ceremonies (illegal under Indonesian law), and undertaken militant actions.
While the organization, and in turn Papuan independence, is not supported by the significant immigrant Javanese population, it is supported by many indigenous Papuans (Melanesians) who consider themselves to have no cultural or historical ties with Austronesian Indonesians. According to OPM supporters, Indonesian administration of West Papua is a military occupation.
"The Free Papua Movement (OPM) is not the all-pervasive revolutionary organization some believe it to be. ... anti-government dissidents have virtually no liaison with each other, receive no outside assistance or direction, and are generally incapable of mounting and insurrection in the face of the relatively large Indonesian military establishment in West Irian. Grievances and anti-GOI sentiment are quite real, however, and there is little question that a great majority of the non-Stone Age Irianese favor a termination of Indonesian rule."
"Opposition to the GOI stems from economic deprivation over the years, military repression and capriciousness, and maladministration. Limited efforts of the GOI to rectify these problems to date are generally "too little and too late," and it is uncertain whether the Indonesians will actually try to ameliorate the sources of local discontent in coming years."
"The Free Papua Movement (OPM) is widely believed to be the core of opposition to the Indonesian Government in West Irian. But it is difficult to track down the OPM as an organization, although not because its security is tight or people unwilling to talk. On the contrary, everyone talks about the OPM; it has few, if any, secrets, and many Irianese [West Papuans] proudly proclaim they are "members" of the OPM."
"A foreigner travelling in West Irian has no difficulty in contacting anti-government activists. They stop you on the street and groups of them gather around when you visit a native village; in short, no one is reluctant to discuss the OPM and their reasons for disliking Indonesians. One American missionary explains this by saying that "the Papuans simply are unable to keep a secret."
"Of course, information known to foreigners is also available to the Indonesian authorities, the Army, and even to the most casual observer. ... Regarding the magnitude of the opposition to Indonesian rule, probably a decided majority of the Irianese people, and possibly 85 to 90 percent, are in sympathy with the Free Papua cause or at least intensely dislike Indonesians."
U.S. Ambassador Francis Joseph Galbraith (1913-1986) June 1969.
While Galbraith's observations largely hold true today, Military oppression of Melanesian West papuans has accelerated in recent years. The suppression of information regarding Indonesian Military activities in the province is almost complete.
The Morning Star flag represented the territory of West New Guinea from 1st December 1961 until 1st October 1962 when the territory came under administration of the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) following a referendum involving a handful of West Papuan delegates chosen and coerced by Javanese authorities. The legitimacy of the referendum has been contested by Melanesian West Papuans ever since. The flag is commonly used by the West Papuan population including OPM supporters to rally Self-determination human rights support and is popularly flown on 1st December each year in defiance of Indonesian domestic laws.
The flag consists of a red vertical band along the hoist side, with a white five-pointed star in the center. The flag was first raised on 1 December 1961 and used until the United Nations became the territory's administrator on 1 October 1962.
After national elections in January 1961 a New Guinea Council consisting of 28 members were sworn into office by Governor Dr. P.J.Platteel on 1st April 1961 and the Council's inaugurations on 5th April 1961 were attended by Australia, Britain, France, Holland, New Zealand and other Pacific Forum nations with exception of the United States.
An emergency session of this Council on 19th October 1961 in response to news that the Hague was considering submitting to US pressure to trade the West New Guinea territory first to United Nations and then Indonesian administration; elected a National Committee to draft a Manifesto for Independence & Self-government, design National flag (Morning Star) and select a national anthem ("Haitanahkoe Papue" / Hail to our Soil Papua).
The full New Guinea Council endorsed these actions on 30th October 1961 and the first Morning Star flag was presented to Governor Platteel on the 31st October 1961 who says "Never before has the oneness of the Council been put forward so strongly."
The official raising of the flag took place during a day of celebration on the 1st December 1961 with National Committee Chairman Mr Inury saying "My Dear compatriots, you are looking at the symbol of our unity and our desire to take our place among the nations of the world. As long as we are not really united we shall not be free. To be united means to work hard for the good of our country, now, until the day that we shall be independent, and further from that day on."
Design of the flag is credited to Nicholas Jouwe, The Netherlands recognized this national symbol on November 18, 1961. The flag is also known as the "Morning Star" (or, natively the "Bintang Kejora"). The similarity to the flag of the United States is intentional, and the similarity to the flag of Cuba is incidental, as Cuba's flag is also derivative of that of the United States.
Jouwe was a member of the Council, and after the annexation of West Papua by Indonesia, he remained in the Netherlands as an advocate of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM).
To this day, the Morning Star is flown by advocates in the Netherlands, Vanuatu, Australia and wherever committed members of the Melanesian diaspora come together. Special ceremonies take place on December 1 of each year, to commemorate the proclamation of the intention to create the Republic of West Papua in 1961.
The flying of the "Morning Star" has been a particular source of controversy over human rights abuses by Indonesian authorities, and in relation to numerous illegal activities undertaken by the Indonesian Military, mostly in relation to West Papua's vast mineral wealth.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
~ Land, Liberty and Solidarity ~
Celebrating Melanesians’ sacred relation
with their land, and the virtues of
justice, peace and love
Jacob Rumbiak preparing to place the Melanesian offering on the altar at All Saints Anglican Church in East St Kilda, 10 November 2002
On 10 November 2002 in Melbourne, during Sanap Wantaim (‘stand up together’ in Papua Nugini pidgin) a pig was ceremoniously sacrificed, and the intersection of Dandenong Rd and Chapel St was named “Morning Star Corner”. A Catholic bishop, some monks, and a bevy of Anglican priests joined the priests of culture from Melanesia Pacific to enact the sacred moment in All Saints Anglican Church in East St Kilda. It was a moment of high culture—and political symbolism as well, because Dandenong Road (Highway No.1) at Cape York in far north Queensland is just a short boat ride from West Papua which has long been a no-go zone for Australian politicians. This is a story about what the sacrifice and the naming might mean for us, in Australia, and for our Melanesian neighbours.
Pigs in many Melanesian cultures are the signature of successful negotiation. Nurtured by women to facilitate marriages, war, and peace, their sacrifice celebrates ‘closure’ - or in the pidgin language of Papua Nugini “dis pela bisnis pinis”. In the rich land of symbolism, the pig, sacrificed, paved passage for West Papua’s Morning Star flag to rise over the intersection of Dandenong Road and Chapel Street. Flying a flag as a measure of support is language recognised around the world. The one raised over “Morning Star Corner” was sewn by Wah, an Australian-Vietnamese outworker from Dandenong, who was once a political prisoner of North Vietnam’s communist regime, and also one of Australia’s first boat people.
Three or four hundred cheered the blood-stained Morning Star as it took wing on an afternoon breeze from Port Phillip Bay. The stain on the flag, the remains of the blood sacrifice, reminded of the price that colonists usually demand for liberty. White Australians escaped that demand, but the presence of Torres Strait Islanders reminded of the indigenous blood on Australian soil. There were East Timorese in the crowd too, and a few Dutch, and some Indonesianists as well. An old Australia digger was there too. He was a gunner on the ‘Arunta’, bombing the north coast of West Papua during McArthur’s infamous campaign to annihilate the Japanese.
The commitment made at All Saints on 10 November 2002 was the most recent that Australian institutions had made with West Papua’s self-determination movement. In 2000, the Australian Council of Trade Unions signed a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to support de-militarisation and independence. In 2001, twenty-two religious organizations, including the Victorian Synod of the Anglican Church, signed “Call to the Peoples of the Region” a document of similar commitment. In August 2002, RMIT University installed West Papua’s Jacob Rumbiak as Senior Research Associate, subtly acknowledging his status in Indonesian academia and his identity as a Melanesian citizen.
Participants of Sanap Wantaim proclaimed their commitment to West Papua’s self-determination when the head of the pig, the blood sacrifice, was placed on the high altar of the church. Though the pig has never had a place in Judeo-Christian history, the participants understood the contractual aspect of the employment of Melanesian cultural symbols. The fact that agreement could be rendered more potent by compromise was noted by Rev. Janet Turpie-Johnston, an Australian indigenous Anglican priest who led part of the ceremonial.
The Morning Star flag was first raised in Hollandia (now Jayapura) in 1961. It expressed West Papuans’ political aspirations in cultural terms (the Morning Star is an important character in the creation story of the north coast) and heralded the coming of independence that the Dutch government had schedueled for 1970.
During the Indonesian occupation, raising the flag has become the hallmark of a remarkable nonviolent movement for political change. The movement was formally launched in 1988 in the name of ‘West Melanesia’; the architect, Dr Thomas Wainggai, was immediately incarcerated, and died in Cipinang prison, a few cells away from Xanana Gusmao. His legacy galvanised and united the Papuans—primarily because it is a participatory political journey towards a way of being, beyond independence, that references both West Papuan traditional religions and the Christian principles they have adopted.
West Papua’s nonviolence movement is little known or understood in neighbouring Australia, where our capitalist-based culture is attuned, by tradition, to competitive, adversarial negotiation. One scholar, Jason McLeod, has placed it in the tradition of Martin Luther King’s civil rights work and Mahatma Ghandi’s anti-colonial movement, but for one reason or another, the innovative, energising, and disciplined campaign hasn’t managed to attract the attention, or support of the international community.
So when Australians sign treaties with West Papuans, and raise the Morning Star flag in solidarity, what are we committing ourselves to? Are we creating relationships with people, whose long and lonely battle against Jakarta’s militant regime has produced a political elite that is aware of the responsibilities that nationhood entails? Or are we committing to the sort of social disintegration evident in Papua New Guinea—and now East Timor—where inappropriate infrastructure and policies sit beneath civil unrest and a future bound to the vagaries of Australian foreign aid?
Before considering the long term, there are a few responsibilities that Australia must shoulder immediately in order to live up to its reputation as a good international citizen—or even an ordinary one. Politicians need to create policy that pursues review of the New York Agreement of 1962 and subsequent Act of Free Choice in 1969. Talks must be instituted between Jayapura and Jakarta under the auspice of a third party. Murder and oppression (which have worsened since Bali, with the military in Papua now talking of creating “rivers of blood”) could be reduced dramatically if the Indonesian government was forced to de-militarise the province. Foreign logging, fishing and mining companies have to be encouraged to adopted financial, environmental and social accountability measures.
Australians must also reflect on the image we maintain of West Papuans as pig-gorging, bow-and-arrow shooting tribals going nowhere. The image took off in the sixties, when President John F. Kennedy described Dutch New Guinea as “700,00 cannibals living in the stone age”. Most media titillate their reports with photos of the highland men in their penis gourds, or the resistance looking fierce in pig fat and boar tusk and pathetic in threadbare uniforms and hand-made guns. Such perceptions need overhauling, for many tribal leaders (including those from coastal regions where they don’t wear the gourd) have been making good use of the Indonesian education system—or failing that, seeking the advice of their children, a generation of well-educated, politically sophisticated Irianese.
There is an enigmatic, almost self-effacing quality to West Papuans independence struggle, offset at times by well-crafted resistance manoeuvres—like the formal announcement of ‘West Melanesia’ in 1988; the demands made by the ‘Delegation of 100’ which took President Habibie by surprise; and at Abdurrahman Wahid’s ‘national’ congress in Jayapura, when thousands of highlanders usurped the agenda and demanded independence. The latest, in February 2002, was the formation of the United West Papua National Front for Independence. Eighty leading members of what are usually described as ‘the factions’ (including the Organisasi Papua Merdeka, the Presidium, West Melanesia Council, and DEMMAK (Penis Gourd Council) created a peak body. The Front was immediately recognised by Sir Michael Somare, Tony Bias and Bernard Narakobi, the three Papua New Guinea big men considered to be the founding fathers of their own nation. In the months since, the organization has established a strong presence in Suva under the patronage of Ratu Masake Koroi, the Prime Minister’s brother, and Director of the Fiji Broadcasting Commission.
The United West Papua National Front has published a comprehensive blue-print that defines its philosophy and organization for the remaining years of resistance, and for the transition to an independent Melanesian nation on the western rim of the Pacific. Enviably confident—when none but the most stalwart are sharing the troubles, let alone the aspirations of West Papuans—the paper is a showcase of thought about a modern democracy, a republic with a president, that is, in part defined by tribal and traditional values. The tribes, for instance, will not compete with political parties or independents for representation in the parliament, but will exert their influence through a proportionate number of seats reserved for ‘traditional democracy’. The religious sector and the nongovernment organizations, including women’s and student groups, is collectively identified as the ‘moral force’ and is given a role to arbitrate and censure above and beyond that of the executive’s role.
All in all, the West Papuans appear to be involved in a process that might begin to re-define the western understanding of social democracy. I think it is an appropriate moment for Australia’s intellectual elite to get involved.
Louise Byrne for Arena Magazine
Held at RMIT Capitol Theatre, Melbourne 24 October 2000
West Papuan visitor to Melbourne flying Morning Star flag from a gold Ferrari (Sunday Herald Sun, 19 October 2000).
It feels sacred in RMIT University's Capitol Theatre on Tuesday 24 October. The Morning Star flag of West Papua rises, and hangs suspended beneath the spectacular ceiling. Another flag, black, green, and red, with fourteen smaller white stars, also rises. It's less familiar, but also dear to the Papuans because it identifies them as Melanesian. From the stalls, the Victorian Trade Union choir murmurs Hai tanahku Papua (Papua is my homeland), a simple hymn tune carrying the words of a very controversial anthem. Bearing witness is a coalition of Australian public institutions—including religious organisations, four universities, trade unions, schools, nongovernment organisations, the Australia & Torres Strait Islander Commission, and supporters from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji. Also Dr Martin Luther Wanma, Director of the Gereja Kristen Alkitab Church in West Papua, and Jacob Rumbiak, an independence leader who has spent a quarter of his life in Indonesian jails, but who now lives in exile in Melbourne.
The flags are hoisted by Shaka and Zadrack Adadikam. Their father, Alfonsius, arrived in Melbourne in 1982 on the Granada, the first Indonesian ship to dock in Australia after the Maritime Union lifted its ban of protest against the United Nations Act of Free Choice in 1969 (by which Dutch New Guinea became Indonesian Irian Jaya). Alfonsius had been escorted from the engine room to meet an Australian-born woman from Sulawesi. She arranged for Alfonsius to marry her daughter, Natalie Lewier who, like many Indonesians in Melbourne, abhors the violence her countrymen perpetrate in West Papua. For the eighteen years Alfonsius has been in Melbourne, he has worked with the Uniting Church - which has a relationship with Gereja Kristen Injili, the biggest church in West Papua. Ironically enough, four days after the YUMI WANTAIM ceremonial, the GKI declared it was independent of its mother church in Indonesia.
YUMI WANTAIM begins at dusk in Swanston Street outside Capitol Theatre. Two gold, owner-driven, Ferraris, carrying Jacob and Pastor Wanma, fly past at high speed—challenging the usual perception of West Papuans as penis-gourded men with bows and arrows. Someone wondered why, or perhaps how Melbourne's business elite got involved in an independence ‘cause’. Dr Jon Kozeniauskas, a Collins Street dentist and owner of one of the Ferraris, said “If my Ferrari can do anything to help prevent in West Papua what we were forced to witness in East Timor, then I'll ring my friends and get ten more”.
Melbourne-based Fijians, and students from Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea were also keen to issue solidarity with West Papua. YUMI WANTAIM is Papua New Guinea pidgin for 'you and me, one time together'. The language is significant, for of all the Melanesians, perhaps it is Papuans who suffer most the shame of abandoning their kin in West Papua. Isabella Tree in her novel Islands in the Clouds (Lonely Planet Publications 1996) claims that West Papuans "silently observe (independent) Papua New Guinea like captives willing on the success of a runaway slave...while PNG has barely cast a glance in the direction of the border". The situation is complex. The PNG government is pressed by the Australian to respect Indonesia's claim over West Papua territory. At the same time, it is threatened and bribed by Indonesians to ignore its military's cruel and ugly meter. West Papuan refugees cluster on the east of the 141st meridian, where the resistance also has bush headquarters; chased by the Indonesians who have been known to destroy PNG villages suspected of harbouring exiles. Several border agreements have been reached, but invariably they've been ignored, or manipulated by one or both of the signatories.
The solid and cohesive Melanesian support for West Papua that was a feature of the South Pacific Forum in Kiribati three days after YUMI WANTAIM, was also in evidence at the Capitol three days earlier. Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Vanuatu raised their colourful flags, and exchanged gifts with the West Papuans, while the Victorian Trade Union Choir sang the anthems, binding the small ceremonies with a rich and finely-tuned sonority. The Fijians' kava ritual issued solemn reverence, with representatives of Australia's aboriginal, secular and religious institutions sitting cross-legged on a woven mat to imbibe the sacred nectar. Fr Raass Asaeli, a Divine Word Missionary currently studying at Yarra Theological College, dressed in the beautifully woven drama of his ancestors and prepared participants for the silence of the transcendental moment. Dr Robert Wolfgramm from Monash University was draped in Academe's rich red robe while he sieved kava powder, fruit of the Mother, through waters belonging to a more austere being called Father Sky. Twelve recipients - community leaders, political analysts, a bishop, university lecturers, pastors, schoolteachers, students, and young mothers drank from the communion cup. It was a spectacular moment. Solidarity became sacred and secular, modern and traditional, christian and indigenous. Pregnant with soulful reason.
Mr Brian Butler from the Australia & Torres Strait Islander Commission, in "acknowledging and celebrating the strong and rich cultures of the indigenous people of the Asia Pacific region" broadened the region of concern for West Papua. He also localized the issue by reminding Australians that "the indigenous people of West Papua are fighting to protect their land, culture and identity ... the same fight that Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people have also fought for so many years".
He didn't mention another Australian relationship with West Papua, which began not in the Dreamtime, but during World War Two. The Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force, part of General MacArthur's taskforce to reclaim the Pacific from the Japanese, strafed and bombed the north coast of West Papua in 1944. The current Chief of Police in West Papua, SY Wenas, said recently that "thousands of unexploded WWII bombs still litter the seas and forests around Biak...fishermen who use them to bomb reefs trade them for Rp10-20,000 (aus$2-4) or sometimes just a packet of cigarettes or a can of beer" (Inside Indonesia, No 63, Jul-Sep 2000). Australia (and America and Japan) still owes West Papua for war operations of fifty-six years ago, but issues little concern for the one million neighbours who have maintained an inspirational non-violent struggle against brutal oppression for more than a decade.
Some Australians took some measures at YUMI WANTAIM to address the injustices. Mr Greg Sword, who is Vice-President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (and President of the Australian Labor Party) signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding with West Papuan independence leader Jacob Rumbiak. The Memorandum calls for an internationally supervised United Nations-sponsored referendum in West Papua, and an urgent United Nations Human Rights Inquiry into the suffering and deaths caused by the Indonesian military. It proposes that Indonesia's claim over the independent territory of West Papua be reviewed by the United Nations. It also expresses concern that West Papuans are being excluded from benefits generated by the American-owned Freeport-McMoran gold and copper mine. Other signatories to the Memorandum were: Victorian Trades Hall Council; National Union of Workers; Construction, Forestry, Mining & Energy Union; Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia; Australian Services Union; Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union; Australian Nursing Federation; Textile Clothing & Footwear Union of Australia; and the Australian Education Union.
During the evening, there were actual and symbolic references to the Melanesian nation of East Timor, for amongst Australians, the bloody wake of the freedom vote scarified some carefully nurtured scars. According to Alan Matheson, the International Officer of the Australian Council of Trade Unions "Australians are now recognizing that West Papuans are caught in the same cycle of violence that East Timorese were subjected to. Our politicians should act quickly to stay in line with public opinion on the treatment of our northern neighbours". Catholic Bishop Hilton Deakin, once vilified for his support of the East Timorese, but last year invited to Parliament House by the Prime Minister for his welcome-home-the-soldiers party, told Jacob and Pastor Wanma "We will stand with you, so that you can have your fundamental right of self determination". The Choir's moving rendition of "Solidarity' reminded many of the Mass in St Patrick's Cathedral that called attention to the stressful gestation of the newest nation on earth, and helped to force Prime Minister Howard to send Australian troops to East Timor.
Pastor Wanma's speech was characteristically simple. He'd been invited to Australia by the Uniting Church for a conference "Religion in Asia Pacific - Violence or Healing?", and said he was yearning and fighting for justice, even in 'new, democratic' Indonesia. He was surprised by the institutional support in Australia for his country, suggesting that "yumi wantaim is an old concept, but it's a new word for me, and I will take it home and tell my people it is a gift from Melbourne". He came to Australia to seek help "for young Papuans to study so we can develop our leadership. We need to find ways to transport the coconuts and the fish to the markets so that we can build our small economies. We want to create a healthy generation of Papuan women and children through well-managed primary healthcare programs".
As the unusual ritual for West Papua came to a close, people felt good. Many were relieved because a sizeable company of Australian voices was responding more to cries of help from West Papua than to Indonesian justifications for brutality. Melanesians from the South Pacific were happy because they'd actively supported their West Papua kin. Unionists were happy because they'd signed a program that was in accord with their principles. The West Papuans were happy, because they'd found friends in Australia. In fact, one might be tempted - if human rights and self-determination were a commercial business - to hail it as a winwin kindava nait.
Louise Byrne, Melbourne 2001
Jacob Rumbiak & Yabon, Parliament House, Melbourne (The Age, 19 Aug 2001, ‘Freed porker, not free Papua hogs limelight’).
Yabon, the hero of this story, was born in the temperate climate of rural Victoria, bred to be vacuum-packed in a Coles Christmas hamper. He has become, instead, an important symbol for peace and justice in West Papua; for breaking the tension between Jakarta and Jayapura.
In the highlands of New Guinea, the Bird of Paradise-shaped island on the western rim of Melanesia, men coat themselves in pig fat to keep out the cold, and little girl-mothers grieve when their pets are trussed, ready for market or for sacrifice. Pigs are the centre-piece of religious and social life. Their blood sanctifies land for ceremony, and opens negotiations between families wishing to marry. They are financial capital, and if cash is required, perhaps to pay school fees or fund a funeral, a pig will be sold. They underpin the village economy, and are still the most popular form of compensation in the art of Melanesian peace-making.
“When our people from the islands meet a family from the highlands, we cook barapen, have a feast. We cook pig, which the mountain people usually eat, and fish, which is more usually the diet of the islanders. In that way we share our customs, and eat together. That’s our polite form” says Jacob Rumbiak, a former lecturer at Cendrawasih (Bird of Paradise) University in West Papua, who endured ten years of isolation in Indonesian incarceration centres, including time in Cipinang Prison with East Timor’s Xanana Gusmao. “It's been difficult to be Melanesian since the Indonesians occupied my country in 1963. One of the first things the military did was massacre the pigs”.
In East New Guine (PNG) pigs lost some of their value when the framework of the new nation state was assembled in 1975. Hundreds of small socio-political units were destabilised by the swift elimination of their autonomy, and have not yet settled as bigger, regional identities in the national parliament. Similarly, the institutions of the modern state, which weren't built upon Melanesian foundations, haven't yet learned to communicate effectively with their constituents in the mountains. A boar's head, printed on the twenty kina note, reminds an increasingly frustrated people of taim bifor-exchange which had been central to a kaleidoscope of relations. Pigs facilitated dialogue between families, between communities, between man and nature, and man and god. If communication broke down, there were repercussions. Someone would die, perhaps the gardens would fail. Blood sacrifice helped resemble equanimity and order. Papuans continue to believe that the quality of atonement garnered by ceremonial slaughter of a home-grown pig cannot be achieved when bits of paper are passed around instead; the architects of independence may have been short-sighted when they marginalised the sacred from their new order in 1975.
On the other side of the border, in West Papua, pigs are still the king of the castle for Papuans. But not for Indonesians, who current monarch is the daughter of the man who led the occupation in 1962. Why Pak Sukarno, then President of pork-taboo Indonesia, colonised the western rim of Christian Melanesia is a matter of debate. Indonesians claim West Papua was part of the Dutch East Indies, and therefore, automatically, of the post-colonial republic as well. The Dutch, who had schedueled self-determination for their colony in 1970, say their well-funded program was betrayed by America and the international community in 1962. America claims its diplomatic manoeuvring diverted a belligerant Sukarno from seeking more support from communist Russia and escalating the terrifying drama of the Cold War, with President Kennedy telling the Dutch Ambassador in Washington “those Papuans of yours are just 700,000 and living in the stone age”. Australia, squatting self-consciously in Papua New Guinea, supported West Papua's self-determination in the fifties, but later Americanised its propaganda and proclaimed “Australia cannot break off relations with a neighbour of 125 million (Indonesian) people on behalf of those few people”.
West Papuans were not consulted about the expulsion of the Dutch from their territory. Nor were they privy to a contract between the new Indonesian administration and Freeport-McMoran, an American mining company, signed in 1966, three years before the United Nations Act of Free Choice referendum. They reject the claim that the Dutch East Indies was automatically Indonesian. What, they ask, of the Dutch colonies of Surinam in South America, Barbados in Central America, and Guinea Bissau in Africa? On 1 May 1963, when the United Nations handed West Papua to Indonesia, President Sukarno declared the territory a military zone. The next day, his Minister for Culture lit a bonfire in the main square of the capital, and ten thousand Papuans witnessed the incineration of cultural artefacts and written history. By the time of the referendum, six years later, a generation of West Papuan leadership had ‘disappeared’, thousands of villagers were dead and hundreds of villages had been strafed. Pigs (and the Dutch guilder) had been replaced by the rupiah; the soldiers appalled by the prominence of the animal in highland households, had slaughtered thousands.
After the referendum in 1969, Brigadier-General Sarwo Edhie presented a planeload of pigs from Bali to the Ekari people in the Central Highlands. The pigs were infected with taenia solium (tapeworm) a parasite which triggers a pathological condition in humans called cerebral cysticercosis. Malaise, epilepsy, psychosis and death were noted in the Ekari in 1972. In his article Transcultural tapeworm trafficking—the Indonesian introduction of biological warfare into West Papua, Dr David Hyndman claimed the parasite had infected most of the Ekari by 1975, had spread to the Western Dani of the Baliem Valley, and had reached Ok Sibil on the PNG border. In 1985, twelve cases of cisticercosis were reported in refugee camps in Papua New Guinea.
West Papua has been closed to the international community since 1963, so there has been little monitoring of the arrests, the killings, the disappearances, and the massacres. Churches estimate 400,000 people have been killed. Families have been uprooted from self-sustaining lifestyles on traditional land and set on the fringes of unhealthy urban sprawls. There are a million transmigrasi from other Indonesian islands trying to survive, the result of programs that were badly-planned and barely-managed. West Papuan students learn an Indonesian-language curriculum devised by Javanese; many have never seen a map of their own country. The military work with commercial operators, clear-felling ancient woods from the heart of unique forests, levelling mountains to extrude precious minerals, sucking gas and fish from a marine environment that was, until the sixties, pristine.
The deeply Christian West Papuans continue to pursue their non-violent campaign for independence, a movement nurtured by a network of disciplined organisations that criss-cross the territory's political, physical and cultural landscapes. They emphasise dialogue-generated negotiation, a conflict resolution technique central to West Papuan indigenous thinking, which Dr Thomas Wainggai, one of West Papua’s most powerful intellectuals, developed in the eighties as a national strategy of resistance. Dr Thomas' first disciples were West Papua's big men, the leaders of the traditional religions, who were able to coalesce a basic tenent—to love rather than hate your enemy—with the laws and discipline of their indigenous heritage. Since non-violence is also central to Melanesian and Christian philosophies, the movement in West Papua has attracted the support of kin nations in the Pacific, and, increasingly, the rest of the international community.
Dr Thomas died in Cipinang Prison in Jakarta in 1996, defeated by Indonesian barbarism, but having triumphed as a remarkable strategist—for by then West Papuans had developed a well-camouflaged network of sophisticated organisations, all working for independence through non-violent means. This includes the traditional leadership, Christian church groups, women’s groups, student organisations, academics, political parties, non-government organisations, and a transmigrasi group called AMBERI. Even the military wing of the OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka) is pledged to defend, but not to attack.
And what of Yabon, the Australian pig? When Jacob escaped from jail in Indonesia and came to live in Melbourne, people told him it would take a massacre, like the Santa Cruz in East Timor, to spark Australian interest in his homeland’s struggle. Given that the level of militarisation has increased since the downfall of Suharto, he found this depressing. To cheer him up, a couple of fun-loving activists bought him a baby pig, which he named Yabon in honour of the tiny village in the highlands where he was born. “Then things started looking up. I walked Yabon every day, like a dog, to exercise him. People talked to me. Teachers asked me to address their students. Journalists rang for stories. It was amazing to watch my pig creating space for West Papua’s story in Australia. Then an old chief from home rang and said ‘Son, are you really taking our culture to that country?’”
Jacob Rumbiak & Louise Byrne
The symbol designed by Jacob Rumbiak for the Australia West Papua Association (Melbourne) for which he is a consultant.
Jacob Rumbiak was born in Ayamaru, a small village in the ‘birdshead’ region of West Papua, then a colony of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. He was three years old in December 1961 when the President of the Indonesian Republic launched a military operation, code-named ‘Mandala’ to overthrow the government in Dutch New Guinea and to plant the red and white Indonesian flag.
Within months parachutes were floating over the western regencies of Fak Fak, Manokwari and Sorong, landing barges were snaking passage onto the southern beaches, and Indonesian soldiers were fanning out to comb the country. West Papuans, fighting side-by-side the Dutch, defended the territory, and Indonesia retreated when Yos Sudarso, Deputy Commander of the Navy, was killed during a battle in the Arafura Sea.
The International Commission of Jurists recently described Operation Mandala as “armed invasion of West Papua early in 1962”. The Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs has always claimed it was just a few “armed clashes”, a “negative development”. At the same time however, it has always promoted Yos Sudarso as a national hero. There’s a bronze statue of the admiral in Jayapura, standing tall on a small patch of green, right arm gesturing to Papua New Guinea, staring out over Yos Sudarso Bay. This was the same bay, then called Humboldt, from which General McArthur launched 371 ships to the Philippines during World War 11. Fredrik Hendrik Island in the Arafura Sea was also given the name Yos Sudarso; and Mount Cartenz, the highest mountain in West Papua, is now known as Puncak/Mount Mandala.
Jacob, who has lived in exile in Australia since 1999, has gentle memories of his homeland. Of two villages on Numfoor Island, where babies sleep on the waves, their little bodies wrapped around logs that float, like cots, on the water; their mothers working unfettered by the weight of a child on the back. Of the huge maritime park surrounding Biak Island where Grandfather Wairow Rumbiak taught him how to row his small canoe. Of the snow on Mount Carstenz, called eternal because it’s been there since the Ice Age and reminds West Papuans that God has not forgotten the people He calls his second born. Of the vast marches on the south coast (which Australian soldiers might also remember), where sagu, hewn from the heart of thorny metroxylon palms, has nourished Papuans for centuries.
Jacob harbours memories of sadness as well. The death of his mother, giving birth to her thirteenth child. Of the Javanese beauty, Diaz Natali, armed commander of the university’s student paramilitary, whose father, Brigadier General Diaz Mulyana, was his soccer coach and wanted him to marry her. Of his wife, forced to hide while giving birth to their third son while he was labouring in the Papua New Guinea Consulate, trying to convince Ali Alatas (Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister) and two generals (Benny Murdani and Try Sutrisno) of West Papua’s right to independence. Of the charges of subversion, and days in court listening to the government’s version of his life story. Jacob’s version was a ninety-page closely-argued case for independence which took him eight hours to read. He was then sentenced to seventeen years of isolation in prison.
Five years before he’d been applauded by millions of Indonesians as his deadly left foot struck the goal that won them the Asian Soccer Championship Cup. Applause too, when the scholarship student from the awkward Melanesian province graduated from Bandung Teachers Training College, the most prestigious institute of learning in the archipelago. However he found few Indonesians in the metropole, even amongst academia, who knew or were interested in West Papua or in the New York Agreement of 1962—whereby Dutch New Guinea’s self-determination, schedueled for 1970, was aborted and the Republic of Indonesia acquired a large and wealthy province. Jacob knew it was important for Indonesians to understand West Papua’s story as it is for West Papuans to keep repeating it—and he used his nine-year odyssey in Java to teach Indonesians, especially the students, the value of human rights and the principles of democracy.
In prison he had learned the breadth of resistance to Javanese rule. A lady from a Christian Church in Sulawesi visited each of his eleven prisons, silently noting his presence, and passing the information to an Indonesian human rights organization. An East Timorese Red Cross nurse worked the system to have him removed from Tangerang Prison, where he’d been isolated for two years in a sunless cell at the top of a stone tower. Another Timorese, Joao Freitas, a fellow prisoner in Cipinang, used acapuncture and traditional medicine to repair his torture-broken body. Chats with Xanana Gusmao, also in Cipinang, were more often about their future in their own republics than their pasts as leaders of indigenous resistance movements. In 1999, he escaped from prison to share the speaking-podium with Aceh’s Teuku Don Zalfari at several universities in Japan (Zalfari was later murdered by Indonesian-appointed mercenaries). An Indonesian student democracy movement helped him to escape again in 1999, this time to fly home and map more strategies for West Papua’s non-violent struggle.
West Papuans had changed during the decade he’d been in prison. The United Nations referendum was still an Act of ‘No’ Choice, but by talking the military into their mythology, the Papuans were managing the violence of the occupation more astutely. A line in a song, the movement of a river, even a shredded flag evoked but did not essay the litany of horrors they’d endured since 1963. The national agenda was becoming more important than family identity; people talked ‘West Papua’ first, then ‘Dani’ or ‘Mebrat’ or ‘Biak’. He found small communities in the highlands communicating rather than competing at their boundaries, the dialogue woven by women—third, fourth, or even fifth wife of traditional leaders, who were used to translating negotiations between their husbands and their fathers, but were now talking about resistance to Indonesian rule and the independence of a Melanesian nation. Their conversations were being echoed around the country by the Christian network of parishes. Even the weary fighters in the mountains, who everyone calls ‘the OPM’, were beginning to streamline their strategies.
The Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) is the oldest non-traditional organization in West Papua. It began as a small study group in 1964, formed by a primary school teacher to examine methods of resistance. Indonesian aggression soon forced members to abandon their mission in the village and take up armed resistance in the forest. Hundreds of frightened families followed, including Pastor Daniel Rumbiak’s. The fighters taught the pastor’s young son to hunt and to harvest the forest; and by 1969, the year of the referendum, an eleven-year-old Jacob was commanding a platoon of thirty-seven men. A treacherous amnesty before the referendum had deprived the OPM of many of its founding members, and leadership had become a matter of who was left. Last week in Melbourne, Jacob watched a documentary about two ten-year-old cigar-smoking brothers, tiny twin commandoes of the Karen in Burma. He too had smoked bush cigars; his ‘career’ also had not been a matter of choice.
In 1999, Jacob was an official observer of the ballot in East Timor. Like most who had worked with the Timorese, he knew they’d vote for independence. Unlike most, he knew the Indonesian army, anticipated its thirst for pay back, and looked for opportunities to minimise what military analysts call ‘scorched earth policy’ (or destroy everything as you leave). In Viqueque, where he was based, he met five Indonesian military from West Papua (including a cousin from Biak) and decided a traditional Melanesian feast before the ballot might inspire a measure of goodwill. The West Papuans invited the local militia and their Indonesian commanders; and Jacob invited elders of the local communities and student campaigners from Dili. The chief of Beloi village killed a pig, and the guests gathered in the light warm air of a tropical night. Guitars strummed a repertoire that everyone seemed to know, and the tuaca (bush wine) flowed. Then the moon waned, and the mood shifted. The Javanese remembered the terrible massacres of 1966. The West Papuan soldiers began talking about helping, not hindering, a referendum in West Papua. Militia members wept. The district military commander, one of the most violent in East Timor, slumped and said he felt terrible. A few days later, East Timor lay scorched and dying in the bloody wake of the freedom vote, but the liurai (chief) of Viqueque told his daughter in Melbourne how surprised he was by the comparatively low level of violence and destruction in his territory.
Indonesia’s third president, Abdurrahman Wahid, started his term by releasing West Papuan political prisoners. Then he provided funds for a National Congress, the first democratic space West Papuans had experienced since 1961. Representatives from the territory’s thirteen regencies were flown to Jayapura, the provincial capital. Many of those not invited sold their pigs and vegetables and walked. Everyone wanted their aspirations for independence recognised. Later in this memorable year of political tolerance, the Protestant Church declared it was independence of its mother church in Jakarta. Some believed that West Papua’s valiant non-violent struggle was, at last, approaching its goal. Jacob was watching closely and cautiously from his new home in Australia.
POSTSCRIPT. In December 1999, Indonesia’s Vice-President, Megawati Sukarnoputri appointed Major-General Simbolen as Commander of the Indonesian Army in West Papua. He had earned points in the Jakarta bureaucracy by capturing East Timor’s resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao, in 1991, but was classified by Australian intelligence as ‘hardline’, and named by the United Nations as one of six key conspirators of the violence in East Timor.
Simbolen stamped notice of his arrival in West Papua by incarcerating most of the religious, student, military and political leadership. The list included Rev. Herman Awom, Vice-Moderator of the Protestant Church, and Mathius Wenda, leader of the West Papuan National Army (TPN) who had operated out of bush headquarters in PNG for years. Drs. Albert Sefnat Kaliele, Chairman of the West Melanesian Council, was also jailed for allegedly misusing the equivalent of $aus7.00. (The Australian Chapter of the International Commission of Jurists was refused permission by the Indonesian government to observe his trial).
In July 2001 Sukarnoputri was appointed president, and a few months later, a prominent West Papua leader, Theys Eluay, was murdered in West Papua. In December she was filmed addressing the military in Jakarta, telling them to “do your duty as solders and don’t be concerned with human rights.” On 22 December she cancelled her visit to Jayapura—for which three thousand highlanders had walked across the mountains to register their objections to Special Autonomy.
Jacob Rumbiak & Louise Byrne
Bravo, Kirsty Sword and Xanana Gusmao, with Sarah Niner (writing Xanana’s biography) in Xanana’s cell in Jakarta in 1998.
For quite some time I lived in Block E in Kalisosok Prison in Surabaya, and also in Block A in Cipinang Prison in Jakarta. These blocks were reserved for political prisoners from East Timor and West Papua. There were other blocks in these prisons, just as big as ours, and always one distinguished by the presence of a number of cats, mostly rather fat, who hung around a certain type of inmate we all called ‘the korruptors’.
For years in Indonesia the smartest businessmen have been korruptors. They win a government contract, stash the money, get caught, and go to jail for two or three years. Thus, with minimal effort, their families accumulate a huge amount of money (with bank interest added) and only one member takes the rap.
Life in prison for the korruptors is fairly easy. Family and friends visit with meat, fruit, fish, cigarettes, rice, knives and money. There is a special room for sex if they want it, or they can always go home for a couple of days if they pay off two or three guards.
None of this applies to political prisoners. Jakarta is two thousand kilometres from East Timor and more than three from West Papua, so unless the Red Cross manages to keep track of where the army takes you, the military can hide its torture sessions in institutions that are situated all over the archipelago. One little lady followed me to eleven different prisons, and I'll never forget the humbling experience of eventually discovering that she wasn't a soldier-spy dressed in civilian clothes, but was in fact from an Indonesian Christian church
As a political prisoner you assume your sentence will be shortened by one way or another. Forced to eat prison-prepared food, many die poisoned. Others hang themselves in shame after their wives have been raped by Indonesian soldiers - or have run off with them. Many are trussed and dumped in the sea. Others are simply shot. I drew solace from the surity that Jesus loves me, and my life is part of his design.
Two men from West Papua inspired me to use my time in prison constructively. The first was Drs. Albert Sefnat Kaliele, a very spiritual man, jailed in 1989 for subversion. We were in Kalisosok together. When Abdurrahman Wahid was elected President of Indonesia, he released Kaliele from his eighteen year sentence (although he is now back in prison in Jayapura, this time on a charge of corruption for the misuse of a few rupiahs—the equivalent of seven Australian dollars).
The other was Dr Thomas Wainggai, one of West Papua's most powerful intellectuals, and the architect of our non-violent campaign for independence. In 1988 Dr Thomas was sentenced to life in prison for proclaiming the independence of 'West Melanesia'. He died in Cipinang Prison in 1996. His wife, who is Japanese, was jailed for eight years because she sewed a new West Papuan flag. When I see Cathy Freeman on television with the beautiful flag of indigenous Australia, I think about Dr Thomas and his wife.
Unlike most political prisoners I had a cat. A unique and clever cat called Bravo, who was my security and my very best friend. I found him a lonely lost and hungry kitten, who soon befriended my family of baby birds who had fallen out of a tree. I taught the pigeons to carry messages to other prisoners, and Bravo learned to look after a key to my cell that I'd acquired by means of a small (but somewhat korrupt) manoeuvre. With the key I was able to go to meetings at night—I'd lock my cell, and push the key back inside through the grill. It was attached to a pink soccer bootlace, which Bravo then dragged to a secret place. After my meeting, I'd whisper our code, and he'd bring me the key so I could let myself back inside the cell. Bravo's intelligence thus enabled us political prisoners to talk about democracy and justice—the very principles whose defence had condemned us to torture and imprisonment.
Bravo stayed lean and clean catching little fish in the drain in our exercise yard. He usually gave these morsels of protein to me, or else he laid them, unmarked, at the feet of other prisoners he liked. Joao Freitas from East Timor, was a regular recipient, perhaps because he spent so much time treating my injuries. By the time I got to Cipinang Prison, my body was a wreck. Ulcers had gouged holes in my legs, my heart was weak from electric torture, and I thought my eyes would never recover from my incarceration in a dark stone cell at the top of a thirty-foot tower for more than two years. Joao's love and dedication, and his skill with traditional medicine and acupuncture, enabled my remarkable recovery.
When Habibie was President, I was transferred to a military institution. Bravo got left behind and adopted the patronage of Xanana Gusmao. Six months later Xanana was also put to house arrest, but the cat, now called 'Rumbiak' accompanied him to a well-guarded house in central Jakarta. Here, apparently, he occupied himself entertaining the numerous diplomats and dignitaries who visited East Timor's imprisoned Chief. Later, during the violence that attended East Timor's referendum, Xanana was moved secretly, in the middle of the night, to the safety of the British Embassy; and in the rush, he forgot to take Bravo.
Vicki Tchong is one of those unsung heroines. In 1975, after the brutal invasion of East Timor, the Tchong family escaped to Melbourne where Vicki spent years creating a relationship between her wealthier Chinese-Timorese community and other more politically-motivated Timorese who never had any money but nevertheless ran a successful independence campaign. In 1999, just before the historic referendum, Vicki moved to Jakarta to arrange for the return of East Timorese students. She was living dangerously, moving from one dingy rent-a-room to another and with nothing except a cheap mobile phone she managed to find the students, organise visas, buy air tickets, and arrange safe exits. Eventually she had fifty frightened young Timorese sitting in the airport, ready to fly to Dili. And Bravo was with them; as usual, in the middle of the mob.
The Garuda officer said he couldn't fly, not without a cat box, so money was paid to find one. Then it was deemed he needed insurance, so money was paid to get some. Then, a separate compartment was required, so money was paid for that too. Then finally, the officer simply said it was impossible for the cat to fly to Dili. Since the students' escape was paramount, Vicki quickly re-christened Bravo “Kay Rala Jose Alexandre Gusmao, the President's Cat” and left him behind with some Chinese friends in Jakarta.
A month later the world gave birth to a new nation. It was a bloody struggle, delivering heroes, heroines, martyrs and a corpus of evil yet to be called to account. There is pain, and trauma, and much grieving to be done; but, free at last, the East Timorese are facing the challenges of democracy with the same fortitude and courage that characterised their resistance. Indonesians are trying to be democratic too, but are struggling with the concept—primarily because there are still too many ‘fat cats’ skulking about and too many foreign governments continuing to fuel a military regime that was thoroughly condemned by its performance in East Timor.
A few are thinking more creatively about the troubles. In April 1999, students from East Timor, Aceh, West Papua and Indonesia met for a two-day seminar in Jakarta organised by Parti Rakah Demokrasi (more readily known, as usual in Indonesia, by its acronym of PRD). We concluded that independence of the eastern and westernmost provinces of the Republic does not have to mean the dissolution of Indonesia; that changing political boundaries is a normal and regular feature of international life. Conference participants recalled the birth circumstances of ‘Indonesia’ and eventually agreed that the separation of Aceh and West Papua is inevitable. It's simply a matter of time.
When my country does become an independent Melanesian nation on the western rim of the Pacific, I sincerely hope that Bravo will be there to pull the rope that raises the flag. That would be appropriate compensation for a lean clean and personable cat who always got left behind. With a bit of luck, he'll be invited to pull the rope in Loksamawi as well, for the brave, proud people of Aceh also had freedom on their minds long before the Unitary State of the Indonesian Republic was born.
"Inside Indonesia" No.67, Jul-Sep 2001.