The conflict between the Dutch and the Indonesions over the disposition of Netherlands New Guinea followed the Indonesian revolution of 1945-9. The Round Table Conference Agreement (1949) had left that part of the former Netherlands East Indies under Dutch occupation, as a concession to Netherlands nationalist feeling; in the succeeding decade the Netherlands devoted considerable attention to developing the area as an example of constructive colonial effort. The Indonesions, however, considered ‘West Irian’ an essential part of their state, and as the nationalist temper rose during the 1950s increasing emphasis was placed on forcing its concession.
In 1957 Dutch residents were expelled from Indonesia and the Netherlands-owned property was nationalized, and in 1961 military harassment of the colony began. The US entered the dispute as a mediator favourable to the Indonesion side, as a result partly to this, and partly of pressure by Dutch businessmen anxious to restore relations with Indonesia, the Netherlands agreed in August 1962 to relinquish control. After interim UN rule, West Irian was handed over to the Indonesians in May 1963, on the understanding that in 1969 the Irianese would be allowed to chose whether they wished to continue under Indonesian rule. Mismanagement, economic stringency, and the contempt with which Indonesians tended to regard the local Papuan population led to a series of uprisings under both Sukarno and Suharto. However, all non-Papuan parties to the dispute were agreed that the territory should remain in Indonesian hands, no international objections were raised when the 1969 ‘act of free choice’ was made a purely symbolic one.
1. The West New Guinea question resulted from the demands during the 1920s and 1930s of ultra colonial Dutch groupings to have the area declared as a separate Netherlands crown colony.
2. After the outbreak of the Indonesian revolution in 1945 it were especially the Eurasian group–now suffering Republican attacks and seeing their earlier superior social status being demolished–supported by conservative politicians again agitated for West New Guinea to be put aside as their new fatherland under the protection of the Dutch crown.
3. On 20 December 1946 the Netherlands parliament passed an amended Dutch-Indonesian agreement (Linggajati) in which West New Guinea was accorded a special political status. This clause was again included in the Renville agreement of 17 January 1948.
4. In order to avert for the West New Guinea question to cause the derailment of the Round Table negotiations, as a compromise the matter was shelved to further negotiations in 1950, and on 27 December 1949 the Netherlands transferred its sovereignty to Republic of United States of Indonesia.
5. During 1950 Dutch-Indonesian relations gradually deteriorated causing various meetings about West New Guinea to fail; and on 17 March 1951 the Dutch government decided to ‘freeze’ the issue.
6. After the failure of the Eurasian experiment the Netherlands government in 1951 directed its attention to the socio-economic development of the Papuan population and to guide Papuan nationalism towards to achievement of self government and finally independence.
7. Indonesia put the question to the United Nations, but during 10 December 1954 UN Assembly meeting failed to achieve the two-third quorum.
8. By 1956 the Dutch position regarding West New Guinea had grown irrevocably stubborn causing parliament to have the area enshrined in the constitution as part of the Netherlands kingdom.
9. By 1960 it is clear that the vast majority of Papuan leaders rejected to join the Indonesian Republic and instead called for the establishment of an independent Papuan state. A this time, however, the eventuality of this had become rather dim as the Netherlands had been unable to secure military support from the USA and Australia in the case of a threatened full-fledged Indonesian invasion.
10. Originally Australia was absolutely opposed to an Indonesian take over of West New Guinea. For example in March 1947 Dr. Burton, the head the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, made a strong plea in the Netherlands embassy in Canberra for West New Guinea to be kept out of Indonesian hands. Similarly the succeeding Menzies government in February 1950 emphasised that West New Guinea was of same vital strategic interest to Australia as Papua-New Guinea.
11. Australian attempts to secure American agreement of military help in the view of war with Indonesia received the same vague responses as the Dutch have been given in Washington. As a result in January 1959 Prime Minister Menzies told Dutch ambassador Lovink that it was impossible for Australia to ally itself militarily with the Netherlands.
12. The USA only grudgingly tolerated continued Dutch control of West New Guinea. Washington took a neutral stand in Dutch-Indonesian dispute and never openly supported the Dutch position. American policy was solely concentrated on keeping Indonesia out of Communist hands and showed no interest in the human rights of the Papuan people. So in 1961 President Kennedy abandoned the American policy of ‘neutrality’ regarding West New Guinea forcing in 1963 the Netherlands to hand over the territory to Indonesia via an United Nations commission. In Washington the right of Papuans of self-determination had ended up in the wastepaper basket.
14. Increasing US support for Indonesian position after US $450 million low-interest loan in 1960 to Indonesia from USSR. Indonesians playing US and USSR off against each other.
15. New York Agreement between Indonesia and Dutch (no Papuan representation) allows for United Nations Temporary Executive Authority to administer WNG from 1 October 1962 to 1 May 1963. Control then to go to Indonesia with change of sovereignty confirmed by ill-defined ‘Act of Free Choice’ within five years.
16. ‘Act of Free Choice‘ carried out in 1969 with 1025 hand picked and savagely coerced representatives voting unanimously for incorporation. Outcome accepted by UN as both Holland and Indonesia agree to process.
17. Large-scale uprisings throughout country against Indonesian rule. Put down by Indonesian military although widespread protests continue, for instance in Manokwari in the mid-1960s; Baliem Valley in mid-1970s and around Jayapura and border area in mid-1980s. [See map.] These result in many thousands of deaths and over 10,000 refugees in PNG. Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) formed gaining mass support for an independent future. Sporadic ongoing guerilla campaign commences.
18. Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) report released in April 1995 detailing killings of villagers and a priest by ABRI [Indonesian government and armed forces] soldiers in the Freeport Mine operations area. Partially in response to expansion of the mine’s concession area from 10,000 hectares to 2.5 million.
19. Seven young European scientists kidnapped on 8 January 1996 by OPM Central Command under Kelly Kwalik. Held until May 9 when rescued by Kopassus troops.
20. July 6 1998 Biak Island massacre occurs when ABRI troops attack hundreds of unarmed Morning Star flag raisers demanding independence. Reportedly 20 killed and 141 injured in original attack, some 139 others, mostly women and children taken on board Indonesian naval frigates and reportedly killed at sea, many grave atrocities reported. No independent investigation into these events.
21. February 23-25 2000 Kongres Rakyat Papua, or Congress held in Jayapura where thousands of Papuans gather to discuss future. Plans made for a Musyawarah Besar (MuBes), or ‘large consultation’ later in year. President Wahid gives A$172,000 and his support as long as independence not declared. Name changed from Irian Jaya to Papua.
22. May-June 2000 MuBes held in Jayapura and attended by some 20,000 Papuans from across the country and social spectrum. 31 member leadership Presidium elected with Chief Theys Eluay emerging as Chairman and acknowledged leader.
23. Law No 21/2001 passed on Special Autonomy for Papua Province aimed at dealing with separatists’ grievances through increased local Papuan control over society and economic resources. Opposed by many Papuans who feel that Autonomy has been forced upon them. Widespread demands for independence continue.
24. Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri takes control of West Papua ‘issue’ after widespread criticism of Wahid for encouraging separatists. Military crackdown commences with banning of Morning Star flag, arrest and harassment of Papuan leaders. Assassination of Chief Theys on 10 November 2001 by Kopassus soldiers.
25. August 31 2002 Two Americans and one Indonesian killed and eight Americans injured in attack on a school teachers picnic near Tembagapura, support town for the Freeport Mine. OPM initially blamed by Indonesian military, although TNI remains suspect. FBI investigations continuing.
26. Presidential Instruction No1/2003 on the establishment of West and Central Irian Jaya Provinces, in addition to Papua Province. This decree contradicts the previous Autonomy law and has invoked fear and uncertainty amongst Papuans.
27. December 2003 Timbul Silaen, former police chief in East Timor during the UN sponsored referendum in 1999, is appointed as the new police chief for Papua. Eurico Guterres (who worked with Salaen in East Timor) announces plans to establish a branch of his pro-integration Red and White Defender Front militia in Papua. He has been convicted of crimes against humanity but is free pending an appeal.
28. January 2004 rumors abound about the declaration of a ‘State of Emergency’ to deal with separatists. Fears of an Aceh style military operation to destabilize Papua in the context of Indonesian presidential and parliamentary elections.
29. March 4 2004 U.S. officials believe local army commanders ordered the ambush that killed two American teachers near a gold mine in a case that has held up resumption of normal US-Indonesian military ties, two American officials told The Associated Press. “It’s no longer a question of who did it…. It’s only a question of how high up this went within the chain of command”. The officals say little doubt remains about who was responsible for the attack on vehicles driving down a road to a gold mine operated by New Orleans-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold.
SOURCES: C.L.M. Penders. 2002. The West New Guinea Debacle (Crawford House/KITLV Press/U. Hawai‘i Press) [reviewed (pdf) in The Contemporary Pacific]; Jim Elmslie. 2002. Irian Jaya Under the Gun (Crawford House/U. Hawai‘i Press).
Chronology compiled by A. L. Crawford, Crawford House Publishing Aust. Pty Ltd., ABN 31 102 847 656, 14 Dryandra Drive, PO Box 50, Belair, SA5052 Australia; Tel: + 61 8 8370 3555; Fax: + 61 8 8370 3566; Email: email@example.com