West Papua Map – Ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders Meeting that will be held from the 1st to 9th September 2018 in Nauru, a polemic emerged about the issue of West Papua in various mass media in Asia Pacific.

On 7-10 August 2018, the Vanuatu government presented a UN resolution draft for West Papua at the meeting of the Pacific Islands Committee (FOC) and Foreign Minister Meetings Forum held in Apia, Samoa.

Vanuatu had explicitly requested support from other Melanesian countries to support the resolution draft. Vanuatu has also appointed Lora Lini, the daughter of Vanuatu’s famous founding father, Walter Lini, as a Special Envoy on West Papua.

“My role as Special Envoy on the Decolonization of West Papua to the Pacific Island States is to bring the attention of states member of the Pacific Islands Forum to Vanuatu’s intention to table a UN Resolution for the decolonization of West Papua,” Lora Lini said.

Vanuatu and United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) continue to mobilize support for West Papua through mass media.

Unsurprisingly, on August 28, Ro Teimumu Kepa, Fiji Opposition Leader, urged the Fiji government to strongly support Vanuatu. Also on 30 August, the West Papua Action Auckland group has appealed to Prime Minister of New Zealand to support Vanuatu’s United Nations initiative.

However, other countries still remain in their stance. Papua New Guinea (PNG), Fiji, and New Zealand emphasized its impartiality on Vanuatu’s agenda in bringing the issue of West Papua to the UN. Because it has violated the domestic affairs of a country and is contrary to the rules of the UN.

In mid-August, PNG Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister, Rimbink Pato, highlighted that Papua New Guinea does not and will not support the issue of West Papua pushed by Vanuatu at the United Nations West Papua Map

“We object to it, so Papua New Guinea will not and does not support any action taken by Vanuatu, so we object it,” Rimbink Pato said.

Afterwards, on 28 August, the New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters said that his country recognizes West Papua as a part of Indonesia.

It is understandable that because of their racial bond, Asia Pacific countries will support each other’s development and progress.

But, there is an inclination to force the discussions about West Papua in various forums. In the PIF forum, for example, the agenda should focus on improving the economic and social welfare of the South Pacific by encouraging cooperation between governments and between international institutions.Viewing this matter from the PIF agenda itself, it is certainly not appropriate if the discussion about West Papua take place inside PIF forum.

Moreover, the discussion on West Papua always focuses on two things, namely the invalidation of the 1969 People Opinion Act (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat or PEPERA) and the human rights cases allegedly occurred in West Papua.

PEPERA, Sovereignty, and Democracy

It is said that the denial of the right of self-determination for West Papua in the 1969s set the scene for decades of state-sanctioned violence against the indigenous population.

This context is not accompanied by the fact that the biggest human rights incident in West Papua happened in the end of Dutch colonialism era, all regions in Indonesia armed and fought to drive out the invaders. The Dutch-formed army (which became the forerunner of OPM – Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or Free Papua Movement) in West Papua sided with the Dutch to fight against pro-independence Indonesians.

Since Dutch colonial era, Papua was a part of the Dutch East Indies, which in recognition of sovereignty would become a part of the United Republic of Indonesia.

When the Dutch recognized Indonesia’s independence on December 27, 1949, Papua had yet to be reintegrated with Indonesia, as the Round Table Conference (KMB) conducted in Den Hague on August 23, 1949, agreed that all territories of Dutch colonies were to be part of the Republic of Indonesia, except for West Papua that would be returned to Indonesian jurisdiction 2 years later. In reality, the Dutch later violated the agreement, as they were still occupied Papua in 1961. They even planned measures to separate Papua from the Republic of Indonesia. The Papuan National Council (DNP, or Dewan Nasional Papua), the forerunner of the Free Papua Movement (OPM, or Organisasi Papua Merdeka), was hastily formed by the Dutch, followed by the declaration of a puppet state on December 1, 1961.

The cunning Dutch formed a puppet state in Papua, similar to what they had done in other regions of Indonesia, certainly causing an outrage among the Indonesian. Hence, on December 19, 1961, at the North Townsquare of Yogyakarta, Indonesian President Soekarno announced the People’s Triple Command (Operation Trikora) as an attempt to reunite West Irian with the Republic of Indonesia.

After tough diplomatic efforts facilitated by the United Nations (UN), the Dutch finally succumbed and signed the New York Agreement (NYA) with Indonesia on August 15, 1962. Indonesia was represented by Soebandrio and the Dutch was represented by Jan Herman van Roijen and C. W. A. Schurmann. The content of the agreement was essentially a roadmap for the attempt to resolve the dispute over the Papua/West Irian region. Five days later on September 20, 1962, the exchange of the ratification instrument between Indonesia and the Dutch was carried out, but that did not make it automatically come into force, because the UN was involved. Therefore, the UN brought the agreement to the UN General Assembly (UNGA). It was then accepted and ratified through the UNGA Resolution 1752 which came into force on September 21, 1962.

According to the NYA, the transfer of authority over West Papua from the Dutch to Indonesian government would be conducted indirectly. The Dutch would hand it over to the UN first, then the UN would hand it over to Indonesian government through a referendum known as PEPERA (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat, or Determination of the People’s Opinion).

Ultimately, on October 1, 1962, the Deputy Governor General of the Netherlands H. Veldkamp surrendered his authority over West Papua to a UN agency specifically formed to deal with the Papuan dispute, named the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA).

UNTEA then prepared the referendum. On May 1, 1963, UNTEA finally handed over the governing of West Papua to Indonesia. Hollandia, which had been the center of power of the Dutch kingdom in Papua, was renamed to Kota Baru. The day is now commemorated as the Day of Return of Papua to the Republic of Indonesia. The history of Papua’s return to the Republic of Indonesia was also clarified by a historical witness, Herman Yoku, in recent years.

Lawsuits Against PEPERA Referendum

Three days later, precisely on May 4, 1963, Soekarno set foot on the land of Papua. In the presence of thousands of Papuans in Kota Baru, Soekarno delivered a passionate speech, “West Irian, since August 17, 1945, has been a territory of the Republic of Indonesia. People sometimes talked about bringing West Irian into the territory of Indonesia. That’s wrong! No! West Irian has always been a territory of the Republic of Indonesia…” (footage of Soekarno’s speech in Kota Baru, Jayapura, May 4, 1963). On September 5, 1963, West Papua was declared a “quarantined area”. Indonesian government disbanded the Papuan Council and prohibited the Papuan flag and national anthem created by the Dutch. This decision was opposed by the OPM.

The preparation for the referendum took seven years. Only in 1969, the referendum (PEPERA) was held, witnessed by two UN envoys. As a result, Papua finally returned to the Republic of Indonesia, becoming the 26th province of Indonesia under the name of Irian Jaya upon the wishes of the Papuan people. This decision, however, was again opposed by the OPM and several independent observers provoked by the Dutch.

To this day, OPM still has successors and propagates their version of history in order to bring about the ideals of a Free Papua. The assumption that the Dutch gave them independence has continued to be the foundation for this organization to act. In reality, the same promise of independence has also been offered to other Indonesian puppet states such as Yogyakarta. The separatist group, backed by the Dutch since the founding, sued the PEPERA for not truly representing the voice of the Papuan people as it did not implement the one man one vote mechanism. However, we cannot deny that the practice of democratic representation has become a part of the democratic culture in Indonesia as well as Papua. In the democratic culture of the Papuan people themselves, there is a system known as Noken, within a community in the Central Mountains of Papua, in which the vote is represented by the tribal chief.

The PEPERA Deliberation Council (DPM, or Dewan Musyawarah PEPERA) of 1,026 members became representatives of the Papuan population, which at the time were 815,904 residents. The DPM members consisted of traditional element (tribal chiefs) as many as 400 people, 360 people from the regional elements, and 266 people from various interest groups. The result, as stated within the acclamation of DMP representatives, was to remain within the Republic of Indonesia. Resolution 1504, stating that Papua is a legitimate territory of the Republic of Indonesia, was approved by 80 UN member states with 20 abstinent states. There was no country that refused the integration of Papua into Indonesian territory. Therefore, Papua was de facto recognized and legitimate as a part of the territory of the Republic of Indonesia. Today, what is worth wondering is actually the legitimacy of the OPM—whether OPM is genuinely the voice of the Papuan people, or only the specific interest of the separatist group—as there is no reliable method that can really ensure whether what they are doing is truly on behalf of the Papuan people.

Melanesian Ethnicity vs Indonesian Ethnicity

The ethnicity issues are also questionable. Indonesian ethnicity is often distinguished from the Melanesian. Whereas in fact, there are 13 millions Melanesians live in five Indonesian provinces: East Nusa Tenggara, Papua, West Papua, Maluku, and North Maluku.

The Republic of Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, ranged from Sabang in Aceh to Merauke in Papua, which consists of 17,504 islands, 1,340 tribes, and 742 languages. Indonesia declared Pancasila as the basic principle and the original values guiding the life of the people of the Nusantara Archipelago. Although these people consist of many ethnic entities each with its own culture, they had the values of Pancasila as a common denominator.

Indonesia government recognized Papuan’s Melanesian identity through Law No. 21/2001 on the Papua province special autonomy. They are considered to be a part of the culturally and multi-ethnically diverse nation of Indonesia. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest and most diverse nation. In short, the Melanesian identity was a blessing to Indonesia’s Bhinneka Tunggal Ika or Unity in Diversity.

Since the start of its independency, Indonesia has shown and applied Pancasila’s value. It was used to unify people from diverse religious, social and ethnic backgrounds. It was used to rally people against the Dutch and various rebellions in the 1950s and 1960s. It was also used to temper the minorities’ fears of a tyranny of the majority by stressing the religious harmony, humanism, and equality among people from various backgrounds.

West Papua is home for 312 different tribes, including some unreachable ones. The diversity of people in West Papuan has already shown how Indonesia can unify all of them under one roof.

West Papua Today

Apart from discussions on PEPERA and Human Rights cases, support groups for the liberation of West Papua have never discussed the economic development in Papua now. This is a concern for leaders of Asia Pacific countries.

“If you were to examine the economic and social conditions of West Papua per capita as opposed to Papua New Guinea (PNG), even PNG would acknowledge that their (West Papua) performance is higher.” Winston Peters, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, said.

“Before we went, we had been listening to the other side of the story. And the story we heard, which we were always hearing at that time, were that there is always human rights abuse, there is always a fight for independence, someone is being killed and all that. It’s one-sided, all one-sided.” Rence Sore, The Solomons’ Secretary on Foreign Relations, said that when they went to Papua region, the story was entirely different.

The blooming development in West Papua that has never been discussed by separatist groups and their supporters includes:

Infrastructure Development

The government is working with the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PU-Pera) to build the Trans-Papua road. This infrastructure is targeted to be connected entirely in 2018-2019. The length of the road is a combination of the Trans-Papua road in Papua Province, which covers 3,259.45 km and the Trans-Papua road in West Papua Province along 1,070.62 km. With the existence of Trans-Papua, Indonesia wants to facilitate access to the economy, health and education for the people of Papua and West Papua. The government allocated Rp 2.3 trillion to encourage infrastructure development, especially roads building in Papua.

Health Program West Papua Map

The Head of Manokwari Branch Health of BPJS (Badan Penyelenggara Jaminan Sosial or Social Security Organization), Florinsye Tamonob, said that currently 97.07% of the 1,180,658 total population of West Papua have participated in the National Healthy Card-Indonesia Health Insurance Program (JKN-KIS).
At present, all residents of indigenous Papuans, especially in the Province of West Papua have been registered in the Health Insurance Program and all contributions will be financed by the Regional Government whose budget comes from Special Autonomy funds.


One Fuel Price

In 2017, Indonesia President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) instructed his staff to implement a one-price fuel oil policy (BBM) in all parts of Indonesia. This policy has also been applied for Papua and West Papua. The purpose of this policy is to make the fuel prices in Papua and West Papua can similar as in Java. This policy reduces the price of fuel which could have been around 60,000 to 100,000 per liter to 8,000 – 9,700 per liter.

Bright Papua Program (Program Papua Terang)

The government together with PT PLN (Persero) has a target to supply electricity to 1,200 villages throughout the provinces of Papua and West Papua until 2018. Now, the addition of electricity has been carried out to 435 villages. The government is trying to make the amount of drainage and electricity availability in the province reach 95% in 2018 and 100% by the end of 2019.

Nowadays, Indonesia is still in conflict with separatist groups. However, several former separatists have even acknowledged themselves as a part of Indonesia now, such as Herman Yoku, a former OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or Free Papua Movement) activist, who revealed that the separatist movement of Papua was camouflage arranged by the Dutch and not the true voice of Papuan people.

Indonesia cannot change the history. The Republic of Indonesia with 17,504 islands, 1,340 tribes, and 742 languages ​​requires support from Asia Pacific countries to maintain the sovereignty of the country.