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Egianus Kogoya: Is he Papuan hero or villain?

Kogoya   Egianus Kogoya Papuan hero or villain
Egianus Kogoya sits on a wing strut of the captured aircraft. Pilot Phillip Mehrtens was taken hostage


You can read the unedited version of Yamin’s essay here

BRISBANE - After the West Papua National Liberation Army, the armed wing of OPM (Free Papua Movement), burned a small plane and kidnapped its New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens on 7 February, the dark clouds that seal this frontier war opened to the outside world.

Across the globe, media outlets shared the story with two interpretations.

Some people condemned the act as evil terrorism, while others viewed it as stratagem by OPM fighters to open the ears of the world’s communities.

But at least this incident exposed a 50 year-old war waged by the Indonesian military against the original Papuans.

After the kidnapping, Egianus Kogoya of the OPM and foreign intruders living off our ancient land's lifeblood became embroiled in an argument of contradictory morality, ethics and justice.

There are those who regard Egianus Kogoya as a Papuan hero and there are those who view him as a criminal.

It is essential that we understand how concepts of morality, justice, and peace function in a world where one group oppresses another.

A good person is not necessarily right, and a person who is right is not necessarily good. A hero’s journey is often filled with betrayal, rejection, error, tragedy, and compassion.

Whenever a figure such as Egianus Kogoya emerges, people tend to make moral judgments without necessarily understanding the larger story.

And heroic figures themselves have their own notions of morality and virtue, which are not always accepted by societal moralities.

Heroes are often at a crossroads between the joy of heaven and the sorrow of hell. They see both the ideal of the heavenly dimension above and the tragedy of hell below. Wherever there is a hero, there is mostly tragedy.

This is why a hero’s soul is regarded as God’s tears.

There is no such thing as a happy, fortunate hero.

There are no happy monks or saints, nor are there happy revolutionary leaders.

Patrice Émery Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Malcom X, Ho Chi Minh, Marcus Garvey, Steve Biko, Arnold Aap and the many others are all deeply unfortunate on a human level.

They have all fallen and risen in different ways, depending on what they stood for and on how they fell and rose.

A hero’s body contains thousands of scars. Thousands of traps are placed to obstruct their paths and thousands of times their life is at risk.

When heroes have nothing to lose, they are more dangerous than ordinary souls.

It seems that heroes never think of themselves. They live for something else and someone else, everything else and everyone else.

In the deepest sense, Egianus Kogoya embodies heroic attributes. He carries the agony and suffering of his people and yet is one of the most misunderstood, criminalised figures in the earthly realm.

In the spiritual realm, however, he is a hero devoted to fighting deep-seated lies, deceit, betrayal and criminality.

Egianus Kogoya and his fellow OPM soldiers are a generation born in a warzone, and whose entire existence is shaped by war.

Papuans of this generation, particularly from the region where Kogoya comes from, are some of the most traumatised in West Papua.

Most people are unaware that this war has been waged by the Indonesian government in collaboration with other actors. The United Nations has played a key role in this tragedy.

Although Egianus Kogoya has been labelled a criminal, terrorist and sociopath, he is a hero in the West Papuan liberation story.

“I took [the pilot] hostage for Papua independence, not for food or drinks," Egianus Kogoya said in a video in which he appears alongside the pilot, Phillip Mehrtens.

Here he reveals two opposing dimensions: food and drink representing the earthly dimension, and Independence, the transcendental idea, unmaterial, noble and the eternal spirit of God that yearns for the liberation.

Tragically, the New Zealand pilot has now become part of Kogoya’s heroic journey in West Papua’s liberation story. His family and friends are traumatised and mourning.

They resent Egianus, his army and the Papuan people. On an earthly level, West Papuans sympathise; they feel pain in this tragedy.

But on a transcendental level, Phillip has become a hero in these tragic circumstances by opening the door for the world to see West Papua’s story.

Kogoya   Pilot
Pilot Phillip Mehrtens with his captors

Egianus’ action might be condemned by the world, but Indonesia’s hidden war against the original Papuans has been exposed. He has made a heroic contribution by bringing the plight of the Papuan people to the attention of the world.

Philip is currently embroiled in this prolonged conflict, and it is not yet clear what Egianus and his OPM soldiers will do, nor what the Indonesian government and the international community will do in response.

One thing we are aware of, however, is that the stakes are high, as are the demands made for his safe release by the West Papua Liberation Army.

Do you consider Egianus Kogoya to be a hero or a villain in the liberation of West Papua? I would leave that question to you.


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Yamin Kogoya

Thanks Phil, that's a great point and I appreciate the way Keith framed it.

The original article is also on my website:

Yes, the article has a lot of religiosity in it and can be very confusing. However, I wrote it for a particular purpose.

I think that whether someone is a hero or villain, and the whole issue of morality, are somehow related to God or our ideas about God.

Every day, we make a moral judgment almost about everything, and they seem intrinsically linked to these two cosmic archetypes (God and Devil/Satan).

Stephen Charteris

The very last thing that is needed now is for the TNI (Indonesian National Armed Forces) to play heroes and attempt an armed rescue.

I suspect cooler heads are working behind the scenes to secure Phillip Mehrtens' release, which I have no doubt will come through quiet diplomacy.

As for Egianus Kogoya, he will be a hero if he sees fit to return Phillip promptly to PNG authorities.

He will have made his statement loud and clear and poked the occupying power in eye in the process.

Where it goes from here one can only guess. I trust Phillip will be released very soon but just how the will of the people of West Papua can be advanced remains a weeping sore.

Philip Fitzpatrick


Yamin's article falls down because he invokes God, which has got nothing to do with whether someone is a hero or villain in a moral sense.

Religion simply confuses the whole issue.

Frame the article in a non-religious context (as Keith has done by his editing) and it makes a lot more sense.

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