Returning OPM founder renounces independence
Nicolas Jouwe, cofounder of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) has arrived in Jakarta after 40 years exile in the Netherlands to renounce the restive province’s indepen-dence struggle, officials here said Thursday. The 84-year old Papuan figure fled to the Netherlands in the 1950s and has not returned to Indonesia until now. He was said to have created the banned Morning Star flag for the rebel group.
Nicolas arrived Wednesday in Jakarta for talks with government leaders aimed at helping put an end to more than 40 years of hostility between the country and the OPM. He will meet Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Aburizal Bakrie on Friday and will travel to Papua soon. “Nicolas Jouwe is the only OPM founding father who is still alive. He is intelligent and was fully committed to an independent Papua,” Indonesian Ambassador to the Netherlands J.E. “Fany” Habibie said at a press conference here Thursday.
“He had refused to meet with Indonesian officials for dozens of years, but finally, he is willing to come to Indonesia. He even said he wants to be President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s adviser on Papua matters,” he said. Fany said Nicolas changed his stance after their meeting in the Netherlands, in which they were engaged in light and serious talks and even shared jokes and exchanged quatrains in the Ambonese language.
“I told him I didn’t want Papua to be my neighbour, but I wanted it to be my family. I said the condition has changed now; there are schools, houses… The government has changed,” Fany said. He said Nicolas asked the central government to impose sanctions on local officials embezzling Papua’s special autonomy funds. Nicolas also called on OPM members to cease their separatist movement and support the unitary state of Indonesia.
“(I hereby) call all Papuan fighters in jungles and abroad to rebuild Papua within the frame of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia,” Fany said, quoting a written statement from Nicolas. However, this seemingly significant step toward peace for Papua is still fragile, the ambassador said, warning the government to handle this matter very carefully.
Fany held a meeting with Nicolas in late February, following the recent arrival of an Indonesian delegation to “lobby” the senior separatist leader in the Netherlands. It was President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who sent the delegation after military operations have failed to stop the separatist fighting. Aburizal’s special assistant Rizal Mallarangeng said it was too early to expect the OPM to instantly halt its operations just because of Nicolas’ renouncement.
He said Nicolas is not a structural leader of OPM, and the rebel group is not a solid organization. “However, symbolically he still has a huge moral influence for OPM activists and at the international level. This will help us in international diplomacy,” Rizal said. He said Indonesia would try to convince Nicolas that development, and not independence, was the solution to combat poverty in Papua.
Source : The Jakarta Post
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