Faces of West Papua struggle from left to right: Andy Ayamiseba, Benny Wenda, Barak Sope, Rex Rumakiek, and Paula Makabory pose with final declarations
“I as the founder of the Free West Papua Movement or Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) want to acknowledge and support the United Liberation Movement of West Papua that it is a political organisation that carries the spirit of OPM that will continue the struggle and fulfill its final mission, which is establishing the full independence and sovereign Republic of West Papua."
The statement has been sent by Jacob (Yakob) Prai from his home away from home in Sweden on December 28 of 2017, after meeting the Chairman of ULMWP, Benny Wenda.
The statement under official OPM letterhead states, “Therefore, in the name of God, this holy struggle, the ancestors of Papua, all our fallen heroes, the tears and suffering of the people of West Papua that continue to struggle from the jungles of New Guinea, mountains, valleys, islands, prisons, refugee camps as well as all those who live in exile in many parts of the world, that I as the leader of OPM and the founder of the struggle of free Papua, fully support and give full mandate to Mr. Benny Wenda as the leader of ULMWP and the political wing of OPM, to carry out the task as the leader of the nation of Papua.
“I thank the leaders and the people of West Papua, I hope that this recognition serves as a guideline to free the nation of Papua from Indonesian colonialism."
His statement has received unanimous endorsement by the ULMWP Executive in the lobby of the Grand Hotel in Port Vila.
In a separate statement to support Jacob Prai’s historic confirmation of support for ULMWP, Executive members Andy Ayamiseba (for Legal CounseL) and Rex Rumakiek (for National Liberation Army of WP) declare, “We, the undersigned senior members of the independence movement of West Papua, the OPM recognise the importance of national unity in our struggle for independence.
“We also recognise the role undertaken by respected leaders of Vanuatu to bring about unity in the West Papuan struggle.
"Two national leaders in particular need commendation.
"They are the current Deputy Prime Minister, Honourable Joe Natuman and former Prime Minister Barak Maautamate Sope."
The statement reminds the world about how West Papua’s first application to join MSG was deferred on the grounds that the movement lacked broad based support.
Deputy Prime Minister Natuman requested the formation of a West Papua Unification Committe that brought together West Papua leaders to Vanuatu where the Saralana Declaration of Unity was signed by all representatives of West Papua factions present.
Another historical leader, Barak Maautamate Sope has a long history of uniting different factions of the West Papua independence movement. In 1985 he invited two key leaders of OPM, Jacob Prai and (now deceased) Brigedier General Seth Rumkorem led by (now deceased) Theys Elluay, to Vanuatu where they signed a memorandum of understanding to work together. In 2000 he (then Prime Minister Barak Sope) included the two groups in his delegation to the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York. The Vanuatu Mission at the UN also facilitated an audience with the Decolonization Committee of 24.
The signing ceremony of the Port Vila Declaration was also witnessed by Andy Ayamiseba and Rex Rumakiek, who also signed the 'Statement in support of Mr. Jacob Prai on his recognition and support for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua'.
Barak Sope also graced the signing ceremony at the Grand Hotel.
Asked to update the readers on what it was that prompted him and the late Father Walter Lini and other leaders of the Independence Struggle to take the stand that they took, he said the colonial history of all Pacific Islands were similar - cruel. "This is why Father Lini and all of us declared that Vanuatu would not be completely free until West Papua was free because today it is still colonised by Indonesia," Sope says.
He criticizes Australia and Indonesia for alleged human rights abuse on West Papuans. "East Timor was the same and Vanuatu stood firmly for the freedom of the Timorese. Last year my wife and I were invited to Dili by the President of East Timor who awarded me the Order of East Timor for Vanuatu's stand with its people for their freedom," he says,
In addition he says Portugual had colonised East Timor and later Indonesia annexed it until under international outcry, it gave in to its freedom. Now Indonesia is doing exactly the same thing to West Papua.
When Sope was secretary general of the Vanua'aku Pati and Secretary of Foreign Affairs, he was mandated by Father Lini to unify FLNKS of New Caledonia and West Papua. "Now FLNKS is a member of MSG and yet, all the processes were done even before MSG was born. To get Prai and Rumkorem to come together, I had to travel to Europe to invite them to come to Vanuatu along with Brother Andy and Brother Rex," he recalls.
He says Prai and Rumkorem were afraid of each other but at the end of it all, they agreed to unite and the Port Vila Declaration was signed at his family home on Ifira in 1985. "So today I am proud to know that Jacob Prai and the miltary arm of West Papua have agreed to become one with ULMWP," Sope concludes.
ULMWP leaders say its endorsement signals their final declaration ending approximately 50 years of independence struggle as they prepare to attend the Melanesian Spearhead Group Meeting in Port Moresby next week, to hear the outcome of their application for full membership to join MSG. In fact they have already left and VCC representative Job Dalesa confirms the Chairman of ULMWP, Benny Wenda and Octavianus Mote have been allowed to attend the MSG meeting next week.
Meanwhile Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ralph Regenvanu says as far as he was aware on Tuesday this week, West Papua was not on the MSG proposed agenda.
He has since written to the relevant authorities to make sure that West Papua is included, and promised to follow up on the issue with a phone call to his Papua New Guinea counterpart yesterday afternoon.
The Minister says after three o'clock yesterday afternoon that he was not able to get through to his PNG counterpart on the phone but that he has written to the MSG hosts to remind them to make sure that West Papua is on the agenda. "I am leaving for PNG tomorrow (today) and I will make sure that West Papua is included on the agenda", he concludes.