King Machmud Singgirei Rumagesan: Hero of Papua for Indonesia

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Rudi Kurniawan Dahlan — November 2020

Papua now consist of two provinces, namely West Papua and Papua. It is part of a long history of the country of Indonesia. Papua has been recorded in the year 1365 in the book of Negara Kertagama written by Mpu Prapanca for King Hayam Wuruk. In verse 14, the names of the places mentioned in the book like Wwanin (Onin, near Fakfak), then Seran (Kowiai, near Kaimana) and Wandan (a place on the island of Nieuw Guinea). The records in this era of Majapahit proved that Papua was a historical part of an Indonesia that is called Nusantara.

From the Fakfak area, a Papua hero was born. He was against the Dutch colonial government and also fought for Papua to become part of the countryof Indonesia. The man was Machmud Singgirei Rumagesan. He is rarely discussed in the mass media or in public. Machmud S Rumagesan was the king of the Sekar region, with entitled Raja Al-Alam Ugar Sekar, or now in the area of Fakfak.

Sekar is not really a big kingdom either from the coverage of the territory or from the population. It was considered king as a local leader of the region but called king or Raja in Indonesian language. The Kings of the West Papua region were under control of Tidore Sultanate in Maluku. They received the title of King from the Sultan of Tidore for small territories in their own jurisdiction. These kings were administrative and the length of the power of Tidore more functioned to take crops or tax for the Sultanate.

Religion of King Rumagesan was Islam. Islam exists long before the Dutch came into control of Papua. The interaction between West Papua and Tidore has caused the inhabitants of the region to be Muslim. The Sultanate of Tidore fully controlled the islands between Nieuw Guinea and Halmahera. They have planted their influence since the 16th century. Meanwhile, the Christian religion carried by the Zending and brought to Papua in 1855 with the the arrival Carl Wilhelm Ottow and Johann Gottlob Geissler in Manokwari.

Opposing Colonialism

In 1898 was the early enforcement of Dutch rule directly in West Papua. Tidore Sultanate no longer played there, even they no longer take advantage of the taxes of West Papua. The Dutch then tried to build the economy of region by hiring laborers for the Dutch company, Maatschapijj Colijn.

The Netherlands was arbitrarily paying labor salaries. This made King Rumagesan irate and demanded the Dutch colonialists to fulfill the required conditions that were proposed by the king. These demands included asking Maatschapijj Colijn to hand the salary over of the Labour to the King Rumagesan and he would be continuing submission to his people. It was important to make sure there were no abuses by the Dutch government to the people of Papua

Since then it appeared a friction between the Dutch government with the King Rumagesan related to wage issue of employment. The people apparently stood behind the King Rumagesan. Even in 1934, 73 followers of the King Rumagesan were arrested by the colonial government. The king was sentenced to 15 years and exiled to Saparua. While his followers were imprisoned in Fakfak with varying years up to 10 years.

This conflict began in May 1934 when Kokas people upset to hear the conflict between the King Rumagesan with Maatschapijj supervisor named Van Cen Terwijk. The people’s rage could not be controlled so they plan to kill Van Cen Terwij. The plan was then leaked. Consequenstly Dutch sent a ship containing soldiers from Fakfak to Kokas. The army then surrounded the house of King Rumagesan and arrested him. Soldiers then took him to Fakfak and imprisoned him without a trial.

Three days later the 73 people who planned to rebel were also arrested and jailed in Fakfak. The colonial army tortured them in prison. After the judiciary, the people were sentenced to different period ranging from 2 to 10 years. While King Machmud Singgerei Rumagesan was punished for 15 years.

From Jail to Jail

It was not only one time, King Rumagesan was thrown into the prison by the Dutch army. During the occupation of the Dutch who returned after the proclamation of Indonesia independence, King Rumagesan was again thrown into jail. This time even the Dutch army had several times moved the king from one jail to another jail in different cities or region. It was recorded that king Rumagesan was moved from jail in Sorong, then to Manokwari. Later, he was sent to Hollandia prison and then in Makasar outside Papua.

In 1942 Japan forces entered Indonesia and expelled the Dutch army, the Japanese Army also liberated King Rumagesan. At this time King Rumagesan chose to collaborate with the Japanese Army. The king was impressed by the Japanese operations, leading all forms of resistance against the allied armies who was considered to be enemies for all Asians. And surely King Rumagesan was not the only one who has such feeling, even Bung Karno was also captivated with the Japanese operations.

The Japanese occupation did not last long. Japan was later defeated by the Allies forces. The Dutch army then returned to Papua and made further conflict against Papuan. King Rumagesan disagreed with the return of the Netherlands. It seems like this momentum has raised the sense of Indonesia nationalism of King Machmud Singgerei Rumagesan. This could be understood because during the second Dutch occupation, Indonesia has already proclaimed its independence in 1945. Indonesia’s independence triggered the spirit of Rumagesan nationalism to fight and escape the bondage of Dutch colonialism.

Then on March 1st, 1946, as a form of demonstration King Rumagesan pulled down the Dutches flag. Then he planned to fight against the Dutch soldiers, repeating what he had done in 1934. This time even the king was able to collect 40 guns to fight the Dutch. Unfortunately, the plan was known to Dutch before hand. Rumagesan was then arrested again in the early morning during his way to mosque for fajr prayer .

The prison in Sorong-Doom became the place for Rumagesan. But not for long he was then moved to Manokwari because the Netherlands saw the king had a strong influence on other inmates in Sorong.

While King Machmud Rumagesan was in Manokwari prison, he continued to give Indonesian nationalism influence on the prison environment. Even the prison warden who worked for the Dutch army who was a local man finally decided to quit as the warden. These young men names were Hawai, Kawab and Nihkawi and then planned to burn Manokwari’s jail. But the Dutch knew the plan and prevented the action.

That event influenced the Dutch to re-transferred King Machmud Rumagesan to other prisons. This time they moved the king to Hollandia or now known as the city of Jayapura. The Dutch hoped the transfer would eliminate the king’s influence on other prisoners. Instead of becoming more isolated, King Rumagesan was appointed by other prisoners as the chairmen of the prisoners. “If you have been released out of this place someday, tell your friends who love freedom to remain vigilant. The fighting must continue against the Netherlands, even thou shalt perish for it. Fight continuously until we are independent together with Indonesia “.

The king never was deterred to make spread understanding of the importance of independence and continued to tell other to join their brethren outside of Papua fighting for independence. The spirit of resistance was recorded by the B.W. van Milligen. He wrote in the memory when he handed over his position as follows: “The King of Sekar (King Machmud Singgirei Rumagesan) was a very anti-Dutch man. He was never willing to do anything in the interest of the Dutch colonial government”.

The Dutch had also isolated King Rumagesan in a special jail. No one had permission to have a contact to the king Rumagesan. This punishmen was served for 6 months. Even then the court had briefly sentenced him to death. But then the death sentence was converted into a lifelong prison due to the insistence of the people and also the resistance of his lawyer. Then the Dutch government decided to transfer the king out of jail in Papua to Jail in Makasar on 5 December 1949.

In Makasar, the king of Rumagesan did not stay for a long time in prison. This was due to the end of the year 1949, there was negotiations between Indonesia and the Netherlands in Hague, known as the Round Table Conference. The conference resulted an agreement to end Dutch occupation in Indonesia except in Papua. King Rumagesan was freed soon after the conference reached that agreement.

Fighting for Papua integration

The results of Round Table Conference left a home work for Indonesia. Netherland had been controlling the region. They had promised to talk about Papua one year after the round table conference. But it never happened.

After King Rumagesan was released out of prison, he met Sukarno to give his support for Indonesia’s independence and stated that he would fight for Papua’s freedom from the Dutch colonialism just like the rest of Indonesia islands. King Rumagesan then established the Tjendrawasih Revolutionary Movement of West Irian or abbreviated as GTRIB. The organization was led by Machmud Singgirei Rumagesan, A. J Dimara as the 1st deputy of Chairman, Andi Baso as the 2nd deputy of chairman and A. Rambitan as general secretary.

GTRIB called on the Indonesian government to form a local government for Papua as part of Indonesia. This proposal was considered very important to rival the Dutch government that still occupy Papua. Even GTRIB suggested that Indonesian Governement should established a local government of Papua led by a Governor. The governor position should filled by native Papuaan which still applied by the Indonesian government until now.

King Machmud Singgirei Rumagesan’s struggle for Papua Independence since the Dutch colonial era, the occupation of Japan and the second Dutch occupation after the year 1945, showed his patriotism, and spirit which never last until his death. But his desire to return and to see West Papua Land free from the bondage of Dutch colonization was achieved when he returned to on 15 May 1964 to his hometown. Sadly, it was just only for two months later he breathed for the last, precisely on 5 July 1964.

His various resistance and tactics as well as services to liberate West Papua and join Indonesia should be rewarded from the Indonesian government. It’s time for the government to acknowledge king Machmud Singgirei Rumagesan role for Indonesia and become one of indonesian national hero from 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.