The conflict between Indonesia and Netherland did not stop even after Indonesia gained independence. The dispute over West Papua was the final impediment that prevented Indonesia from gaining full independence, since Netherland insisted on ruling over it as a colony. After committing a series of diplomatic and military operations, Indonesia entered the final diplomatic phase in the New York Agreement.
This agreement is the final diplomatic strategy that Indonesia went through, before the Act of Free Choice (PEPERA).
Indonesian Independence: The Beginning
The disputes between Indonesia and Netherland over West Papua had happened since Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945. At that time, Indonesian nationalists such as Soekarno, Muhammad Hatta, and Muhammad Yamin agreed that West Papua should have been the part of Indonesia, based on the principle of Uti Possidetis Juris.
Refused to accept the legal principle, saying that West Papua did not belong to Indonesia due to “different ethnicity”. P. E. Winkler, Netherland’s colonization adviser, stated that “Javanese, Acehnese, and other inhabitants of Sumatra” did not have right to own the “empty country”. This stance was supported by various groups in Netherland, which dreamed of Papua as the new colony for white Dutch in Asia.
After enduring two military aggressions, Indonesia earned supports from other countries, which acknowledged the country’s independence and condemned Netherland’s actions. This led Netherland to enter several treaties with Indonesia. West Papua was discussed in the Round Table Conference (Konferensi Meja Bundar) in 1949, but both countries did not find any resolutions, although Indonesia finally gained full independence with international acknowledgment.
US-Indonesia Relations in West Papua Talks
The United States had been in rather a negative term with Indonesia during the 50’s, especially since it did not fully support Indonesia in the country’s efforts to reclaim West Papua. However, when Indonesia decided to buy weapons from the Soviet Union and Poland for the military operations, USA changed its mind and decided to help Indonesia. This was done to prevent Indonesia from embracing Communism.
When President John F. Kennedy was inaugurated in 1961, Indonesia has left its union with the Netherland, which had been formed to smoothen the talk about West Papua on the international stage. Kennedy wanted to support Indonesia in West Papua talk, but several of his advisers were against his idea, because the facts that President Soekarno had a good relationship with Japan, while Netherland was a NATO ally.
Indonesia also refused Netherland’s argument about ethnic difference and wished to let Papuan people chose their final positions. Indonesia argued that Netherland would use the situation to create a puppet state. Another reason was the fact that Indonesia already had very diverse populations.
Judging of the complications of the problem, and the fact the international world showed huge support for Indonesia (especially the third world countries), the US proposed that West Papua was placed under temporary trusteeship, while Indonesia and Netherland talked.
Chronologies and Details of New York Agreement
In March 1962, Indonesia and Netherland ambassadors had a secret talk in Virginia, with the US as the mediator. Ellsworth Bunker, a US diplomat, created a proposal to put West Papua under temporary UN trustee, before slowly returning the area to Indonesia. The Netherland had rejected it at first, but the UN cited the “right to self-determination”.
The agreement detailed four main points, which were:
- Using the method of consultative councils and voting to find out about public opinions in Papua, which will be used as the basis of West Papua status decision.
- The questions will be used to know the final decisions of Papuan public.
- All Papuan adults are eligible to participate in the process.
- All the stages should be complete before the end of 1969.
On 15 August 1962, Indonesia and Netherland finally met at the headquarters of United Nations in New York. Both signed New York Agreement that detailed several agreement treaty points, which were:
- The cease of strife and dispute between Indonesia and Netherland.
- Netherland must lower all its flags in West Papua. The officials from United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) will come to Papua at least on 1 October 1962 to take over the area. All the Dutch flags must be replaced with the UN flags.
- UNTEA will work together with local civilians and officers in West Papua to restore the stability, along with some Dutch soldiers and officials if they are still necessary.
- Indonesian troops placed in West Papua will be under the command of UNTEA.
- Netherland must withdraw all its military forces from West Papua lands and coasts.
- West Papua will have free traffic and access to other Indonesian regions.
- Indonesia can fly its flags alongside the UN’s starting 31 December 1962.
- Indonesian government officially received authority over West Papua from UNTEA.
- Netherland must withdraw all its soldiers and officials from Indonesia before 1 May 1963.
- Final Act of Free Choice (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat) will be done in 1969 for the Papuans to voice their allegiances.
After the agreement is over, Indonesia saw West Papua representatives in the PEPERA voted to stay in the country. This proved that the people of West Papua have always acknowledged Indonesia as the sovereign of their area.