Frans Kaisieppo: The National Hero from Papua behind The Name “Irian”

National Hero from Papua
Frans Kaisieppo

Frans Kaisieppo is an Indonesian national hero from the land of Papua. We all have seen him on the 10,000 Rupiah paper. The figure of him is attributed to the paper due to his contribution to Indonesia. He took part in the Malino Conference which concerned the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia Union (the former form of state of Indonesia in the past). Papua had been known as “Irian” due to his proposal before it was changed to “Papua” again in the era of Abdurrahman Wahid (the fourth President of Indonesia).

His Biography

National Hero from Papua
Biography Frans Kaisieppo

Frans Kaisieppo was born in Biak on October 19th, 1921. According to the Indonesian Presidential Decree No. 077/TK/1993, his name is recognized as one of the national heroes from Papua. He was also known as the Governor of Irian Barat from 1964 to 1973. During his young age, he was familiar with the movement of liberating Indonesia in Papuan districts.

He was one of the most important anti-dutch-colonization figures at that time. Along with his friends, he struggled continuously to merge Papuan district into Indonesian territory after the proclamation of Indonesian independence. He was also arguably the first to sing the Indonesian anthem in Papuan.

Back in March 1948, Frans took part in a rebellion as a protest to the Dutch regime in Biak. He also refused to be involved in the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference as the delegate leader of Dutch Papua New Guinea which caused him to get imprisoned from 1954 to 1961.

The Story Behind the Name “Irian”

National Hero from Papua
The Name “Irian”

After Japan met its loss and Britain headed home, some of the Indonesian territories such as East Kalimantan and Great Eastern were handed back to the Netherlands. Following the handover, the General Governor Lieutenant Hubertus van Mook held a conference in Malino with the Dutch delegates. The representatives of District Timur Besar and Kalimantan also took part in the conference. Frans was involved as the representative of Papua province. This conference is known as the Malino Conference. The conference discussed the form of the country, the government, and the economy.

Frans, as a participant of the conference, suggested “Irian” to be the name of Papua Island. In the Biak language, irian means “steamy”. That is because the Irian district has a hot temperature. The word “Irian” is also the acronym for “Ikut Republik Indonesia Anti Nederland” which means “Joining the Indonesian Republic, Anti the Netherlands”. This story of the word “Irian” is recorded on the Monument of Liberation Papua Barat as memorization of the Trikora operation and Papuan people struggle on uniting West Papua to Indonesia.

The Trikora Operation

National Hero from Papua
Trikora Operation

Indonesian Independence was declared on August 17th, 1945 by Soekarno in Jakarta Pusat. However, Indonesia still has a lot to do with the Dutch colonizers. Indonesia and the Netherlands argued on which territories to be under Indonesian sovereignty. The Netherlands refused to hand over West Papua to Indonesia due to the racial differences between Papuans and non-Papuan Indonesians, as they claimed.

Despite their admittance to Indonesian authority in the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference, the Netherlands still claimed West Papua to be their territory. This turned Soekarno upset. Soekarno then commanded the Trikora operation.

Trikora is a military operation, in an effort to take over West Papua. It consists of three demands: abort the establishment of Papua country, raise the Indonesian flag in West Papua, and get ready for the mobilization to maintain the independence and unity of the nation. The Trikora operation led to the New York Agreement and was the start of West Papua’s unity to Indonesia.

The New York Agreement was held in New York and was attended by the two conflicting countries: Indonesia and the Netherlands to resolve the issue of West Papua’s administration. At the end of the agreement, both parties agreed to hand over West Papua to Indonesia through the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority. On May 1st 1963, Papua came into unity with Indonesia.

Irian Governor

National Hero from Papua
Irian Governor

Irian’s first governor, Elieser Jon Bonay took office from 1963-1964. He rooted for Indonesia at the beginning of his term but later called for the independence of West Irian (West Papua) in 1964. Using the Act of Free Choice, he demanded that Irian became a separate country. This made him resign from the duty in 1964 and Frans Kaisieppo replaced him.

During his term as a governor, Frans struggled in promoting Papua as part of Indonesia. His efforts came into fruition when Irian was finally admitted as part of Indonesia in 1969. Due to what he did in uniting Papua to Indonesia, Frans was appointed significant roles. He was part of Supreme Advisory Council and a member of parliament in the People’s Consultative Assembly elections.

Frans Kaisieppo passed away on April 10th 1979 and buried in the Cendrawasih Heroes Burial Site in Biak.

In an effort to memorize his heroic contribution, Indonesian government attributes his name to several national assets. Other than the figure of him we find on the Rp10000 paper, a national airport in the city of Biak is named after him. The airport’s name was Mokmer but then was changed to Frans Kaisieppo in 1984. A warship of the Republic of Indonesia (Kapal Perang Republik Indonesia) is also named after him.