Theys Eluay

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Dortheys Hiyo Eluay (known as Theys H. Eluway; 3 November 1937 – 10 November 2001) was a community leader in West Papua who was murdered by members of the Indonesian Army special forces command.

Early life and political career[edit]

Theys was born in Sere Village in Sentani, in what was then Dutch New Guinea. He went to the "Jongensvervolgschool" (Post Primary Education) in Yoka, a boarding school, led by the Dutch missionary Izaak Samuel Kijne. After the JVS he followed a course in meteorology and worked then as a meteorological assistant. He also became an "ondoafi", a traditional leader of a village. In 1962 Indonesia took over New Guinea from the Dutch. Theys helped the Indonesian army and police to find Papuans who were anti-Indonesian. This led to a great number of casualties in the Sentani area. In 1969 there was an Act of Free Choice, (PEPERA, Penantuan Pendapat Rakyat or People's Consultation), under UN supervision, to determine the wishes of the Papuans with regard to their political status. Theys was one of those few Papuans selected to take part in this Consultation, which unanimously voted for integration with Indonesia. In 1971 he became a Member of the local legislature. In 1980 he joined the regional Traditional Council (Lembaga Musyawarah Adat Papua) as a representative for the Sentani area, and later for the whole of Papua Province. In 1990 he became its Chairman. From 1996 onwards the Council became more political, while, with the increased political freedom after the downfall of Suharto in 1998, the Council really began to speak out in the open about the political status of Papua and about the right of the Papuans to self-determination.[1]

Great Leader of the Papuan People[edit]

In 1999 Theys was elected at the Great Consultation in Sentani (Mubes or Musyawara Besar) as the Chairman of the Papua Presidium Council (Dewan Papua) of West Papua (PDP). In 2000, on the Second Papua Congress in Jayapura, he was confirmed as leader of the PDP. Tom Beanal, the Amungmwe leader was elected as his deputy. He began calling himself Pimpinan Besar Bangsa Papua (PBBP), the Great Leader of the Papuan People, and he appeared almost daily in the papers. He organized young Papuans in the Satgas Papua (Satuan Tugas or Task Force) and had them trained. The Satgas Papua managed to establish, with success, order at large mass demonstrations and at the Mubes and the Papua Congress. The Satgas were led by his son Boy Eluay. Theys also initiated the Posko Papua, Pos Komando or Commanding Post, established at the entrance of many villages to control who would go in or out of the village, to prevent provocators, to create a situation of violent conflict as in neighbouring Ambon. From his home in Sentani the Morning Star flag of independent Papua was being raised. For these projects they have received generous financial support from Yorrys Raweyai, deputy chairman of the Pemuda Pancasila, a pro Suharto youth organisation, consisting of gangsters.[1]


The tomb of Theys Uluay in Jayapura

On 26 September 2001 Theys Eluay approached officially the consultation of leaders (including the army and police chiefs) of Papua, the Muspida, to ask for the reasons for the killing of Willem Onde, a Papuan leader, on 14 September in Merauke. Willem Onde was, apparently, killed by the army or by Kopassus. On 10 November 2001 Heroes Day was celebrated at the headquarters of Kopassus. The people who were invited had some link with the integration of Irian into Indonesia in 1963. According to people present at the party, the commander of the Kopassus got his microphone and said loudly goodbye to Theys when he left at around 10 o'clock in the night. "Goodbye to the Great Leader of the Papuans. Have a safe journey home!" Now people feel that this was to warn his men outside to be ready. On that night he was killed by Kopassus officers, whom he had a given a lift in his car on his way home. A few days after the abduction and murder Kopassus soldiers were seen cleaning the place of the abduction in Skyline very thoroughly. Theys was given a hero's funeral. He was buried without his heart, as the police told the public it had sent it in a box to Jakarta to a forensic laboratory to look for evidence that Theys had died from a stroke. The heart was never returned and no laboratory in Jakarta knew anything of this request. It was quite clear that Theys had died because of suffocation. He was buried on a soccer field his family owns, close to the airport in Sentani. This was supposed to become a new Heroes Acre of heroes, who had died in the struggle of Papuans for their rights, like Arnold Ap and Thomas Wanggai.

Though it was from the beginning clear that only a very well organized group could have killed Theys, it took some time to have the investigation on its way. Elsham, the Jayapura-based human rights organization, published a report, which suggested that the murder was organized at the instigation of elements in the central government, which want to maintain national unity, at all cost. A special national investigation commission was set up by President Megawati to investigate not only the brains behind the murder, but also to look for possibilities of involvement of government departments or sections of the army. In the end four Kopassus soldiers were convicted and sentenced to a few years in jail. The Commander in Chief of the Indonesian army, General Endriartono Sutarto, however, publicly said that he disagreed with the sentence, as these soldiers should be considered "heroes" as they had killed in order to maintain the national unity of the Republic. Nobody was charged with the murder of Ari, the driver of Theys, who "disappeared". There are, however, five witnesses who have seen Ari enter the Kopassus headquarters in Hamadi, which, by the way, is at the same location as a logging company owned by the Soeharto family. People, and also his parents, fear that Ari is dead.

A period of increased repression of all forms of protests against Indonesian rule began. Theys was succeeded as chairman of the PDP by Thom Beanal, his deputy. The PDP, however, never regained the authority and worldwide publicity it had had under the short leadership of Theys Eluay.


  1. ^ a b Ipenburg, At. "The life and death of Theys Eluay". Inside Indonesia (70:April–June 2002 ed.). Retrieved 25 April 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • S. Eben Kirksey and J. A. D. Roemajauw 2002 The Wild Terrorist Gang: The Semantics of Violence and Self-determination in West Papua, in: Oxford Development Studies, 30, 2
  • Giay, Benny 2002 Peristiwa penculikan dan pembunuhan Theys H Eluay 10 November 2001 (The Abduction and Assassination of Theys H Eluay on November 10, 2001)" . The book was banned by the local authorities in West Papua and the author initimidated. The book was considered dangerous to national unity.
  • Giay, Benny 2006, Pembunuhan Theys: kematian HAM di tanah Papua (The Murder of Theys: The Death of Human Rights in the Land of the Papuans), Yogyakarta: Galang Press
  • Memoria Passionis di Papua. Kondisi Sosial Politik dan Hak Asasi Manusia: Gambaran 2000.[1] (Memoria Passionis. The social and political conditions and human rights: the picture in 2000), Sekretariat Keadilan dan Perdamaian (SKP) (Justice and Peace Organization), Keuskupan Jayapura (the Episcopal Secretariat Jayapura) and Lembaga Studi Pers dan Pembangunan (LSPP), Jakarta, (The Foundation for the Study of the Press and Development) Jakarta, 2001.
  • Report Papua in the year 2000
  • "Keynote: West Papua rising". New Internationalist. April 2002. Retrieved 2007-03-05.
  • Moore, Matthew (April 22, 2003). "Kopassus guilty of Eluay murder". The Age. Retrieved 2007-03-05.
  • "Arrest of Theys Eluay and the National Dialogue Debate". Indonesia: Human Rights and Pro-Independence Actions in Irian Jaya. Human Rights Watch. December 1, 1998. Retrieved 2007-03-05.
  • Articles in the Cenderawasih Pos, daily, Jayapura (

External links[edit]