West Papuan History Timeline

Jun 3rd, 2006, in History, by

Some of the key events in west Papua’s past, leading up to integration with Indonesia.


The western part of the island of New Guinea becomes part of the Dutch East Indies, and is named Netherlands or Dutch New Guinea.


The Republic of Indonesia is created when the Netherlands grants independence to the former colonies of the Dutch East Indies. However, the western part of New Guinea is retained as a Dutch colony, partly because of its distinct Melanesian population and cultural characteristics, partly out of Dutch self-interest.


The Dutch recognise the right of Papuans to self-determination and begin to prepare the territory for independence, with education and technical programs. Indonesia continues to assert its claim to the territory.


The first Papuan parliament is formed, with the aim of planning for full independence by 1971. The council chooses a national anthem, a national flag and decides the country’s official name will be West Papua.


Indonesian forces attempt to push out the Dutch by invading West Papua. The Dutch and local forces successfully resist the invasion, but when Indonesia turns to Russia for support, fears of a Cold War conflaguration lead the United States government to lean on the Dutch to accept Indonesia’s claim.

In August an agreement is reached in New York between the Netherlands and Indonesia, giving sovereignty over the territory to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) for a period of six years, until a national vote to enable West Papuans to decide their own status.


Indonesia takes control of the administration of West Papua from UNTEA.

The armed resistance movement Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM – Free Papua Movement) is founded to fight for the independence of the territory.


A referendum – the Act of Free Choice – is held in the territory in August. The vote, widely criticised as rigged, hands control of the territory to Indonesia.

In September the territory, named West Irian or Irian Barat by Indonesia, becomes an official province of Indonesia. Four years later Indonesia renames the province Irian Jaya.

Thorny issue. There seem to be two competing views, representing the traditional dichotomy of philosophical approaches to foreign policy, for countries such as Australia, Holland, and the United States, the interested parties. That is, the realist and the moralist or idealist positions.

For the realist Indonesian sovereignty over Papua has to be accepted because it is better than most of the available alternatives, one of which is an independent West Papua which is poor, unstable, weak, and needful of mountains of foreign aid to prop up. The example of East Timor springs to mind here.

For the moralist the issue of right and wrong is of course paramount, with Indonesia in this case clearly being considered in the wrong camp, with the Papuans being considered as victims of evil.

9 Comments on “West Papuan History Timeline”

  1. AndrewJ says:

    Update on the history

    A 1962 “Invasion” could be a little strong, Indonesian sent insurgents but did not at the time have the ability to stage a full invasion as both the TNI and others later claimed.

    The success came inside the U.S. White House by Freeport director Robert A. Lovett who in 1960 talked Kennedy into using McGeorge Bundy as the US National Security Adviser. It was Bundy and his National Security Council staff who convinced Kennedy that the U.S. had to force the Netherlands to trade the colony to Indonesian military control.

    That is why John F Kennedy in 1962 had his brother Robert Kennedy write the New York Agreement trading the colony. The United Nations got $200m for signing its name to the contract which made it illegal for the UN to influence the 1969 Act orchestrated by Brig. General Sarwo Edhie Wibowo.

    Lovett and Freeport of course got their mine license from Gen. Suharto in 1967.

  2. anon says:

    West Papua is thepart of Sahul Plate so the Peoples of Papuan is Melanesian and same skin, hair, culture, animals, etc with Australia Continent.

    This is the Geology process of West Papua, so it never part of Sunda Plate like the Peoples of Indonesia. We said it according to Lyddeker Line to separate the Sunda Plate and Sahul Plate.
    New Guinea island was built because the Convergent of Australia Plate (Sahul Plate) with Pacific Plate finally make the mountain in West Papua with the Coral, sand and Sea water.

    The first contact with Indonesian is from the Mollucan peoples to share the Islamic culture the the second foreign is from Timor to changed their cloth with the Paradise Bird of New Guinea island. Then the Three is the Chinese, they came to West Papua and changed the their plates and jars with the Paradise Bird.

    Finally, the Europe came here in 1828 by separate New Guinea island into 3 part (Netherland New Guinea, German New Guinea, and British Papua).

    Next is Japanese push out Europe and then US Allied pushed out Japanese then let this island to control by Dutch since 22 April 1944 and prepare this island in Decolonization Committee in Trusteeship Council in December 1945. So, when Indonesia government proclaimed their independent in 17 August 1945 and established their Constitution, National Flag, National Anthem, and Administration region from Sumatera to Mollucas (Netherland New Guinea/ West Papua not the part of Indonesia).

    But after they knew the Big Mountain of Mining is West Papua, finally Soekarno (First President of Indonesia) claimed West Papua is the Part of Indonesia.
    So, he made the Communist Party of Indonesia finally USA pushed Dutch trade this Colony to Indonesia in 1962 by New York Agreement.

  3. Ottis Wakum says:

    Dear Anon,
    I am interesting very much in your description. Would it be possible for you to put some historical data based on written references that show Big Mountain of Mining as FACTOR (or one of the factors) that obsessed Soekarno to annex West Papua into Indonesia? Would you please your information to ottis_wakum[at]yahoo[dot]com ?Thank you..!

  4. Tim Hayman says:

    All proceeds of the Mining by Freeport in West Papua should be held in Trust by the United Nations exclusively for the use of West Papuan nationals and in no way should it be permitted to pass to the historically corrupt Indonesian administration.A referendum that is not rigged should be held under UN charter to decide if West Papua can administer itself and trusteeship of this country held by Australia until such time as it can.

  5. Oigal says:

    This would be the United Nations renown the world over for its honesty, integrity and courage in the face of despots.

    Don’t you think Australia is already propping up more than enough failed nations..?

  6. diego says:

    I hope Henry Kissinger’s soul (if there’s anything left) is burning in the pit of jewish hell.


  7. beaujob says:

    i myself have lived in the torres strait islands and met people fleeing western papua. the stories i heard from them have haunted my soul. it is a silent war that the no one seems to want to know about…… i cant belive the western world is turning a blind eye to this. it is bullshit

    and dieago i like your comment mate 🙂

  8. bonni says:

    The pressure is on for the government now. They want to get back papuans trust, yet they do such a security operation. One of the most important thing is the security sector reform. Gosh… For the sake of freeport…

  9. Muruk says:

    It really pains me that so little noise is being made internationally about this situation.

    I lived in Papua for a few years just before independance … my fiancee is Papuan.

    I believe that New Guinea should be one island, one nation, but since Papua New Guinea gained independance they have lost the ability to govern fairly and successfully, so I don’t think they are capable of taking charge.

    Perhaps the UN should step in and fix the stuff up it allowed to happen in the 1960s, but then, I don’t trust them either.

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