Kelly Kwalik’s death

Thu, 01/14/2010 9:49 AM | Jakarta Post  Reader’s Forum

The death of Kelly Kwalik on Dec. 16 was tragic and unnecessary, as Kelly should have listened to veteran Papuan separatist leader Nicholas Jouwe who said on his first visit back to Indonesia after more than 40 years in exile in March 2009 that the war for an independent Papua was over.

The late Kwalik was the reputed leader of the armed wing of the Free Papua Organization (OPM), co-founded by Jouwe. While Jouwe lived for most of his live in self-imposed exile in the Netherlands, Kwalik lived by the gun on the run, suspected of shootings, killings and kidnappings in the name of the OPM.

But in March last year Jouwe called for dialogue between the Papuan separatist (secessionist) movement and the Indonesian authorities, and sought compromise as neighbors instead of continuing the fight for independence, which albeit no more than a low-intensity insurgency has inflicted personal pain and hardship on civilians as well as on the families of slain security personnel and of the so-called freedom fighters.

However, equally tragic is that the 85-year-old Jouwe, as a young man listened to the misinformation and false promises from vengeful Dutch colonial types who had never forgiven the great majority of the Indonesian people who chose to follow the lead of nationalist leaders such as Sukarno, Hatta and Sjahrir, declaring independence from the Netherlands on Aug. 17, 1945, and the Republic of Indonesia as the successor state to all the territories of the former Dutch East Indies, which have always included the western part of the island of New Guinea.

All the provinces were ruled centrally from the then colonial capital Batavia (Jakarta), and it was to “Dutch New Guinea” where the leaders of the Indonesian independence movement were exiled, imprisoned at Boven Digoel. But reactionary Dutch colonial types responded to the declaration of independence by fomenting secessionist movements in the regions in a failed attempt to partition Indonesia.

After the Dutch government finally recognized Indonesian independence in 1949 under pressure from the UN and the international community, and transferred the authority formally to the new independent state, it also took the unilateral step of not transferring the territory of Dutch New Guinea to the RI pending further negotiations, just as the secessionist movement of the South Maluku Republic (RMS) was in its last throes of resistance.

Ten years later the then Dutch government decided for reasons best known to itself to make one last stand in the colonial fight and go to war with Indonesia again over the ownership of the western part of New Guinea, as it refused to accede to the legitimate demands from the Indonesian government to negotiate the terms of transfer of the territory. But again under the pressure of the UN and the international community the Dutch government had to accept that the RI was the legitimate successor authority according to the principles of uti posseditis juri.

But those same old vengeful Dutch colonials told Jouwe and other Papuan leaders to fight on for secession instead, under false promises of help, and while the execution of the Act of Free Will in 1969 was not perfect, the UN recognized it as the legitimate expression of the will of people of Irian, as the western half of New Guinea was called then, to continue as part of the RI.

However, the OPM continued with its low-intensity insurgency that attracted more support from non-Indonesians abroad for a variety of reasons than at home, but without getting one step closer to its aim of secession. After the end of the New Order regime and with the democratization of the RI and the provinces of Papua and West Papua gaining special autonomy under the reform process, the raison d’être for the OPM was gone.

Now Jouwe in the Netherlands has taken the courageous step, following the earlier lead of the RMS movement in exile that made a similar step, by declaring that the war for secession was over and that instead any differences should be settled by peaceful means.

B.J.K. Cramer

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

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