Papua and West Papua are two of the wealthiest provinces in Indonesia in term of the abundance of natural resources. Not only has the largest gold mine and the second largest copper mine in the world, but Papua Island is also rich in biodiversity that makes it the home for many unique species. Its vast forest has played a crucial role as the lungs of the world and produce timbers which has a high selling value. Its rich biodiversity has been the subject of many studies for decades. Not to mention its amazing landscape that attracts more and more tourists to come to Papua Island.
However, after 54 years Freeport-McMoRan has been operating and managing Grasberg mine, it is yet to increase the prosperity of Papuan people. Papua and West Papua are still on the highest of the poorest provinces among 34 provinces in Indonesia, based on the Indonesian Statistic Bureau data in 2017, although its regional income per capita of the two provinces which is mostly coming from the mining industry is sufficiently high.
This is one of the reasons to why conflicts keep occurring in this region. A separatist organization was established to fight for independence from the Republic of Indonesia. The conflict between this organization and Indonesian army sometimes caused fatalities on both sides.
Apart from that, the misinterpretation of Papua and West Papua integration through the Act of Free Choice or Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat (PEPERA) was also one of the triggers of the conflict. Some parties were not satisfied with the result of PEPERA as the referendum was done by a representative method which is thought not to represent the voice of Papuan people (since out of around 800,000 people inhabitants, only 1,025 selected men and women were given a right to vote).
These parties also argued about the repression by the Indonesian government through military action and the neglect of the human rights of Papuan people during the Soeharto regime. Unfortunately, the resentment towards the Indonesian government due to the past trauma continues until today even though it is no longer the case.
All of the above matters are used as ammunition by the separatists to seek for Papuan independence by making propaganda in the international world. Many parties all around the world support this movement. It can be seen from action support through raising a Morning Star flag (Indonesian: Bendera Bintang Kejora) – a symbol of the Papua Island fight for independence from Indonesia, in the United Kingdom.
The action has been held outside the Oxford’s town hall for the tenth year in a row by now. Oxford is one out of 250 other locations in 50 countries worldwide that raised the Morning Star flag on 1 December 2017. The commemoration was held on that date as that was the first time the Morning Star flag being raised in 1961 after the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) administered the territory. Their action was meant to show their solidarity alongside with tens of thousands of West Papuans who called for international intervention to support their independence from Indonesia.
The West Papuans where they presented 1.8 million signatures to the UN’s decolonization committee, with a demand for a free vote on independence. However, the United Nations dismissed the petition made by West Papuan and Indonesian government proclaimed it as baseless theatrics with no credibility. Papua has been considered as an integral part of Indonesia since it first gained its independence from the Dutch, as provided for in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2504 (XXIV) 1969.
On May 2017, the Council of Ministers (ACP) in Brussels claimed to have heard a joint statement of seven Pacific states concerning West Papua. The seven Pacific countries are Vanuatu, Solomon Island, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau and Marshall Island. In a joint statement, the seven Pacific nations condemned the human rights abuses in West Papua. In addition, they called for a resolution supporting political rights for West Papua independence.
Another support for Papuan independence also came from eleven members of parliament consisting of four political parties in New Zealand: Green Party, The Labor Party, the National Party, and the Maori Party, who signed a Westminster Declaration brought by the international leaders and lobbyists for Papua’s independence.
However, the fact that Papua and West Papua being a part of Indonesia is supported by strong argumentation. Based on uti possidetis juris principle, the borders of the new state follow its boundaries during colonization. It is clear that Papua and West Papua are an integral part of Indonesia as both of them were formerly colonized by the Dutch East Indies.
Just like any other regions in Indonesia being recognized by other nations as part of the Republic of Indonesia during the Indonesian independence, Papua and West Papua are also being recognized as a part of the Republic of Indonesia, either de facto and de jure.