OPM Southern Commander Bernard Mawen (right) with Commander John Koknak (left) and the Morning Star flag at the time of being interviewed by Vanuatu-based journalist Ben Bohane in 1998. Image: © Ben Bohane
OBITUARY: By Ben Bohane
The Free Papua Movement (OPM) Southern Commander Bernard Mawen has died. He was the “grand old man” of the OPM, one of the first to begin the armed struggle for independence in West Papua in the 1960s and he will be missed by his people.
I interviewed him in 1998 in his camp along the Fly river on the border where he lived among the thousands of West Papuan refugees forgotten on the PNG border, who live on little more than sago and bananas.
Indirectly, his OPM guerrillas remain a protective buffer for both PNG and Australia against Indonesian aggression but it’s unlikely you’ll hear any eulogies from Canberra or Moresby and certainly not from Jakarta.
He lived for his people, in the bush, and that’s all you can ask of a leader. RIP.