How the Act of Free Choice in West Papua Took Place

The triumph of Indonesia in gaining the authority over western part of New Guinea finally can’t be dissociable from the key role of the New York agreement held in 1962. Supported by the United Nations, the treaty taking place in the Big Apple was not only aimed to finish the territorial battle between the Netherlands and archipelago but also to dismiss the unsettling communist control in the entire world. Being a temporary superintendent for West Papua designated by the UN had disclosed ample opportunity to acquaint the presence of the freshest province to the eyes of the globe.

PEPERA, a Way to Respect the Local Wisdom

West Papua officially became one of the Indonesian territories after the act of free choice popularly known as PEPERA, or Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat was successfully run in 1969. In spite of bad rumor indicating that Indonesia did inappropriate deceitfulness by ruining the concept of democracy, Indonesia kept doing its best in regard to giving the black pearl from the east a right to do self-determination.  The resolution often notoriously associated with the act of no choice was in fact, the series of eight regional gatherings. The act of free choice involving 1,025 people (both men and women) appointed by the Indonesian military was arguably a symbol of liberation from western colonization.

The procedure of executing the act of free choice once reaped anger and protest reaction from the international public – they call it a sham ballot on the independence decision as the vote was only applicable for the assorted population. Some politic observers would show their disappointment as the implementation was not in accordance with the treaty requirement allowing all the citizens of West Papua to elect to determine whether they stay or leave the archipelago. Apart from this appalling issue, Indonesia was the one respectful to the local wisdom – the noken system. Have you ever heard that? Noken meaning a root tree bag is a unique voting system only found in West Papua.


The Background of Act of Free Choice

The integrity of the act of free choice had been in line with the specification of the New York agreement. The article 17 stipulates that Indonesia has full responsibility for carrying out the act and inviting the Secretary-General whose job ranging from advising to arranging the public’s determination. The related party also designates some representatives from the United Nations to make sure their job before the self-determination is done. The negotiation carries on the following part – article 18. It states that the archipelago is going to arrange the act of free choice and be helped by the representatives of United Nations.

The arrangements encompass a couple of key points. The first regard signifies that the consultative councils better known as musyawarah is significant to determine the will of population compatible with the approved approaches and procedures. Then, the implementation of the free choice is specified based on the period of the present agreement. The third one is the question formation loads assurance whether the inhabitants of West Papua prefer staying with Indonesia or separating from the country.  And finally, the voters owning a right in deciding the self-determination are eligible for those (both male and female) who are born and raised in Western New Guinea.

The Exercise of the Act

According to the New York agreement mainly on the article 17, the poll shouldn’t have been carried out before the representative of the United Nations named Fernando Ortiz-CSanz paid a visit in West Papua on August 22nd, 1968. Conversely, the execution of the act of free choice was ultimately held six weeks earlier in July 1969. As having been expressed before, casting a vote required native participants and didn’t allow foreign nationals to engage in the act. Out of 800,000 inhabitants, only 1.2 percent of the total population participated in this. The electors did their job under the Indonesian authority. This condition was tailored with the Papuan local wisdom known as a noken system.

 The Emerging Controversy after the Act

The act of free choice always came with an unavoidable controversy. Many wittingly excoriated the resolution and named it “act of no choice”. It was considered as a measure harming the main principle of democracy. There was no wonder; a number of worldwide independence activities demanded a new referendum to be conducted. They asserted that every single Papuan whose age fitting for the voting qualification had a right to determine the future of their homeland. Even several European and American parliamentarians urged Kofi Annan, the former Ghanaian UN secretary to ensure the validity of PAPERA.

To sum up, the presence of PAPERA or act of free choice was very significant to specify the fate of West Papua although a series of pros and cons had affected the democratic process. What Indonesia did was the right thing anybody couldn’t understand.