Frans Kaisiepo, the Man behind the Name “Irian”

Frans Kaisiepo - pahlawancenter.com
Frans Kaisiepo - pahlawancenter.com

Many of you might not have heard his name but somewhat familiar to his face. Yes, Frans Kaisiepo was featured on Indonesian Rp10.000 bill in 2016 edition. His name is also featured as Biak’s international airport and Indonesia’s national naval ship.

Frans Kaisiepo was born in Biak, 10 October 1921. He lived through the first and second Indonesian president, Ir. Soekarno and Soeharto. Being lived under two colonization of Dutch and Japan, Frans Kaisiepo managed to continue his study in Papua. It made him belong to the intellectual circle in Papua.

The First Independence Flag Ceremony in Papua

Frans Kaisiepo - liputan6.com
Frans Kaisiepo – liputan6.com

It was Frans Kaisiepo, Marcus Kaisiepo, Nicolaas Jouwe, and friends who first echoed “Indonesia Raya” in Papua on 14 August 1945. Later on 31 August 1945, they held a ceremony where Indonesian flag was raised and “Indonesia Raya” was sung once again on the land of Papua.

His struggle continued as he served as local government at the time. He was the head of Warsa District when he proposed the Partai Indonesia Merdeka (Party of Freedom of Indonesia) with Lukas Rumkoren as the leader.

Parted from what he did at the organization, he often held a meeting with Sugoro Atmoprasodjo, his teacher at Civil Administration Brief Course in Jayapura. Sugoro came from Jogjakarta and had taught at Taman Siswa before he came to Papua. During that time, Sugoro Atmoprasodjo and Frans Kaisiepo often held a meeting to discuss the news about what has been happening on the land of Java related to Indonesian independence.

The Malino Conference

Malino conference - wikimedia.org
Malino conference – wikimedia.org

The news of Indonesia independence struggle from Java has lit the fire in Frans Kaisiepo. He knew that he had to fight for the unification of Papua to the Republic of Indonesia. His first international action was being a delegation on the Malino Conference.

The Malino Conference was held by the Dutch government on 15 July – 25 July 1946 in Malino, South Sulawesi. The object of the conference was to build a federal country of Dutch in Eastern Indonesia. Through the federal form of Indonesia, The Dutch will continue its colonialism, especially in eastern Indonesia. Amongst other regions in Indonesia, East of Indonesia is some of the richest and the most sought-after area in the country.

On the conference, the Dutch government invited 39 local lords, religious leaders, and ethnic groups from around Kalimantan and East Indonesia to talk about the idea of the eastern Indonesia state under the Dutch colonialism.

Frans Kaisiepo was the only delegation from the land of Papua. On the conference, he proposed the name “Irian” to replace Papua which was then often called as Nederlands Nieuw Guinea. He also opposed the idea of the state of East Indonesia as it did not integrate Papua to the planned state.

Since then, he fought for the unification of Papua to Indonesia. In Biak, he led a rebellion protest against the Dutch colonial in 1948. A year later, the Dutch colonial continued to try to resolve the Indonesia independence through Dutch – Indonesian Round Table Conference (Konferensi Meja Bundar Belanda – Indonesia) in 1949. At the time, Frans Kaisiepo was appointed as a Dutch delegation under the Bijeenkomst voor Federal Overleg, or the Federal Consultative Assembly.

He strictly refused the appointment as he did not want to come to the conference under Dutch government instead of Indonesia. This refusal has led to his imprisonment from 1954 to 1961.

The Name Irian for Papua

Frans Kaisiepo - tstatic.net
Frans Kaisiepo – tstatic.net

Back when he attended the Civil Administration Brief Course in Jayapura, the course’s name was “Papua Bestuur School”. He changed the name sign of the school into “Irian Bestuur School”. To him, the name Papua is related closely with the Dutch colonialism on the land.

The word “Irian” came from the native language of Biak, Frans Kaisiepo’s homeland. It has been believed that the name means “the light that diminishes the haze” referring to the panoramic view of the land at dawn when the sun rises. In Biak language, the word “Irian” can also be translated as “a hot land” referring to the climate of Papua. Additionally, the supporters of Papua – Indonesia integration has made the word Irian stood for “Ikut Republik Indonesia Anti Netherland” (followers of Indonesia, against Netherland).

Frans Kaisiepo wanted Papua to have a native name, not given by the colonial government. The name Papua itself had been mentioned since the land was under Portuguese colonization. Somehow, the name Papua has a negative sense of colonization and repression.

In 2001, the land was renamed back to Papua by the 4th President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid. Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur changed the name back to Papua referring to the National Committee of Papua’s manifest which was published in Pengantara bulletin on 21 October 1961.

These name changes do not fade the spirit of Papua in Indonesia. Since the struggle for Indonesia independence, Papua has also been fighting for its freedom from the colonialism within Indonesia.

To this day, Frans Kaisiepo’s attempt of integrating Papua as part of the Republic of Indonesia has been a successful one. Along with other heroes from Papua and Indonesia, his name and struggle should always be heard across the nation.