3 October 2006

Great West Papuan leader dies in Sydney

Willem (Wim) Zonggonau died in Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney yesterday after suffering what is believed to be a massive cardio vascular event.   He was 64 years old. There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death however an autopsy and coroner's inquiry will be undertaken in Sydney this week.

Wim was one of the great West Papuan nationalists - struggling for a free and independent West Papua for over 35 years.   Since 1969 he has lived in exile in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Wim was a politician in West Papua serving both in the local Papuan legislature as well as the National (Indonesian) Upper House in the 1960's.  He was fluent in many languages (including English, Dutch, Indonesian) and travelled widely lobbying the world to help save his country from the brutality of the Indonesian military.

He was a charming, intelligent, courageous man whose vision of a free, democratic and peaceful West Papua was unwavering.

Wim was in Australia travelling with his West Papuan colleague and friend of 40 years Clemens Runawery.

Wim witnessed the sham referendum (the so called 'Act of Free Choice') following Indonesia's invasion of West Papua in the 1960s, and was then arrested by Australian officials under Indonesian pressure in 1969. Wim (and Clemens) tried to travel to New York in July 1969 to protest against the conduct of the United Nations and the fraudulent nature of the referendum. The men carried testimonies from many West Papuan leaders calling for independence, but they were prohibited from leaving PNG.   While transiting through Papua New Guinea (then under Australian control), they were taken off the plane, arrested and detained by Australian officials at the request of the Indonesian Government.

Wim was in Australia in September and October on a public speaking tour to highlight concerns of a proposed new security treaty between Australia and Indonesia as well as speaking about the plight of West Papua in general.    Willem and Clemens had met several politicians in Canberra as well as academics and West Papuan supporters around Australia.

"Wim you have gone but our vision and mission will be accomplished.   I am confident that there is a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel," Clemens Runawery said.

Wim is survived by his sister Dolly who lives in Vanuatu (she is now on her way to Australia), several other nieces and nephews living in PNG and West Papua.

Further information: Ben Oquist 0419 70 40 95