Tag Archives: moral force

Agus Alua and the Voices of Papua

Agus Alua and the Voices of Papua

originally posted at EngageMedia.org

Agus Alua was the former chair of Majelis Rakyat Papua (Papuan People’s Assembly) – a cultural representation of the indigenous Papuan people which has limited authority to protect the rights based on custom and culture, the empowerment of women, and the strengthening of a harmonious religious life.

Alua died on April 8, 2011 after receiving a phone call from Jakarta, and moments before the new MRP membership was to be sworn in. Activists said Alua was ousted from the MRP because of his strong stands against the Central Government’s Papua policies. Here’s how some Papuans see the inspirational man.

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Benny Giay shocked by death of Agus Alua, calls for MRP inauguration to be postponed

JUBI, 9 Apil, 2011

The chairman of the Synod of the KINGMI Church Papua, Dr Benny Giay said that the sudden death of Agus Alue Alua has come as a great shock not only to his family but to all West Papuans.

Agus Alua, the rector of the Theology College of Philosophy and
Theology, was a member of the last Majelis Rakyat Papua and his death occurred just as the second MRP was about to be sworn in, against the background of much controversy. [It is known too that although Agua Alua had been proposed as a member of the new MRP, his name was excluded under pressure from the government.]

‘Because the Indonesian government saw Agus Alua as a threat, they were not happy about him being a member of the new MPR. In the midst of all this, he died which has shocked us all,’ said Dr Giay.

He said that Agus Alua’s views were known to be opposed by the
government who regarded him as a separatist, which is why they did not want him to be chosen as a member of the new MRP.

Asked about what may have led to his death, Giay said he had frequently come under pressure from many sides, sometimes through messages on his cell phone or through direct terror threats.

All this is very likely to have been because of the decision adopted by the MRP at a meeting in 2010 when they adopted eleven recommendations, one of which called for a referendum in Papua about the status of Papua.

He said that the death of Agus should be seen as a crime against the basic rights of the Papuan people and aganst their rejection of special autonomy.

Dr Giay said that despite his death, the government was going ahead
with the inuguration of the new MRP although many were calling for this to be postponed, at the very least until after the period of mourning for the loss of Agus Alua.

He also called for all those who have been appointed to the new MRP to boycott the inauguration. He was hoping in particular that all 40
members from the Central Highlands would boycott the inauguration, out of respect for Agus Alua who was also from the Central Highlands.

Agus Alue Alua: A life of dedication to the Papuan People

Obituary of Agus Alue Alua
A life of dedication to the Papuan People 

Agus Alue Alua was born on 13 September 1962.  He studied at the Catholic secondary school Dok V, Jayapura and later worked as a teacher, then spent three years studying at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium.

From 1997, he took part in discussions within Catholic circles about the need to wage a struggle for the rights of the Papuan people, always stressing the importance of eschewing violence and pursuing the path of peace.

During the reformasi era that followed in the wake of the downfall of Suharto, he made good use of the newly-found freedoms to discuss such issues as development and the basic rights of the people of West Papua. Under discussion at the time were two alternatives for West Papua, autonomy or independence from Indonesia.

Agus Alua was one of several Papuan intellectuals to be appointed to the Committee of 100 which held important talks with President B.J. Habibie on 25 February 1999.  According to a colleague, he impressed everyone as he spoke with conviction and dignity: ‘We want our freedom,’ he said. ‘We want to organise our own homeland.’

The meeting ended inconclusively. The Papuans were advised to go away and consider their situation but the talks were never resumed. He was one of the first Papuans following that aborted encounter with Habibie to spread the idea about the need for dialog with Indonesia.

Catholic church leaders made good use of the more conducive political atmosphere to discuss the role of the church in Papua’s political struggle. While Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar OFM who was then the Bishop of the Jayapura Diocese, was hesitant about siding with the Papuan people, Agus who was a lecturer at the STFT -Fajar Timur (the High School of Philosophy and Theology) at the time challenged these thoughts, warning that if the Church failed to side with the Papuan people, he and others would set up a Papuan Catholic Church.

At the historic Second Papua Congress in June 2000, Agus Alua was elected deputy secretary-general of the Central Council of the newly-created PDP, the Papuan Presidium Council, one of two Papuans from the Central Highlands, along with Tom Beanal, and two from the coastal regions, one of whom was Theys Hijo Eluay, who became chairman of the PDP. Theys was assassinated in November 2001 by members of the army’s elite force, Kopassus. As a member of the PDP Central Council, Agus Alua played a key role in drafting documents that gave voice to the need to struggle for the Papuan people’s aspirations.

He later became the Rector of STFT-Fajar Timor, where he had previously been a student, as well as Director of the Catholic Senior Seminary. He also wrote and published several books about the culture of the Dani people and about a whole range of Papuan political issues.

However, the Papuan spring ended in 2002 when Kopassus agents infiltrated the PDP leadership and set about destroying the movement from within. Some of its leaders withdrew, several died under mysterious circumstances, while others gave up the struggle and threw in their lot with Indonesia. Agus remained true to the Papuan struggle, using all means possible at home and abroad, frequently visiting countries in the Pacific and Europe to win support for the Papuan people.

When the Special Autonomy Law, OTSUS, was enacted in October 2001, a special council composed solely of Papuans, the Majelis Rakyat Papua, the Papuan People’s Council, was set up which he recognised as an institution of crucial importance in the fight for Papuan aspirations. He became its first chairman with the support of Bishop Leo Ladjar, a position he held for the first five-year term of the Council till shortly before his death.

He fought strenuously throughout his term to expose the malicious strategies of the central government which sought to undermine OTSUS. From the start, the central government had been half-hearted about OTSUS and had even delayed its establishment for several years, fearing that it might become a springboard for Papuan political aspirations One of the moves from the central government to undermine the unity of the Papuan people was the decision to split West Papua into two provinces which Agus Alua vehemently opposed. He continually worked hard to counter the government’s attempts to create divisions and conflicts among the Papuan people.

After the creation of the two provinces, he insisted that there should be a single MPR and whenever Jakarta pushed for policies to undermine OTSUS, he strenuously resisted, along with his close colleagues Frans Wospakriek, former rector of Cendrawasih University, and Hanna Hikoyobi who was deputy secretary-general of the MRP.

Among the many central government decisions he opposed was Presidential Decree No 77 which banned the use of Papuan symbols such as the Morning Star flag, the mambruk bird and the Papuan song, Hai Tanahku Papua, insisting that these were legitimate cultural symbols provided for within the terms of OTSUS. Another of his decisions was to make it obligatory for all positions of leadership in the Papuan provinces and regions to be held by indigenous Papuans.

Before ending his term as chairman of the first MRP, Agus oversaw the adoption of eleven recommendations. These recommendations included a declaration that OTSUS had been a failure and should be returned to Jakarta, that there should be an internationally-mediated dialogue, facilitated by a neutral third party, and that a referendum should be held on the question of Papuan sovereignty. These eleven recommendations comprehensively set forth the basic demands of the Papuan people and continue to inspire the Papuan struggle to this day.

Agus Alua was always steadfast in his support for Papuan efforts to make Special Autonomy a reality against constant obfuscations from central government, and continually used his outstanding intellectual abilities to promote Papaun interests and aspirations.

At the time of his tragic death, the second-term MRP was due to be inaugurated amid disputes about its membership, with Jakarta rejecting the appointment of Agus Alu and Hanna Hikoyobi. According to sources in Jayapura, these two had been elected as members of the new body, against the wishes of central government. The appointment of the second-term MRP is still in dispute; some of his colleagues believe that the pressures and intimidation he experienced at the time plunged him into deep depression, leading to his untimely death on 7 April. On that day, he was found lying on the floor at home and was rushed to hospital but was dead on arrival.

He is survived by his wife Cornelia Pekey and his three children, Liberta Claudia Alua, Liberto Claudia Alua and Hilerti Alua.

Carmel Budiardjo [with help from Octovianus Mote]