The OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka) or Free Papua Movement is the primary body of the independence struggle of the West Papuan people and was born on 26 July 1965 with the first mass uprising at Kebar. On this day 14,000 Papuan militia led by brothers Loedwik and Barren Mandatjan, along with soldiers who deserted the Papua Battalion, and hundreds of others attacked and destroyed Indonesian military and police posts, and declared an independent Papuan State.
Two days later 400 armed militia led by Ferry Awom attacked Indonesian Battalion 641 in Arfak seizing 1,000 arms and laying home-made mines. These were the first major uprisings of the West Papuan people and the creation of the OPM. OPM’s history, structure, and evolution is detailed in Otto Ondawame’s book ‘One People, One Soul’ (see Books in Resources).
In 1961 however, West Papua was registered with the United Nations as a Non-Self-Governing Territory of The Netherlands and firmly on the path towards independence. The people had created the New Guinea Council as a national representative body, regional councils, and within these, any number of village councils reflecting the decentralised and autonomous social system. Furthermore the people had: proclaimed to be called Papuans; their country to be called West Papua; promulgated their Morning Star national flag; and their national anthem ‘Hai Tanahku Papua’.
On 1 December 1961, The Netherlands recognised West Papua’s planned independence raising the Morning Star flag alongside The Netherlands flag. It was witnessed by dignitaries from around the world. West Papuans also accompanied representatives of The Netherlands to the UN General Assembly and participated in regional bodies in preparation for independence.
Australia too, having administration over the territory in the eastern side of the Papua island, was coordinating administration with The Netherlands so that the people could have the opportunity to unite as one nation.
On 1 October 1962 however, this Non-Self-Governing Territory was illegally transferred to the United Nations following covert intervention by the US government. The United Nations then transferred administration to Indonesia on 1 May 1963, again in breach of international law (see Journal Articles in Resources).
In 1969 a fraudulent ‘act of free choice’ was conducted by Indonesia, hand-picking 1026 Papuans to represent the total population estimated at close to one million people. That represents 0.1%. They ‘voted’ unanimously to be taken over by Indonesia. The United Nations Secretariat failed its duty to assist, failed to apply international standards of ‘one person, one vote’ and manipulated UN proceedings. The Secretary-General’s report on West Papua was only ‘noted’ by the General Assembly in resolution 2504. A UN resolution recognising West Papua’s transfer to Indonesia has never been drafted let alone ‘approved’.
The OPM then moved quickly to strengthen the movement and fight for independence. Seth Rumkorem and Jakob Prai proclaimed a unilateral declaration of independence in 1 July 1971 as the ‘Republic of West Papua’. They created a cabinet, constitution, and currency. This declaration was recognised by Senegal, Vanuatu and others in the international community.
The OPM established 3 wings – military, political, and diplomatic – in order to further their struggle and these continue to this day.
The military wing, TPNPB, has recently reorganised under a united management structure. They have expanded defenses to include 33 regional commands across the country. With ongoing oppression, terror, transmigration, and alleged genocide (see Journal Articles), TPNPB recommenced guerrilla warfare for national liberation in 2017 and continues to this day.
OPM political and diplomatic wings are currently focused on:
- seeking international mediation;
- seeking UN Members support;
- campaigning for UN peacekeepers to protect the civilian population; and,
- investigating legal avenues for redress.