Neles Tebay - Jubi

Eliminate the “Smoke” of the ULMWP

Neles Tebay - Jubi

Neles Tebay – Jubi

By Neles Tebay

VARIOUS mass media at home and abroad have covered the official opening of the office of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) which took place on 15 February 2016 in Wamena, Jayawijaya, Papua. With this inauguration, the ULMWP now has offices in three places: in Vanuatu, in the Solomon Islands, and in Wamena.

The Government’s reaction

The initial reaction of the Government was to deny the news about the inauguration of the ULMWP Office in Wamena. The Head of Information for the Regional Military Command XVII/Cendrawasih, Lt.Col Teguh Puji Rahardjo denied that the Free Papua Movement (OPM) has established a ULMWP Office in Wamena (, 17/2). The Cenderawasih Regional Military Command announced that there was no evidence that the OPM had established an office in Wamena (Liputan 6.Com, 17/2). President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, through a spokesman, Johan Budi, also denied reports about the opening of the ULMWP Office in Wamena (, 17/2).


Although there was denial concerning this inauguration on the side of the Government, it turned out that the police and the local government of Jayawijaya managed to take down the ULMWP Office signboard in Wamena (, 16/2). Albeit indirectly, the taking down of the signboard itself confirmed the reports on the establishment and inauguration of the ULMWP Office.

According to Papua Police Chief, Inspector General of Police Paulus Waterpauw, the ULMWP is prohibited from conducting activities in Indonesia, including in Papua (, 18/2). The prohibition was implemented because ULMWP activities are contrary to positive law and statutory provisions which are in force in Indonesia. The presence of the ULMWP as an organization, according to Waterpauw, is contrary to the integrity of the Indonesian Republic.

For the Government, any attempt to establish a ULMWP Office, by whoever and wherever within the Republic of Indonesia, is to be seen as an act of violation of Indonesian law.  For that reason, the establishment of the ULMWP Office in Wamena was categorized as an offense and the police lowered the office signboard.

Subsequently, the police started looking for the parties who violated the law. The Police have called in a number of people as witnesses, among others, Father John Jonga, Engelbertus Surabut, and Bonny Mulait. It appears that Markus Haluk and Edison Waromi will also be summoned by the police

According to Jayawijaya Police Chief Adjunct Senior Commissioner Ronny Semmy Thaba, suspects will be charged with Makar (treason or rebellion), under Article 106 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code (KBR, 3/3). The Police categorizes the  establishment of the ULMWP Office as an act of treason. Thus, the suspects will be brought to court and imprisoned, as has been the case over the years, for the last 10 to 20 years. The application of the Article on Treason (Makar) will evidently increase the number of Papuan political prisoners (tapol).

Discover the fire itself

The question that needs to be pondered upon by all the parties is the following: How could ULMWP offices be prevented from being established once and for all, both at home and abroad? To answer this question, we must have a proper understanding of the opening of such ULMWP offices. We need to know that the ULMWP is a political umbrella organization of all the Papuan resistance groups that associate themselves with the OPM (Free Papua Movement) which strives for the independence of West Papua. Accordingly, the ULMWP is a political organization by nature, and not a criminal group. Hence, the establishment of a ULMWP Office is a political activity. If the establishment of a ULMWP office is put in question, then the problem must be viewed from a political standpoint, rather than a legal standpoint. Taking cases concerning the creation of ULMWP offices into the realm of the law means that efforts are being made to criminalize a political issue. Clearly, following that path will not lead to a solution to the Papuan problem, because a political problem calls for a political solution.

Applying the “Treason” Article (Makar) would not begin to address, let alone resolve, the political issues underlying the establishment of the ULMWP Office in Wamena.  The founders of the ULMWP Office, or all those who attended the inauguration ceremony may be imprisoned, tortured and even killed. But all of these measures will not solve the political problems that pushed towards the formation of the ULMWP and the establishment of its representation offices.

We can liken the activity of the establishment and the inauguration of the ULMWP Office in Wamena to a puff of smoke. Smoke rises because there is fire. Smoke indicates the presence of fire. The smoke could be driven out, cleared and we could try to make it disappear. But all efforts to get rid of the smoke would be futile, since the smoke will always reappear as long as the fire which produces the smoke has not been extinguished. Accordingly, the inauguration of the ULMWP Office can be likened to a puff of smoke that indicates the presence of a fire that is still smoldering. The ULMWP office signboard may be forcefully taken down, suspects may be imprisoned or even killed, but all of this will only result in the temporary disappearance of the ULMWP smoke. Because as long as the political issue, which represents the fire which produces the ULMWP smoke, has not been discovered and extinguished, the ULMWP smoke will rise again. We will continue to be presented with news about the opening of ULMWP Offices in various places, both at home and abroad.

The most appropriate way to stop the ULMWP smoke, once and for all, is the path of dialogue. In effect, the government should respond to the activities surrounding the establishment of a ULMWP Office by engaging in dialogue with the ULMWP. The Government and the OPM, represented by the ULMWP, must meet to identify the fire or the problems which led to the establishment of the ULMWP Office, and jointly seek a political solution that is acceptable to both parties. Once they get to the root of the problem and they solve it, never again will there be ULMWP offices set up at home or abroad.

In effect, the Police could use the inauguration event of the ULMWP Office in Wamena as a reason to encourage President Jokowi to start a dialogue with the ULMWP. (*)

The author is a lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and coordinator of the Papua Peace Network in Abepura.

You might also like