Since the beginning of Indonesian independence, West Irian or Papua has been one of the areas that are in dispute. It is because, at that time, Netherland had refused to admit that Papua was part of Indonesia. According to the Netherland Government, the reason is that, ethnically and culturally, the people of West Irian are different from Indonesia so that Indonesia cannot claim Papua.
The unification of West Irian with Indonesia cannot be separated from the role of our first president, Ir. Sukarno. Because of his hard work, Papua can be part of Indonesia until now. He has made various efforts, from diplomacy to confrontation. However, how is his journey in fighting for Papua? Here are Soekarno’s political steps in seizing West Irian.
Soekarno’s motto “From Sabang to Merauke”
Soekarno certainly had a reason why he insisted on defending Papua. For Soekarno, Indonesian territory covers Sabang to Merauke. Therefore, the father of the proclamation is sure that half of the islands in the eastern tip are part of the Republic of Indonesia. Despite all the differences that we had, Sukarno could not just let Papua go.
Also, Soekarno compared Papua to being part of the “body” of Indonesia. In his autobiography, he said that someone couldn’t let a part of his body got cut off without resisting. Therefore, like someone who screamed in pain when his fingertips were cut, Soekarno felt he had to shout out loud to defend Papua.
Soekarno’s Ambition Towards Papua
As we discussed earlier, Soekarno had the ambition to unite Indonesia from Sabang to Merauke. Besides, because the Netherland still wanted to show their power, Soekarno also realized that the Netherland must be eyeing something from the land of Papua. In this case, Soekarno realized the wealth and natural potential that West Irian or Papua had.
Soekarno realized the economic potential that Papua had. He said that West Irian is rich in crude oil. One of them is the high-priced uranium. Therefore, he argued that the Netherland deliberately stayed in West Irian to exploit Indonesia’s wealth. Also, according to him, if Netherland imperialism was still there, he felt it was like a knife that would continue to threaten Indonesia from behind.
Political Diplomacy to Seize Papua from Colonialism
To seize West Irian, Soekarno used various methods, from diplomacy to confrontation. The diplomacy method is carried out through various negotiations, one of which is the Round Table Conference at 27 December 1949. However, the negotiation process was tough for many years. It was because the Netherland continued to postpone and were absent from the agenda.
This problem has become a time bomb. Both Indonesia and the Netherlands felt they had the right to Papua, so the dispute did not end. The absence of the Netherlands from the KMB also made the situation heated up for 11 years. Because it was difficult to reach the deal, this issue was finally brought to the UN forums in 1954, 1955, 1957, and 1960.
Mandala Command as a Step of Confrontation
Apart from political diplomacy, the Soekarno government finally attempted a confrontation with weapons. It is because the Netherlands does not seem to have a good intention to resolve the problem peacefully. Soekarno then formed the Mandala Command with Major General Suharto as commander of his military operations.
This situation then made the Netherlands pressured and forced to negotiate again with Indonesia. Finally, on August 15, 1962, the New York Agreement stated that the Netherlands would hand over power over Papua to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA). Then, on December 31, 1962, the Netherland removed their flag from Papua and the red and white flag flew. It indicates that Papua has returned to the Republic of Indonesia, under UN supervision.
Papua Finally United with the Republic of Indonesia
West Irian finally returned to being part of the Republic of Indonesia in May 1963. In negotiations between Indonesia and the Netherlands, with the US as the mediator, the Netherlands agreed to budget 30 million dollars per year to build West Irian through the United Nations. Meanwhile, Indonesia was obliged to carry out “self-determination” for Papua in December 1969.
After that, the Soekarno government also planned Papua development programs. The plan is for the central government to focus on strengthening security, consolidating civilian government, and developing Papua’s economy in the first year. Furthermore, the central government also plans to focus on developing rural areas using funds from the United Nations. However, this development program is not clear how it ended after President Soekarno stepped down in 1965.
Those are some of the political efforts that President Soekarno had made to liberate Papua from colonialism. In its history, the joining of West Irian with NKRI has indeed come a long way. Various methods, from diplomacy to military aggression, have attempted to unite the Republic of Indonesia from Sabang to Merauke.
Seeing the struggle, we now need to work hard to maintain the unity of Indonesia. We should not forget history and appreciate the sacrifice of heroes by maintaining peace. As part of the Republic of Indonesia, we should try to maintain harmony and tolerance between ethnic groups, religions, and races to maintain the integrity of the nation.
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