How Did Indonesia Get West Papua? The Timeline of the History

How Did Indonesia Get West Papua


How did Indonesia get West Papua? Wasn’t the region under the strict control of the Dutch? Yes, the Dutch did their utmost to put the western part of New Guinea Island, formerly known as Nieuw Guinea, under the rule of the country’s kingdom. The Dutch had made many attacks, including military confrontation, economic confrontation, political confrontation, and diplomatic struggles, yet the people of West Papua and Indonesia retaliated together.

Then, many efforts were made by Indonesian authorities at that time to seize West Papua. They used diplomatic ways first by negotiating the matter of Papua’s sovereignty. However, the diplomatic negotiations did not produce fruitful results, which brought Indonesia to use political and economic confrontation. In the financial matter, Indonesia executed three plans:

  1. Banning Dutch airplanes from crossing and landing on any Indonesian territory.
  2. The nationalization of Dutch companies.
  3. Labor strikes in Dutch companies.

However, the Dutch still did not want to hand over the control of Nieuw Guinea. This led to other confrontations in the political and military fields. For political conflict, Indonesia canceled the results of the KBM (Konferensi Meja Bundar or Round Table Conference), formed the province of West Irian in Soasiu, and severed diplomatic relations with the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, the military confrontation began when Indonesia established the Mandala Command to combat military aggression from the Netherlands. These efforts were ineffective against the Dutch’s ambition to govern Nieuw Guinea. So, how did Indonesia get West Papua, exactly?

How Did Indonesia Get West Papua? The Timeline of History

  1. Round Table Conference (KMB) on August 23 to November 2, 1949

The matters of military and political confrontation had brought the representatives of Indonesia and the Netherlands to negotiate in Den Haag, Belanda. Through this negotiation, Indonesia could not seize the West Irian from the Netherlands’ hand.

However, the conference produced other results regarding Indonesia becoming an independent country, and the West Irian issue would be held for further negotiation a year after recognizing Indonesia’s independence. In addition, the Netherlands withdrew its Royal Army and warships from Indonesia territory and disbanded the Royal Dutch East Indies Army.

  1. New York Agreement on August 15, 1962

Due to the Dutch persistence in granting western Papua independence, Indonesia and Netherlands brought this issue to the United Nations forum, called the New York Agreement. In this forum, the Netherlands delegation refused to hand over West Irian. It is because they claimed that the locals had no ethnic ties to Indonesia. Meanwhile, Indonesia argued that they should include all territories of the Dutch East Indies in the new Republik Indonesia Serikat (RIS).

After that, the Netherlands chose to transfer the control of West Irian to the UNITEA (United Nations Temporary Executive Authority). Then, the Netherlands asked for the people of Papua to hold a referendum to decide whether they wanted to be a part of Indonesia. If the referendum’s result were on Indonesia’s side, the Netherlands would be willing to hand over the control of West Irian entirely.

  1. Act of Free Choice on July 14 to August 2, 1969

It is also known as the Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat (PEPERA). This direct plebiscite was the determining factor for Papua to join Indonesia. During the poll, 1,025 native Papuans voted and chose to remain as part of Indonesia. This result was brought to the UN General Assembly. Then, the UN approved the results on December 19, 1969.

How did Indonesia get West Papua? To answer, Indonesia utilized many ways to get West Papua to join Indonesia. The country used diplomatic, political, economic, and military confrontations against the Netherlands.