In Memoriam Viktor Kaisiëpo

On January 31, 2010 Viktor Kaisiëpo passed away at the age of 61 in his hometown Amersfoort. He had been seriously ill for some time. This Papuan rights activist will be sorely missed by many. PACE (Papua Heritage Foundation) has worked with him on a number of occasions and is truly thankful for his input. Viktor initiated and set up a framework for  Papua Pride Day held on 28 November 2009, gave us advice and was a speaker at PACE meetings.He was an excellent speaker, a master of words: A true visionary who used metaphor, association and wit to captivate his audience. Below is a brief review of his life.

Viktor Kaisiëpo was born in Korido (near the island of Biak), spent part of his youth in and around Jayapura and on 11 October 1962 he arrived in Holland as a fourteen year old boy. The political development in Indonesia and the implications this had on Papua had a  profound influence on his life. As the son of Papua leader Marcus Kaisiëpo, he was brought up with being an activist and spokesperson for his people, but over the years he developed his own particular point of view. In 1984 he decided, as he put it, to stop working ‘for the boss’ in exchange for ‘a much better boss’: The struggle for political independence of West Papua. 

His view includes an open attitude and a process-based approach. In 2009, he expressed this as follows: The rights and ideals of the people of Papua depend on ‘ following the road ahead’. Not the final destination but 'the way we get there' is of prime importance. Freedom through emancipation and the participation of every individual Papuan within the collective community are inherent to this process.

Viktor Kaisiëpo In the mid 1980’s, he entered the stage of the United Nations in Geneva. The struggle of the indigenous people and their right to self-determination became a vehicle for what he perceived to be the dilemma of the Papuan peoples. Within this framework, he helped to establish both the UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) and the International Alliance for Indigenous and Tribal People in the Rain Forests. He also became involved with the organisation of the UN’s International Year of  the Indigenous Peoples.

In 1995, he and his partner for life, Evelien van den Broek, exchanged their life in Holland for one in Fiji in order to work as the assistant director of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, which is part of the secretariat of  a Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific(NFIP). Here, he worked with coalition partners WWF Pacific and Greenpeace Pacific on improving as he called it 'the conditions for turtles and coral reefs'. He also worked with the Government of Fiji on a Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In the new millenium, after 38 years, he returned to Papua. He took part in the Second Papua Congress in Jayapura and was selected by the Papua Presidium as the representative for Europe. In 2002/ 2003 he was involved with the setting up and official installment of the Dewan Adat Papua ( Papua Traditional Council) and he acted as their representative at international fora. He liaised with the NGO community, the EU and was regularly at meetings of the United Nations. He continued to develop contacts with various diplomats and he was in contact with  Indonesian Authorities, including the Indonesian Embassy. The contact with the latter, illustrates his pragmatic and realistic approach,while remaining critical at the same time.

Because of his openness, his choice for non violent action, his long term vision, and last but not least his relentless energy for “the cause’, he became a role model for many and a leader with obvious diplomatic skills. At times particular individuals, who objected to this openness, turned their back on him, or called him a traitor. But this term does not do justice to what he was trying to achieve.

Victor himself was straight to the point and not afraid of bringing up controversial issues. The most recent example of this was his opening speech at Papua Pride Day in November 2009, jointly organised by Papua Lobby (which he belonged to), PACE, HAPIN (Papua Aid Foundation) and Pro Papua. In this speech, he warned those of us in our midst against harping back to the past at the expense of working together on a brighter future. He emphasised the need to move on and let bygones be bygones, that it was counter productive, dangerous even, to exclude talented Papuans from making a positive contribution to the Papua battle for self-determination. His words were positive but at the same time he did not beat about the bush. It set the perfect tone for a successful Papua Pride Day.

In 2009, he became gravely ill. However, Victor remained calm and positive, was able to make jokes and was thankful for what life brought him, thankful for what he was able to achieve with others and thankful too for living long enough to be there for the birth of his granddaughter. This attitude made the inevitable loss easier to bear for his close family and friends, his loved ones. And yet the end came all too soon.

Selamat jalan Viktor.

Viktor Kaisiëpo - * Korido, 14 september 1948 - † Amersfoort, 31 januari 2010.

Video Viktor op Papua Pride Text: Nancy Jouwe
photography: Bodil Anais
Evelien Veenhuizen