Former Leading Campaigner for West Papua Independence who Advocated Compromise

Fransalbert Joku, a former leading West Papua independence campaigner who then became an Indonesian government supporter has died in Jayapura at the age of 66 on 28 of March after illness linked with heart disease and kidney failure.

He was a prominent landowner from Sentani and formerly the spokesman for the Papua Presidium Council which galvanised momentum in the West Papuan independence struggle at the turn of the century.

After the death of Theys Eluay, Franzalbert Joku eventually threw his support behind the Special Autonomy Status which Indonesia granted Papua in 2001 in response to the demands for independence. He returned to Indonesia in 2008.

He became a frequent representative of Indonesia’s government on West Papua matters at regional fora such as the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Forum.

Fransalbert Joku with other West Papua figures Nick Messet (left) and Michael Menufandu (right)

“Now I say this without meaning to undermine my brothers and sisters who are still out there in the jungle or in other countries advocating outright independence,” he told RNZ Pacific in 2015.

“I just look at the issues and try to place them within the context and try to look at what options are within the realm of possibilities.”

Mr Joku’s shifting of allegiances has made him a distrusted figure among many in the West Papuan independence movement.

But when asked last year in his last interview with RNZ Pacific about whether Papua should have independence, Mr Joku said a “deeper look at the issues” was required.

“Independence, for some of us, doesn’t mean an instant action of declaring a sovereign nation,” he said.

“I think it’s more a value. In order to find that value of freedom, of being independent, it is a continuing process.

“I differ between being an independent, sovereign nation of Papua, than being free and well-off economically, socially within a government structure that is in existence today,” he explained.

“Like in any other political processes, you can never win outright. You always end up with political compromise.”

“Special Autonomy, however imperfect and incomplete it may be, is an acceptable political compromise, and we need to grab hold of it earnestly, and make it serve our interests.” (Source: RNZ)

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