Republic of Great Melanesia

Free Papua Movement
Major actions 1964–present
Ideology Papuan nationalism

The Free Papua Movement (Indonesian: Organisasi Papua Merdeka, abbreviated OPM) is a militant organisation established in 1965 to encourage and effect the violent overthrow[1] of the current governments in the Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia, formerly known as Irian Jaya[2] to secede from Indonesia, and to reject economic development and modernity.[3] It has received funding from Muammar Gaddafi's Libya and training from the Maoist Guerrilla group New People's Army, a Foreign Terrorist Organization designated by the US Department of Homeland Security.[3]

The movement is outlawed in Indonesia, and agitating for independence for the provinces has incurred charges of treason.[4] Since its inception the OPM has attempted diplomatic dialogue, conducted Morning Star flag-raising ceremonies, and undertaken militant actions as part of the Papua conflict. Supporters routinely display the Morning Star flag and other symbols of Papuan unity, such as the national anthem "Hai Tanahku Papua" and a national coat of arms, which had been adopted in the period 1961 until Indonesian administration began in May 1963 under the New York Agreement.


During World War II, Netherlands East Indies (to become Indonesia) was guided by Sukarno to supply oil for the Japanese war effort and subsequently declared independence as the Republic of Indonesia in 17 August 1945. The Netherlands New Guinea (Western New Guinea) and Australia administrated territories of Papua and British New Guinea resisted Japanese control and were allies with the American and Australian forces during the Pacific War.

The pre-war relationship of the Netherlands and Netherlands New Guinea was replaced with the promotion of Papuan civil and other services[5] until Indonesian administration began in 1963. Though there was agreement between Australia and the Netherlands by 1957 that it would be preferable for their territories to unite for independence, the lack of development in the Australian territories and the interests of the United States kept the two regions separate. The OPM was founded in December 1963, with the announcement that "We do not want modern life! We refuse any kinds of development: religious groups, aid agencies, and governmental organizations just Leave Us Alone! [sic]"[3]

Netherlands New Guinea held elections in January 1961 and a New Guinea Council was inaugurated in April 1961. However, in Washington, D.C. the National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy began to lobby U.S President John F. Kennedy to negotiate for Indonesia the trade of West New Guinea to Indonesian control;[6] the resulting New York Agreement was drafted by Robert Kennedy and signed by the Netherlands, Indonesia and United Nations in August 1962.

Although the Netherlands had insisted the West New Guinea people be allowed self-determination in accord with the United Nations charter and General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) which was to be called the "Act of Free Choice"; the New York Agreement instead provided a seven year delay and gave the United Nations no authority to supervise the act.[7] Separatist groups raise the West Papua Morning Star flag each year on 1 December, which they call "Papuan independence day". An Indonesian police officer speculated that people doing this could be charged with the crime of treason, which carries the penalty of imprisonment for seven to twenty years in Indonesia.[8]

In October 1968 Mr Nicolaas Jouwe, member of the New Guinea Council and of the National Committee elected by the Council in 1962, lobbied the United Nations claiming 30,000 Indonesian troops and thousands of Indonesian civil servants were repressing the Papuan population.[9] According to US Ambassador Galbraith, the Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik also believed the Indonesian military was the cause of problems in the territory and the number of troops should be reduced by at least one half. Ambassador Galbraith further described the OPM to "represent an amorphous mass of anti-Indonesia sentiment" with "possibly 85 to 90 percent [of Papuans], are in sympathy with the Free Papua cause or at least intensely dislike Indonesians".[10]

Brigadier General Sarwo Edhie oversaw the design and conduct of the Act of Free Choice which took place from 14 July to 2 August 1969. The United Nations representative Ambassador Oritiz Sanz arrived on 22 August 1968 and made repeated requests for to the Brigadier-General for Indonesia to allow a one man, one vote system (a process known as a referendum or plebiscite) but these requests were refused on the grounds that such activity was not specified nor requested by the 1962 New York Agreement.[11] One thousand and twenty five Papuan elders were selected from and instructed on the required procedure as specified by the article 1962 New York Agreement. The result was a consensus for integration.

Republic of West Papua Declaration

In response, Oom Nicolas Jouwe and two OPM commanders, Seth Jafeth Roemkorem and Jacob Hendrik Prai, planned to announce Papuan Independence in 1971. On July 1, 1971 Roemkorem and Prai declared a Republic of West Papua, and drafted a constitution.

Conflicts over strategy between Roemkorem and Prai soon initiated a split of the OPM into two factions; the PEMKA led by Prai, and TPN led by Roemkorem. This greatly weakened OPM's ability as a centralized combat force. It remains widely used, however, invoked by both contemporary fighters and domestic and expatriate political activists.

Starting from 1976, officials at mining company Freeport Indonesia received letters from the OPM threatening the company and demanding assistance in a planned uprising in the spring. The company refused to cooperate with OPM. From July 23 until September 7, 1977, OPM insurgents carried out their threats against Freeport and cut slurry and fuel pipelines, slashed telephone and power cables, burned down a warehouse, and detonated explosives at various facilities. Freeport estimated the damage at $123,871.23.[2]

In 1982 a OPM Revolutionary Council (OPMRC) was established, and under the chairmanship of Moses Werror the OPMRC has sought independence through an International Diplomacy campaign. OPMRC aims to obtain international recognition for West Papuan independence through international forums such as the United Nations, The Non-Aligned Movement of Nations, The South Pacific Forum, and The Association of South East Asian Nations.

In 1984 OPM staged an attack on Jayapura, the provincial capital and a city dominated by non-Melanesian Indonesians. The attack was quickly repelled by the Indonesian military, who followed it with broader counter-insurgency activity. This triggered an exodus of Papuan refugees, apparently supported by the OPM, into camps across the border in Papua New Guinea.

On February 14, 1986, Freeport Indonesia received information that the OPM was again becoming active in their area, and that some of Freeport's employees were OPM members or sympathizers. On February 18, a letter signed by a "Rebel General" warned that "On Wed. 19th, there will be some rain on Tembagapura". At around 10:00 p.m. that night several unidentified people cut Freeport's slurry and fuel pipelines by hacksaw, causing "a substantial loss of slurry, containing copper, silver, and gold ores, and diesel fuel." Additionally, the saboteurs set fire along the breaks in the fuel line, and shot at police that tried to approach the fires. On April 14 of that same year, OPM insurgents cut more pipelines, slashed electric wires, vandalized plumbing, and burned equipment tires. Repair crews were attacked by OPM gunfire as they approached the sites of the damage, so Freeport requested police and military assistance.[2]

In separate incidents in January and August 1996, OPM captured European and Indonesian hostages; first from a research group and later from a logging camp. Two hostages from the former group were killed and the rest were released.

In July 1998 the OPM raised their independence flag at the Kota Biak water tower on the island of Biak. They stayed there for the following few days before the Indonesian Military broke up the group. Filep Karma was among those arrested.[12]

On 24 October 2011, Adj. Comr. Dominggus Oktavianus Awes, the Mulia Police chief, was shot by unknown assailants at Mulia Airport in Puncak Jaya regency. National Police of Indonesia alleging that the perpetrators were members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) separatist group. The series of attacks on Indonesian authority has prompted deployments of more personnel to Papua.[13]

As reported on 21 January 2012 armed men believed to be members of OPM shot and killed a civilian who was tending his roadside kiosk. He was a trans migrant from West Sumatra.[14]

On the 8th of January 2012 OPM conducted an attack on a public bus which caused the death of 3 civilians and 1 member of an Indonesian security force. 4 others were also injured.[15]

On 31 January 2012 an OPM member was caught carrying 1 Kg of drugs on the Indonesian - Papua New Guinea Border. It was alleged that the drugs was intended to be sold in the city of Jayapura.[16]

On 8 April 2012 armed members of OPM carried out an attack on a civilian aircraft flown by Trigana Air on a scheduled service after it landed and was taxiing towards an apron on Mulia Airport on Puncak Jaya, Papua. Five armed OPM militants suddenly opens fire on the moving plane causing to go out of control and crash onto a building. One person who died, Leiron Kogoya, suffered a neck gunshot wound. He was also a journalist for Papua Pos. Amongst those wounded were the Pilot, Beby Astek and Copilot Willy Resubun, both wounded by shrapnel; Yanti Korwa, a housewife who was hurt by a shrapnel on her right arm and her 4 year old infant, Pako Korwa, who was afflicted by shrapnel on his left hand. After the attacks the militants retreated through the nearby forest. All casualties were civilians.[17]

On the 1st of July 2012 a routine security patrol was attacked by OPM members causing the death of a civilian bystander. The victim was a local Village President who was shot in the head and stomach by the OPM members. One man from the Indonesian security force was injured from broken glass.[18]

On 9 July 2012 three people were assaulted, resulting in their deaths in Paniai, Papua. One of the victims was a member of the Indonesian security force while two were civilians, one of them an 8 year old boy. The child's dead body was found with stab wounds on the chest.[19]

Organisational Hierarchy and Governing Authority (Leadership-Political and Military)

The internal organization of OPM is difficult to determine. In 1996 OPM's 'Supreme Commander' was Mathias Wenda.[20] An OPM spokesperson in Sydney, John Otto Ondawame, says it has nine more or less independent commands.[20] Australian freelance journalist, Ben Bohane, says it has seven independent commands.[20] Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI), Indonesia's army, says the OPM has two main wings, the 'Victoria Headquarters' and 'Defenders of Truth'. The former is small, and was led by M L Prawar until he was shot dead in 1991. The latter is much larger and operates all over West Papua.[20]

The larger organization, or 'Defender of the Truth' or Pembela Kebenaran (henceforth PEMKA), chaired by Mr. Jacob Prai, and Seth Roemkorem was the leader of Victoria Faction. During the killing of Prawar, Roemkorem was his commander.

Prior to this separation, TPN/OPM was one, under the leadership of Seth Roemkorem as the Commander of OPM, then the President of West Papua Provisional Government, while Jacob Prai as the Head of Senate. OPM reached its peak in organization and management (in modern terms) as it as structurally well organised. During this time, Senegal Government recognised the presence of OPM and allowed OPM to open its Embassy in Dakhar, with Mr. Tanggahma as the Ambassador.

Due to the rivalry, Roemkorem left his base and went to the Netherlands. During this time, Prai took over the leadership. John Otto Ondawame (a that time he left his law school in Jayapura because of being followed and threatened to be killed by the Indonesian ABRI day and night) became the right-hand man of Jacob Prai. It was Prai's initiative to establish OPM Regional Commanders. He appointed and ordered nine Regional Commanders. Most of them were members of his own troops at the PEMKA headquarter, Skotiau, Vanimo-West Papua border.

Of those regional Commanders, Mathias Wenda was the commander for region II (Jayapura - Wamena), Kelly Kwalik for Nemangkawi (Fakfak regency), Tadeus Yogi (For Paniai Regency), Bernardus Mawen for Maroke region and others. These commanders have been active ever since. Kelly Kwalik was shot and killed on 16 December 2009.[21]

In 2009, an OPM command group led by General Goliath Tabuni (Puncak Jaya Regency) was featured on an undercover report about the West Papuan independence movement.[22]

See also



  • Bell, Ian; Herb Feith; and Ron Hatley (1986). The West Papuan challenge to Indonesian authority in Irian Jaya: old problems, new possibilities. Asian Survey 26(5):539-556.
  • Bertrand, Jaques (1997). "Business as Usual" in Suharto's Indonesia. Asian Survey 37(6):441-452.
  • Evans, Julian (1996). Last stand of the stone age. The Guardian Weekend. August 24:p. T20.
  • Monbiot, George. Poisoned Arrows: An Investigative Journey to the Forbidden Territories of West Papua
  • van der Kroef, Justus M (1968). West New Guinea: the uncertain future. Asian Survey 8(8):691-707.

External links

  • OPM listing
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