The New York Agreement: Legal Basis to Restore West Papua Into the Republic of Indonesia (Part 2)
The return of West Papua to Indonesia generated great enthusiasm among the peoples. Apart from fulfilling the provisions of the Agreement (Article XV), Indonesia was determined to ensure that West Papuas would enjoy the fruits of their new-found freedom. To assist them in these chal¬lenges, hundreds of Indonesians – teachers, scientists, doctors and nurses and civilian administrators – joined in the effort of UNTEA. From the outset, Indonesia had actively assisted UNTEA in the opening of new schools and public projects in the territory, such as scientific and agricultural projects. Remote areas of West Papua received special attention from the Indonesian Government. What was particularly heartening was that the population of the island voiced its enthusiasm by wholeheartedly participating in the nation-building process. Also noteworthy, was that a few hours after the UNTEA departed, the Indonesian Government appointed a native son of West Papua to the high office of Governor of the province. Such an appointment was more than what was called for in the Agreement, namely, to accelerate the participation of the people in the local government.
Another central aspect of the Agreement was the act of free choice or the ascertainment of the wishes of the Irian Jayan people (Article XVII) to take place six years after the administration had been formally and fully transferred to Indonesia. The latter provision was a compromise solution to meet the demands of the Netherlands and was to be held by the Indonesian Government to ascertain the wishes of the Irian Jayan people. As had been clarified by the Representative of Indonesia to the United Nations (A/PV I 155, page 544-545, paras 203-205), the purpose of agreeing to the idea of self-determination was to promptly reach a peaceful resolution of the West Papua question which does not mean its exercise in the strict, traditional and orthodox sense. This is due to the fact that Indonesia had never considered Irian Jaya as another country On the contrary, it was a matter of historical record that West Papua was part and parcel of Indonesia. The period of six years was to allow for its people to become reacquainted with the rest of Indonesia after having been divided by the colonial authorities.
As to the act of free choice, the Secretary-General’s functions were limited by the terms of the Agreement (Article XVI). In sum, the Agreement left the method and procedure to be followed in the act of free choice to the Indonesian Government (Article XVIII) which was to decide in consultation with the existing local representative councils in West Papua itself as legal representatives of its people. This was the real content and meaning of these provisions. Disregard of these critical provisions contained in the Agreement has led to deliberate misinterpretations.
For Indonesia, the implementation of the first part of the bilateral Agreement was satisfactory. As to the second part, it considered the act of free choice after six years to be conducted by the Indonesian Government and not the United Nations was a compromise to avoid the resumption of conflict. It was only with such assurances that the Indonesian Parliament adopted and ratified the Indonesian-Netherlands Agreement of 1962 on 1 September 1962.
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