Papua and the Ambition of Indonesia’s First President


For Soekarno, Indonesia without West Irian (the name before West Papua) is like a human body without its fingertip. As written in his autobiography by Cindy Adams, Sukarno: Penyambung Lidah Rakyat Indonesia, Sukarno questioned if there is someone that would not fight back when other people hurts one of his body features. He was also asked if there is someone that would not scream out loud when their fingers are cut. His analogy is as hurts as it sounds if West Papua is still being colonized by the Dutch.

Soekarno’s statement is not coming up without some supporting facts. Since the colonial era, it is already determined that West Irian is a part of Dutch East Indies which would be recognized as a part of Indonesian Republic. During the process of transition, the Dutch broke the negotiation in The Roundtable Conference (KMB) on 1949. The Dutch refuse to transfer West Irian province as a part of Indonesian Republic because they believed that West Irian has different ethnicity and culture with the rest of Indonesian people. “Sukarno has instructed Hatta not to return from KMB in The Hague (to Indonesia) without West Irian,” wrote Mavis Rose in Indonesia Free: A Political Biography of Mohammad Hatta.

The discourse brought by the Dutch were strongly refuted by the Indonesian government because Indonesia is an independent country with ethnic diversity from Sabang to Merauke. There was never one ethnicity and culture that could represent Indonesia because the country was built based on Bhineka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). The fact that West Irian is a part of Indonesia was also supported by the statement from Representatives of BFO (Federal Consultative Body) for the Eastern Indonesian State (Negara Indonesia Timur), Ide Anak Agung Gde Agung, which says that West Irian is a part of the Sultanate of Maluku-Tidore a few decades ago.

In Soekarno’s era, the fight for West Irian represents the Indonesian dream of being independent and free from colonialism. As Soekarno stated strongly, he did not care whether it will be the United Nations or even borrowing the devil’s hand (taking the hardest way albeit), he did not mind, for all he cares is West Irian to come back as a part of Indonesian Republic. In one of his memorable speech, “This Year, all the citizens from Sabang to Merauke will fight to freed West Irian”, Soekarno once again sends a message to the world that the Indonesian Republic will do whatever it takes to fight for West Irian. A historian from LIPI also confirmed that in the first and foremost place, Soekarno’s fight was never about the abundance of natural resources that West Irian possessed instead it was about the dream to have an independent Indonesian territoriality.

Of all the facts that exist, the Dutch still encourages the establishment of the State of Papua together with the national anthem instead. Further, the strengthening of the military fleet was carried out by the Dutch by bringing the aircraft carrier of Karel Doorman to West Irian. These irresponsible Dutch movements triggered Soekarno to declare the Tri Komando Rakyat (Trikora) Operation on December 19th, 1961. Trikora’s operational command was called Mandala Command for the Liberation of West Irian with Major-General Soeharto, serving as the commander. In preparation for the planned invasion, the Mandala command began making land, air, and sea incursions into West Irian.

Here, the battles between Indonesian’s army and the Dutch’s army were inevitable to seize West Irian.