Since Indonesia took over West Papua from UNTEA on 1 May 1963 West Papuans were tortured and killed by the Indonesian military forces. Because of the Indonesian intimidation methods the Papuan leaders and the youth were forced to form a liberation movement to protect the identity and dignity of the indigenous Melanesians in West Papua along with their history.
In March 1965 Permenas (Ferry) Awom and Terianus Aronggear formed Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) in Manokwari. Johan Ariks, elderly Papuan leader, Lodewijk Mandatjan and Barent Mandatjan (brothers and leaders of the Arfak tribes) came to bless Organisasi Papua Merdeka. Biak, Sukarnapura (present Jayapura), Ajamaru and Central Berg land joined the struggle as well. There was a continuous struggle against the Indonesian oppression and occupation.
On 22 June 1971 a general meeting was held in Markas Victoria in preparation for the Unilateral Proclamation of 1 July 1971. The text of the Unilateral Proclamation was proposed by two of the participants and was accepted. Indonesia had used the same method of Unilateral Proclamation on 17 August 1945 by Sukarno-Hatta prior to achieving sovereignty on 27 December 1949 from The Netherlands (West New Guinea under the Netherlands Administration-article 2 Charter of Transfer of Sovereignty).
On 1 July 1971, the leader of the resistance movement, Brigadier General Seth Jafeth Rumkorem and his comrades proclaimed unilaterally Papua Barat or West Papua (the Papuan name of the territory of the former Netherlands New Guinea) as an independent, democratic republic, complete with a National Liberation Army, a Provisional Constitution, a Provisional Government, a Provisional Senate and a National Liberation Council (Provisional Parliament) as well as other needed institutions.
West Papua has fulfilled the conditions to form a state.
- West Papua had the territory of former Netherlands New Guinea.
- West Papua had its population.
- West Papua had a National Government of the Republic of West Papua.
The right of self-determination, the country’s independence, and its international recognition are the things that the National Government of the Republic of West Papua and its people are seeking.
By continuing the occupation of West Papua, Indonesia is against the spirit and the letter of its constitution, which in the first and second lines of its preamble states, “Whereas independence is the inalienable right of all nations, therefore, all colonialism must be abolished in this world as it is not in conformity with humanity and justice”.
West Papuan men and women organized in a guerilla movement (OPM as Umbrella Organization), are presently resisting the Indonesian Army. Ten thousand people had to flee to Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1984 and many are still living in refugee camps along the border with PNG. Even in those camps the refugees cannot be sure of their safety. The Indonesian Army was reported to have crossed the border of PNG many times.
The Indonesian population transfer programs constitute a severe and direct threat to the survival of the indigenous peoples of West Papua. Indonesians were forced to be relocated and transferred from densely populated islands in Indonesia to the so-called outer island (West Papua). The influx of sponsored and of so-called spontaneous migrants threatens to create a situation in which the Indonesian settlers outnumber the indigenous populations, taking their places in the economic and social sectors.
During the last 50 years, vast areas of West Papua have been granted as concessions to multinational, transnational and Indonesian mining, oil and illegal logging companies without consultation and compensation to Papuan landowners or approval by the indigenous peoples who have inherited these lands from their ancestors who held them for 40,000 years. Many indigenous communities who have little contact with industrialization or large-scale commercial activity have been forcibly removed from their ancestral lands or made to leave through intimidation and bribery to make way for the exploitation of natural resources.
Moreover, the operations of the mining companies, particularly PT Freeport Indonesia/PT-FI (Freeport Ltd Co.) in West Papua, have caused enormous tension, which has often led to wars between the tribes in the area.
The lands of the Amungme, for instance, have been mined for gold and copper since 1967 by a subsidiary of the US based Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold. Throughout the years the Amungme people have conducted a non-violent fight against the company. In April 1995, the Australian Council for Overseas Aid produced a report denouncing the killing of 37 West Papuans by the Indonesian army while they were demonstrating peacefully.