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The Resistance Struggle of the West Papuan People

The Resistance Struggle of the West Papuan People Organisationally Requires Trias Politica

June 25, 2011


For nearly fifty years the resistance to Indonesian occupation has taken various forms – including armed opposition, public demonstrations by students and other community groupings, celebrations of national identity with flag raisings, pronouncements of an independent nation, clandestine resistance groups, public rallies to provoke authorities to incarcerate dissidents, voluntary exile by political organisers, songs of defiance in the mother-tongues of the different tribes, promotion and retention of national identity and resistance to the colonial power through the stories told to the children and to the grandchildren in each home and in each village throughout West Papua. Despite this vast array of evidence of West Papuan commitment to freedom, against the backdrop of intense suffering and deprivation, the international community has been deaf to the call of the people for recognition of their struggle.

This paper highlights the decision to adopt the organisational grid of Trias Politica in the West Papuan struggle for independence in order to gain credibility from the international community for the peaceful resolution of the independence issue and demonstrate a readiness fro self-government as a nation-state.

In pursuing resolution to their political situation the Papuans have pursued peaceful dialogue ands have come to refer to their struggle as a kind of ‘memoria passionis’.

The role of the WPNA will also be considered – its campaign, future policy, constitution and strategies for peaceful resolution. The traditional canoe is used as a metaphor of the WPNA. The struggle of the ancestors is passed on to the next generation through knowledge, loyalty and perseverance. The WPNA is like a canoe carrying different tribes united by nationalism to be one people, one soul and one nation.


West Papua is a land with around 300 different languages and is home to ancient cultures including the oldest cultivating society in history. Yet its future is not secure and faces critical risks. Prior to the first Indonesian military invasion on 19 December 1961, code-named Trikora, there was a balanced ecosystem of flora, fauna co-existing with humans. There were stunning birds of paradise flying over natural forest and shallow coral reefs, coastal swamps and alpine glaciers. Since the occupation the beauty of West Papua has been increasingly lost or put in jeopardy. The natural resources have been seized by foreign opportunists who see Papua as a place to be exploited for their own purposes. Yet the international community is becoming increasingly aware for the need for peace and justice in every sense in the land. Papuan people need healthy and prosperous communities and a healthy economic environment for the nation. Like other nations, Papuans search for democracy, justice and equality, but West Papua continues to be haunted by what has been called a ‘memoria passionis’, or a collective ‘memory of suffering’. On the one hand this refers to the complex of suffering experiences of the West Papuans under Indonesian government control for nearly five decades. On the other hand the Memoria Passionis is a theological term referring to the redemptive sufferings of Jesus. This faith-construct imbues many West Papuans with a sense of identity, purpose and meaning in a life of afflictions and subjugation. In that sense it is analogous to the early black American experience of slavery in America, finding cultural expression in their ‘spirituals’ e.g. Nobody knows the trouble I seen, nobody knows but Jesus. This has enabled them to celebrate ‘life in the midst of death’ and transform defeat into hope of victory, hate into love, violence into peace and the inhuman dispensing of wrong into commitment to justice. The ongoing conflicts, however, inspire West Papuans to endeavour to solve their ‘memoria passionis’ through non-violence.

In this way their claims can be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international conventions.

The net effect of the long marathon of misery and suffering under the Indonesian regime has been to galvanise all components of Papuan society in the struggle - women, youth, churches, tribal council, NGO’s and political agencies. Their plight has been largely unknown by the world but West Papuans are undaunted in their resolve to prosecute to the conclusion a dignified solution that is comprehensive and represents a true political settlement of their demands.


One of the most powerful weapons in the campaign for self-determination is an organised resistance with a disciplined chain of command. This is vital but in itself is not enough. The revolutionary struggle requires coordination, decision-making and representation. Organised resistance must coalesce into a unified and mass supported political institution that is a manifestation of the will of the people. This will earn from the international community recognition, credibility and leverage for change to come about.

3.1 Institution as an Embryonic State

Within the political institution there must be placed an ‘embryonic state’, which will direct and coordinate the struggle. This embryonic state is demonstrated in actuality in democratic societies in various forms but is known as Trias Politica, whereby the separation of powers is safeguarded by an executive, legislative and judiciary. Within that organisational structure in the resistance phase are the political, diplomatic, clandestine and military wings, as well as what is described as the Moral Force.

3.2 The Political Wing- is commissioned by leaders who are willing to risk their lives in confronting the colonial government legally and politically. This role involves sacrifice and risk of imprisonment and death, and those willing to undertake it can become heroic symbolic figures.

3.3 The Diplomatic Wing - is the leadership of the resistance organisation in promoting and advocating self-determination to the international community and devising strategies with the colonial government for the peaceful resolution of the independence issue.

3.4 The Clandestine Wing - consolidates its networks and logistics to the resistance movement.

3.5 The Military Wing- is the last human resource as a power to mobilise military diplomacy. The West Papuan resistance since the 1980’s has eschewed the mobilisation of the military wing to bring to an end the Indonesian occupation.

3.6 The Moral Force Wing – consists of indigenous NGOs - including religious, student, academic, women, environmental, professional, human rights groups and various other legal elements – which exist to uphold peaceful action and strengthen people's partisanship.



4.1.1 Origins.

The West Papua National Authority emerged from the West Melanesia movement of the 1980’s and the opposition to Indonesia within the Papuan universities and the various campaigns in the last decade of the millennium. Its significant leadership and support had served time as political prisoners, and by the first half of the new decade had garnered significant grass-roots support.

4.1.2 Commitment to Unite the Resistance

In 2001, three West Papua organisations sent delegations to the Pacific Island Forum in Nauru. These delegations were rejected at PIF and raised a lot of questions about unity amongst those involved in the West Papuan struggle. Subsequently, in February 2002, in Wewak on the north coast of Papua New Guinea, political leaders and activists from the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM, Free West Papua Organisation), Papua Presidium Council (PDP), and the West Papuan New Guinea Congress gathered to form the United West Papua National Front for Independence (UWPNFFI).

4.1.3 Publication of WPNA

Two years later, on 6 February 2004, also in Wewak, due to the global issue of terrorist organisations using the word Clandestine Front in their organisations, UWPNFFI made an amendment to change the name of the organisation to United West Papua National Council for Independence (UWPNCFI). Following this a final gathering was held in Wewak, Papua New Guinea on 14 -16 July 2004. Outcomes from extensive workshops resulted in the incorporation of the ideology of a Trias Politica to be responsible for the moral, political, military, and diplomatic divisions of the resistance in West Papua. A fresh commitment was made to a peaceful revolution imbued with the spirit of the sacrifice of ‘body and soul, blood and tears’ for the sake of the coming generations. The following month in Jayapura, on 16 August 2004, a specially convened meeting of the UWPNCFI resulted in the public announcement of the formation of the West Papua National Authority (WPNA) by Rev. Terrianus Yoku, President of National Congress.

4.1.4 Papuan National Consensus confirms WPNA as National Provisional Government

On 14 May 2009, the West Papua Youth and Students Peace Movement facilitated two meetings between the civil rights organisations (Moral Force) and political organisations (Political force). During the meeting the West Papua National Consensus Committee invited the Papua Presidium Council/PDP - which had organized the 2nd Papuan Congress in May 2000 - to assume responsibility as a National House of Representatives. The Traditional Council (DAP) was confirmed as the forum for discussion and determination of indigenous issues. The West Papua National Authority was invited to continue functioning, through its thirty-two departments, as the National Provisional Government with responsibility to deliver political independence for the nation. Since then, the (collective) Papua National Consensus has functioned as a unifying spirit for political development inside and outside of West Papua.

4.1.5 Transitional (Time-framed) Nature of WPNA

The WPNA is a Transitional Government and as such will bring the resistance through to the processes of political independence – including referendum, surrender of control by the Unitary Republic of Indonesia to a United Nations Transitional control, and democratic elections. The Authority is proposing a federal political arrangement and therefore all states or sectors within Papua to be yet formalised will be represented in a democratic representational system. The Papuan people themselves will need to decide on this - the right to choose the political form of the nation-state at the end of the day is vested in the people who will express their intent through the parliament they elect after independence.


Speaker, National Congress: - Rev. Terrianus Yoku, a Protestant pastor in Sentani (Jayapura). Pastor Yoku is an ex-political prisoner, and member of the Papua Presidium.

President of the Executive: - Edison Waromi, S.H., a lawyer, ex-political prisoner 1989-1999, 2001, 2002, and 2003-4; long-time member of West Melanesia National Council and Organisasi Papua Merdeka.

Supreme Commander, West Papua National Liberation Army: - Brigadier-General Richard Joweni, a long-time member of Organisasi Papua Merdeka and chairman of West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL).

Co-coordinator, Foreign Affairs: - Jacob Rumbiak, former lecturer in the physical sciences at Cenderawasih University, political prisoner, long-time member of Organisasi Papua Merdeka, and founding member of the non-violent campaign for independence. Mr. Rumbiak currently lives in Melbourne.

UN Representative - Tarrimas Kaisiepo; long-time member OPM; ex political prisoner; Secretary-General Byak Tribe; Papua Presidium Council; currently residing in Vanuatu; Oceania Decolonisation Committee – vice secretary general.

Diplomat, Asia-Pacific - Herman Wainggai; long-time member of West Melanesia National Council; student organiser and activist; political prisoner 2001, 2002—2004, currently residing in Melbourne. For obvious reasons there are many other leaders who cannot be identified at this time but presently occupy important roles in Papuan society.


There are three paths that could be followed whereby West Papua is able to become an independent nation-state.

5.1 The first path via United Nations

5.1.1 The first is by the registration of the West Papuan issue on the UN agenda through a member state, OR through the lobbying of a West Papuan Transitional Government office set-up in New York, UN member states support the national official representative of West Papuans to register the problem into the Learning and Liaison Section of the United Nations. Either way the aim is specifically for West Papua to be be classified as a nation yet to be de-colonised. Some nations are in the process of being lobbied, including some countries yet to be disclosed. This path would see member states pressing the UNGA to Review the 1962 New York Agreement and the 1969 Act of Free Choice (PEPERA) revoking the UN General Assembly Resolution No. 2504, 19 November 1969. The outcome of such a review could lead then to a newly determined status of West Papua and a decolonisation process based on UN protocols and mechanisms for decolonisation.

5.2 The second path via the UN to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) The referral or prosecution of cases to the UN’s ICJ is limited to member states only or some UN bodies. As West Papua is not a member state of the UN it cannot itself prosecute the legality of its take-over by Indonesia directly through the ICJ. So this second path would involve the referring of Papua’s case directly to the ICJ by a member state. The Republic of Vanuatu, for instance, in June 2010, passed a bill to register West Papua on the UNGA agenda with a request for its status to be referred to the ICJ. Until now it has yet to do so. While there has been expressed interest in working towards this end by a variety of individuals or groups – e.g. International Lawyers for West Papua, and other international lawyers willing to work pro-bono – until now no case has been brought.

5.3. The third path via International Dialogue

The third path provides for the Republic of Indonesia’s agreement for an international dialogue with a third-party mediator for a political solution through one of two alternatives as the main instrument:

5.2.1 Referendum – a genuine testing of the will of the West Papuan people, or

5.2.2 Legal recognition of one of the political events in West Papua’s history since 1961 which proclaimed a Free Papua by the de facto West Papuan leadership based for example on constitutional law, religion, cultural and national identity and geography. This would be a win-win situation for both Indonesia and West Papua, and would be the preferable course of action, providing for Indonesia to retain initiative and for the option of no further Papuan blood being spilt.


In the event of legal recognition being afforded to West Papua’s declaration of independence the following processes will need to take place:

6.1 Transition.

6.1.1 UNGA passes resolution jointly signed and ratified by Indonesia and West Papua National Authority (and possible third party international member) ratifying the legal recognition of West Papua’s independent status and its borders.

6.1.2 Authority and Administration will be handed over from the Unitary Republic of Indonesia to the UN Transitional Assistance Body – e.g. UNTAWP (United Nations Transitional Administration for West Papua) – with an Administrator working with the WPNA, the pra-sovereign governing body.

6.1.3 The United Nations flag will be flown together with the Morning Star flag.

6.1.4 All Indonesian military and police personnel will be repatriated to Indonesian territory from West Papua and a UN peace keeping force will be deployed. Currently serving indigenous Papuan members of the military or police may continue to serve under the control of the UN peace keeping authority.

6.1.5 West Papuan armed resistance fighters will be welcomed and formal surrender of weapons will take place at appointed posts throughout the country.

6.1.6 Immigration processes will be set in place to receive returning exiles and to determine citizenship of the newly formed sovereign state.

6.1.7 A census of the people will be taken and a process will be set-up for Non-Papuans to apply to stay within West Papua and commit to the newly constituted sovereign state or alternatively return to Indonesia.

6.1.8 All transition of economic and financial arrangements within West Papua formerly done on behalf of West Papua by the Republic of Indonesia will be handled by a specially convened financial body by the new authority.

6.1.9 The people of West Papua will be free to create Political Parties for representation in general elections.

6.1.8 A first election will be held to determine the members of the Constitution Council; that is, the Nation Formation Council. Indigenous Papuans will be eligible to vote in this election - the determination of ‘indigenous’ will be made at the birth-village requiring witnesses from both the father’s and the mother’s side.

6.1.9 The Constitution of the nation state of West Papua will be published.

6.1.10 General Elections will be held according to the structure of the newly formed state.

6.2 The Formation and Government of the new nation State of West Papua

6.2.1 The constitution will frame the basis for West Papua’s ideals and philosophy, in order to set the directions of national policy for the new nation state.

6.2.2 The new government will be formed from the general election.

6.2.3 The head of state will declare the newly independent nation of West Papua.

6.3 International Relations

6.3.1 West Papua’s admittance into membership of the United Nations

6.3.2 Through its Foreign Affairs Department West Papua will begin to open diplomatic relations with the international community.

6.4 Development and Security

6.4.1 Practical independence will be pursued through a program of national development in every aspect of life within West Papua.

6.4.2 West Papua’s sovereignty will be maintained throughout its area by the creation of security mechanisms.

6.4.3 West Papua aims to exist on friendly and peaceful terms with the international community and its neighbours on the basis of mutual respect and the worth of all people and nations and the sovereignty of their respective states.


7.1 The pressure upon Indonesia for a Referendum may come from a number of different sources, including diplomatic pressure on Indonesia from member states who have been lobbied by a projected intensive West Papuan lobbying campaign. This in turn could result in there being the numbers for a successful resolution in the UNGA for Indonesia to allow a Referendum of the West Papuan people under the auspice of the UN. Indonesia could flout the resolution as it did for many years concerning its condemnation for its invasion of Timor Leste.

7.1.2 The other pressure may come from a mobilisation of social democratic forces from within Papua itself, similar to the actions we see across the world at this time. A concerted civil disobedience action, accompanied by sustained mass demonstrations across West Papua, and reported across social and mainstream media may prove too much for the Indonesian Governement to ignore or suppress any longer. The outcome of such actions would not be further talks, or promises of reform but the guarantee of a referendum, the release of all political prisoners, the withdrawal of the army, the anti-terror unit Densus 88 and Brimob, as well as a guarantee that no militias will be armed or supported by security forces within Indonesia.

7.2 The preparation for the Referendum

7.2.1 Whether Indonesian administration finishes before or after a referendum, it is non-negotiable that the Indonesian security forces leave WP and is replaced by a substantial UN peace keeping force for at least 12 months prior to the Referendum.

7.2.2 A body will be created to set up the conditions concerning the preparation, eligibility of voters and the conduct of the referendum

7.2.3 Indigenous Papuans will be eligible as per the conditions mentioned beforehand.

7.3 The conduct of the Referendum will be carried out as per international protocols under the auspice of the UN.

7.4 The follow-up to the Referendum

7.4.1 A transition period will take place as per my previous remarks regarding transition after legal recognition.


West Papua's struggle is a tragic, rich and tough drama about cold-war politics, the depravity of an unrestricted military dictatorship, greed and corruption, the struggle to end a colonialist era as well as an indifferent Indonesian public and international public to the atrocities of fifty years perpetrated on the Papuan people. It is also a drama about sacrifice, hope and courage of a people who have never stopped and will never stop fighting for justice and freedom. The non-violent struggle has required a maturity and unity to form a transitional government which will need to convey the West Papuan’s multi-faceted resistance through to independence.

The shape of this government is a Trias Politica with executive, legislative and judiciary bodies, promoting self-determination and devising strategies to Jakarta and the international community for the peaceful political resolution of the independence issue. The role of the West Papua National Authority (WPNA) in its campaign and agenda is crucial. This is particularly so in promoting and maintaining unity between the leadership inside and outside West Papua, not only between those who are prominent in the national (Indonesian) and international arenas, but also between the tribal leaders, the NGO and religious sectors, and the student organisations. The concept of Trias Politica signifies the internationalising of the Free West Papua movement, identifies fundamental issues facing West Papuans, and provides some ultimate solutions to achieve peaceful settlement.


© Scoop Media

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