Free West Papua Movement vs Progressive Developments in Papua


President Joko Widodo frequently visited Papua and West Papua Provinces

The following article is taken from Antara News by Ahmad Sabir*) originally published in April 2016. The writer illustrates the competing narratives between separatist Free West Papua Movement and Indonesia’s democratic progressive developments. In one side, Free West Papua gives empty hope and zero effort in helping West Papuan to improve their social and economic conditions.  On the other side, Indonesia with its policy has tremendously improved various aspects of West Papuan life such as education, health, human rights, socio-economic, infrastructure, politics and democracy, culture, environment, and so on. Please read the article.

Free West Papua Movement vs Progressive Developments in Papua

“We Support ULMWP for Full Member of MSG, Let us Vote in a Referendum, We are not Malay, We Are Melanesians”.

The quote is typically West Papuan independence movement activists saying as cited from leaflets distributed by the members of West Papua National Committee (KNPB) when conducting a demonstration on Wednesday April 13, 2016 in Jayapura. Hundreds of KNPB activists and supporters gathered in Cenderawasih University campus to voice out the endeavor of separate West Papua from the Unitary Republic of Indonesia.

The demand that have been voiced for decades but have not yet been realized and seemed to even be fruitless. The demonstration that reportedly did not get permission from the police were used to convey supports for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) become a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

Exploiting the smilirality of ethnicity, ecosystems and cultures with other Melanesian clumps in the South Pacific, Free West Papua Movement (OPM) has actively garnered supports through MSG to encourage the internationalization of the issues of Papua with the goal of self-determination as a crucial part of attempts to separate Papua from Indonesia legitimate territory.

Papua Independence Campaign For Free West Papua activists and supporters, ULMWP is claimed as the official representative of Papuans abroad, which aims to assert the aspiration of referendum for West Papua. While KNPB is the political wing of the OPM, which moves freely in the cities on the theme of democratization and human rights.

Its current lease is Victor Yeimo. OPM itself has a military wing called National Liberation Army (TPN-OPM) – led by Goliath Tabuni – fighting as guerrillas. There is also the organ in charge of intense campaigning abroad for Papuan independence, the Free West Papua Campaign (FWPC). This organ is headquartered in London, England, led by Benny Wenda, an inmate who escaped from Abepura prison in 2003, then granted political asylum from the British Government.

Unlike the TPN-OPM whose movement are limited as they have to sneake in carrying weapons, KNPB can more freely move in urban centers in Papua. Hiding behind the freedom of speech and expression, KNPB has freely chanted aspirations of Papuan independence, asking for the referendum, condemn the Indonesian Government as invader, accusing the Indonesian military with genocide in Papua, campaigning the failure of special autonomy (Otsus), demanding the release of political prisoners, and so forth.

The objective of KNPB in Papua is similar to FWPC in London. FWPC’s task is to carry out black campaign abroad on Indonesia policy in handling Papua, whereas KNPB cursing the government and the Indonesian military by exploiting some issues such as human right violations.

The Promising Developments Progress of Papua
In Joko Widodo presidential era, the development of Papua has inserted in to the priority agenda. The Mr President has visited the big island in eastern Indonesia, which consisted of two provinces – Papua and West Papua – three times in less than two years of his reign.


The government intends to fulfill the demand of number of people who preserve their dream to separate Papua from Indonesia by accelerating the development in Papua. Various policies, which have been initiated and implemented by the previous government, will be improved and enhanced.

If we travel to the city of Jayapura, many of us may be surprised by the condition of the city, which is crowded and has a good development of infrastructures, accommodations as well as complete public transportation or even shopping centers and entertainment facilities are available around the city.


Jayapura Mall for instance, is so magnificent, doesn’t differ from huge malls in major cities, equipped with XXI cinema center that might not be necessarily found in other cities outside Papua. The real condition of the city is certainly unexpected, is totally different as imagined by some people who have never been to Papua since the image that has been developed as well as image created by KNPB and its fanatic supporters that there is no development in Papua.


Jayapura Mall

In his second visitation in May 2015, President Jokowi was officially inaugurated the construction of mega-project Hamadi-Holtekam flyover, which connects directly the city of Jayapura with Indonesia – Papua New Guinea border.

The fact has proved the Jokowi governmential’s commitment as asserted in Nawa Cita program to build Indonesia from the East. “This terminal in Wamena is much better than those in Java,” said Jokowi in his speech in Wamena Airport when visiting Papua for the third times, in last December 2015, as reported by


Wamena Airport

In addition, it should also be noted that thousands of Papuans youth are currently studying in various provinces in Indonesia, such as Yogyakarta, North Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, East Java, West Java, Jakarta, etc.

Many of them even managed of working in a number of companies and government institutions outside Papua.

The Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection (PPPA), Prof DR Yohana Yembise – the first women minister from Papua – in her working visit to Kendari, South East Sulawesi Province, on 27 February 2015 providing motivation to students from Papua, saying “Take advantages as much as possible from this opportunity given to you by studying well and seriously, so that what have been the expectations of your parent, the people as well as the government of Papua would not be left as only a wishful dream.”

Free Papua Movement is Merely a Wishful Dream?.

If the endeavours of Free Papua movement activists like KNPB are solely addressed for the advancement of the people of Papua, then we should not forget the fact that Papua students who are involved in fightings and killings in some cities in and outside Papua are those who are under the influence and indoctrination of KNPB.

If Benny Wenda and gangs, really fights for their people, then what are their contributions to the development and advancement of education for children in Papua by now? Benny could argue for what he believes or tries to make people believe, but the people of Papua are not blind, they know how good and fancy Benny Wenda lives abroad, getting thousands to millions of dollars from “selling” Papua issues to the countries that have so much interset on Papua, like UK, Australia, Holland, US, etc.

And despite their weak political understanding, the people of Papua are also aware of how their wealthy land has been contested by those countries.

Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, once said when addressing the actions of Papuan separatist groups both at home and abroad, “What they do is what they usually do. Sometimes what they do, for example as something very big, but it is not.”

She added, “In the meantime what the Indonesian Government focuses on is the development of Papua. Papua is part of Indonesia.”

Corroborating the Minister statement, the former Papuan independence activists, Nicholas Messet, who spent 40 years in Sweden to fight for Papua independence but eventually decided to return to Indonesia satirized KNPB and Benny Wenda campaign activities by saying “Let them do what they want, to fight until the end of the world, apocalypse. That is their right. But I think there is no point they keep fighting, when the Papuan people in the country have realized that it is now better to stay with Indonesia”.

*). International Relations Postgraduate Student at University of Indonesia, a Researcher in Menara Institute.

Editor: M. Tohamaksun

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