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Viktor Kaisiepo at a conference in Iserlohn, Germany in autumn 2007

Viktor Kaisiepo (1948 - January 31, 2010), also spelled Victor Kaisiepo, was a Netherlands New Guinean-born Dutch activist for West Papuan independence and self-determination.[1][2][3] His family fled West Papua when its sovereignty was transferred to Indonesia, and he lived the Netherlands thereafter.

Contents

Biography

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Early life

Kaisiepo was born in the Netherlands New Guinea in 1948.[3] Kaisiepo's family, known as the Kaisiepo clan,[3] was originally from Biak, an island in Cenderawasih Bay just north of New Guinea.[4] His father, Markus Wonggor Kaisiepo (1913-2000), a minister and elementary school teacher for the Dutch Reformed Church Mission and former official in the Dutch New Guinea colonial government, was a advocate for West Papuan self-determination.[4]

Markus Kaisiepo was elected to the New Guinea Council in April 1961.[4] At the time, West Papua was the last Dutch colonial possession in the East Indies. The Dutch government had decided against handing over western New Guinea, which was populated by animist or Christian ethnic Melanesian Papuans, to Malay-dominated Indonesia when that country gained independence in 1949.[4][3]

The Dutch government, under pressure from the United States, eventually decided to transfer sovereignty of West Papua to Indonesia in 1962. Markus Kaisiepo moved his family, including Viktor, to the Netherlands soon after the hand-over was announced.[1][2][4]

Advocate for Papuan self-determination

Once in the Netherlands, Markus Kaisiepo continued to advocate for the independence of West Papua.[4] Viktor Kaisiepo took up his father's cause, becoming a leading international advocate for the sovereignty movement. Kaisiepo believed that there several ways to guarantee human rights for Papuans besides political independence for West Papua.[4] He lobbied the United Nations for Papua's inclusion on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories and served as a spokesperson for the West Papua People’s Front, a coalition of Papuan organizations in the Netherlands.[1][2][4] He also advocated for the human rights of other indidenous people worldwide.[1]

In May 2000, Viktor Kaisiepo made his first visit to West Papua since the family left in 1962.[4] Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, who was elected in 1999, had introduced a more open form of government in Indonesia since the fall of Suharto. Wahid had changed the name of Indonesian-controlled Western New Guinea from the Bahasa Indonesian Irian Jaya to the previous name, Papua.[4]

Kaisiepo saw an opportunity to travel back to West Papua during Wahid's presidency. In May 2000, Kaisiepo flew back to West Papua for the first time in thirty-eight years. Kaisiepo first flew from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, to the island of Biak, the home of the Kaisiepo family.[4]

He then travelled to Jayapura, the capital of Papua. He attended the Papuan Congress in Jayapura, which appointed Kaisiepo as a member of the Papuan Presidium, the executive governing body of the Free Papua Movement.[4] In a speech before the Papuan Congress, Kaisiepo told the audience, "I dream not of the UN, I work there. The Decolonisation Committee of the UN has a list with seventeen regions eligible for independence. West Papua is not on that list. But the outcome of our struggle does not depend on a UN list. We can ensure that West Papua gets on that list and I can help you accomplish that."[4][3]

Viktor Kaisiepo father, Markus, died in the Netherlands at the age of 87, while the younger Kaisiepo was travelling to West Papua.[4] He returned to the Netherlands, where he maintained ties to Papuans and opened a dialogue with the government of Indonesia.[4]

Kaisiepo was diagnosed with an incurable illness in 2009.[4] He died in Amersfoort, Netherlands, on January 31, 2010, at the age of 61.[1]

References


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