Ref: Rebuttal to the news article by Rohan Radhey; The Chinese mechanic who secretly led a 40-year Melanesian revolution published by RNZ on 1:32 pm, 28th of May 2020.
Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Free Papua Movement, OPM or FPM) is the National Liberation Organization of the people of West Papua which originated in the sixties to fight against the illegal Indonesian occupation of West Papua. As such, it is also the principal guardian of the West Papua struggle for independence and on behalf of its Political, military and intelligence wings, we write this rebuttal to express our leaders’ profound disappointment in the article; “The Chinese mechanic who secretly led a 40-year Melanesian revolution” published on your online news portal on the 28th of May, 2020 at 1: 32 pm. Radio New Zealand is, and always will be, one of the most reliable and neutral sources of information regarding the West Papuan struggle and RNZ’s contribution in reporting facts and events has always been very welcome and appreciated by observers and stakeholders in the region and the world. However, the Free Papua Movement also considers it its duty to speak up when information regarding the struggle is published erroneously, or is wrongfully antagonistic to the true picture of our organization and of our struggle.
The Free Papua Movement considers Mr. Tan Seng Thai as an extremely important asset to the organization; he is one of the elders who witnessed most of ourpredecessors’ struggle in the sixties
when West Papua became the stage for one of the most unfair, painful and violent but also incomplete, decolonization processes in the Pacific. He took part in the initial waves of resistance against the Indonesian oppression after the Dutch failed to fulfil their promise and duties towards their former colony (Dutch New Guinea) and he participated in, and witnessed all the milestones which constitute the basis of our struggle. The fighters in the jungles have always felt and still feel deep appreciation for his contribution in our struggle.
That is why the information published regarding Mr. Tan Seng Thai is information that should be verified thoroughly before publication for the purpose of ‘historical narratives’ and the maintenance of the struggle for liberation. The article was not written with the organization’s consent, nor was Mr. Tan informed that he was the subject of an article; dates and events described in the article may also have been divulged under confidentiality. This last point would understandably only be favourable to our enemies. The OPM concluded that the article was written by an unfriendly writer who can only be considered as hostile to the people of West Papua with an aim to ‘twist’ the currently held ‘historical narrative’ of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka for their own interests. This is something we strongly condemn. The OPM leadership in particular was deeply offended.
A true and complete account of the struggle, or a story describing an asset such as Mr. Tan, can only be made with the knowledge and consent of the OPM leadership; just like any other organization, the OPM cannot allow that bits and pieces of its history be published without its
knowledge, thereby giving an incomplete and false picture of the organization and its assets.
That is why this particular article is considered as hostile towards the OPM.
The OPM also feels that the article did not portray Mr. Tan with the respect he deserves as it portrays him as mere Chinese mechanic, unknown by the young generations of West Papuans.
The Papuan fighters in the jungles, and the younger generations who are aware of their
history have never forgotten this historical figure of the West Papuan struggle, former
Finance Minister in a West Papuan government composed of highly competent freedom fighters and skilled diplomats who were feared by the Indonesians but also watched closely by the Americans and the Dutch because of the incredible progress they managed to achieve.
For historical narratives to make sense, “the course of time” has to be organized in a coherent way. However, in this case the author twisted the story and jot in the “United Liberation Movement for West Papua” (ULMWP) established recently in 2014. The OPM which was founded in the sixties and the ULMWP are two different entities. They are not one and the same, as the article falsely tries to hint at. The OPM feels that Mr. Tan’s story is being misused to promote the ULMWP which has up until now discredited OPM’s senior leaders by abusing and misusing their good name, and created a rival army with the aim of rivalling with the genuine OPM-TPNPB freedom fighters, those who truly carry the burden of the struggle for a free West Papua on their shoulders, those who have never forgotten and who will never forget about Mr. Tan Seng Thai.
In light of the explanation outlined above, considering the significance of the subject of the article in the West Papua freedom struggle; the OPM and its leaders demand an apology and retraction of the article by both the author and the publisher in this case ‘Mr. Rohan Radhey’ and ‘Radio New Zealand International’ and to be published on the same online portal to let the readers know that OPM is still intact and the organization holds legitimacy in the eyes of the West Papuan people and strives to establish a free and independent West Papua the heart desires of the people of West Papua. We hope that this would set as a precedent for RNZ and other journalists to verify the sources before publication in regards to the subject matter. Find attached is the biography of the Chairman of OPM including the photos of important leaders of the OPM for your perusal.
Your understanding and cooperation is very much appreciated by the OPM leadership and the people of West Papua. Issued by the OPM-TPNPB Headquarters; Victoria, Prai-Rumkorem building on 30th of May, 2020.
LET-JEN. TPN PB
N.B.P : A-10503
Jeffrey Bomanak (Bomanak) was elected
Chairman of the Organisasi Papua
Merdeka (Free Papua Movement or OPM
FPM) on 12 February 2017 during the
Special Session (Sidang Istimewa) of the
OPM-TPNPB at Markas Victoria Headquarters. That is also where he was upgraded to the rank of Lieutenant-General by the Military Council on the basis of his abilities and knowledge as a (political) leader and proven military
Chairman of OPM-TPNPB
Early childhood memories
From a very young age, Bomanak witnessed firsthand the brutal oppression of Indonesian colonialism as his father who was a teacher would undergo multiple interrogations by the Indonesian military, including punishments and beatings throughout his career. He will never forget the sight of women in his village being raped by the soldiers as he was born and grew
up in a war situation, at the height of the Indonesian oppression in his region in the seventies.
From student leader to human rights defenders
Bomanak studied at the University of Science and Technology Papua, specializing for a Bachelor of Science in Geology from 2001 to 2006. As a student, he was very active in the Students movement, in particular the Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua (AMP). He was also active in other mass organizations which aspired to pro-democratic reforms and anti-militarism; in doing so, he contributed to the fact that more West Papuans became aware of their rights to express their own political opinions according to the law. It was a time of transition for Indonesia which was going from a highly militaristic rule towards democratic reforms.
Between 2003 and 2005, Bomanak was chairman of another well-known organization, Parliamen Jalanan Rakyat Papua (Street Parliament of the West Papuan People), which tried to address the vacuum created by the lack of proper and genuine representation in the officially recognized and Jakarta-controlled parliament of the region. Front Rakyat Papua Anti-Militerisme FRPAM (West Papua People’s Front Anti-militarism) is another organization where Bomanak and friends teamed up with Human Rights NGOs in Papua and successfully defended some victims of military brutality. In April 2005, he met with leaders and they formed a team to work towards the closing down of the freeport mine: Solidaritas
His actions led to the closing down of Freeport mine…
His activities and opinions did not go unnoticed: he was blacklisted by the Indonesian Government and was not given his final Degree Certificate which he had earned, in his final year. After Bomanak was denied his graduation by the University Council in Jayapura, he flew to Timika to organize the people on the ground who had been demanding compensation for the (environmental) destruction caused by the giant Freeport mine. His actions led to the closing down of the Freeport mine in order to demand negotiations with the mining giant.
While he was in Timika, a violent clash occurred between students and the Indonesian security forces during a demonstration in Jayapura. The Indonesian security forces opened fire on his fellow students and conducted brutal sweeps; many were tortured, killed and fled in the aftermath of what is now known as the
2006 Abepura incident or Abe Berdarah 2006. Although he was not in Jayapura at the time, the Indonesian authorities put Bomanak’s name on a most wanted list for the Abe Berdarah events. In Timika, the negotiations with Freeport were unsuccessful as the Indonesian Government was unwilling to settle the matter peacefully; they instead labelled the peaceful activists who had succeeded in shutting down Freeport as criminals and started hunting them down: Bomanak’s picture was circulated for his arrest, the Indonesian military and intelligence agencies put all their efforts in tracking him down to kill him. He was the one who had succeeded in shutting down Indonesia’s number one tax payer and vital asset for a considerable period: the Freeport mine.
The PNG Connection: from Human rights defender to negotiator and mediator
From then on, Bomanak was on the run and walked from Timika to his native Wamena and then to Jayapura, a journey though the dense jungle of West Papua, a jungle which embraced and protected him from harm. From Jayapura, he crossed to his main destination, the General Headquarters of the OPM-TPNPB, Markas Victoria, situated on liberated territory. By 2008, after having met with most of the upcoming leaders at the time and taking part in the creation of the KNPB, he crossed over to neighbouring Papuan New Guinea, where he also faced the long arm of the Indonesian intelligence.
He continued advocating and defending the rights of his fellow West Papuans, in the refugee camps where he saw the dire conditions they lived in, despite the danger he was facing himself. This was especially true during the so-called “Operation Sunset Merona” in January 2011 launched by the PNG Defence Forces, with the objective of catching OPM leaders, including himself. He rose to the occasion and took responsibility for his fellow countrymen and women who had been victimized and advocated on their behalf successfully so that the Operation would come to an end. Because of his strong abilities to connect with his
Melanesian brothers and sisters from Papua New Guinea, he was able to build bridges
between communities. He visited other Melanesian countries to further the plight of the West Papuans and build on strong networks: Bougainville, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Understanding History and Passing of Mandate to lead the OPM Before becoming the Chair of the OPM, Bomanak was able to meet and gather valuable information and teachings from senior OPM-TPN figures, such as Markas Victoria Military Adviser, Yordan Pieger, and regional military commanders in the field: the late Kelly Kwalik, the late Bernard Mawen, Goliath Tabuni, Lekagak Telenggen, Militer Murib, Okiman Wenda, but also Tiben Pagawak and Matias Wenda. It was during his meetings with them that he started envisioning and planning how to carry further this organization which had fought for the past decades but which needed to be reinvigorated. In 2013-2014, the picture became complete when he met with senior OPM figures in exile: Jacob Prai, the late John Otto Ondowame, Gerardus Thommey, Tan Seng Thai, Max Ireeuw and others. From then on, he returned to Markas Victoria Headquarters and worked on reinforcing this bastion of hope which is still standing strong today, in liberated territory.
Understanding and reviving Markas Victoria, Liberated Territory
The General Headquarters of the OPM-TPNPB, Markas Victoria had long been a target of Indonesia whose main objective is to destroy the struggle of the Papuan Nation. Markas Victoria Headquarters represents the main force of the struggle of the Papuan People.
Successive events led to the weakening of Markas Victoria: the split between Prai and Rumkorem and the military coup d’etat which claimed the lives of TPN military forces; the infiltration of Indonesian intelligence which eventually convinced Lambert Pekikir (who was in charge of Markas Victoria at the time) to engage in a joint “development” programme with the Indonesian colonial authorities called “Kerom Damai” (Peaceful Kerom), with as main objective to cripple Markas Victoria. This created a leadership vacuum in Markas Victoria.
Bomanak saw it fit to intervene, first by making sure that the “Peaceful Kerom” agreement was terminated. He subsequently took control of Victoria Headquarters, and restored structure and order through an Emergency Session (held in 2016) and a subsequent Special Session (held in February 2017) where he was chosen as Chairman of the OPM-TPNPB. That is also where he was upgraded to the rank of Lieutenant-General by the Military Council on the basis of his abilities and knowledge as a (political) leader and proven military exploits.
Bomanak received several trainings in negotiations, human rights and diplomacy. Upon returning from one of these trainings in Geneva in 2014, he established the NGO Human Rights for West Papua People Protection Association Incorporated (HRWPPPA INC.) in Port Moresby, which works in close cooperation with PNG Union for Free West Papua, the main network of organizations in Papua New Guinea which advocates for the rights of West Papuans.
PNG UNION FOR FREE WEST PAPUA (PNGUFWP)
In Papuan New Guinea, Bomanak joined and started working with several existing groups
which have always supported the West Papuan cause: Melanesian Solidarity (MELSOL), led by Tonny Fofoe, Partners with Melanesian (PwM), led by Kenn Mondiai, People’s Power Movement led by Noel Anjo Kolao, PNG Anti Corruption led by Lukas Kiap and Dilu Okuk, as well as individuals such as the lawyer, Melinda Kera and others. All of these organizations joined forces under PNG UNION FOR FREE WEST PAPUA (PNGUFWP), which is currently chaired by Mr. Kenn Mondiai and his Deputy Noel Anjo Kolao; this organization has two political leaders in the PNG parliament, namely Hon Powes Parkop and Hon Garry Juffa. Support of the churches in PNG, and in the Pacific in general, is also strong; in October 2016, Bomanak, on behalf of HRWPPPA and PNGUFWP, was able to attend the Regional
Conference of Council of Churches in the Pacific in Goroka where the support for the West Papuan cause was reiterated and strengthened through its final statements.
The PNG Union for Free West Papua (PNGUFWP) fully supports the work of Bomanak through their activities in PNG and other Melanesian countries, which include the following: demonstrations and protests are organized by PNGUFWP in order to draw the attention of Pacific countries on the West Papuan plight; in 2015, PNGUFWP co-hosted a 3-day Pacific Civil Society Organisations Forum as a lead up to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Port
Moresby; in 2018, PNGUFWP submitted a report entitled “Deteriorating Human Rights Situation in West Papua” to the PIF , requesting that “PIF countries continue to exert pressure on the relevant parties to organize as soon as possible and under good conditions the planned UN Human Rights mission to West Papua”.
During a Press Conference organized and facilitated by PNGUFWP in Port Moresby on 31 January 2019, TPNPB-OPM spokesperson, Sebby Sambon and TPNPB-OPM diplomat, Akouboo Douw joined Bomanak to deliver their message to the media. Bomanak said there will be no surrender of arms and that the fight will continue until world authorities hear the plea of West Papuans and take action. “The OPM will continue to resist and fight until the Indonesian colonial power recognizes the independence of the Papua Nation based on the Proclamation of 1 July 1971.” During the Press Conference, activist and Oro Governor Garry Juffa said: “While super powers preach about freedom, but turn a blind eye on this 57-year conflict”. He said the “entire region is not free until there is freedom in West Papua”.
National District Capital Governor, Powes Parkop called on the Government to come up with better policies to address the continuous human rights abuses in West Papua and urged the people of PNG to be brave and support this fight. “The situation inside West Papua is escalating, it will escalate further, and if it escalates further we will increase the problem, so we have to find solutions and not remain silent, fearful of Indonesia and not open our mouth to be saying what we should be saying, what is just and morally right for us to say.”