Reviewing Papua and West Papua in Soeharto Era

West Papua in Soeharto era

President Soeharto led Indonesia for 32 years. From 1968-1998, West Papua was an area that did not escape its management. West Papua in Soeharto era experienced its ups and downs, like other regions in Indonesia.

Granting of Freeport Permits

One of West Papua in Soeharto era’s policies that had a long-lasting impact economically—and involved the fate of the people of Papua—was the awarding of a work contract to Freeport on April 7, 1967.

With this contract of work, Freeport was given the red carpet to dredge Erstberg, aka the Ore Mountain, which is rich in copper for a period of 30 years.

Freeport as a gate for foreign investment in Indonesia which to a certain extent helps restore the Indonesian economy.

Freeport’s mining activities have turned the natural landscape of Mount Grasberg into a giant pit 700 meters deep.

Lake Wanagon as the sacred lake of the Amungme people was also destroyed because it was used as a waste rock dump which was highly acidic and toxic.

Freeport also pollutes three main river bodies in the Mimika area: Aghawagon, Otomona and Ajkwa. The three rivers are used as disposal sites for residual production waste called tailings.

The Struggle for Papua to Indonesia

After giving permission to Freeport, Soeharto guarantee that Papua would remain part of Indonesia.

Because of that, he had to secure the votes of the Papuan people in the Popular Opinion Consultation (Pepera) which held in 1969.

The Pepera options were quite complicate: stay with Indonesia or become independent.

The Popular Opinion Determination (Pepera) on July 14, 1969 mark the beginning of Papua’s joining as part of Indonesia. This, become the history of West Papua in Soeharto era.

However, until now, the legitimacy of this process is still being challenge, and making the Pepera appear to be history that has never been complete.

Soeharto then sent Ali Moertopo to secure the votes of the Papuan people.

Since 1964 Ali had been appointed by Soeharto, the Commander of Special Operations (Opsus) for West Irian.

When Soeharto became president, Ali helped Ruslan Abdulgani, at that time the Indonesian ambassador to the United Nations, supervise West Irian matters.

Development Program

West Papua in Soeharto era, construction of roads in Papua ongoing. This program is now being continue by President Joko Widodo.

The road construction program in Papua start since West Papua in Soeharto era.

Soeharto has a development trilogy program that applies in the short, medium and long term. the program prioritizes national stability for economic growth and equitable development.

In the decade of 1970 to be precise, Soeharto paid attention to Papua’s infrastructure, which at that time was still call Irian Jaya. This project is call the Papua arterial road construction program.

The target of this development is to open access to remote areas which are isolate because of their very remote location. With this development, there will be a land route that penetrates the interior.

If the road built then accelerate economic growth can be achieve. Distribution of goods can reach more remote areas.

Thus, the welfare of the Papuan people will increase. This is one of West Papua’s major projects in the Soeharto era.

Human Rights Violations

During the New Order era starting in 1965. There were a number of violations of human rights involving the Indonesian military.

In that era, human rights violations did not only occur in Papua, but also in other regions in Indonesia.

West Papua in Soeharto era were consider to have damage the dignity of the Indonesian people.

In 1998, the people moved massively, spearheaded by students, to bring down Soeharto’s military regime.