The Rise of Thom Wainggai. In the 1970s, my uncle traveled to Japan where he studied law at Okayama University. When he returned to West Papua in 1973, he was arrested for the first time because of his political views and activism. He was sentenced to six months in an Indonesian Army prison. Once released, he returned to Japan to complete his law degree. Shortly after completing his law degree, he traveled to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship where he earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration followed by a PhD in Political Philosophy at the Florida State University. The purpose of his higher education was not to remain in the United States, but rather to increase his knowledge and skills and return to West Papua to continue his fight for freedom and pass on some of his new knowledge to the nonviolent resistance campaign. On December 14, 1988, Dr. Thom made a bold proclamation that Papuans are Melanesians with a strong cultural heritage that is distinctly Melanesian and has no historical connection with the Indonesians. He described Melanesian women as the “the Birds of Paradise”, and Melanesian men as “Pigeon”. Dr. Thom’s proclamation was also very political, as it left an open space for him to describe West Papua as a Nation, a State and a Government with the goal of conforming to Western terminology and the politics they practice. In 1988 he was arrested for subversion and sentenced to 20 years in Indonesian army prison in Waena, Jayapura. The result of expressing his ideological conviction that a true democracy, administered by Melanesians, is the only acceptable solution for his people. I was haunted by my memories of my visits with my uncle while he was imprisoned. Some of my visits were good, while others were frightening. One instance, in particular, was watching the Indonesian prison guards used the tip of their sharp bayonets to haphazardly rummage through the food that I brought for my uncle. During those visits, the capricious guards were waiting for a justification to enforce further punishment on my uncle and that was heartbreaking. I also remember the extreme disrespect these guards shown toward my uncle; it was painfully sad. To these people, Melanesians are just dogs, and it was the dehumanization of my beloved uncle that hurt me so bad but at the same time influenced and motivated me. I made up my mind then to fight smarter, stronger, and braver for West Papua’s independence. I picked up where my uncle left and started my own fight to free my people. I began by acting as an educator, mentor, and trainer of students committed to peacefully working together to make a positive change in the world and international advocating for West Papuan independence. While the struggle continues, I felt tremendous fear for my uncle’s safety. Everyone was well aware of the danger he was in, but powerless to help him. Then the event that I feared the most, happened shortly before his next visit with his uncle. My most loved uncle, Dr. Thom, died alone in prison at the age of sixty-one. He was poisoned. Thousands of Melanesians overcame with grief upon hearing of my uncle’s death. The loss was deep for my people. Losing Dr. Thom meant losing an exceptional man; a great leader and a mentor to many and to me personally. One who faithfully served Papuans as a leader, an educator, an activist, a friend, and a beloved family member. West Papuans were deeply disappointed and struggled make sense of the death of their great leader. The next day, the news headlines in Indonesia referred to him as the “Nelson Mandela of Irian Jaya” – a label Papuans saw fitting for their hero, Dr. Thom Wainggai. My uncle’s death was heart wrenching for me personally; my sorrow was profoundly deep. I can still feel the moment I learned of his his death: first came a gasp, then tears; and as I wiped the tears away, I felt a renewed and empowered commitment to fight that struggle he left behind; using only nonviolent strategies he taught me, for independence and to free his fellow Melanesian Papuans. I knew that my time has arrived! One may stop to ponder where West Papua would have been if the military did not murder the West Papuan “Nelson Mandela”. Well, I take comfort in my belief that my beloved uncle is pleased that his death ignited the Second Papuan National Awakening that remains mobilized and buttressed by ubiquitous Melanesian. It was created to function as the transitional Papuan government in the period following independence. Once the West Papua’s government secured and supported in the international community, the Third Congress will act as the permanent governing body. The death of Dr. Thom was a tragedy for my family and I, and all Melanesians. It goes without saying that I’d lost my teacher, role model, mentor, and of course my dear uncle. This loss has become a part of me, just like the lessons on the philosophies of fighting for freedom from Indonesia’s evil grasp Dr. Thom gave me as a young boy. I am steadfast in my commitment to continue fighting for self-determination and although my uncle was killed, his activism will continue for independence with self-determination for West Papua’s indigenous peoples. My uncle’s death lives with me to this very day, and I know that “my beloved uncle is an eternal, immortal soul who continues to live in another dimension more beautiful than the one in which I currently exist.”