Freelance writer, Human Rights Activist – Port Moresby.
The island of New Guinea is the world’s second largest island to the North of Australia. It has been inhabited for 50 thousand years by Melanesian people – who are linguistically, ethnically distinct from the African, Caucasoid and Mongoloid race; or in this case very different from Javanese Asian origin.
During the 19th century, colonial powers divided the island of New Guinea into two halves, East and West. East of New Guinea island was further divided into two colonies; British Papua to the South and German New Guinea to the North.
After the First World War, the two colonies were merged into one League of Nations mandate administered by Australia.
On 16th September 1975, the territory attained political independence to become the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
The Western part of the island of New Guinea remained a Dutch colony (also referred to as Dutch or Netherlands New Guinea). But the Netherlands had very little presence on the western part of the island and administered the territory as part of Netherlands East Indies.
The Netherlands East Indies comprises the islands of East Timor, Bali, Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Molucus all under the ancient Javanese kingdom.
East Timor attained its political independence in 1999 whilst Bali, Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Mollucus all remained under the Republic of Indonesia to date.
An armed rebellion erupted in parts of Netherlands East Indies in 1949; resulting in a round table dialogue in Den Hague to discuss sovereignty and independence.
The dialogue resolved on a “Charter for Transfer of Sovereignty”; which the Netherlands agreed to grant independence to the territories comprising the Netherlands East Indies; not the Netherlands New Guinea – which still remained a Dutch colony.
Then on 27th December 1949 the Netherlands transferred sovereignty over the territories of Netherlands East Indies to the newly created Federal Republic of the United States of Indonesia – which was changed with the unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia by President Sukarno in August 1950; and in the following month on 28th September 1950, the Republic of Indonesia joined the United Nations.
During the years 1959 through to 1961, preparations were inaugurated to transfer autonomy and sovereignty to the Netherlands New Guinea and eventually independence.
In April 1961, West New Guinea Council was inaugurated and adopted a national anthem called Hai Tanaku Papua (Oh my homeland Papua); and the Morning Star flag as its national flag in December 1961. The Council immediately appealed to all nations to recognize the right of the Papuans to independence.
When the preparations were well on the way to achieve self-government; President Sukarno call for the “liberation” of West Papua. Sukarno’s objective was to concur West Papua and claim sovereignty over it. Armed forces infiltrated West Papua and were captured by the Papuan Corps and handed over to the Dutch authorities.
President Sukarno was adamant to achieve his plan; and in January 1962 three Indoensian ships entered the waters of West Papua and shot a Dutch plane. Dutch retaliated and sank one of these ships and the survivors were captured by Papuan volunteer cops and interrogated. All the survivors admitted to President Sukarno’s plan to say that their objective was to destroy Dutch defenses and concur West Papua.
In August 1962, the Netherlands and Indonesia under pressure from US to settle the issue on West Papua, entered into a bilateral treaty – which is referred to as the New York Agreement.
On 1st October 1962, in accordance with this treaty the Netherlands transferred its colonial administration of West Papua to a United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA). Then the UNTEA transferred administration to Indonesia on 1st May 1963.
The New York Agreement expressly provided for the right of self-termination for West Papua. Article XX stated that: the act of self-determination will be completed before the end of 1969.
In 1969, Indonesia conducted the act of self-determination exercise through what is called an “Act of Free Choice”; and the Indonesian Minister of Home Affairs reported to the United Nations that the act of free choice: ...was completed in good order, and the result, unanimously adopted as the wishes of the entire people of West Irian is as follows: to remain united within the Republic of Indonesia and reject separation from the territory of the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia.
To date the people of West Papua continuously rejected the result of the Act of Free Choice on the grounds that the act was fraudulent and violated their right of self-determination. However, Indonesia asserts that West Papua had no right of self-determination and that the territory belonged to Indonesia before the act of free choice.
Despite the arrangements for special autonomy for West Papua, indigenous Papuans resistance to Indonesian rule continues, often through the simple act of flying the Morning Star flag – which is seen as an offense to the Indonesian state. It is a law within Indonesia that flying of the Morning Star flag is an offence punishable with long prison sentences.
Thousands of West Papuans have died including independence activists. Those who have died in the hands of the Indonesian military did not use force or took up arms in resistance to Indonesian rule, they simply raised the Morning Star flag to show resistance to colonial rule.
Out of a population of about one million people at the time of the 1969 Act of Free Choice, only 1,026 Papuans were hand picked by the Indonesian military; brought to a camp and told to vote for integration with Indonesia; anyone who disobeys and vote for disintegration would have their tongues cut out; and in fear of such threat, all voted against their conscience and for the good for the entire population of West Papua.
The question of West Papua’s Right to Self-Determination remained unanswered since the forceful invasion of West Papua by Indonesian arm forces on 2nd August 1963; and the controversial 1969 Act of Free Choice – which in reality an “act of no choice”.
By 2nd August 2013 it will be exactly 50 years West Papua would be under colonial rule despite the 1969 Act of Free Choice – of which UN was mandated to oversee the democratic process of self-determination failed.
To date; the “Act of Free Choice” became an “Act of No Choice”. Had the Act been a truly an Act of Free Choice, West Papua would have gained its political independence then.
Self-determination is first mentioned in a multilateral treaty is in Article 1(2) of the Carter of the United Nations (referred to as “Charter) which states that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to: develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples...
It must be made clear though that in 1945 when the Charter came into effect only States were subjects to international law. The rights established in the Charter were held by States and not by other kinds of territories.
In 1949 the various territories which made up the Netherlands East Indies had no legal right, either individually or collectively, to self-determination. They attained independence through military of political pressure. When right to self-determination, that is a right to determine its future without interference from other States.
Netherlands New Guinea which remained a Dutch colony had no right to self-determination under Article 1(2) or Article 55 of the Charter.
West Papua was dealt with under Chapter XI of the Charter which covered non-self-governing territories such as colonies. Article 73 of this Chapter required the administering power to assist the peoples of a non-self-governing territory to attain self-government progressively. This did not amount to the right to self-determination for non-self-governing peoples which a right would be exercisable immediately, and a right to self-determination would include independence, not just self-government.
Nevertheless , self-determination for colonial peoples evolved through this Chapter and through Chapter XII (trust territories). The granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples (the Declaration) which proclaimed that:
· Paragraph 2: All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status.
· Paragraph 5: Immediate steps shall be taken in Trust and Non-self-governing territories or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories without any conditions or reservations in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or color, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.
It is now clear that all UN protocols were breached by the UN itself, the colonial power being the Netherlands and the Republic of Indonesia.
When the administration powers were transferred to Indonesia, the UNTEA failed in its part to monitor the exercise the act of free choice. This allowed Indonesia to manipulate the processes and UN protocols to conduct a democratically free and fair act of free choice.
Today, the issue of West Papua stands in a crossroad. Legal and Political views on the issue of West Papua are apparently two issues the UN and concerned countries such as the Netherlands and US. Why is the Netherlands very quite about the atrocities in West Papua obviously caused by Indonesian military; and why is US quite about it; and why has the UN Decolonization Committee raise the issue and request a nation to sponsor the case with the UN?
All concerned parties concerned with the fraudulent, illegal and forceful transfer of West Papua to the Republic of Indonesia are equally guilty of the mishandling of the Act of Free Choice and transferring of administrative powers to the Republic of Indonesia. Therefore, to show their quilt – they keep distance and pretend to be blind and deaf over the issue of West Papua.
On the legal perspective, West Papua has the right to self-determination according to Article 73 of the UN Charter on Decolonization. While the legal issue is clear, the political perspective is bleak. Which government in the world can declare its recognition for West Papua self-determination?
To put these perspectives into conclusion; I would say that all government of the world are have a down syndrome called Indophobia. It is the syndrome that is stopping governments not to support West Papua.The ultimate end result for supporting West Papua’s right to self-determination is off course war!