The Infamous Papuan Heroes and Papuan People Struggle to Become Part of Indonesia

Frans Kaisiepo -
Frans Kaisiepo -

You may notice that there are many new faces printed on the new rupiah banknotes released by Bank Indonesia in 2016. However, some of Indonesians may have never heard the name or seen the face of the figures although they have been inaugurated as national heroes.

Some of the least known among other figures are Dr. KH Idham Chalid whose face can be seen on Rp5,000 banknote and Frans Kaisiepo on Rp10,000 banknote. Dr. KH Idham Chalid is a prominent figure in politic during 1950-1960 era while people in Papua might know Frans Kaisiepo from International Airport of Papua which is named after him.

But who is actually Frans Kaisiepo?

Frans Kaisiepo -
Frans Kaisiepo –

Frans Kaisiepo is a true Papuan hero. He was born in Wardo, Biak, on 10 October 1921 and passed away on 10 April 1979. He is the one who proposed the name ‘Irian’ for half of Papua Island which belongs to the Republic of Indonesia. ‘Irian’ means hot soil in Biak language. It represents the spirit of Papuan people to not to compromise with the Dutch during Dutch colonization.

In July 1946, the Dutch held a conference in Malino, Sulawesi, as their attempt to establish federal states in the new areas which were handed over by Britain and Australia to the Dutch. The states were later be called State of East Indonesia or Negara Indonesia Timur (NIT). In this conference, Frans Kaisiepo was involved as a representative from Papua. He expressed his firm attitude against the Dutch and showed the world that Papuan people stood with the Indonesian republic.

It was also the moment he proposed the name ‘Irian’ to call an area which was historically and politically an integral part of the Indonesian archipelago (Dutch East Indies). It is clear that Frans’s statement was immediately rejected by the Dutch and from then he was kept away from any agenda of discussion about Papua which was conducted by the Dutch colonial government.

In the 1940s, Frans Kaisiepo was once the Head of the District of Warsa, North Biak and during this time, he had proposed that Irian (Papua) join the area of ​​the Residency of North Sulawesi. Sometime later, he was imprisoned and exiled by the Dutch. In 1961, Frans established a political party of Irian demanding the immediate unification of Irian (Papua) into the Republic of Indonesia.

Strong demands from various parties that Irian (Papua) must be immediately handed over to the government of Indonesia was the reason the Round Table Conference or Konferensi Meja Bundar (KMB) being held in 1949. The Dutch asked Frans Kaisiepo to be the Dutch delegation or the state of BFO (Bijeenkomst voor Federaal Overleg), but he rejected the offer.

According to the treaty, the Dutch agreed that the political sovereignty over the entire territory of the former Dutch East Indies would be transferred to the Republic of the United States of Indonesia, except West New Guinea (West Irian). This new republic called the Netherlands-Indonesian Union worked to reach a common interest. However, the Dutch delayed the transfer of Papua to Indonesia until a year later and still tried to maintain its colonialization in Papua.

Apart from the Frans Kaisiepo, Johannes Abraham Dimara is another Papuan hero who fought for the unification of Papua with the Republic of Indonesia. After KMB, he joined the Pattimura APRIS Battalion (the Armed Forces of the United States of Indonesia) and participated in a military operation to crush the Republic of South Maluku or Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS). J.A. Dimara participated in the liberation of West Irian by becoming a member of Irian Liberation Organization or Organisasi Pembebasan Irian (OPI).

In mid-October 1954, J.A. Dimara initiated an infiltration against the Dutch which later resulted in a battle between two parties. Eleven OPI soldiers were killed. Dimara and his troops were imprisoned by the Dutch until 1961. After his discharge, he was appointed as a member of the Indonesian delegation to discuss West Irian issue in the UN forum.

On August 15, 1962, a New York Agreement in which J.A. Dimara was appointed as an Indonesian delegation, reach a decision which in the end, ended the military confrontation between Indonesia and the Dutch.

In the following years, several confrontations were still happening in Papua and former West Papua. Until finally the Determination of the People’s Opinion or Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat (Pepera) was held on 4 August 1969. During this time, Frans Kaisiepo was the governor of Papua. According to the referendum, the people of Papua were determined to join Indonesia. Through the Resolution No.2504 on 19 November 1969, Papua (including now-West Papua) was officially declared as part of Indonesia.

Other Papuan heroes are Marthen Indey and Silas Papare. Silas Papare was the leader of the Irian Indonesian Independence Party or Partai Kemerdekaan Indonesia Irian (PKII). Meanwhile, Marthen Indey joined the guerrilla while assisting Indonesian soldiers who landed in Papua during the Tri Komando Rakyat (Trikora) movement. Both of them fought for the integration of Papua with the Republic of Indonesia as it was believed that Papua has always been a part of Indonesia.