16 Dec 2009

OPM leader embodied spirit of Papuan resistance in Indonesia

9:57 pm on 16 December 2009

The Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights has described the Senior OPM Free Papua Movement leader Kelly Kwalik as the embodiment of the Papuan resistance struggle.

Reports emerging from the troubled Indonesian region of Papua say Kelly Kwalik has died in hospital after being shot dead in a raid by security forces in the Highlands city of Timika.

One of the leading commanders of the OPM since the 1970s, Kelly Kwalik had kept elusive to security forces in recent decades after fleeing to the bush with his supporters, being rarely seen in public.

After losing most of his family in the early 1970s in attacks by Indonesian security forces, he began waging a campaign of violent attacks on the military.

Kelly Kwalik had also lost tribal land to the Grasberg gold mine run by US-based Freeport near Timika.

Since 2002 when he was allegedly involved in an attack on a convoy of Freeport employees in which an Indonesian and two US civilians were killed, he's been hunted by police.

This year the military and some police officials have linked the OPM leader to a series of deadly shootings targeting Freeport in June.

His associates have denied this and issued statements from him rejecting responsibility.

The Institute's Matthew Jamieson says that for many Papuans, Kelly Kwalik remains the personification of the Papuan resistance to Indonesian rule.

"Because he's managed to stay in the bush, he's managed to stay outside Indonesian control. He's managed to continue the liberation struggle all this time. In the beginning he was involved in the armed liberation struggle and in the last few years, he's adopted - which the rest of the liberation struggle has - a non-violent struggle... a specially not-targetting-people struggle. He's the personification of the struggle in the view of West Papuan people."

Matthew Jamieson of the Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights.