The Outcome of the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference: Trikora, Pepera, and the Reclaim of West Papua

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Brief Information about the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference


In 11 days from 23 August to 2 November 1949, the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference was held in Den Haag, the Netherlands. The groups that attended the Round Table Conference were representatives from both the Netherlands and the Republic of Indonesia, as well as the representative of Federal Consultative Assembly. The conference was also assisted by the United Nations Security Council and the United Nation Commission for Indonesia.

The Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference formally discussed the future of Indonesian sovereignty after the country officially declared its independence on August 17th, 1945. The Indonesian Declaration of Independence was made following the end of World War II and the cessation of Dutch and Japanese colonization in Indonesia. However, before this conference was held, the Dutch government had not admitted the independence of its colony.

Even when the country sovereignty had been transferred to Indonesia, the Dutch government remained to keep one particular area under its control. The area in question is West Papua that was formerly known at that time by the name West Irian or Western New Guinea.

The Outcome of the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference


The conference reached several conclusions. The Dutch government finally accepted that Indonesia has become a new sovereign country, and that the sovereignty transfer would be processed until the end of the year. In addition to the transfer of governmental power, the military aggressions in Indonesia would be ended while the Dutch armies and battleships were drawn back to the Netherlands.

Moreover, the most crucial result of the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference is the acknowledgment of Indonesian whole territory. Following de jure and de facto existence, the territory has already included the area of West Papua, but the Dutch did not necessarily give back the island in question to Indonesia. In this regard, the Dutch delegation stated that the problem of West Papua would be discussed in the later year.

The Movements Following the Conference’s Results

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One year after the conference, the Dutch unfortunately violated the agreement by refusing to admit that West Papua is a part of Indonesian territory. With this decision, Indonesia had to fight against the Dutch government to get its whole independence. Following the aftermath of the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference, several movements, as well as democratic and diplomatic efforts to reclaim West Papua, were developed.

Operation Trikora (People’s Triple Command)


Although the Dutch had transferred the sovereignty for the rest of the islands in the Indonesian archipelago, West Papua was prepared to be a separate country. Because the Dutch violated the agreement, President Sukarno, the leader of Indonesia at that time, officially stated that Operation Trikora should be established with the aim of taking back the possession of West Papua.

The operation was led by Major-General Suharto under a command called “the Mandala Command for the Liberation of West Papua”. It was launched on December 19, 1961, and followed by the other operation known by the name “Operation Jayawijaya” in the mid-1962. On August 1962, after the two operations were called off, the problem of West Papua sovereign was brought up in another conference where the representatives of the Dutch and the Indonesian government met.

New York Agreement

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New York Agreement is not categorized as a movement, but instead, as a follow-up conference after the Operation Tikora. The aim of this agreement is to resolve the conflicts between the Netherlands and Indonesia regarding West Papua territory administration. As the name infers, this conference was held in the United Nations Headquarter in New York on August 15, 1962.

New York Agreement resulted in the arrangement of West Papua administration which was initially transferred from the Dutch government to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA). Under the umbrella of the United Nations authority, UNTEA carried out the duty as the official administers of West Papua in a one-year term.

Pepera (Act of Free Choice)

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After the UNTEA ended its administration term in the region of West Papua, Papuans were given a chance to express their aspiration in the Act of Free Choice. This democratic voting system involved men and women in Papua who were asked whether they wanted to join the Indonesian nation or develop their own sovereign country. The whole process was monitored by the delegations of the United States, as well as the Dutch and Australian representatives.

The Act of Free Choice consisted of three important stages. The first stage that was held in Jayapura on March 24, 1969, explained how the voting system was administered. It was followed by the second stage that dealt with the election of the Pepera Deliberation Board. The final stage of Pepera in which Papuans expressed their choice was held in August 1969.

Around two decades, through different conferences, movements, and operations, the Indonesian government managed to reclaim the easternmost island in the archipelago. Papua has been officially declared and reclaimed as a part of Indonesia on October 19, 1969.