Why The Dutch Colonialists Refused to Give Up West Papua

Dutch colonialists - imgur.com
Dutch colonialists - imgur.com

West Papua (Papua Barat) is one of Indonesia’s provinces. It is located on the western part of the New Guinea island. With Manokrawi as its capital city, this province was previously named West Irian Jaya, based on The Law Number 45 of 1999 (Undang-undang Nomor 45 Tahun 1999).

Then why did it change? On April 18, 2007, the government of Indonesia had their regulation on Government Regulation Number 2 of 2007 (Peraturan Pemerintah Nomor 2 Tahun 2007). That was how West Irian Jaya had become West Papua up to now. Along with Papua, West Papua is a province with a special autonomy.

West Papua had their first local election on April 5, 2004. Before that, it has gone through a lot throughout the course of history. The Dutch colonialists were some of the parties who refused to give this up to Indonesia.

West Papua: Between Indonesians and The Dutch Colonialists

Dutch colonialists - wikimedia.org
Dutch colonialists – wikimedia.org

August 17, 1045 was the proclamation of Indonesia’s independence. It was the beginning of Indonesia as its own nation. At that day, West Papua (West Irian Jaya back then, with the capital city Jayapura), was already considered a part of The Maluku (Moluccas) Province. For the government of Indonesia, this placement was suitable because it was one of the areas once colonized by the Dutch.

Ironically, this had not automatically changed the fact that the Dutch colonialists still controlled West Irian Jaya. It had gone under the name: Nederlands Nieuw Guinea. Since August 24, 1828, the Dutch settlers had also claimed Nieuw Guinea (The New Guinea) as their territory.

Ideally, Indonesia’s proclamation of Independence covers the territory of all former Indies Nederlands from Sabang to Merauke. However, back then, Bung Hatta (President Soekarno’s vice president Moehammad Hatta) refused to include West Papua or West Irian Jaya as part of Indonesia.

AJ van Delden, the Commissioner of the Dutch East Indies Government, read out a proclamation statement. On behalf of and for The King of The Netherlands, The Prince of Oranje van Nassau, The Great Hertog of The Luxembourg, and so many more, the parts that belonged to the Nieuw Guinea (New Guinea) and the inland areas ranging from the 140 degree meridians East Greenwich on the south coast to the west and southwest and north to the Goede Hoop peninsula on the north coast, belonged to the Dutch.

Mansarai, Karondefer, Ambarpura, and Amparpon areas were the exceptions, because they belonged to the Sultan of Tidore. To emphasize their claim on the New Guinea, the Dutch colonialists raised their country flag and fired 21 shots from their cannon.

In his book called “Pertumbuhan Pemerintahan Provinsi Irian Barat dan Kemungkinan-kemungkinan Perkembangan Otonominya di Hari Kemudian” (The Growth of The Provincial Government of West Irian and The Possibilities of Autonomous Development in The Future), The Liang Gie mentioned about August 19, 1945. It was the time when The Preparatory Committee of Indonesian Independence stipulated the division of the governmental territory of the Republic of Indonesia.

The Territory and Where West Papua Had Stood Back Then:

Dutch colonialists - imgur.com
Dutch colonialists – imgur.com

In the beginning, Indonesia consisted of eight different provinces with a governor as the leader. Those eight provinces included:

  • West Java.
  • Central Java.
  • East Java.
  • Sumatera.
  • Borneo or Kalimantan.
  • Sulawesi.
  • Little Sunda or Sunda Kecil.
  • Maluku or Moluccas.

As mentioned earlier, Indonesia had put West Irian Jaya (or West Papua now) as part of Maluku. This was actually the same thing with the time when Indonesia was still called The East Indian Netherlands. West Irian was part of Residentie Molukken (The Moluccan Resident). It was why Indonesia considered this province as part of their independent nation.

After the Second World War, the Dutch Government issued a declaration to proclaim the Province of Netherlands in the New Guinea. This policy was made after the Round Table Conference (Konperensi Meja Bundar) between the Netherlands and Indonesia. This situation forced the Dutch government to accelerate the process of the government and the formation of political parties in Nederlands Nieuw Guinea.

Based on their proclamation, West Irian (West Papua) was officially part of Nederlands Nieuw Guinea Province in the South Pacific Ocean. However, Indonesia refused to let that go easily. The tension between Indonesia and the Netherlands grew.

Adolf Bastian, a German anthropologist, stated that the Papuans were part of the areas of Melanesian cultures in them. It was no wonder that the Dutch government and the Australian government had worked on a unification between Australia’s Papua New Guinea with Nederlands Nieuw Guinea as the unified “Papua New Guinea”.

On April 1961, the Dutch formed their political parties. After that, there was the raising of the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag and the Papuan anthem sung. President Soekarno responded to that by declaring three commands (Trikomando) on December 19, 1961. One of the commands was that the Dutch-made Papuan country be disbanded.

Whether there had been another conspiracy theory regarding the claim on West Papua, it remains a mystery. What was answered was the reason the Dutch colonialists refused to give West Papua up.