West Papua may not sit comfortably within the country. However this particular state of the country have exercised its incredible claim power. Stretching from the western half of its neighboring country that is New Guinea, to other parts of the region. Such simple attempt on imposing duty may quickly become one of the most challenging tasks.
Such is the reason why understanding the political concept of it all may be useful. Not only in an attempt to understand the challenges that come with converting them to be the country’s potential breadbasket. But also the core point of everything that the locals have in mind. Whether or not they are onboard with the developmental and commerical. What better way to do it other than from learning the history?
A brief history
Back in the day of Dutch occupation, the people of Indonesia finally gained their own independence through fierce battles. The Indonesian people defeated the Dutch not only by brute force, but also brilliant minds. By seizing the opportunity right when it arose, Indonesia managed to defeat the Dutch and kick them back to their curb.
At the time, the defeated Dutch empire was forced to flee in order to save themselves. The first few destinations that they had in mind at the time were the remote area in the eastern islands. Compared to the neighboring islands, Sumatra and Java, the regime was surprisingly accepted by locals. It was quite surprising considering locals had certain hatred from having to give up a large portion of their harvest.
This, however, did not go on for long. By the end of the year 1949, the remaining Dutch people were forced to surrender. Not only completely turning themselves in and surrender, the Dutch was also forced to acknowledge the country’s newfound sovereignty. By acknowledging Indonesia’s sovereignty over the the Dutch East Indies.
However it is worth noting that the acknowledgment did not in any way include the Dutch New Guinea. Now widely referred to as West Papua, enough to help the country off the ground. It was not until 1961 did the Dutch make the decision to relinquish their control. Not only over the colony, but also the present day West Papua. This was exactly when the situation became more interesting.
At the time, the Dutch offered to grant independence to the west papua region. The offer was based on the belief that the region was culturally distinct when compared to other Indonesian region. This offer quickly became the source of upheaval at the time. With Indonesia refusing the notion that the west papua was not apart of them. Indonesian troops were then sent to the area to establish control.
The status of West Papua was finally brought to the United Nations and eventually birthed ‘Act of Free Choice.’ A number of Papuan women and men were selected to be a representative in this UN-sponsored event. In the end, as much as 1,025 Papuans agreed to be a part of the Indonesian territory. Many would argue that during this phase, the Papuans were intimidated. Hence, the decision to integrate.
However, looking back at various events leading up to the integration of Papua, no such thing as coercion was found. Quite the contrary, even long before this issue simmered to the top, various Papuan parties supporting Indonesian independence. Silas and Frans Kaisiepo were among the few of Irian intellectuals who actively paved the way to integration.
The majority of Papuans had spoken. Yet even decades after the decision had been set in stone, groups of Papuans launched guerilla campaign. Standing under the banner of ‘Free Papua Organization’, the goal of such campaign is to seek referendum. The political turmoil between the organization and the Indonesian government reached its peak during Soeharto administration.
The never-ending conflict was tainted with acts of violence and mysterious killings. Any Papuan who dared to speak openly about referendum would instantly be arrested and kept in isolation. This unfortunate turn of events did not get better until around Timor Timur gained its independence. Up to this day, Papua referendum still remains one of the most sensitive issues.
In cities, aspirations for freedom and independence from the Indonesian government is not only treated as political breakaway. Quite the contrary, this has blown up to a degree in which salvation and liberation become two of the most cited undertones in this movement. Demonstrations followed with two congresses attended by delegates from all over west Papua. The event took turn for the worst when military tried to break up the congress.
With numbers of people killed in the altercation, the issue propelled to the public eye resulting in human rights activists rallying their support. As a response, the Indonesian government proposed Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua. A solution which did not see the light of day until Jokowi’s administration. With improving infrastructures and declining poverty rate, the goverment is hopeful that the political tensions in West Papua also decreases.