West Papua: The Right To Inherent Sovereignty


West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, formerly known as Dutch New Guinea. A 13-year dispute with the Netherlands over whether the former Dutch colony would become an independent state or an Indonesian province culminated in 1962 in its annexation by force by the Indonesian military and the denial of the right of self-determination to its people, who today identify as over 50% Indigenous West Papuan. Our producers interviewed John Anari and Les Malazer for the latest information on the process of recognition of sovereignty for Indigenous West Papuan communities.

“Free West Papua Protest – Melbourne 2012” by Nichollas Harrison (Photographer) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

“Whispers” by Ziibiwan. Used with permission.

Indigenous Rights Radio Intro track features “Burn your Village to the Ground” by @a-tribe-called-red. Used with permission.

Shaldon Ferris (KhoiSan)

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Protest Against Colonialism of Indonesia in West Papua


We don’t need anything like Dialogue or Referendum but we need to transfer back our Administration that Dutch transfer Colony of West Papua New Guinea to the United Nations since October 1st, 1962 then transfer it to the Republic of Indonesia in May 1st, 1963.

West Papua is a Non Self Governing Territory by UN Resolution 448 so according to the United Nations Charter Article 73e must be granted Independent but the Mining of Freeport McMoran made the process of Decolonization of West Papua New Guinea or Netherlands New Guinea were failed.

Protest Against Colonialism of Indonesia by Indigenous Papuans

The United Nations, West Papua and the Act of Free Choice: de-colonisation in action


From 1950 until October 1962, West Papua was on the UN General As-sembly’s list of non self-governing territories. It had in fact been inscribed on that list by the Dutch, who, as the administering power, had also sub-mitted annual progress reports to the UN on conditions and develop-ments within the territory. Beginning in 1959, elected regional councils were set up with the aim of introducing democratization at both local and regional levels. Internal documents from the period indicate that the Dutch planned to establish an independent West Papuan state by 1970. Beginning in 1959, elected regional councils were set up with the aim of introducing democratization at both local and regional levels. At the same time efforts were made also to ‘Papuanise’ the administration so that a sufficient number of local people would be trained to take over once the Dutch had finally left. In short, one could argue that from the late 1950’s at least the Dutch were attempting to pursue a, rather belated, policy of genuine de-colonisation.

However, West Papua’s journey towards independence faced a major stumbling block in the form of Indonesia and its leader President Sukar-no. Sukarno’s argument was that Indonesia had sovereignty over all ter-ritories of the Dutch East Indies Empire – and that included West Papua. The Dutch response was that they had only administered West Papua as part of the East Indies because their minimal presence there did not warrant a separate colonial administration. More importantly, the Dutch argued that the vast majority of West Papuans were Melanesian and ethnically and culturally completely different to the Asian Indonesians. Their natural links lay instead with Australian New Guinea and the rest of Melanesia.

In September 1961, as Indonesian pressure grew, the Dutch presented the “Luns Plan”, to the UN General Assembly to resolve the dispute. They proposed to hand the territory over to a UN administration that would remain until the population was considered ready to exercise their right to self-determination. In the end, although most member states voted for the plan, it did not get the required two-thirds majority by the General Assembly to be passed.

Bolstered by political support and massive arms shipments from the So-viet Union, the United States and some European countries, Indonesia threatened war. Alarmed at this growing Soviet influence in a SE Asian country, the United States concluded that the best solution was for Su-karno to get his way. President Kennedy therefore put increasing pressure on the Netherlands to negotiate with Indonesia. When it became clear that neither the US, Australia nor Britain intended to offer military sup-port to the Netherlands in the event of a war over West Papua, the Dutch reluctantly agreed to sign the August 1962 New York Agreement with Jakarta.

The New York agreement was signed by the Netherlands and Indonesia regarding the administration of the territory of West New Guinea. The first part of the agreement proposes that the United Nations assume administration of the territory, and a second part proposes a set of social conditions that will be provided if the United Nations exercises a discretion proposed in article 12 of the agreement to allow Indonesian occupation and administration of the territory. Negotiated during meetings hosted by the United States, the agreement was signed on 15 August 1962 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

The agreement was added to the agenda of the 1962 United Nations General Assembly and precipitated General Assembly resolution 1752 (XVII) granting the United Nations authority to occupy and administrate West New Guinea. Although agreements are not able to negate obligations defined in the Charter of the United Nations, and the agreement asserted that it was for the benefit of the people of the territory, some people believed that the agreement was sacrificing the people of the territory for benefit of the foreign powers. A United States Department of State summary from 1962 asserts the “agreement was almost a total victory for Indonesia and a defeat for the Netherlands”, that the United States “Bureau of European Affairs was sympathetic to the Dutch view that annexation by Indonesia would simply trade white for brown colonialism”, and that “The underlying reason that the Kennedy administration pressed the Netherlands to accept this agreement was that it believed that Cold War considerations of preventing Indonesia from going Communist overrode the Dutch case.”


Decolonization Interrupted: U.N. and Indonesian Flags Raised in West Papua


U.N. and Indonesian Flags Raised in West New Guinea (West Irian) At an impressive ceremony held here today at the residence of the UNTEA Administrator, Dr. Djalal Abdoh, the Indonesian flag was raised side by side with the United Nations flag. A view of the grounds during the ceremony. Presenting arms are members of an Indonesian detachment (at left) and a unit of the Pakistani contingent (r.) of the U.N. Security Force (UNSF). 31 December 1962 Hollandia, West New Guinea UN Photo

By Emma Kluge, University of Sydney PhD Candidate


West Papua Flag of Morning Star and Dutch Flag in the Demonstration Against Indonesia Colonialism.

This photo was taken on 31 December 1962 by the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA). It depicts the raising of an Indonesian flag alongside a United Nations flag in the territory that was then known as West Irian, but local inhabitants call West Papua. Just over a year earlier on 1 December 1961, a similar ceremony had taken place: the West Papuan ‘Morning Star’ flag had been hoisted with the Dutch flag to symbolize its future independence from Dutch colonial rule; West Papuans used the flag to represent their nationhood to the world – translating their desires for freedom and self-government into a form legible to the world and to the UN.

Ceremonial Independent Day of West Papua in Manokwari Regency on December 1, 1961

These ceremonies signal how dramatically this territory’s fate had changed in just over a year. In this case the 1962 photograph featuring the UN and its flag hid an earlier attempt by West Papuans to gain UN recognition. In October 1961, a council of West Papuans had chosen the Morning Star flag to galvanize national feelings and express a unique Papuan identity. The 1961 flag-raising ceremony took place a few months later in December, signalling the efforts by a local community to stake a claim to independence in fulfillment of article 73 of the UN Charter relating to Non Self-Governing Territories. The West Papuan council declared the flag-raising day a public holiday and made an international statement calling on the world to support Papuan self-determination. The Dutch flag still flew alongside the West Papuan flag, marking Dutch support for West Papuan self-government, but also an unwillingness to relinquish the colonized territory. This was a moment of hope, but hope deferred.

While Indonesia had gained independence from the Dutch in 1949, the future of Dutch New Guinea (West Papua) had been left unresolved. The Dutch had argued it was a separate territory and not part of Indonesia. The Indonesian nationalists were divided over this issue, some arguing West Papua was separate while others claiming the Indonesian Republic should be the successor to all the Dutch colonies. Papuan nationalists were not given the opportunity in these earlier disputes to represent themselves.

Although West Papuans had been part of the administration of their territory, they were excluded from the negotiations between the Netherlands and Indonesia even when they resumed in 1961. Papuan leaders chafed at their exclusion from these discussions. Nicholas Jouwe, an elected member of the New Guinea Council and prominent Papuan leader, declared “Indonesia must recognise our right to live as an independent people”. Eliezer Bonay, a prominent politician and leader of the West Papua National Party (Parna), proposed a tripartite conference of Dutch, Indonesian and Papuan delegations to recognize West Papuans’ right to independence (South Pacific Post, Nov 3, 1961).

However, no such tripartite negotiations ever occurred. In August 1962, the US-led New York agreement was struck between the Netherlands and Indonesia: the Dutch would leave Papua, the United Nations would take over temporary control and then Indonesia would administer the territory until the West Papuans could participate in a vote of self-determination – deciding whether or not to be incorporated into the Indonesian Republic. Papuan leaders were dissatisfied with this outcome and continued to fight for an immediate plebiscite to be conducted under UN supervision.

Agreement Between Netherlands and Indonesia signed in UN Headquarter New York on August 15th, 1962. Doc. John Anari

The New York agreement that led to the moment pictured elided this history of exclusion.  In October 1962, the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) took command. The raising of the Indonesian flag alongside the UN flag in December became an outward symbol demonstrating the UN’s commitment to the transfer of the territory to the Indonesian administration, regardless of whether the New York agreement was honored.

The events of 1962 suggest that the Indonesian government had conducted a successful international campaign to subdue opposition to its control and gain support for its anti-colonial platform against the Dutch. Around the same time as the flag-raising ceremony, West Papua was taken off the list of Non Self-Governing Territories. Unlike the Dutch, who were considered a colonial power, the future Indonesian administration was not legally obligated to prepare the territory for self-government and report on its progress. While the Indonesian government proclaimed this as a moment of West Papuan liberation, for Papuans this was the beginning of a new regime of colonization. Once the UNTEA was gone programs of transmigration and ‘Indonesianization’ began – Papuan government officials were replaced, Indonesian language was enforced in schools and West Papuan political and cultural expression, such as the use of the Morning Star flag, was banned.

From an international perspective, however, Indonesia’s control of the territory was not yet solidified. The New York agreement foresaw a plebiscite to allow for West Papuan self-determination. By the time the UN-supervised ‘Act of Free Choice’ was held in 1969, Indonesia had made it clear it would only accept one outcome – the incorporation of West Papua into Indonesia. Indonesia negotiated the terms of the vote so only 1,022 representatives participated. The Indonesian government claimed West Papuans were too primitive to take part in regular elections and argued for the Indonesian method of musyawarah, in which a representative voted for their area and an outcome was decided through consultation.

During this time, West Papuans wrote to the United Nations seeking their intervention into this situation – pleading for all adult West Papuans to be allowed to vote and asking for UN intercession to allow for freedom of political expression and political organisation. They explained the Indonesian system was not in line with their practises and they wished to participate in a democratic and fair vote. Leader Markus Kaisiepo even submitted a draft ballot paper for enabling illiterate Papuans to vote.

In anticipation of the struggle at the UN General Assembly, Papuan leader Nicholas Jouwe organised tours around Africa to try and gain the support of leaders from independent African nations. While there was support for West Papuan independence from African leaders, Indonesia’s prominence in the Afro-Asian solidarity movement made it difficult for these nations to openly oppose their regimes. Prominent anti-colonial advocates such as India backed Indonesia by reshaping the debate as an issue of Indonesian national unity rather than West Papuan self-determination.

An Indonesian security officer beats protester at Manokwari in August 1969 during the period when Indonesia held Act of Free Choice (AOFC) in West New Guinea

Many African states were unwilling to back the Act as they believed it might undermine future decolonisation and lead to European colonists conducting similar ‘Acts’ in order to avoid or delay decolonisation. The UN ambassador for Togo spoke out against Indonesia’s portrayal of Papuan ‘primitiveness’ as an inadequate excuse for denying a people self-determination and against the UNGA’s earlier resolutions. The ambassador from Ghana suggested the entire population should be allowed to vote in an open and fair plebiscite in 1975 to ensure true self-determination was allowed. African leaders highlighted the hypocrisy of establishing the non-aligned movement with the explicit aim of opposing colonialism and then allowing Indonesia to set up colonial-style rule in West Papua.

Every peoples could vote in the election of New Guinea Council on April 5, 1961 but the Vote in Referendum 1969 only by 1025 representatives who was chose by Indonesia Military.

Referendum Participants from Jayawijaya Regency where given Indonesian flagged uniforms.

Eventually in November 1969, after debates over the Act’s legality, the UN General Assembly voted 84 to 0 to acknowledge the ‘Act’ with no amendments. There were 30 abstentions – 24 from African nations and the rest from Latin American states. Ultimately, the maintenance of peace and good diplomatic relations with Indonesia and its supporters won out. As the African leaders feared, this signalled a shift in the United Nations’ approach to decolonization. Historian Tracey Banivanua Mar has argued that this moment ‘solidified the departure of the United Nations programme for decolonization from many Indigenous Peoples’ own aspirations’ (Banivanua Mar 2016, 150).

Each year, around the world, West Papuans gather on December 1 to raise the Morning Star flag – demonstrating their continuing commitment to West Papuan self-government. Often, these ceremonies are met with state-sponsored violence and flags swiftly removed. While the Indonesian flag continues to fly over the territory, many Papuans refuse to accept its rule until another vote is held and Papuans can participate in a democratic and fair vote for self-determination.


Further reading

Banivanua Mar, Tracey. 2016. Decolonisation and the Pacific: Indigenous Globalisation and the Ends of Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Drooglever, Pieter. Trans. Theresa Stanton, Maria van Yperen & Marjolijn de Jager. 2009. An Act of Free Choice: Decolonization and the Right to Self-Determination in West Papua. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.

Saltford, John. 2003. The United Nations and the Indonesian Takeover of West Papua, 1962-1969: The Anatomy of Betrayal. London: RoutledgeCurzon.

Photo source: ‘U.N. and Indonesian Flags Raised in West New Guinea (West Irian)’ 31 December, 1962.

West Papuan speaker ‘silenced’ when trying to raise UN agenda issue


West Papuan speaker John Anari … silenced at a General Assembly forum discussing indigenous self-determination issues. Image: UNwebcast/PMC screenshot

By Andrew Johnson

Since 2004, a number of university papers have raised the question of genocide in the Pacific territory of West Papua administrated by Indonesia subsequent to a 1962 United Nations General Assembly vote to occupy the colony in defiance of the territory’s objections.

Although the United Nations claims to be opposed to genocide, it was was quick last week to silence a speaker at a General Assembly forum concerning self-determination.

The speaker, John Anari, ambassador for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) was stating that West Papua was under a UN-appointed occupation and that the UN had a legal obligation under article 85 part 2 of its charter to place the issue of the UN occupation authorised in 1962 by General Assembly resolution 1752 on the agenda of the UN Trusteeship Council.

The moderator interrupted Anari and then when he tried to raise the issue again, she cut him short and went on to the next speaker.

This is not the first time the UN has censored information and requests about West Papua.

The same request was stated clearly at the 2016 Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII), yet the forum made no mention of the request in its report to the UN Economic and Social Council, which has the power to place issues on the agenda of the Trusteeship Council.

This year, in addition to again presenting West Papua’s request to the PFII, Anari was making use of an invitation from the President of the General Assembly to attend a forum concerning indigenous self-determination when the forum’s moderator tried to silence him.

Anari resumed asserting his request for the UN to comply with its charter obligations and acknowledge its responsibility for the consequences of the General Assembly authorisation of UN military occupation in Papua.

There may be additional opportunities this week for the United Nations to live up to its charter and the promise of advancing human rights, but if the past week and years are any indication the prospects are not good.

Andrew Johnson is a 20-year veteran with the Australia West Papua Association, specialising in historical research and analysis.


UN webcast of the ‘shutdown’ of John Anari speaking at the UN General Assembly on April 25. Source: ULFWP

Special Operation Before Self Determination in West Papua 1969



Brigadier General Ali Murtopo

Special Operation is the one organization in KOSTRAD (Komando Strategy Angkatan Darat) or Strategy Commando of Indonesia Military. It was built by Brigade General Ali Murtopo at year 1963. He is the one of the Indonesia’s Intelegent and also the member of Soeharto(Ex. President Indonesia) and Sujono humardani. This organization  was established for expansion area of Indonesia to Serawak (now is East Malasyia). But after succesed expansion to West Papua Nation that had proclamation by the facto at 1rd December 1961. But because still some trouble about Indigenous People over there, so this organitation come to West Papua island.

             Some Special Operation that done in West Papua island is burned the document about West Papua Nation who was hided by West Papuan, terror Indigenous People in West Papua, Intimidation Papuan, Jailed people, and also killed every West Papuan Indigenous who decline and Againts Indonesia Government. Because of this Operation finally Indonesia Government could be the winner of Act of Free Choice (referendum) at year 1969 because Papuan representatives was chosed by Indonesia Goverment and they put representative in Dewan Musyawarah PEPERA (Consultation Parlement of Self Determination). But if we look at the law and justice, so the referendum was took in West Papua is ILLEGAL or not legal because it was done by representatives (no one man one voice) like International Law for an referendum in one region. This is the total representative of referendum is 1026 people from 800,000 soul.

Ali Murtopo sayed in Act of Free Choice (Selft Determination) : We don’t need you Papuan, we just need your Land and Natural Resources. If you want to get independent, so ask USA took you to the moon.

See the table of the representatives and the total peoples of West Papua at year 1969 :

No. Region / County Total People Representatives














Teluk Cenderawasih










175  peoples

175  people

175  people

75  people

110  people

75  people

131  people

110  people

The Total People 809,326 Peoples / soul 1026 Peoples / Soul

             This organization does not active in Act of Free Choice but also in General Election of Indonesia at year 1971 and after that.  This body also playing in arranged the Politic Partys after year 1971 and then was stop at year 1974.

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