Indonesia’s Claims to Papua

Oct 30th, 2010, in History, Opinion, by

Indonesia’s claim to Papua is self-contradictory. One cannot claim (as Indonesians often claim) that the Dutch presence in Indonesia was illegitimate and that the borders of the Netherlands Indies were mainly fixed by violence (as they were) and appeal to this same presence and these same borders as a basis for a legitimate Indonesian claim. The only open avowal of this inconsistency from an Indonesian that I have come across is the lecture that Dr. George Aditjondro gave some fifteen years ago for the Monash Asia Institute in Melbourne (see

Of course very much the same situation holds for other parts of Indonesia but for many of those one can, more or less convincingly, claim that they were somehow, though often only marginally, involved in the struggle for independence and that the Sukarno-Hatta declaration of the 17th of August 1945 was therefore at least implicitly accepted as being valid in and for these regions as well.

No such claim can be made for Papua. Papuans only knew Indonesians then as the Ambonnese and Keiese who served as teachers or in the lower ranks of the administration. They were by and large not popular. There was already then a definite “anti-Amberi” sentiment. Also, Papua was only partly occupied by the Japanese and these could not promote in the occupied part a nascent nationalist anti-western movement because that simply did not exist (the Koreri movement in the Biak-Numfor area was quite a different kettle of fish). Furthermore, the Americans, with some Dutch involvement, liberated Papua about one year before the Japanese surrendered in Java. Thus the Dutch administration had either been continued throughout the war or been properly restored in other parts well before the Sukarno-Hatta declaration was made.

I quote from the English language summary of the thus far most thorough study of the preliminaries of the so-called “Act of Free Choice”, that which Professor Pieter Drooglever was commissioned to write by the then Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Aartsen (“Een Daad van Vrije Keuze” 2005):

“The development of Indonesian nationalism entirely passed the Papuans by … (also) New Guinea had, in most respects, a different occupation history than the rest of Indonesia. It was only partially occupied. The Dutch influence continued to prevail in the south and in the interior. The occupation was also shorter and the island was liberated by the American army in the middle of 1944 already. The Dutch were also involved in this, and quickly took the administration back into their own hands. As a result, the restoration of power took place well before the independent Indonesian Republic was proclaimed on Java on 17 August 1945.”

I wish to say more about this.


100 Comments on “Indonesia’s Claims to Papua”

  1. syonan says:

    I wonder, what is the actual purpose of this article, to have another civil war where innocent ordinary people will suffer again and the politicians can make a name for themselves. It is not the politicians that suffer but the ordinary innocent people. What the Indonesian Papuans can do now, is to put things right themselves and be self governing under the Indonesian Republic. To be independent is not easy unless if there are capable leaders like Singapore’s Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysia’s Dr. Mahatir Mohammad. These are the leaders that knows what their people wants and what they must do for the country too. Shouting ‘merdeka’ is not good enough and if merdeka becomes a reality then the appeal for foreign aid to feed their people and to pour in money. If Indonesian Papuans do really care for their province, do what is right to up-lift the well being of all Papuans. Show to the rest of Indonesia what you Papuans are capable of and competent!

  2. sableng says:

    Dear All (especially Oigal)

    I am not a politician, therefore I wrote this, based on the fact that explanation made by Oigal is more provocative than what I have seen in factual condition.

    The Republic of Indonesia territory is from Sabang (Aceh) to Meraoke (West Irian). It has been declared internationally since 17 August 1945. This is the fact. Don’t forget this. In 1948, Dutch was trying to re-occupy. Failed. Then try to ‘dig’ that Irian is not part of Indonesia. The Dutch is also still trying to ‘make Ambon people fighting each other’…and confused. Other people also provokes that Aceh is not part of Indonesia.
    In my personal opinion, everyone who try to separate one big country like Indonesia (or other country), they are a real provocator. Whatever the reasons are….

    Any mistreatment, or whatever bad happen in West Irian, this is Indonesian Gevernment responsibility. It doesn’t mean that Irian has to be separated from Indonesia.

    Do you realize that many of Irian people become Member of Parliement. Ministry of Transportation is also from Irian. Many of them also study in University in Jakarta, Semarang, Yogyakarta and many other cities in Indonesia. Do not see only the bad things. See also the good things that has been done by the Government of Indonesia.

    I love to write more…

  3. sableng says:

    I fully agree with your opinion Syonan…. That is the point..! Do our best for our country….. Hard work for better living…!

  4. sableng says:

    The Republic of Indonesia is from Sabang (Aceh) to Meraoke ( West Irian)… is clearly declared in 17 August 1945 and has been accepted internationally…..FULL STOP

    Any mistreatment, neglegance, crime action, etc….is responsibility of every parties involved (not only Government of Indonesia to be blamed), it must be corrected in a right manner…..not separation….

    For the people of Irian/Papua (origin) please do what you can do for your better living…. Many parts (other islands) of Indonesia also suffering the same as what you though in Irian…..however, we are still Indonesia.

  5. Arie Brand says:

    Sableng get your facts right. If you are such an ardent Indonesian nationalist you can at least try to study the country’s history properly.

  6. JakartaJaap says:

    Arie, I just reread this thread after some time and I noted way back there a comment by you along the lines of ‘Did village Indonesians know they were being ruled by foreigners …. I met older people in the 90s who only vaguely knew …etc’. It’s an interesting question as I understand that some of the Australian troops in East Timor in 1999-2001 had first contacts with remote villagers who asked what had happened to the Portugese, ie weren’t they still running the show. The isolation in East Timor can be staggering, as in other mountainous areas of Indonesia. In ET in 1991, I watched one of the Salesian priests Father Locatelli mount up on horse and mule to conduct a two week communion and confession ride in the mountains – totally inaccessible by vehicle. In a similar vein, I recall a rape case in Bandung being abandoned in 1989 because the victim’s father, the key witness, was an isolate and could not speak any known version of Sundanese or BI.

  7. Arie Brand says:

    To my surprise the ABC gave today considerable space in its flagship current affairs program, the 7.30 report, to the findings of its undercover reporter in Papua. He claims that “the frequency and ferocity of abuse is on the rise there” and that there are claims that an elite “counter-terrorism unit” that has been funded and trained by Australia is now operating in the territory targeting independence leaders.

    Resistance leaders in the restive Indonesian region of West Papua say they are losing their struggle for independence as authorities step up a decades-long campaign of abuse and intimidation.
    After almost 50 years of Indonesian rule, the reins of control are being pulled tighter than ever, with human rights groups saying the frequency and ferocity of abuse is on the rise.
    There are even claims that an elite counter-terrorism unit, one that has been funded and trained by Australia, is operating in West Papua where it is accused of targeting and killing independence leaders.
    The ABC’s Hayden Cooper went undercover in the secretive Indonesian provinces, where he discovered a police state operating with impunity.

    Read more:

  8. madrotter says:

    my heart bleeds for the people in papua it really does:(

  9. Arie Brand says:

    It is this year exactly half a century ago that Papua was handed over to the Indonesians (bar a plebiscite for which none of the insiders held out any hope).
    Sukarno celebrated his Republic’s diplomatic victory in his Independence Day oration of that year entitled Tahun Kemenangan – A Year of Triumph.

    In this he also came to reflect on the reaction of Papuan Youths to the take over and said, among other things, this:

    They are very important indeed because they, this young generation, are the seedlings for future leaders of the region or seedlings for national leaders. In general, they are against colonialism. But they cannot, on the basis of their own consciousness and conviction, become pro-Republic. Why not? They do not know the Republic…
    These young men and women of West Irian instinctively want to become part of the Republic, and even want to become part of the Revolution, but they want to arrive at this decision (or another one) on the basis of their own consciousness and their own conviction and not through whispered instigation or pressure by anyone at all or by any group whatsoever.
    I think that we should value their standpoint. Let them see for themselves what the Republic is, what the aims of the Republic are, what the Republic contains ! Once they have seen and come to know the Republic, we are convinced that they too will surely become Indonesian patriots who love the Republic. And – patriots from conviction , not manufactured patriots !

    We are now half a century down the track. The Papuan youths of Tahun Kemenangan are now elderly or have passed away. They have had ample occasion to get to know the Republic. And who wouldn’t pity them ?

Comment on “Indonesia’s Claims to Papua”.

RSS feed

Copyright Indonesia Matters 2006-20
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Contact