GETTING TO KNOW FRANS KAISIEPO: Papuan Figure Who Fights for Indonesian Nationalism

(Photo Credit: pikiran-rakyat.com)

Annalia Bahar — December 2020

It is inevitable that there have been debates about the idea of Papua independence. Some arguments say that Indonesia is unable to ensure the welfare of the Papuan. Besides, others emphasize on the historical background in which Papua was claimed to be a separated part of Indonesia.

However, it must be noted that Papua as part of Indonesia has developed in various fields ranging from politics, economics, to human resources. Diversity as Indonesia’s biggest social capital acknowledges differences in terms of racial, culture, and tradition; thus many Javanese, Minangnese, Buginese, and other races in Indonesia simply call Papua as their family.

The debate is clearly not going to slow down in the meantime. So, it is good for us to reflect from this Papuan figure.

Who doesn’t know Frans Kaisiepo, the Papuan native whose face is featured on the Rp.10,000 paper bill? This Papuan native actually has a big service for Indonesia.

Frans Kaisiepo was born on October 10, 1921 in a city outside the Papua mainland, Wardo, Biak. Today his name is used as the name of the airport. From his struggle, the name Irian was born, an acronym for ‘Ikut Republik Indonesia Anti Nederland’.

Young Frans was among the first Papuans to wave the Red and White and sang the song of “Indonesia Raya” in Papua, which Franky Sahilatua said was “a little paradise that fell to earth”. When Papua was still occupied by the Dutch, Frans was an active figure and experienced the ups and downs moment in upholding the existence of the Republic of Indonesia in Papua.

Nationalist Actor

On 18 July 1946, Kaisiepo played his part in Malino with great enthusiasm. As a delegation from Papua, Kaisiepo did not always represent Dutch interests. He supported the Papua region to be integrated into the State of East Indonesia (NIT). However, Kaisiepo refused to let Papua come under the presidency of Maluku and wanted the region to be led by Papuans themselves.

Moreover, when he was the head of Mimika district in 1961, Frans Kaisiepo established the Irian Sebagian Indoensia (ISI) political party. The goal of this party was demanding for the integration of Papua into the Republic of Indonesia. In the same year, President Sukarno announced Trikora. Through ISI, Kaisiepo played a significant role in assisting the landing of Indonesian volunteers deployed to Mimika.

Since the recognition of sovereignty, the Papua region has been disputed between Indonesia and the Netherlands. The Netherlands suspended the surrender of this territory due to political and economic interests. Meanwhile Indonesia received recognition of the Papua region in the New York Agreement on August 15, 1962.

In 1964, Kaisiepo was appointed as the Governor to replace Eliezer Jan Bonay — an anti-colonial figure but also opposed to the arbitrariness of the Indonesian government over the Papuan people, so that he had to lose his position. He was even detained, and after being free, he went to the Netherlands to support the Free Papua Organization until his death in 1989.

During his leadership, Kaisiepo was determined to win Indonesia in the determination of people’s opinion (Pepera) — which was stipulated in the New York Agreement — in 1969 and continued to voice the existence of Papua as part of Indonesia.

Papua for Indonesia

Frans returned to Biak at the end of August 1945. His Indonesian spirit was still alive. Not only when he was with his teacher in Biak, on August 31, 1945, Frans held a ceremony, along with the raising of the Red and White flag and singing the song “Indonesia Raya”.

August 31 is usually celebrated as the birthday of the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina. The Dutch NICA official named Raden Abdul Kadir Widjojotmodjo in Indonesia certainly did not like that.

As an influential district head in Biak, the Dutch NICA government certainly felt the need to be close to Frans. However, NICA could not win over Frans’s heart. Frans was often invited to participate in forums involving the Dutch in Eastern Indonesia. At the end of 1946, Frans was invited to attend the Malino Conference, a small town near Makassar. Frans was the only representative of Papua there. He prefered to call the entire Papua region as Irian.

Even though the Dutch were often involved in various big agendas, Frans was still a man with a firm and strong opinion. He is a fighter who invited Papua as part of Indonesia. For him, Indonesia will continue and always be the identity of his struggle for the people in Papua.

This is indeed a long time ago reflection, Papuan leaders have recognized that Papua is the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia. Papua is part of the Republic of Indonesia. Although progress has not been equal and evenly distributed, according to some arguments, we somehow have to appreciate the progress made, and hope that various progress will be advanced in the near future.

Therefore, it is critical to stop spreading negative and provocative news, and focus on building a progressive and prosperous Papua.(*)

This piece fully represents the writer’s idea. It does not express any ideas or stances of specific institutions or organizations she/he works at or is affiliated with.

Enriching discourse and understanding. A protest to Indonesian govt that unsuccessfully serves the world fair info about West Papua.