This is an input broadcasted 22 Dec 1998 
on Eastnet <> and Jaga-Net 
<>, in reponse to a con-
tribution on the etymology of the name 
Irian by Iain Wilson.

thank you very much for having clarified the etymology of the name Irian. That was a remarkable piece of investigative work.

> it is sad that 1.) A story has been made up depicting a form of oppresion
> when the real oppresion is out there. and 2.) that a VERY irianise word is
> being shunned  - meaning Indonesians without effort are getting the
> irianise to shun a word that realy is theirs.
I agree with the point you make and would like to especially stress, that it is more than just a shame, it is a grave tragedy, just one more in a whole series of such blows, that has struck the people of this island half, that the use of the one name for their island which was put forward by one of their own people, got so perverted that they themselves became astranged from it.

Fifty or more years ago, when the peoples of Indonesia joined forces to shrug off a colonial regime, we were all sitting in the same boat. But it was not a supporter of Indonesian unity that proposed the name Irian. I have menanwhile also recieved some additional material (see below) which shows, that Frans Kasiepo was neither an integrationist, nor even temporarily "influenced by Sukarno" as Mr. Amunggut Tabi and some other people thought (.......).

Actually, we had not known of that name, and at first continued speaking about "New Guinea". When we had gained independence, we merely considered it our duty not to just be content, while some of our brothers who had been in the same boat with us continued to remain colonized. So we saw it as our duty to see to the liberation of West New Guinea, and at the same time we began having afterthoughts about the name of the island. We knew that "New Guinea" was a foreign name. We also knew that "Papua" had an insulting meaning. That was apparently when some of our people discovered the name "Irian" which had been proposed in 1946 by an Irianese activist, so that was the name that was then happily accepted for that island (I myself had not known that Frans Kasiepo was an Irianese, I was contented in believing that he came from somewhere in East Indonesia and was a Christian like most urban Irianese, so that his feelings on the subject perhaps came pretty close to indigenous; but I gather that the people who introduced official Indonesian use of the term "Irian" knew that it had been originally proposed by an Irianese).

My first shock I experienced around 1964, when I read in an Indonesian newspaper about misbehaviour of members of the Indonesian military and also civil burocracy in Irian Barat. That was before Soeharto's time. And indeed, already during the 1950s, the army that on the one side maintained Indonesian territorial unity by defeating the insurgency of separatist generals and politicians, at the same time committed grave crimes against the polulation of the regions that were involved in the fighting, thereby actually undermining mutual solidarity among the ethnicities of Indonesia. This was never appropriately criticised, let alone condemned and prosecuted by the state.

On the contrary, with the coming of Soeharto's "New Order" regime as of 1966 onwards, it became many times worse, and the army and civil burocracy actually terrorized the local population all over the country. For the Irianese this was particularly shocking and humiliating at the same time. And one of the additional effects of this oppression by the Indonesian "New Order" regime was the alienation of at least part of the Irianese from the one and only own name for their island, "Irian". It is a stunning irony, that if only we Indonesians had continued to "insult" them as "Papuas", they could now better appreciate having an own name "Irian" for their island.

As one can easily gather from the tenor of Mr Amunggut Tabi's inputs, as well as from other Irianese, the ethnic humiliation that was inflicted upon the people of West Irian by the militarist "New Order" regime sits very deeply, much deeper than in the case of any other of the peoples of Indonesia who have also suffered from it. And this must be kept in mind in considering any solutions for the future. Such a solution should, I think, meet two fundamental imperatives:

  1. It should facilitate a maximum of unity and solidarity within the peoples of West Irian, particularly among their political, social, religious, and other communal leaders, so as to bolster up feelings of own strength engendered by their unity, and to prevent further humiliation through seeing their own representatives being pitted against one another by any "slick" external parties, or frustrations caused by waste of energy and time on internal strife;
  2. It should place concrete goals that are realistically achievable in a relatively short term, but of a nature that is apt to provide tangible moral "satisfaction" that could adequately heal the accumulated hurt of past humiliation and oppression by Indonesian military and burocracy, whether of the "New Order" regime or even before that. The population should be able to appreciate "immediate" results of a "sensational" type, which should be backed up by a steady flow of longer term "satisfactions", not so "sensational", but all the more substantial and effective in actual betterments for the Irianese vis-a-vis other ethnic groups with which they might subjectively compare themselves.

On a superficial first approximation, it might appear logical to then put separation from Indonesia as obvious solution. But the more I keep on deliberating over the problem, the more convinced I am that that would really be the imaginably worst solution for the West Irianese. It would in any case hurt he Irianese much much more than it would hurt (rest-)Indonesia. Although West Irian is extremely rich in natural, particularly mineral resources, it is not unique in Indonesia in this respect, so that loss of West Irian would not compel Indonesia to compensatory imports. The revenues from mining enterprises would (partly) disappear, but so would investment, development, and administration costs, whereas any future reformed system of Indonesian government would have to substantially increase reroutement of mining revenues to the provinces in which they were earned to begin with.

On the other hand, economic dependencies could at least for some period of time lead to a flow of revenues from West Irian to Jakarta without the latter being compelled to reroute at least part of it back to the territory in case of an independent West Irian. This would thus actually aggravate rather than relieve existing humiliation traumas.1

Worst of all however, it is doubtful that the entire population in West Irian is united in the wish for full separation from Indonesia, and this would already lead to internal strife even before separation.2 After that, one may be quite sure that there will be continuous and quite antagonistic internal strife for at least one or two decades, this being inevitable in such freshly independent ethnicities (and Indonesians themselves are/were no exception). Not only would this seriously aggravate the already existing state of moral humiliatedness, but the country would be easy prey of foreign vested interests (and particularly from rest-Indonesia, because these would be in advantage due to the language), and this will certainly engender new frustrations and humiliations.

Finally, even an independent West Irian would continue to be "cursed" by the humiliating circumstance, that their one and only national language would be Bahasa Indonesia, the language of the "arch enemy".3 This is much more serious than one may at first realise, because here the issue is quite different than say in the retention of English or French in anglophone or francophone former colonies. The main problem overtly at issue in West Irian is not so much economic exploitation (although that may be the underlying problem), it is the accutely perceived ethnic or racial humiliation which has evidently reached the intensity of a deep trauma, which, as noted above, requires immediate doctoring through achievement of compensatory "satisfaction".

Such "satisfaction" can only be provided by participation in some significant and tangible "triumph" or "victory" over their oppressors.

No amount of belligerent verbal "anti-Indonesian" or "anti-Javanese" rhetoric would do any good. In fact, it is directly detrimental, because that would require a significant military victory over "Javanese" to provide some sort of "satisfaction".4 Unfortunately, the Indonesian army is armed to the teeth and much more in a condition to wreack new bloodbaths amongst West Irianese, than vice versa. It has already done that in most revolting ways much too often in the past, and one should not feel motivated to provide them with excuses for repetitions.

The Indonesians are at the present united as never before in a movement of total reform with the aim of setting up a democratic form of government by rule of law. These Indonesians are not the Indonesians involved in oppression of West Irian, but on the contrary, either were themselves victims of opression and repression by the regime, or are in solidarity with such victims. They are fighting against those very exponents of Indonesian society that had been responsible for the oppression and humiliation of the Irianese (the repressive military, the corrupt civilian burocracy, the "cronies"). And it is realistic to expect this other or democratic Indonesia to triumph in the forseeable near future.

To begin with, it will be easier to unify all significant West Irianese elements to support the total reform movement, than to support full separation from Indonesia. This would have to happen as soon as possible, in any case well ahead of the next general elections. It is important that West Irianese actually partake as mainstream participants in the movement of total reform, so as to fully participate in any ensuing triumph. It is important to bring home to the West Irianese, that their actual enemies are not "Indonesians" or "Javanese", but those very repressive militaries, corrupt burocrats, "cronies", etc., so that they can fully "enjoy" a victory of the reform movement, in which they have become full-fledged participants, over those elements of the "New Order" regime. In this way, a triumph of the movement of total reform, which is realistically achievable in the not too distant future, would also be a triumph and "satisfaction" of the West Irianese against their recent oppressors. And not insignificant, they would no longer suffer from the humiliation that their one and only interethnic language, Indonesian Malay, would be the language of their oppressors and humiliators, because it would also be the language of their allies in their victory.

Such preliminary successes of a more "atmospheric" or "sensational" nature would however have to be followed up by more substantial reform. Particularly: the reassessment of rate of participation of the provinces in the receipt of revenues from mining and other enterprises (not only West Irian but also other provinces) and ascertainment of their investment in improvement of infrastructure and other facilities for the local population; the reassessment of transmigration policies, which have so far not taken account of the interests of either the local or the transmigrated population. It is absolutely intolerable, and it is also in contradiction with the constitution, that the local indigenous population be treated as "primitive" economical "misfits" that must "make way" for modern economic units. Significantly more has to be invested, to provide for gradual accomodation of traditional communities to modern economic units, and forms of symbiosis of developing traditional communities with the modern sector. Much more effort has to be done to study the customs and other cultures of the various peoples and their languages, and the people must be actually shown that their culture is appreciated (not just some formal dance performances once a year on 17th Ausgust). One important step could be the introduction of a special institution in which elderly inhabitants recieve a special function as "keepers of the traditional culture" for the younger generation.

One must not hesitate implementing foreign specialists and providing adequate facilities for them in all this. West Irian is rich, and proper handling of mining and other revenues would provide for sufficient funds for all this.

Some perhaps less spectacular consequences of continued integration of West Irian in Indonesia (under conditions of reformed government) would in the long run prove just as beneficial. I recently saw a CNN broadcast on TV, thematizing some happening at the Catholic Universitas Atma Jaya in Jakarta. Unfortunately, there was too much commotion in the room at that time for me to discern, what was happening on the screen, but I was impressed by the fact that the person presiding on the meeting had black skin and relatively curly hair. I presume he was from somewhere in Nusa Tenggara or Maluku Utara. Now, participation of West Irian in everyday life in Indonesia would lead sooner as one expects to West Irianese in positions where he/she would have "Javanese", "Malays", or other racially non-Australoid Indonesians as subordinates. What such developments would do to soothen humiliated West Irianese feelings, I think, I need not elaborate in detail.

I already once proposed letting those who were responsible for killings, house and church burnings, etc. by tried in West Irian courts presided by a West Irianese judge. In how far it would be practicable remains to be seen, but it is very much worth considering, and I think, it should be done if it can be realized. (the only problem here is the matter of "balance of power", and what kind of political compromises one will finally have to agree upon to achieve the main goal of total reform).

Mind you, I am quite aware that problems of economic exploitation are much more significant, and that continued integration would not solve them per se any better than, say, full separation of West Irian. But for the moment, it is the question of ethnic humiliation which requires most immediate attention. West Irianese need to get back their ethnic pride that has been trodden upon by the regime and its apparatus.

For fellow Indonesians, particularly of the movement of total reform, this means being particularly understanding towards the problems of West Irian, and facilitating as best as possible a full participation of West Irianese in the movement.

With regard to the name of the province, we have indeed, thanks to Iain, resolved the question of the provenance of the name "Irian". But there still remains the matter of the attribute "Jaya" (it means "victorious, triumphant") which I think is rather insulting for the Irianese, since the regime and its apparatus practically turned the "victory" into a de-facto "victory over the Irianese". I, for one, would therefore recommend returning from "Irian Jaya" to "Irian Barat" ("West Irian"). I also think that many other geographical names need to be revised, so as to give priority to indigenous names (e.g. Numbai instead of Jayapura). The Irianese must feel themselves as the proper masters of their territory. One perhaps small, but important step in this direction is returning their own names to their place of domicile.

Last but not least, we need a full rehabilitation (not just some "figleaf" amnesty) of members of OPM and other peaceful or armed resistence. One must bear in mind, that opposition against oppression is a basic right, and the concrete political and legal conditions of the "New Order" regime did not provide a place for legal opposition. So these people had no other choice than to implement their legitimate opposition and uphold their human dignity "illegally". They are not "guilty" of any crime (even if they injured or even killed any member of the apparatus), and therefore do not need to be "amnestied". They must be fully rehabilitated.

Analogically, one must recognize IN PRINCIPLE the right of the West Irianese to a separate and independent state, if they in their majority insist in this, even though we know that implementing that right in practice would have much worse consquences for the Irianese than for rest-Indonesia. But they must have the assurance of the "theoretical" right to separate, as recognition of their human dignity. In practice, this could be implemented as a renewed "act of free choice", but a proper, democratical one, in some realistically near future after the general elections and installment of a new democratic government which will be capable of ensuring democratic conditions of the "act of free choice". This will also be important for the future, to do away with the doubt on the legality of inclusion of West Irian in Indonesia that derives from the undemocratic (and thus legally dubious) former "act of free choice". This is important, not so much for the UN or the outside world, but for internal peace, and should therefore be done, not for the sake of the UN or outside world, but for our own sake and that of the future of Indonesia.


Aloha, Waruno


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