Trikora: A Story on How Papua Merged to Indonesia

Story of Trikora

Papua is a province of Indonesia that is located at the most eastern of the country and constitutes the biggest province of it. Papua is a beautiful district that God has blessed with magnificent and abundant nature. A big portion of the province is a tropical rainforest that takes up about 71% of the land. Papua is approximately 421,981 kilometers wide yet only about 2,3 million inhabitants are reportedly present there.

There was a time when it used to be known as “Irian Jaya”. That name was proposed by an Indonesian national hero from the province, Frans Kaisieppo. Later, the fourth president of Indonesia changed the name back to “Papua” during his term as stated in the Indonesian Laws No. 21/2001 about Papua’s special autonomy.

We all agree on Papua being part of Indonesia. However, Indonesian predecessors had a hard and long time to have Papua united to Indonesia. They had to go through a military operation called the Trikora Operation.



The story began when Indonesia obtained its Independence on August 17th, 1945. The proclamation was read aloud in Cenrtal Jakarta by Soekarno, the first President of Indonesia. The reading of the proclamation was supposed to mark the end of the Dutch colonization over Indonesia. However, the Netherlands refused to admit the sovereignty of Indonesia over (West) Papua due to the racial differences between Papuan Indonesians and non-Papuan Indonesians. Instead, they wanted it to be a separate established country. It became a competition between both countries to take over West Papua.

International forums and encounters were held to discuss this matter. In the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference, the Netherlands handed over the sovereignty of the Indonesian territories to the Republic of Indonesia Union. Nevertheless, they did not meet any agreement on who owns West Papua but agreed to discuss this matter within the span of a year.

Since there seemed to be no progress made by the Netherlands to resolve the issue of West Papua, Soekarno, the first President of Indonesia, took military action to take over West Papua. This means he had failed every diplomatic endeavor to resolve the issue. This action is called the Trikora Operation.

Trikora Operation

Trikora Operation

To start the Trikora Operation, Indonesia looked for external weapon assistance. They attempted to ask the United States for help but failed. In 1960, Indonesia finally had a weapon trade agreement with the Uni Soviet government that counted up for 2,5 billion US dollars. At this point, the Indonesian National Army claimed that Indonesia has the strongest air Force among the southern countries.

Trikora is the acronym for “Tri Komando Rakyat” which means three commandos of people. The three commandos of the operation are: abort the establishment of Papua country, raise the Indonesian flag in West Papua, and get ready for the mobilization to maintain the independence and the unity of the nation.

Knowing Indonesia was preparing for a takeover, the Dutch government did not remain silent. Instead, they started acting nice to the Papuans to gain the support of the locals. They also trained some of the Papuan natives to fight for them.

On the other side, Soekarno and his colleagues knew the Netherlands would not make it easy for them. In fact, on March 6th, 1961, Korra-1 (an army corps) was established.  The corps was led by General Soeharto.

At that time, Indonesians did not know much about the importance of Papua. Soekarno, then, brought a campaign to burn their spirits. The campaign took place in Yogyakarta on December 19th, 1961. Yogyakarta was the right place because it had been trampled by the Dutch. Its people would take this operation as a revenge to the Netherlands.

Right in the morning on December 19th, 1961, Soekarno spoke. He knew how the Netherlands wanted to make Papua their doll. He spoke fierily, telling people to fail the colonizer’s effort to establish “the country of Papua”. The Indonesian flag should be raised in the land of Papua and Indonesians should be ready for mobilization to free West Papua from the Dutch imperialism, as he said. Those three commands were remembered by people as Trikora (three people’s commands).

On the other side, the United States of America, who earlier refused to help Indonesia, was concerned if Uni Soviet would interfere with the issue. They finally urged the Netherlands to have a negotiation with Indonesia. Later, the two conflicting countries had an agreement in New York to resolve the matter. The agreement is known as the New York Agreement.

The New York Agreement was a win for Indonesia. On August 15th, 1962, the Netherlands handed over West Papua to Indonesia through the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority. On May 1st, 1963, Indonesia had West Papua back. West Papua’s position became more certain after the Pepera (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat) in 1969. Pepera is a referendum by the West Papuans which resulted in most of them voting for West Papuan’s merger to Indonesia.

This story tells us how determined our predecessors were to unify West Papua to Indonesia. It is our turn now to preserve our unity with peace and love.