West Papuans are today mourning the sad loss of Gerardus Thommey, an elder and leader of our struggle.
Thommey’s leadership and courage was evident from an early age. A regional commander of the West Papuan liberation movement in Merauke, he lived from his early twenties as a guerilla, fighting an oppressive occupying power. It takes amazing commitment to live all this time in the bush, without modern communications or conveniences, in the pursuit of liberation for his people. Thommey was captured near the PNG border with four other liberation leaders and deported to Ghana – like many of our leaders, he lived the rest of his life in exile. After five years there, he was able to join the West Papuan diaspora in the Netherlands, where he helped found the Free West Papua Netherlands Campaign.
I knew Gerardus as a leader in Parliament and in the streets. He was a source of constant wisdom since I arrived in the UK almost twenty years ago; a mentor and advisor on how to fight for West Papuan freedom from exile, while staying focused and keeping a humble spirit. He was also totally dedicated to the cause: as well as Free West Papua Netherlands, he also helped found the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, and would always be present at pro-independence events and offer encouragement to young activists.
I was honoured that both Thommey and Jacob Prai – another freedom fighter, and one of the founding fathers of the OPM – gave the ULMWP their blessing and mandated us to carry out their mission. Both were elders from the early days of our anti-colonial struggle, and understood the importance of unity to achieving our goals.
Even though he was exiled from his land, his commitment to a liberated West Papua never wavered. This is a great lesson to all West Papuans, whether in exile, in the cities, in the refugee camps or in the bush. It is now up to the new generations to carry on his legacy by continuing his fight for freedom.
On behalf of the ULMWP and the people of West Papua, I send my sympathies to Thommey’s family and friends. He leaves behind an inspiring legacy of leadership and commitment to our cause, and will continue to inspire West Papuans until we are once again free.
ULMWP Provisional Government