A Promise for West Papua: Dutch – Indonesia Round Table at a Glance


When Indonesia declared its independence, the Dutch government did not acknowledge that declaration immediately. The acknowledgment was starting to emerge during the Round Table Conference in 1949.

The Round Table Conference was a negotiation meeting that was held in The Hague, Netherlands, from 23rd of August until 2nd of November 1949 between Indonesia’s and the Dutch Government. The chairman of this conference was Willem Drees, the Prime Minister of Dutch Government at that moment. Indonesia delegation was represented by Mohammad Hatta, and the Dutch delegation was represented by Van Maarseveen. Also appeared as the mediator from United Nation, Chritchley.

Round table conferance - ytimg.com
Round table conferance – ytimg.com

Previously there had been three negotiations meetings between the two countries, i.e., the Linggarjati conference, the Renville conference, and Roem-Roijen conference. These meetings were all held because The Dutch did not want Indonesia to be an independent country. Therefore, they tried the diplomatic way to solve this situation in order to achieve their goals. Prior to the diplomatic way, the Dutch already attempted several times to coop Indonesia’s government through military aggression. But they eventually stopped as they received critics from many countries in the world.

The Round Table Conference resulted in some documents, including the sovereignty charter, and the economic and military agreements. Through this meeting, the Dutch finally agreed to pull back their army as soon as possible. Indonesia also agreed to take over the trading agreement that previously was discussed by the Dutch East Indies.

Unfortunately, Indonesia and the Dutch Government did not agree on two things, which were the debt of colonial government and the status of Papua region. The Dutch did not want to give back Papua to Indonesia because in their opinion Papua did not have ethnic relation with Indonesia. The status of Papua would then be determined one year ahead through another negotiation meeting between the two countries.

Here are the details of the Round Table Conference agreement:

The Dutch acknowledged The United States of Republic Indonesia as an independent and sovereign country.

The sovereignty acknowledgment would be held at the latest December 30, 1949.

West New Guinea matters would be discussed through another conference in a year after the sovereignty acknowledgment from Dutch Government to United States of Republic Indonesia

There would be an alliance between the United States of Republic Indonesia and the Netherlands Kingdom that would be led by the king of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands battleships should be withdrawn from Indonesia territory with a note that some corvette (small battleship) would be handed to the United States of Republic Indonesia.

The army of the Netherlands Kingdom should be withdrawn as soon as possible, while the army of Dutch East Indie (KNIL) would be disbanded with a note that its qualified members would be incorporated with Indonesia’s National Army

 The Impact of The Round Table Conference

After the Round Table Conference was concluded, the results of this conference were immediately brought to the Centre of Indonesia’s National Committee (KNIP), followed by KNIP meeting in December 1949. To meet the results of the Round Table Conference, KNIP then proposed a voting among the meeting participants. 226 people agreed with the result of The Round Table Conference, 62 people refused the result, and 31 people walked out from the meeting room, which means most of KNIP agreed to accept the Round Table Conference results.


Soon after that, KNIP ran the election for the president of the United States of Republic Indonesia. Ir. Soekarno was elected as the president and inaugurated on 17th December 1949. Mohammad Hatta was then appointed by President Soekarno as the Prime Minister and inaugurated on 20th December 1949, followed by the formation of the cabinet.

The United States of Republic Indonesia formally was established in December 1949 which consisted of 16 states and part of the alliance of the Netherlands Kingdom.

Later on 27th December 1949, the sovereignty acknowledgment was signed by the Dutch in the Netherlands. It was Queen Juliana, Prime Minister Willem Drees, and Foreign Minister AM. J. A. Sassen who signed the sovereignty documents from the Dutch side. Mohammad Hatta, the Prime Minister of United States of Republic Indonesia were also there to sign the charter.

Meanwhile, Papua still became a polemic until 1963. The Dutch didn’t want to let go of Papua. Even they supported Papua to become an independent country apart from Indonesia, which infuriated President Soekarno who aspired to unite Indonesia as one whole nation. The government of Indonesia then declared war on the Dutch Government in 1961 due to this situation. This reclaimed act was well known as TRIKORA, Three Commands for the People.

As that the situation between Indonesia and the Netherlands was getting worse, United States of America pushed Dutch Government to give back Papua to Indonesia. The USA was quite worried that this conflict would benefit the communist, especially the Soviet Union. Moreover, at that time the USA was facing the cold war with the Soviet Union. Providentially, the Netherlands took the advice from the USA.

On 15th of August 1962, another negotiation meeting was held between Indonesia and the Dutch Government in the Headquarter of United Nation in New York. In this meeting, the Dutch Government agreed to give back Papua to Indonesia via United Nation. Finally, on 1st May 1963, Papua came home to Indonesia and had since become an integral part of Indonesia.