The Discussion About Papua in the Round Table Conferences

the Round Table Conferences
Papua in the Round Table Conferences

As we know, in seizing West Irian from the Netherlands, Indonesia has taken various methods. The steps that the Indonesian government has taken range from political diplomacy to military aggression. One of Indonesia’s first political-diplomatic efforts was through the Round Table Conference.

It turned out that during the Round Table Conference negotiations, there had been a disagreement about West Irian, not only between Indonesia and the Netherlands but also between members of the Indonesian delegation. That’s why then it made the liberation process of West Irian drag on and took many years.

Furthermore, some of the things that become discussions about Indonesia and West Irian are as follows bellow.

According to the Netherland, West Irian is not Part of Indonesia

the Round Table Conferences
Netherland Diplomacy

The Round Table Conference Negotiations on 23 August 1949—2 November 1949 in Den Hague discussed the recognition of the Netherlands for the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia. However, towards the end, there was a conflict over the status of West Irian. In this case, the Netherland refused to hand over West Irian to Indonesia.

The Netherland representative, Minister Maarseveen, said that West Irian was not part of Indonesia in an entity and cultural way. Also, according to him, as a newly independent country, Indonesia was not capable yet of building welfare for the Papuan people. Therefore, according to him, West Irian should remain under the Netherland government.

Indonesian Representatives Opposing Netherland Opinion

the Round Table Conferences
Indonesian Delegacy

Indonesia, through its representatives, Vice President Muhammad Hatta and Mr. Mohammad Roem refute Maarseveen’s opinion. According to them, the reasons presented by the Netherland did not make sense. In this case, politically, West Irian was integrated into the colony of the Dutch East Indies. Meanwhile, whatever happens, the Netherlands must hand over the territory that was formerly under its control to Indonesia.

This opinion was strengthened by the Prime Minister of NIT, who was also the Indonesian delegation representing BFO, Ide Anak Agung Gde Agung. He said that before becoming a Netherland colony, West Irian was part of the Tidore Kingdom, Maluku. Therefore, the separation of West Irian from Indonesia is contrary to the mandate entrusted by the people of NIT.

The Netherlands Refuses to Give Up West Irian

the Round Table Conferences
The Discussion About Papua

Although he could not answer the Indonesian delegation’s opposition, Minister Maarseveen remained in his opinion. He said that the Netherlands could not fulfill the wishes of the Indonesian delegation. It was also because to relinquish this valuable colony, there had to be a law that was approved by a majority of two-thirds of the members of the Netherland Parliament, which at that time were controlled by the conservative group.

So, we can see that the Netherland was trying to defend West Irian to protect their economic interests. Other than that, by controlling West Irian, they will at the same time re-establish the pride of the Netherlands as one of the largest imperialist countries in the world. In essence, the Netherland did not want to admit their defeat against Indonesia.

The difference of Opinion Between Fellow Indonesian Delegates

the Round Table Conferences
Indonesian Opinion

Hatta realized that the main reason for the Netherland’ refusal to surrender West Irian was that they had not fully acknowledged their defeat. Therefore, for Hatta, the main thing at that time was the recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty as an independent country. He also decided not to continue the debate towards further demands.

In this case, there was a difference of opinion between the representatives of the Indonesian delegation. The BFO wants the West Irian problem to be resolved immediately. Also, if political diplomacy does not work, they want resistance using the military way.

However, Colonel T.B Simatupang then tried to intervene. According to him, the war would not benefit Indonesia, because at that time they lacked logistics. Finally, they accepted Hatta’s idea of a compromise.

Ends With Status Quo

the Round Table Conferences
Status Quo

On 31 October 1949, Merle Cochran of UNCI formed a small committee. Its members are Dr. Supomo from Indonesia, Mr. S. Blom from the Netherlands, and Ide Anak Agung Gde Agung from BFO. Then, the committee was tasked with designing formulas related to the West Irian problem. Finally, at 2 a.m. on November 1, 1949, an agreement was reached. In this case, for a while, West Irian will be under the status quo, under the Netherland rule.

Furthermore, they will hold negotiations again within one year. With the status quo, the Netherland government actively expanded the exploration area of West Irian by building government posts. However, Indonesia’s quest for West Irian was not over. As Ir. Soekarno’s dream to unite from Sabang to Merauke, they also tried various further political steps after the end of the Round Table Conference.

Those were some of the things that became the subject of discussion about West Irian in the Round Table Conference. Although they did not get a satisfying agreement for Indonesia, our nation’s leaders did not remain silent. After that moment, they took several further steps to take over West Irian. The principle remains the same, Indonesia is not Indonesia if not from Sabang to Merauke.