When a referendum based on the Act of Free Choice was conducted in 1969, Papua officially became part of Indonesia. In the beginning, all of Papua was considered to be one giant province. However, many parties eventually saw the expansion of Papua as an imperative.
In fact, the goal of the expansion is to speed up progress and distribute economic success more fairly throughout the island. As a result, the province’s borders grew and shrank multiple times during its history, as you will see below.
A Brief History of Papua
The handover of western Papua from the Netherlands via the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) to Indonesia took place on August 15, 1962. It was under the terms of the New York Agreement, with the United States as the broker.
While UNTEA addressed the region using both West New Guinea and West Irian, Papua was the main preference by the local inhabitants.
To settle whether the Dutch or the Indonesians should claim the western half of the island of Papua, the central government held a referendum from July 14 to August 2, 1969. A total of 1,025 men and women were present as regional delegates, and by acclamation, they decided to join Indonesia.
After the People’s Opinion (Indonesian: Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat) was conducted in 1969, Indonesia achieved widespread acceptance that Papua was a part of the country. Then, on March 1, 1973, President Soeharto formally renamed West Irian to Irian Jaya.
As the Reformation began, there was a call to rebrand Irian Jaya as Papua. President Abdurrahman Wahid heard the request. As part of his formal state visit on the morning of January 1, 2000, he stated that the name of the island of Irian Jaya would henceforth be Papua.
The First Expansion: The Establishment of West Papua
West Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya Barat, was officially recognized as a province on October 4, 1999, under Law No. 45 of 1999, which created new provinces and regencies.
The administration of Irian Jaya backs the legislation. Papuans in Jayapura rejected the idea of partitioning the province into three when President B.J. Habibie announced the policy on October 1, 1999. Since then, efforts to divide the province have halted. However, efforts to divide the districts continue.
The re-establishment of West Irian Jaya as a separate province was in 2002. Since then, West Irian Jaya has gradually become the most significant province.
Then, a governor and deputy governor were appointed for the period 2006-2011. This marks the completion of West Irian Jaya Province in terms of its area, population, government machinery, budget, and Regional House of Representatives members.
Since then, the province of West Irian Jaya has begun to set up shop lawfully. More recently, on April 18, 2007, West Irian Jaya officially became known as West Papua.
The Second Expansion: The Establishment of Three New Provinces
Three new provinces emerged as the divisions of Papua. Therefore, with this addition, there are now 37 provinces in Indonesia. The three new provinces are South Papua, Central Papua, and Highlands Papua. South Papua has the capital city of Merauke, Timika for Central Papua, and Wamena for Highlands Papua.
South Papua or Ha Anim includes the following cities:
- Boven Digoel
Meanwhile, here are the cities under the administration of Central Papua or Meepago:
- Intan Jaya
On the other hand, there are eight cities that are part of Highlands Papua or Lapago, including:
- Puncak Jaya
- Lanny Jaya
- Mamberamo Tengah
The hopes and dreams of the Papuan people inspired the creation of the concept for the extension of Papua. This strategy proves that the central government of Indonesia is paying great attention to the easternmost part of the country.