Willem Zonggonau

October 6, 2006

Willem (Wim) Zonggonau died in Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, on October 2 after suffering what is believed to be a massive cardiovascular event. He was 64 years old.

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 and the national (Indonesian) upper house in the 1960s.

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. 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 PNG (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 about 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, and several other nieces and nephews living in PNG and West Papua.

Free West Papua!

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