Indonesia may have already declared their independence on August 17, 1945. However, that had not stopped the conflict between Indonesia and the Dutch colonialists. West Papua was the source of dispute between these two countries. Having gone through several diplomatic approaches and military operations, Indonesia went on what was to be the final straw.
This is where The New York Agreement played a major role to resolve the matter.
Before The New York Agreement
Actually, West Papua has already been a part of Indonesia since they declared independence on August 17, 1945. This is related to The Uti Possidetis Juris Principle.
Unfortunately, at that time, the Dutch colonialists prolonged the dispute with Indonesia by trying to keep West Papua with them. Because of this, Indonesia had to undergo a series of diplomatic and military operations. One of them is through The New York Agreement before Pepera (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat or The Act of Free Choice).
According to P.E. Winkler, the Netherlands’ colonization advisor back then, West Papua should not have belonged to Indonesia due to a different ethnicity of the indigenous Papuans. He had even stated clearly that the Javanese, Acehnese, and other Sumatra inhabitants were not entitled to own that “empty country”.
In reality, back then, the Dutch colonialists’ idea was to turn West Papua as their new colony in Southeast Asia.
After the declaration of Indonesia’s independence, there were two military aggressions between Indonesia and the Dutch colonizers. Thankfully, there were other countries who acknowledged and supported Indonesia’s independence. These countries were also concerned with what the Netherlands kept trying.
West Papua was later the topic of the Round Table Conference (KMB or Konperensi Meja Bundar) in 1949. Unfortunately, this conference did not come to any satisfying resolutions on both Indonesia and the Netherlands. The international acknowledgement and support for Indonesia’s fully-gained independence did not help to settle the matter.
The USA and Indonesia – Regarding West Papua
During the 1950s, The United States and Indonesia had not been in good terms—especially due to the US’s lack of support regarding Indonesia’s effort to reclaim West Papua. The US changed their decision when Indonesia decided to purchase weapons from The Soviet Union and Poland to support their military operations.
That was also The Cold War era between the US (which represented capitalism) versus the Soviet Union (which represented communism). To avoid Indonesia from falling into the influence of communism, the US agreed to help the country in reclaiming West Papua from the Dutch colonialists.
The New York Agreement Chronology
March 1962 was the time that both Indonesia and the Netherlands had a lengthy discussion. This time, the US was the mediator and the secret talk took place in Virginia. Ellsworth Bunker, the US diplomat, proposed that West Papua be placed under UN trustee temporarily. The Netherlands had rejected the idea in the beginning, but the UN cited regarding the “right to self-determination”.
The agreement on that time consisted of four main points:
- The consultative consul method and voting should be used to collect public opinions in Papua. This will be used as the basis of West Papua status decision.
- There will be the questions used to know the Papuan residents’ final decisions.
- All Papuans are eligible to participate in deciding their fate.
- Before the end of 1969, all stages must already be completed.
The New York Agreement
Both Indonesia and the Netherlands finally met at the UN headquarters in New York on August 15, 1962. This is where both countries signed The New York Agreement. The Agreement treaty points were:
- The strife and dispute between Indonesia and the Netherlands must be ceased.
- The Netherlands are required to lower all their flags in West Papua. The UNTEA (United Nations Temporary Executive Authority) officials will turn up at Papua on October 1, 1962, the earliest. They will take over the area and replace all the Dutch flags with the UN flags.
- Working together with local civilians and officers while in West Papua, UNTEA will restore stability. The help of some Dutch soldiers and officials might be accepted when necessary.
- UNTEA will also be the commander of Indonesian troops posted in West Papua.
- All Dutch military forces must be withdrawn from the lands and coasts of West Papua.
- There will be free traffic and access from West Papua to other Indonesian regions.
- Starting December 31, 1962, Indonesia can have their flags raised alongside the UN flags.
- The government of Indonesia will receive their official authority over West Papua from UNTEA.
- Before May 1, 1963, all Dutch soldiers and officials must be withdrawn by the Netherlands from Indonesia.
- Pepera (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat or The Act of Free Choice) will be made to happen in 1969, so the Papuans can voice out their allegiances.
After the New York Agreement was done, the West Papua representatives voted to stay with Indonesia. It was evident that the people of West Papua had always acknowledged Indonesia as their area’s sovereign.