West Papuan History Timeline
Jun 3rd, 2006, in News & Issues, by Patung

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Some of the key events in west Papua's past, leading up to integration with Indonesia.


The western part of the island of New Guinea becomes part of the Dutch East Indies, and is named Netherlands or Dutch New Guinea.


The Republic of Indonesia is created when the Netherlands grants independence to the former colonies of the Dutch East Indies. However, the western part of New Guinea is retained as a Dutch colony, partly because of its distinct Melanesian population and cultural characteristics, partly out of Dutch self-interest.


The Dutch recognise the right of Papuans to self-determination and begin to prepare the territory for independence, with education and technical programs. Indonesia continues to assert its claim to the territory.


The first Papuan parliament is formed, with the aim of planning for full independence by 1971. The council chooses a national anthem, a national flag and decides the country's official name will be West Papua.


Indonesian forces attempt to push out the Dutch by invading West Papua. The Dutch and local forces successfully resist the invasion, but when Indonesia turns to Russia for support, fears of a Cold War conflaguration lead the United States government to lean on the Dutch to accept Indonesia's claim.

In August an agreement is reached in New York between the Netherlands and Indonesia, giving sovereignty over the territory to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) for a period of six years, until a national vote to enable West Papuans to decide their own status.


Indonesia takes control of the administration of West Papua from UNTEA.

The armed resistance movement Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM - Free Papua Movement) is founded to fight for the independence of the territory.


A referendum - the Act of Free Choice - is held in the territory in August. The vote, widely criticised as rigged, hands control of the territory to Indonesia.

In September the territory, named West Irian or Irian Barat by Indonesia, becomes an official province of Indonesia. Four years later Indonesia renames the province Irian Jaya.

Thorny issue. There seem to be two competing views, representing the traditional dichotomy of philosophical approaches to foreign policy, for countries such as Australia, Holland, and the United States, the interested parties. That is, the realist and the moralist or idealist positions.

For the realist Indonesian sovereignty over Papua has to be accepted because it is better than most of the available alternatives, one of which is an independent West Papua which is poor, unstable, weak, and needful of mountains of foreign aid to prop up. The example of East Timor springs to mind here.

For the moralist the issue of right and wrong is of course paramount, with Indonesia in this case clearly being considered in the wrong camp, with the Papuans being considered as victims of evil.

One Comment on “West Papuan History Timeline”

1. AndrewJ AndrewJ Says:
July 24th, 2008 at 8:50 am

Update on the history

A 1962 “Invasion” could be a little strong, Indonesian sent insurgents but did not at the time have the ability to stage a full invasion as both the TNI and others later claimed.

The success came inside the U.S. White House by Freeport director Robert A. Lovett who in 1960 talked Kennedy into using McGeorge Bundy as the US National Security Adviser. It was Bundy and his National Security Council staff who convinced Kennedy that the U.S. had to force the Netherlands to trade the colony to Indonesian military control.

That is why John F Kennedy in 1962 had his brother Robert Kennedy write the New York Agreement trading the colony. The United Nations got $200m for signing its name to the contract which made it illegal for the UN to influence the 1969 Act orchestrated by Brig. General Sarwo Edhie Wibowo.

Lovett and Freeport of course got their mine license from Gen. Suharto in 1967.

Papua Indonesia

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