A Response to Alwyn de Jong's contribution "The Dutch should act" on IRIAN-L mailing list, 11 December 1999.
> As a Dutch student Political Science I'm very interested in what > happened to West-Papua in the period 1949-1999. I feel quite ashamed > regarding the way the Papua's were handed over to the Indonesians in > 1963. I think the Dutch government should do it's best to
Dear Alwyn de Jong,
there are unfortunately a lot of tendentious half- and quarter-truths about the historical background of the present situation in the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea being circulated by all sides, with the shortsighted calculation of substantiating ones momentary political stand, whichever, in the situation. But as a student of political science, you will appreciate that in a long perspective, only a policy based on the sober facts will be of endurance.
May I therefore list some of the salient historical landmarks pertaining to development of the geopolitical status of the island half. But before doing so, there's one point I think I need to make. It honours you as Dutchman to be critical of the role the Netherlands might have had in the past. But, let me, not a Dutchman, assure you, that the present misery in the territory is not the immediate fault of the Netherlands, but the result of 35 years of brutal terror against the indigenous civilian population by the dictatorial military regime headed by Soeharto.
When the Netherlands agreed under UN auspices to allow for the reunification of the territory with the rest of her former colony of Netherlands East Indies (NEI), meanwhile having become the Republic of Indonesia, it had every reason to assume, that the population would be warmly welcomed and accepted into the family of ethnicities making up the multiethnic state of Indonesia. Already about a year before the territory was actually handed over to Indonesia, the Indonesian government raised the geopolitical status of the territory to that of a province (until then, and throughout the period of NEI, it had been subordinated to Maluku), and named a Papuan (at that time living in the still Dutch-ruled territory) as first governor.
When the territory actually was handed over, Papuans were greeted like long lost relatives who had come home. They recieved various priorities, for instance in the allocation of study places in universities and professional schools all over Indonesia. At the same time, an existing regulation that every province should have its own university also meant, that the new province of West Irian (as it was called) got a university for the first time in its history (Universitas Cendrawasih) which soon developed into an important center of Papuan education, bringing forth remarkable people (including the late Arnold Ap who was killed by the regime).
Hardly could anyone have forseen, that two-three years later, the military would usurp power in the country and establish a corrupt state-terrorist regime that would become a nightmare for the population of this and all other major islands, and exploit the wealth of the territory in the interest of the ruling clan and its "cronies".
Of course, the Netherlands could have spoken out to the defence of the population at that time, and many a fine Dutchman, male and female, indeed did, not only in defence of Papuans, but also of Indonesians in other islands. May I just mention the most prominent among them, the late Professor Wim Wertheim. But generally, conditioned by the modalities of the cold war, governments of the West were happy to have a staunchly anticommunist regime in power in this strategic corner of the world.
Meanwhile, the combined efforts of the movement for democracy in the country has succeeded in bringing down the military regime by peaceful means, forced the holding of free democratic elections, which have led to the formation of the first legitimately chosen government since four decades.
This new government is now confronted with the seemingly superhuman task of righting all the wrongs that had been perpetrated against the population of the whole country in those 35 years. In my opinion, it deserves all the support it can get to help it in this, because, as is often the case with peaceful revolutions, many elements of the criminal ancienne regime are still sitting in strategic positions, undermining democratic policy of the new government. Confrontation with the Indonesian government would have been constructive during the period of rule of the military regime. Since democratic government has been reestablished in Indonesia, such confrontation would, I think, only play in the hands of those criminal rest-elements.
And now, those historical landmarks in the development of the geopolitical status of West New Guinea / West Irian:
(1) Before World War II, West New Guinea was an integral part of Netherlands East Indies. Around 1919, it was divided in three "assistent-residenties", of which the northern one was part of the "residentie" of Ternate (presently in North Maluku), and the middle and southern one was part of the "residentie" of Ambon (presently Central Maluku). By outbreak of the war, this had been modified, so that the territory was divided into two "assistent-residenties", of which the southern part was grouped with islands of South Maluku and had its capital at Tual in the Kei Islands (South Maluku); both were subordinated to Ambon (the Moluccas).
(2) Not long after the Japanese invaded NEI, the Dutch governor general surrendered unconditionally in person, letting himself be taken prisoner, and placing the entire territory of what had up to then been Netherlands East Indies under Japanese rule.
(3) After Victory Day Europe, as the war in the Far East too was obviously approaching its end, the Japanese occupational administration organized a committee for the preparation of independence of Indonesia, in the hope of creating a puppet state before the Allies arrived, but they failed, because Indonesian nationalist leaders managed to dominate the work of the committee. In this committee they also discussed two alternative compositions of the territory of future independent Indonesia: (a) identical with the territory of former Netherlands East Indies, and (b) that, without West New Guinea, but with British Malaya and North Borneo. The final decision was for alternative (a). This was consistent with the concept of independent Indonesia first promulgated in 1918, and with that of the Indonesia nation when it articulated its political will for the first time as a single entity on a decisive national and international question through the Conference of the Indonesian People in December 1939 (proposing to mobilize the whole population to defend NEI against an anticipated Japanese invasion, in return for the right to have an elected parliament under the Dutch monarch).
(4) This was put at the basis of the Republic of Indonesia proclaimed on August 17. 1945, while the country was under Japanese rule. Due to the fact, that West New Guinea had not been a distinct geopolitical entity upto then, but had been part of the "Moluccas", it was not originally listed separately, but the Republican government subsequently made clear, that the listing had been in agreement with territorial subdivision of Netherlands East Indies on the eve of the war, and hence included West New Guinea.
(5) In March 1946, Dutch troops began an offensive against the territory of the Republic of Indonesia (which was still busy organizing its administration and armed forces), and managed to occupy a large part of the country, including most of the East. This was then united under the designation "the Great East" ("Het Groote Oosten" / "Timur Raya"), and preparations were made to set up a puppet state (with indigenous head of state and government, Dutch secretary of state, and no own armed forces, only the Dutch armed forces and KNIL) as a counterbalance to the Republic. These preparations were made in two conferences (Malino and Den Pasar) leading to the organization of the "State of East Indonesia" ("Negara Indonesia Timoer") in December 1946. Against persistent protest and resistence of the majority of indigenous politicians involved in the organization of this "State of East Indonesia", the Dutch Lieutenant Governor General van Mook insisted on carving out West New Guinea from their puppet state, with the aim of reserving this territory for resettlement of Indo Dutch and Eurasians from the territory of an independent Indonesia, in case they wanted to remain under Dutch government (insofar as they either wanted or had to leave Indonesia, they themselves, however, later prefered to return to the Netherlands or emigrate to the Americas and Australia instead). The protests were of no avail, it being indeed, after all, only a puppet state, not the real master of the territory, which was the Dutch occupational administration. This unilateral act, strictly speaking, lies at the beginning of the whole subsequent territorial dispute that ended with the reunification of the territory with the rest of the country in 1962-63.
(6) At the Round Table Conference of 1949 it was finally decided, that the Kingdom of the Netherlands would formally transfer sovereignty over Indonesia (the identity of this term with former Netherlands East Indies had been established on the Dutch side in September 1948, see Stbl-NI 1948 no. 224) to a United States of Indonesia that included the Republic of Indonesia and all the puppet states that had been set up in the Dutch-occupied zones, including the "State of East Indonesia". With regard to Western New Guinea, the Agreement stipulated that the decision on final status of the territory would be postponed for one year. By the time that year was over, all "federal states" (the former puppet states) had united into the Republic of Indonesia under pressure of their own respective populations, so that the United States of Indonesia only consisted of one federal State. The constitution was ammended to change the form of the state from "federation" to unitary state. The Netherlands took offence to these changes and refused to enter negotiations about the status of West New Guinea, and the dispute was perfect.
(7) In the following years, Indonesia tried various diplomatic and less diplomatic means to get the territory back, including nationalization of Dutch companies and compelling Indo Dutch and Eurasians to choose between relinquishing Dutch citizenship or leaving the country (those that left, as noted above, went to the Netherlands, the Americas, Australia, but as a rule not to West New Guinea as had been forseen for them). When all that was of no avail, Indonesia began to arm itself, mainly with weapons provided by the Soviet bloc, with the aim to get the territory back by force, and at one point even started dropping paratroops into the interior of West New Guinea. All this had two effects:
Firstly, the Dutch administration suddenly began various activities designed to enhance a separate development of the territory, e.g. by setting up the Nieuw Guinea Raad, or sounding out possible alternative connections to the South Pacific. The declaration of independence in 1961 is possibly connected with this. Papuan independence fighters who had been for independence in unity with the rest of Indonesia already since the 1940s, had been constantly prosecuted and put into prisons and prevented in other ways from participating in the legal political process.
Secondly, The United States, worried about Indonesia's increasingly vearing into a Soviet-Bloc orbit as a result of this, brought pressure to bear on the Netherlands, to regulate the dispute peacefully. This finally resulted in the New York agreement which regulated the return of the territory to Indonesia after a UN interim administration.
I think, many people had acted in a rather unstatesmanly manner in all this.
The dammage for the Dutch side was significant: had it acted more wisely, Indo Dutch and Eurasians who left might still be living in Indonesia, Dutch finance could have retained a strong foothold in Southeast Asia.
The dammage for Indonesia I think was greater: serious economic, political, and other internal disruptions finally led to the fatal 1965-66 which brought us 35 years of military dictatorship.
But worst of all was the dammage suffered by the population of West Irian (previously West New Guinea, subsequently Irian Jaya). I think, not just "the Dutch government should do it's best" to help out here, but we all, including also West Irianese/West Papuan activists, should come together with cool heads and cooperate honestly to guarantee the best realistic outcome for the population of this territory which has suffered so much.
In my opinion, any further confrontation between OPM and the central government only plays into the hands of the criminal ancienne regime elements. One should reach a temporary modus operandi to tie over a period of consolidation of the young democratic government, to allow it to overcome the old-guard elements in the administration, and to allow the population to heal its wounds and overcome its traumata. Meanwhile, in my opinion, one should legalize OPM and amnesty all their activists. One should adopt the "Morning Star" banner as the official flag of the province and immediately release all those people who were imprisoned for raising that flag.
The so-called "act of free choice" of 1969 was a scandalous shame, one of many typical shameful acts of the regime. Once peace of mind has been restored, and the popultion is able to realistically appraise its interests between continued inclusion in Indonesia or separation, one should give them another chance to speak out, but this time an honest, legitimate, democratic one. This could be combined with the general elections of 2003, in which the OPM could participate as political party. If it, perhaps in coalition with other parties, should reach a majority in the province, one could start concrete negotiations on a change to separate status for the territory.