This text was sent out in six sections to several mailing lists on June 29 (1&2), June 30 (3&4), July 1 (5), and July 6 (6), 2000.
| 1. A Preliminary Appraisal | 2. Rectifying History | 3. From West New Guinea to West Irian | 4. Is West Irian an Indonesian Colony? | 5. Is West Irian Part of Indonesia? | 6. Prospects for the Future. |
The National West Papua Congress held some weeks ago in Numbai (officially: Yajapura) was without doubt a memorable occasion in the history of West Irian/Papua (officially: Irian Jaya) and its people. It has left strong impressions both of a tremendously gratifying nature, as well as of a somewhat disquieting one.
The political maturity and organisatorial skill with which West Papuan leaders carried out the congress is actually highly instructive for the rest of the country. In view of the traumas accumulated in more than three decades of state terror by Soeharto's New Order regime, this had not at all been a self-evident prospect.
The congress was a great organisatorial achievement that brought together representatives from all districts and ethnic groups. More impressive still was perhaps the interconfessional harmony with which Muslim and Christian Papuan leaders cooperated. This cannot be highly enough praised in view of the adverse situation in neighbouring Maluku.
The moderate leaders at the congress passed their toughest test with flying colours, when they succeeded in negotiating a compromise with the hardliners. In view of accumulated post-traumatic stress resulting from three decades of state terror, it was already remarkable that there hadn't been an even larger hardliner faction, and that this had not been even more adamant in its stand.
Emotions ran high, and only recently, a representative of one faction was killed by those of another in exile in PNG. Bringing everyone together under one roof was therefore a masterly piece of organization. It also explains the extreme tenor of the resulting compromise, which obviously tested the government's patience to the utmost, but which really could not have been expected to fall short of that.
The organizers also had to cope with a wide range of cultural diversity, which included sizable delegations of tribesmen from the interior, armed with spears, roaming the streets and threatening with action in the event of an unsatisfactory outcome. This situation too they mastered in a most commendible fashion.
All in all, even if the congress should not bring about anything else, then its overall organisatorial success alone has provided a very much deserved moral boost to the self-consciousness of the West Papuans. As paradoxical as this may sound, but this is in fact a vital condition for perspectives of continued integrity of the unitary Indonesian national state .
Indonesian unity can only survive as a unity of equals. After three decades of humiliation under Soeharto's New Order regime, the West Papuans need the restoration of their human dignity even more urgently than the Acehnese. Without that, they will never regain their feeling of belonging which they were so thoroughly rid of by the brutality of Soeharto's repressive apparatus.
There also are other remarkable aspects which deserve mention.
The peaceful and unintimidated organization of the congress is a telling indication of the progress that has been achieved so far in restoring a semblance of democratic government in the country. The government did not just tolerate a major political manifestation which from the very start left no doubts about its secessionist sentiments, the President actually helped finance it. The very building in which the congress took place, a large sports stadium, was apparently state-owned.
The most significant achievement of the government in this matter appears to have been its success in keeping the military and police, or "rogue elements" in their ranks, from reacting with the usual kind of brutality against the population as so often in the past. The population roamed freely through the streets, demonstrating the Morning Star flag, without anyone being arrested, let alone getting shot at. Nothing unusual in a democratic state, but quite unimaginable in the country even in the most recent past.
It remains to be seen, how well the military and police have learned their lesson, and whether they will also let the country benefit from this in other regions, particularly in Aceh. That they are not yet really willing to fully give up their past ways, is suggested by the police in Jayapura interrogating leading organisers of the Congress on suspicion of "treason". Actually, those leaders should be thanked and praised for having headed off a crisis in West New Guinea similar to that in Maluku. By accusing them of "treason", the police is actually provoking new unrest which could very much endanger the unity of the country. So, if anyone needs to be suspected of treason, it is more likely the responsible chief of police (I'll return to this in section 6), rather than the organisers.of the West Papua Congress.
The most important message of all, to my mind, is to be learned from the enthusiastic support which the Congress enjoyed in wide layers of the indigenous population throughout the province, which also guaranteed its success. It was an immediate indicator of the thoroughness, with which Soeharto and the military had alienated the population. It demonstrated the total bankruptcy of Soeharto's "wisdom" of rule by terror. Oppression engenders resistance. Here, West Papuans (like Acehnese, and Indonesians in general who forced Soeharto to resign) have provided yet another convincing proof of that fine quality that is ingrained in mankind, in all the nations and races around the world.
The unanimous enthusiasm and solidarity of the West Papuans during the preparations towards the Congress, and throughout its progress, landed such a strong shock effect on all factions of the establishment in Jakarta, that everybody suddenly remembered democratic decorum and political culture of government by rule of law. Most significant of all, interfactional bickering was laid aside long enough for everyone with any say to put on his nicest Sunday smile and reassure that only civil and democratic methods should henceforth apply in all dealings with the popular movement, respecting the basic human rights of the population. They even forgot to lambast the President for his wise tacit but candid promotion of the West Papuan Congress.
The most gratifying result of the Congress was, therefore, that the West Papuans had in this way made an eminent contribution to the restoration of democracy in Indonesia as a whole. Why is this so important? It was indicated above, that true unity can only be achieved in a unity of equals. Subjective judgement on equality can be very utilitarian, boiling down to the question "what good does it bring me?". The present West Papuan contribution to the nation will not be so easily equaled by the others, and social and political groups all over the country, committed to setting up democracy in Indonesia, owe them sincerest gratitude for this.
The circumstance also has a complementary opposite aspect: one is generally inclined to subjectively value those things the most, in which one has invested the most of one's own effort. The history books have omitted the West Papuan share in the Indonesian struggle for national independence. The re-unification of West New Guinea with the rest of Indonesia was depicted as some glorious deed of swashbuckling militaries (I'll return to this in section 3), the very same militaries which West Papuans experienced in daily life more than 30 years long as oppressors and humiliators.
As the irony of history will have it, in the very moment that they collectively straightened their backs to jointly face up to their oppressors by claiming their right of secession from the Indonesian Republic, they actually in fact repulsed the intimidations of those oppressors, and reasserted their equal right of belonging as fullfledged co-possessors of this archipelagean community together with all the others who have faced or are still facing up to remnants of the old military regime.
Through their valiant feat, the West Papuans brought home an important lesson to all civilian and military factions in Jakarta, as well as to the entire nation: that democracy is government FROM the people FOR the people; that democracy represents a material force not to be dismissed as ephemereal idealism of goody-goody intellectuals.
To a nation that was brainwashed by the Soeharto regime to believe that power is maintained at the point of a bayonet, and which still couldn't believe its own eyes when unarmed students brought Soeharto down from his despotic pedestal, they demonstrated that the common man may seem small and frail in his vulnerable physical isolation, but integrated in manifold social and economic ties of the community, he holds in his hands the actual socio-economic basis of political power. The military, not contributing to the national productive resources, can only meet its legitimation for existence as a force of national defence when it serves the community, not when it tries to command it. Otherwise it turns into a gang of scavengers that parasitises on the community.
Another lesson which the West Papuans brought home is a sore point in the whole of Indonesian history: "united we stand, divided we fall". Indonesia could be colonized because it was divided against itself. It regained its independence because Indonesian leaders managed for a short moment to convince the nation to be united, an extremely difficult undertaking with such an unparalleled range of diversity as in this country. The call for unity is therefore an evergreen of Indonesian patriotic tradition.
The masterly handling of the Congress by West Papuan leaders, maintaining unity inspite of widely disparate ethnic, social, economic, cultural, and political identities of the participants, was an instructive example for other ethnic and social groups in the whole country, particularly groups which have been deprived of their traditional lands in favour of forestry and mining enterprises with connection to Soeharto's New Order apparatus. Last but not least, the President himself could use some support from the West Papuans in handling recalcitrant Muslim minority parties that are misusing their few mandates the way they once tried to blackmail the election committee by threatening to debunk the results of the 1998 elections.
In short, having thanked the West Papuans for their invaluable contribution to the cause of Indonesian democracy, the next thing all committed and interested sides should do is to cordially welcome them back in Indonesia..., as equals among equals.
But take care, to many of them this comes as a surprize, so they may need some time to realize what they have actually achieved.
The principal watchword that permeated the West Papua Congress was without doubt that of "rectifying history". This provided the moral breakthrough, the restitution into selfrespect and dignity after decades of humiliation. It gave the lie to the hated so-called "Act of Free Choice" of 1969 which seemed to pin them down as voluntary accepters of slavery.
That "Act of Free Choice" had been a farce, the very opposite of what its name stated. Handpicked representatives were given the opportunity to vote after having been subjected to intimidations that did not shy from direct threats of violence and blackmail. But the fraud was quite typical of all polls and other purported elicitations of public opinion throughout Soeharto's entire presidency. The semantic perversion of the name too was quite in style of New Order linguistic falsification of facts through euphemistic camouflage.
The US-mediated and UN-endorsed New York Agreement on West New Guinea between Indonesia and the Netherlands had provided for the return of the territory to Indonesia in 1963, after half a year interim administration by the UN, and had stipulated additionally that UN-supervised polls were to be held in 1969 to allow the population to express whether it wished to remain part of Indonesia or not.
This latter addendum had been considered by all sides as a pure formality to allow a saving of face for the Dutch side, because there didn't appear to be any reason why the population would vote negatively. Nobody realised that in the meanwhile, in 1966, Soeharto would wrest national power and plunge Indonesia into a regime of terror from which very many, and not only the Papuans, would want "out".
But the cold war was on, and the purge led by Soeharto was felt as the "best news" from Indonesia for the West since a long time. Therefore, in spite of being well enough informed about the fraud, both the US and the Netherlands were only too glad to oblige by recognizing the "outcome" of the "polls". A la guerre comme a la guerre, the cold war was taking its toll, and the West Papuans formed only a part of the Indonesian victims of that time. Java alone suffered somewhere between 400,000 and 700,000 or more dead.
Not only Indonesians themselves were victims, East Timor too was fed to that unsatiable Moloch (number of dead: c. 200,000). It was not the West alone, of course, there are always two sides in a war, also in a cold one, and it was not much nicer to be a Hungarian in 1956, or a Czech during the Prague springtime, not to mention Afghanistan. Let's first of all be grateful that the cold war is over, and now try to repair such damage as is still possible.
The scandalous reality about the "Act of Free Choice" had only been a secret to Indonesians who learned history in the manipulated version that was taught at school under Soeharto's New Order regime. One can therefore understand the elated emotions at the Congress's ceremonial re-establishment of the true history of it.
The sad part of the story is, that many West Papuans seem to continue being victims of an illusion, both what the consequences of that historic "rectification" is concerned, as well as with regard to the significance of the Papuan Political Manifesto of December 19, 1961, widely considered as declaration of independence. But, sooner or later, they will experience the moment of truth, so, particularly those who consider themselves their friends should tactfully let them in to the realities, however unpleasant this may be.
There are two aspects to the legal significance of that so-called "Act of Free Choice", an international one, and a domestic one. In its international aspect, it is a thing of the past. The presently rediscovered truth about its fraudulant nature (not news to any of the signatories) has no legal bearing anymore, because the signatory parties involved were aware of the fraud at that time, and cooperated in covering it up. One cannot revoke a voluntarily signed contract when one was perfectly informed of the fraud at time of signing.
An additionally aggravating effect in this concrete instance derives from the circumstance, that the cosignatory parties were themselves involved in creating the repressive conditions in the country in general, and in West New Guinea in particular. The Netherlands even played a prominent role in the formation of the Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI) that financially salvaged Soeharto's military regime. Indonesia had been on the brink of economic collapse one way or the other, and Soeharto's regime had been the condition which opened the doors to a generous flow of financial and technical aid from the West.
It is unrealistic to suppose, that they would now decide to punish Indonesia's fledgling democracy for the sins of the previous regime which they themselves once helped sustain. If they had decided to repent and correct mistakes of the past by applying sanctions on Indonesia, that may still have had at least some sort of logic before the downfall of Soeharto.
But when they then indeed decided to correct those past mistakes, they did something very much better. They supported the movement for democracy that brought Soeharto down, and that has among others now made this West Papua Conference possible! Therefore, appealing to either the US or the Netherlands to revise their past stand on the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" now misses the point.
At present, any inquest into the proceedings of that time in the US or the Netherlands could only be aimed at uncovering assumed irregularities in the behaviour of respective own government officials who helped the Soeharto regime cover up that fraud. But whatever noble intentions might motivate calls for such an inquiry, they are obviously not of this world, because the cold war saw many much more harrowing political decisions on dilemmas between morality and pragmatic realpolitik. So what could one hope to achieve by singling out one case of not even the most dramatic significance, other than at best to embarrass a retired elderly statesman from a rival party?
Now, whereas its international aspect no longer has any particular bearing, the domestic significance of that fraudulent "Act of Free Choice" is quite a different matter. It is absolutely intolerable, that the population of the country was mistreated in the manner of how a colonial administration could handle a colony. It is understandable when a colonial power takes recourse to such methods in setting up stooge puppet regimes, but treating a part of Indonesia's own population in this manner, in consequence of having first antagonised it through despotic oppression, is totally unacceptable. It is above all a crime against the Indonesia's own constitution.
Indonesian history cannot tolerate, that a part of the population was brought to rejoin the nation through deceit. Therefore, it would seem, that the very least the government could do would be first of all to apologize to the West Papuans for that shameful act of the previous regime. An investigation should be made to elicit all the facts about that "Act of Free Choice, and it should be done in cooperation with the West Papuans that were involved. One should furthermore consider ways to allow for a new polls under free and democratic conditions, in which the population expresses its will anew: NOT out of responsibility to the Netherlands, the US, or the United Nations, but for the sake of the Indonesian constitution, to respect the democratic rights of Indonesians, and out of responsibility to future generations of Indonesians who would otherwise have to live on with this dark shadow on the nation's integrity.
Another important task is to revise the history books that are fraught with fallacies introduced by the New Order regime. West Papuans have a right to learn the truth about their history just as much as Indonesians on the other islands. This includes the contribution of West Papuans in the struggle for independence in a national (e.g. Lukas Rumkorem's Partai Indonesia Merdeka) as well as in a regional connotation (e.g. the Koreri movement), just as much as the centuries-old history of how West New Guinea became part of the Malayo-Indonesian sphere of culture and tradition. Last but not least, it also requires candid and detailed exposure of the crimes of the New Order apparatus against the population, and rehabilitation of the victims (let me only mention Arnold Ap). Just some summary and abstract apologies are not enough, because an apology is only sincere when one precisely admits the concrete transgressions for which one is apologizing.
The question of how West New Guinea got to become part of Indonesia in a culture-historical sense I shall treat separately in section 5. The history that West Papuans wished to see rectified at the Congress was that of its formal, or legal appertinance or non- appertinance to the Republic of Indonesia, and of their right to secession in the light of UN principles of decolonisation (this latter I will also discuss in sections 3 and 4).
Formally, the independence of the West Papuans, together with that of all other inhabitants of former Netherlands East Indies, was proclaimed by Sukarno and Moh. Hatta on August 17, 1945. But, already this first step towards realisation of their right for independence is marred by falsification of history, one which the Congress unfortunately failed to rectify.
In 1946, the Netherlands sent in troops with the aim of reoccupying Indonesia (Dutch troops had also been involved in allied landings in some areas in the north of West New Guinea already in 1944). To counter Indonesia's proclamation of independence, Dutch officials in the occupied zones began recruiting local leaders and gentry to form competing state-like formations. This included the so-called "State of East Indonesia" formed at a conference in Denpasar (Bali) in December 1946.
What all those newly-formed puppet states had in common was that an indigenous nominal "head of state" was flanked by a Dutch executive, officially titled "secretary of state", and that they had no own armed forces, this being replaced by the Dutch army and the Dutch-commanded Royal Netherlands Indies Army (KNIL). The actual lack of sovereignty of these pseudo-state formations was demonstrated at that very 1946 conference in Denpasar, when the Dutch side unilaterally carved out West New Guinea from the "State of East Indonesia" that was being formed, against resolute but futile protests of the indeed powerless indigenous representatives (who had, nota bene, been handpicked by the Dutch officials themselves).
The actual Indonesian government was not asked. Dutch diplomacy at a later time based the unilateral extraction of West New Guinea with the assertion, that it was not part of the territory for which independence had been proclaimed in 1945: it was allegedly not included in the original enumeration of provinces which ended with the Moluccas in the East. Indonesian representatives quickly pointed out that West New Guinea was included in the Moluccas according to Dutch own territorial division of Netherlands East Indies, that had initially been taken over unchanged by the Indonesian Republic.
Besides, the reason for carving out West New Guinea had already been revealed in Dutch parliament: the Dutch government hoped to have this territory reserved for resettlement of Indo-Dutchmen in Indonesia in case they wished to remain under Dutch administration (see Minister Jonkman in Handelingen der Staaten-Generaal, Tweede Kamer, 1946-47, there p. 707, right column).
However, that shortlived "falsification" of Indonesian (and of course West New-Guinean) history was unexpectedly freshened up again in the late 1970s in a major authorative academic publication, and this inspite of the circumstance that an explicit and detailed exposition of the situation with ample citations from bibliographic sources had appeared long before that in a publication by Robert Bone (1958, The Dynamics of Western New Guinea. Ithaca; see there pp. 25-26).
In the renovated version of that diplomatic subterfuge, it is stated that "it is a fact that in the famous proclamation of independence on 17 August 1945 the territory was defined as stretching 'from Acheh to Ambon', a slogan that excluded New Guinea or West Irian."
The text of the Indonesian proclamation of independence is not a secret, and is openly accessible and well documented:
There is no mention of either Aceh or Ambon or another topological reference, except Indonesia.
" We, the Indonesian people, do hereby proclaim the independence of Indonesia. Matters which concern the transfer of sovereignty etc. shall be executed in a conscientious manner and in the shortest possible time."
The author apparently confused this with a contemporary speech of Sukarno, in which the territory was circumscribed as encompassing Banda Aceh in the West, and Ambon (situated in the Central Moluccan Islands) in the East. Banda Aceh had been the capital of the most western major territorial administrative unit of Netherlands East Indies, and Ambon had been administrative centre of the easternmost one that included (not excluded) West New Guinea. The latter had been divided into two territorial units centred respectively in Manokwari (on the north coast) and Tual (in the Kei Islands), both being subordinated to the administrative centre in Ambon. This division, with modifications in the administrative denominations, was retained up to unconditional surrender of the territory to Japan in 1942, from which Indonesia declared its independence in 1945.
Otherwise Sukarno and others typically used the expression "from Sabang till Merauke" (towns respectively before the northwestern tip of Sumatra and in the South of West New Guinea) when refering to the territorial extension of Indonesia, a formula already used earlier by Dutch writers with regard to Netherlands East Indies.
I purposely do not cite the name of that academic author, a wellknown specialist on West New Guinea, because, besides having been written under the impression of most repulsive New Order brutalities against the West Papuans (thus letting the author's bias actually seem quite sympathetic), the publication was obviously also influenced by Sukarno-bashing traditions which were very much "comme il faut" in the media during the cold war. It seems unfair to now "expose" him in retrospective for inaccuracies of that period.
But the cold war is over now, and remnants of Soeharto's New Order regime are being determinedly dismantled. However, many West Papuans consider the referred publication as an authoritative source on the history of West New Guinea, particularly in view of the author's academic titulations. And so they are falsely convinced, that West New Guinea had not been included into the territory proclaimed independent in 1945. It would seem opportune, at this point, for that author, who continues to be committed to the cause of the West Papuans, to now "rectify history" also on this point, by confirming to them the actual facts.
Another urban legend in circulation among West Papuans, for which I doubt that the latter mentioned author is responsible, states that separate status of West New Guinea outside of Indonesia was confirmed by the results of the Round Table Conference of 1949, in which the Netherlands officially recognised Indonesian sovereignty. In reality, the Round Table Conference left the question open, because agreement between the Indonesian view (it was part) and that of the Dutch side (it was not) could not be reached. Therefore, it was stipulated that negotiations would be resumed one year later to resolve the question.
But after a year, and in the following years, Indonesian diplomatic steps to negotiate the return of the territory remained fruitless. At the same time, in the territory itself, West Papuan Indonesian independence fighters such as Martin Indey and Corinus Krey were subjected to prosecution, imprisonment, some were even sent to Boven Digul.
After the unsuccessful efforts to regain the territory by diplomatic means, Indonesia in the second half of the 1950s began to contemplate taking recourse to more vigorous measures.
In 1956, the cabinet of Ali Sastroamidjojo (PNI) decided not to be satisfied with only placing the West New Guinea question on the priority agenda like all previous cabinets. It for the first time separated West New Guinea geopolitically from the Moluccas, and raised it to the rank of province on its own on August 17, 1956, with interim capital in Soa Siu (on the island of Tidore).
The territory was henceforth referred to as Irian Barat (West Irian), in response to an appeal made at the Malino conference in 1946 by Frans Kasiepo (a West Papuan in the Netherlands Indies civil administration). "Papua", he had complained, meant "slave" in Tidorese (by which he perhaps meant Tidore Malay; the original meaning of the word seems to have been "frizzy haired"), and proposed that the island be called "Irian", the one and only known name for the island in a language of the region (Biak).
The next step came in February 1958, with the formation of the National Front for the Liberation of West Irian to consolidate and mobilize all political and social forces for this task. The Netherlands responded with reinforcement of their armed forces in West New Guinea. Finally, in August 1960, Indonesia abrogated its diplomatic relations with the Netherlands over the question of West New Guinea, and began stepping up the training and equipment of its armed forces.
As was noted in section 2, the Netherlands originally retained West New Guinea as a place for resettlement for Indonesia-born or Indonesia-resident Dutchmen who wished to remain under Netherlands administration. This objective lost its actuality as Dutch and Eurasian people who wanted or were obliged to leave the area under Indonesian jurisdiction after 1949 in the overwhelming majority either returned to the Netherlands, or emigrated to the Americas, Australia, or New Zealand.
There thus remained no intrinsic reasons for declining to give the territory back to Indonesia, other than spite over the reunification of all Indonesian federal states (the former Dutch-inspired puppet states) with the Republic of Indonesia in 1950 (I'll return to this at the end of this section), and the perhaps understandable subjective reluctance to concede to Indonesian insistence. Dutch companies seem not to have yet displayed interest for the natural resources the way Freeport- MacMoran and Rio Tinto later did. Some commitment in oil during that period proved not to be particularly profitable.
Seeing increased Indonesian determination to return West New Guinea at all costs, and not having any convincing reasons for hanging on to the territory, the Netherlands resorted to the old ploy already practiced in the 1940s, when they set up puppet states all over Indonesia.
To be quite frank, these are all bygones which really needn't be brought up again. That colonialism was an evil is not a point of debate. That it was once practiced by the Netherlands, however, does not brandmark them as being more "ignominious" than others. Few nations in history abstained from conquering another when given the opportunity. And, after East Timor, Indonesians shouldn't liken themselves to the pot calling the kettle black.
But many urban legends were launched during the cold war mainly to discredit Sukarno, also aiming against Indonesia. Many have been uncritically taken over by well-meaning human-rights and environmentalist activists under impressions which they actually gathered from observing Soeharto's New Order regime and then applied "by analogy" to preceding periods. So, unless one is happy about West Papuans being further misguided by that collection of fairytales, one has no choice but to wade into those old bygones and clarify the points one by one. Nevertheless, considering respective national roles in a bygone past in this context, I do not seek to attach moral tags to any of the involved nationalities. Those bygones also no longer determine present relations between the respective countries.
The most classical masterpiece of colonialist policy is "traditionally" credited to the British for the division of Hindustan into Pakistan and India with Kashmir as coveted object of dispute. But it seems improbable that the colonial officers had really possessed the brilliant insight and diabolical insidiousness to engineer such a centre of perpetual strife and suffering still functioning to this day. For indeed, that it functions at all actually depends solely on Indians and Pakistanis voluntarily obliging to stick to their respective irreconcilable roles.
Considering the present predicament in West New Guinea, one could be tempted to award the second prize in colonialist manipulation to the Netherlands for the separation of the territory from the rest of Indonesia in 1946 and simulating a disjunct decolonisation in 1961 to forestall reunification. However, the true reason for the acuteness of the present situation is primarily the shocking brutalities and humiliations suffered by the population at the hands of the military particularly under Soeharto's presidency.
Having made this point clear, let us now consider how the facade of separate decolonisation of West New Guinea was created. The main events of that time were the formation of a New Guinea Council (Nieuw Guinea Raad - NGR) of West Papuan representatives by the colonial administration in April, and the independence manifesto of a National Papuan Committee in December of that year.
The NGR was reminiscent of the similarly handpicked Peoples Council (Volksraad) established in Netherlands East Indies in 1918 to appease critical sentiments among Indo-Eurasians and the indigenous population. But the colonial administration and the central government rejected repeated calls by Indonesian representatives to upgrade the Volksraad to a true democratically elected parliament under the Dutch monarch: the first in 1918 in the Djajadiningrat motion, the third and last by the Indonesian Peoples Congress of 1939, the most representative assembly of the Indonesian people ever to be convened (not by the government, but by own initiative and organisation of the indigenous population) in colonial times, offering in return to mobilize the whole nation to defend Netherlands East Indies in case of a Japanese invasion.
The Indonesian government therefore had every reason to be very sceptical about the newly created body in West New Guinea. Furthermore, the NGR had not only been formed without democratic elections, but after more than a decade of repression of the colonial administration against West Papuan fighters for independence through reunification with Indonesia, the aprioric bias or skew of the NGR actually approached that in the later New-Order-manipulated "Act of Free Choice" farce.
The National Papuan Committee and its 1961 Manifesto fell short of even the puppet states set up in the late 1940s. The latter not only had a nominal indigenous "head of state", and some even had an official gazette (e.g. the "Staatsblad Negara Indonesia Timoer"), but they actually got the opportunity to send delegations to the UN. None of this was conceded to indigenous representatives of Dutch-ruled West New Guinea.
Many West Papuans will perhaps curse me for writing this. However, the West Papua Congress had a very good reason to make "rectifying history" one of the principal points in its agenda. This was not only necessary to repell the haunting intimidations still emanating from the memory of the hated Soeharto regime and its "Act of Free Choice". They will indeed not succeed in building a secure future for themselves if they constructed this on foundations of unreliable validity.
The assertion, that "The Papuan Nation has been sovereign as a people and state since 1 December 1961" (text of Congress resolution) obviously strains the claim to rectifying history beyond even generous limits of interpretational latitude. Had West Papua been a sovereign state, participation of the Netherlands at the New York Agreement would have been superfluous. In reality, up to the UN interim administration in 1962, West New Guinea remained under Dutch rule. During all those organisatorial exercises of 1961, the colonial administration had in fact not even conceded the West Papuans the autonomy of a self-ruling territory, let alone that of a dominion.
However, it is not at all a disgrace for islands or island halves not to be a sovereign state: Sumatra isn't one, Java isn't either, nor are either Indonesian or Malaysian parts of Kalimantan, or Bali, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, etc., etc., also not Ternate and Tidore, or West Timor.
It is without doubt the accumulated trauma from the brutal humiliations inflicted by the military, that has caused those colonialist manipulations of 1961 to suddenly appear to West Papuans as a gleam of hope to cling onto by comparison, providing an illusionary basis for restoring their elementary right to human dignity. But by allowing themselves to be blinded by that illusion, they are doing an injustice to those West Papuans who had been fighting for independence after 1946, before 1961. Besides that, attaching one's hopes onto an illusion at the same time obstructs one's view on real venues to durable solutions (I'll return to this in section 6).
On December 19, 1961, President Sukarno announced his "People's Triple Command": 1. To thwart the colonialist formation of a puppet state of Papua; 2. To raise the Indonesian red-and- white flag in West Irian; 3. To prepare a general mobilisation to defend national independence and unity. It was also proposed to reform the province of West Irian and name an indigenous official as governor.
In January 1962, the Indonesian government initiated a two-phases plan to recover West Irian by force: Phase 1. dropping and landing of small groups by parachute or landing craft, to draw out Dutch troops by guerilla methods and seek contact with the population; Phase 2. preparing a full-scale invasion scheduled for August 1962 that was to be called Operation Jaya Wijaya. As fateful irony of history would have it, the person placed in command of the operation was the then major general Soeharto, who would later usurp power from President Sukarno.
The preparations for the invasion did not escape the curiosity of US intelligence, and their observations appear to have confirmed that one could count with a probable success of the invasion. Apparently with a view of avoiding the imminent loss of face to their NATO ally, the Netherlands, and to forestall that Indonesia would come under complete influence of the Soviet Union (which had supplied Indonesia with the necessary hardware for the invasion), the US brought pressure upon the Netherlands and Indonesia to settle the matter at the conference table. This resulted in the New York Agreement signed in August 1962, a few days BEFORE Operation Jaya Wijaya was scheduled to break lose.
Thus, West Irian was not "liberated" by the military, and there had never been any either "heroic" or unheroic invasion by Soeharto. But many soldiers of the first phase, the preliminary parachute drops and landings, indeed contributed their lives for the reunification of West Irian, and one should not forget them, particularly not because they never lived to see the fruit of their efforts, let alone take part in brutalities of the later regime. They had set out in the conviction that they were doing their duty of solidarity to West Papuan compatriots still living in colonial dependence. The decisive "battle" was nevertheless "fought" by diplomats at the conference table.
But when Soeharto gained dictatorial power over Indonesia, he of course did not forget to "immortalise" that planned glorious invasion that was never implemented, but which he must have liked to see himself leading to victory in moments of fantasy. And thus the name of that never-ever Operation Jaya Wijaya was given to the highest mountain range crowning the island-half. its highest peak got the name Puncak Jaya (Victory Peak), the province was renamed from Irian Barat (West Irian) to Irian Jaya (Victorious Irian), and the capital, that had been renamed from Hollandia to Sukarnapura, was renamed again to Jayapura ("Victory-burg"; the original local indigenous name appears to have been Numbai). Perhaps Soeharto felt piqued about having been cheated out of his "victory", and so he had his would-be "victory" plastered all over the map of West Irian as a kind of compensation, at the expense of feelings of own identity of the West Papuans who were of course not asked.
I think, not only the West Papuans should "rectify history". A particular responsibility to do the same lies with the government. Besides critically reexamining that "Act of Free Choice", they should revise those indirectly Soeharto-glorifying geographical names, particularly because they are insulting to the population, and unfair to the soldiers of the first phase. After more than three decades of being downtrodden by Soeharto's apparatus, the population understands the Jaya ("victory") in the province name as indicating "victory" over the West Papuans. The name Jaya Wijaya misrepresents the roles of the respective military units. The soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the first phase were deployed in Operation Banteng, Operation Serigala, Operation Naga, and Operation Jatayu. Troops earmarked for Operation Jaya Wijaya were not implemented.
One relatively simple step to help the population regain its feeling that the country belongs to them again, is to return the indigenous geographical names. This also demonstrates respect for indigenous culture, which should actually be the elementary duty of any government that abides by the Indonesian Constitution.
With Jayapura the solution is relatively simple, there is the name Numbai. For the Jaya Wijaya Mountains and Puncak Jaya one has the choice of returning to an earlier name, the Carstenz Range and Carstenz Pyramid (after Jan Carstenz who led a VOC expedition exploring the southern coast of New Guinea and the northern coast of Australia in 1623), or eliciting indigenous names. The latter requires a bit more effort (not so popular among officials), but avoids the impression of replacing one outside imposition by another (there still is a Carstenz glacier saving the explorer's name from undeserved oblivion). As the new name for the mountain range would also apply to the present Jaya Wijaya county (kabupaten), one should perhaps consult the language of the ethnic majority of that county.
With Irian Jaya itself, the problem is more complex, because one cannot simply return to the most logical name, Irian Barat. Although Irian is the unique indigenous name of the island, and was implemented at the explicit request of a West Papuan, it has been discredited by two very unfortunate circumstances.
The more innocent one was an apparent typo in the authoritative publication already referred to in section 2 without citing the author's name (the one who misplaced the "Aceh till Ambon" quotation). In the same book one reads that "Irian ... was used ... clearly in a derogatory reference to the fuzzy hair of the Papuans", where he presumably confused "Irian" with "Papua". I doubt that the author could have done this with deceptive intent, and it will surely be a simple matter for him to clear this with befriended West Papuan activists.
The really unpardonable falsification was the fabrication of an over-zealous official who created the legend that Irian was an acronym for "Ikut Republik Indonesia Anti Nederland" (join the Republic of Indonesia against the Netherlands). It was totally in character for the New Order regime, that this falsification became the standard version about the origin of the territory's name taught in schools (as Irian Barat had been renamed Irian Jaya, the illogic of "joining Indonesia against the Netherlands" characterising the whole island, of which the other half had been Australian and British ruled, remained obscure). In this way, the West Papuans were robbed of their own native name for their island.
And so one must at least temporarily make shift with "Papua", until West Papuans one day realise its original derogatory meaning, and acquire sufficient peace of mind to appreciate their own original name for the island again. The main hindrance for this at the present is illusions associating West Papuan identity with the Melanesian or South Pacific regional community (I'll return to this in the section 5). Anglophonic Melanesia had never been influenced by extensive activities of the Tidorese, or of Malay-speaking shippers, and hence acquired the word "Papua" indirectly via English without derogatory connotation. For West Papuans, recalling past derogatory use of the word presently clashes with perspectives of mentally overcoming humiliation by the former regime through participation in the Papuan identity movement of PNG and the South Pacific.
Before ending this section on the transition of Dutch-occupied West New Guinea to the Indonesian province of West Irian, there is one more matter to be considered in view of the significance placed by the Congress to the puppet-state-like construction of 1961. The dissolution of that construct at reunification with Indonesia in 1963 needs to be compared with that of the 1940s puppet states with the Republic in 1950.
With regard to civilian officials and public servants, the two procedures were basically similar. After the Round Table Conference of 1949 had transformed the puppet states into federal states of the United States of Indonesia (RIS - Republik Indonesia Serikat), indigenous members of the Netherlands Indies civil administration of the former puppet states and other occupied zones were taken up without discrimination into the Indonesian civil service. The new cabinet of ministers included officials of the former puppet states.
The same attitude was assumed with respect to West Papuans. Already in 1962, when the territory was still under Dutch rule, Sukarno named Frans Kasiepo (still in Netherlands New Guinea) as governor of West Irian province, to demonstrate to all West Papuan officials and personalities cooperating with or in the colonial administration, that the Indonesian government was not planning to abrogate their cariers. Indeed, when West Irian returned under Indonesian jurisdiction in 1963, members of the NGR were taken up in the Indonesian administration, and the government undertook various efforts to facilitate West Papuans entering the civil service, the police force, and the armed forces. Before Soeharto came to power, this proceeded quite smoothly.
However, there were two important aspects in which the developments of 1962-1963 differed decidedly from those of 1949-1950. The first is that the Dutch side had given separatist constructs of the 1940s the status of "states" which they let join independent Indonesia as federal states. The moment the former colonial master had withdrawn its military presence, the population simply walked into the streets and compelled their local "governments" to unite with the Republic. By August 17, 1950, the "United States of Indonesia" only still consisted of one "federal state", the Republic of Indonesia. The population had gotten, and made use of, the chance to bring about the final act of reunification itself.
In West New Guinea this was different. The colonial administration had an additional 12 years time to hunt down and squash the resistance of local fighters for independence as part of Indonesia while they were totally cut off from the rest of the country and had to fight in total isolation. Those were also additional 12 years for fostering a local separatist construct, and for public relations work to popularise it. Nevertheless, that construct was never given that final status of self-representation which had been given to the puppet states of the 1940s before inclusion into independent Indonesia. Such public bodies like the NGR were simply absorbed into the Indonesian administration. The population should have gotten its chance to speak out in 1969, but Soeharto cheated them out of that, for good reason, because he knew only too well they would decide against him, and why.
Those extra 12 years also were 12 years of separate development for the population, and what consequences that can have one can study in East Timor, where in spite of continuous armed resistance against its rule, the New Order regime managed in 24 years to foster a sizable minority of "integrationistas". One detail which has been underestimated is that a relevant part of the West Papuans had already identified themselves with an own flag, the Morning Star flag, by 1963. As a result of Soeharto's repressive rule, that flag became the symbol of own identity and dignity of the greater majority of West Papuans. By criminalising the demonstration of that flag, the regime declared war on just about the entire population.
The present government has not appreciated the significance of the flag in time, and has thus allowed elements of the army and police inherited from the New Order regime to use that flag as excuse for continued repressions against the population,arresting, maiming, even killing young West Papuans rallying to their flag. A nation should be proud to have such young men and women, and it is a curse for it to have such police and military elements.
It is a relief, that the government has now at last legalised the flag, but that is not enough. It should rehabilitate all persons who have been arrested, maltreated, wounded, even killed, for demonstrating the flag. And last but not least, it should accept that flag as the official flag of the province. One must bear in mind, that West Irian can only remain part of Indonesia if the population itself wants that, just like the population of the former puppet states in 1950. Any other concept would not be reconcilable with the Indonesian Constitution. So, if that is the flag with which the population identifies itself, then that must be the flag of a West Irian the population would accept.
The second important different aspect regards the military. In 1950, the Royal Netherlands Indies Army (KNIL) was dissolved, and its indigenous personnel was united together with that of the Indonesian National Army (TNI) into the Armed Forces of the United States of Indonesia (APRIS) on an equal footing. This generally proceeded quite smoothly, but on three occasions in 1950 there were rebellions involving former KNIL personnel (in part provoked by diehard elements outside the KNIL). One must bear in mind that the KNIL and the TNI (or its precursor TKR) had only just been enemies in a three-and- a-half-year war.
In West Irian this was different. The Dutch-commanded Papua Volunteers Corps (Papoea Vriwilligers Korps - PVK), popularly known as the Papua Battalion, looking back on a tradition that included participation in World War II actions in 1944, was simply disbanded, and the TNI refused to take the soldiers up. The TNI and PVK had not been involved in a protracted war against each other as had been the case with TNI and KNIL in the 1940s. And there was little reason to expect the kind of troubles one had had in the 1950s, which even then could not ecclipse the otherwise successful result of the unification of the two armies. But it was the refusal to take up the former PVK personnel which led to the first action of the OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka = Independent Papua Organisation) -- at the beginning mainly consisting of former PVK soldiers -- in Manokwari in 1965.
Now, of course, the TNI of 1965 was quite a different army than that of 1950. It had claimed for itself beside its role as defense force also that of social and political control formulated in its principle of so-called "bi-functionality". It had developed into a state within a state, poised to usurp the power of the entire state and establishing the New Order regime. It had also significantly widened its business engagement and financial interests through asserting claims deriving from its "bi-functionality" on management and control of nationalised Dutch companies. So who knows, perhaps the explanation lies simply in that bribes offered by former PVK men had been too low....?
In this and the following section, we are now coming to the last package of urban legends. This includes likening Indonesia to a Javanese empire, stories about Javanese expansionism and imperialism, and contrasting Papuans who are oh so different from "Indonesians" who are supposedly Javanese.
One West Papuan correspondent once erronously took me for a Javanese because of my first name. Therefore, before continuing, I should perhaps stress that I am not a Javanese, and I am not married with or engaged to a Javanese, or in the employment of or subordinated to or in any professional dependence of a Javanese, I do not speak Javanese, and I have never even been in Central or Eastern Java, the homeland of the Javanese. I also have no other cause or interests for coming to the "defence" of the Javanese in this matter, other than that all these legends, beside being false, are also serving to distract attention from actual problems and their possible solutions. I.e. they are hurting the West Papuans more than the Javanese.
Crowning all those urban legends is the notion of Irian Jaya as colony of Indonesia. This is a very serious matter, both from an international as well as from a national point of view. From an international aspect, there is UN Resolution 1514 of 1960 guaranteeing independence to peoples of colonial territories. Hence, if Irian Jaya is an Indonesian colony and its population claims its right of independence, it would have to be given that right no matter whether that 1969 "Act of Free Choice" had been correct or not.
But the national significance of the matter is even more compelling. The first sentence in the preamble of the Indonesian Constitution declares:
If West New Guinea is a colony of Indonesia, it would the primary and immediate duty of any Indonesian government to release the territory and help the West Papuans to set up an own state.
" That for truth independence is the right of all nations, and therefore colonial subjugation must be abolished from the face of the earth, because it is not compatible with humanity and justice."
But from a purely formal point of view, Irian Jaya is obviously not a colony. Although the territory is much further away from Jakarta than e.g. Algeria had been from Paris, West Papuans enjoy the same fully identical citizenship status as other Indonesians under comparable conditions, no matter from which island. So, although a sizable part of the population might wish a separation from the present central state, it would in a purely formal respect nevertheless not be a colony any more than e.g. the land of the Basques during and immediately after Franco's dictatorship in Spain. For this reason, the West Papuans will not be able to present a convincing case before the UN even if they were to have the one or other influential UN member state as soliciter (which does not seem to be the case). It is simply cruel to even vaguely suggest to them that they did have a realistic case there.
But, towards the end of the colonial period, colonialists developed quite sophisticated tricks to avoid decolonisation. Therefore, we must also investigate all the informal aspects, to elicit whether the territory is perhaps a de facto colony in any respect. Beside that, unlike the UN, the Indonesian government can only temporarily be satisfied with purely formalistic arguments. The West Papuans are own citizens with equal rights as the others, and if they have grievances which make them feel as if they were a colony, then this demands the government's most serious attention.
The most conspicuous distinctive feature between colony and province immediately follows from the above formal criterion. Being regular citizens with equal rights, West Papuans gained equal access to educational, professional, and government institutions. Already the first provincial governor was a West Papuan, and he was followed in this post by others. Freddy Numberi, once also a governor, had made it in the navy to the rank of admiral, and is presently cabinet minister. There are many other West Papuans who made it pretty far up the carier ladder, and this inspite of repressions throughout the New Order period, when many fine and talented people were cut down. But those were indeed repressions of a military dictatorship, which also hit people in and from other islands, including particularly Javanese, hence quite different from discrimination by a colonial regime.
Never had an indigenous Indonesian become governor general throughout the history of Netherlands East Indies. Nor had one ever become a minister in the Dutch cabinet, or a general or an admiral in the army or navy of the Netherlands. The same can be said of Indians, Pakistanis, Kenyans, Nigerians, Jamaicans, Fijians, etc. with regard to corresponding posts in the British colonial administration, cabinet of ministers, army and navy. Analogically, Vietnamese, Khmers, Algerians, Tunisians, etc. in respective offices of France, Angolans, Mozambiquans, Timorese in those of Portugal, Somalians in Italy, Congolese in Belgium, or even indigenous Greenlanders in Denmark.
While in West Irian, Frans Kasiepo got the highest post right at the very beginning, and Freddy Numberi rose from the very bottom to the very top entirely within the Indonesian period. Even insinuating that they and others like them may have been some kind of stooges will not help. No colonialist stooge (and there were many) ever became e.g. cabinet minister in London, Paris, Madrid, The Hague, Lissabon, Rome, Brussels, etc.
Colonialist discrimination existed not only in access to commanding posts in the administration, it sometimes existed in access to certain fields of education. In Indonesia, the fundamental economic reforms of the 19th century opened the colony to capital investment from Europe, particularly in plantations and mining This required drastic changes in the infrastructure, and consequently also in the system of education, leading to the training of indigenous teachers, doctors, civil engineers, lawyers, not to mention technicians and qualified labour. For this, higher schools with university-level programs were opened in Jakarta (then still Batavia) and Bandung. Indonesians could also attend universities in the Netherlands. But although the main sources of revenue of the colony were plantations and mines, and inspite of a steady demand for specialists in these fields, not one Indonesian ever became agricultural or mining engineer until after proclamation of independence. Before that, only Europeans gained access to these economically vital professions.
Returning now to West New Guinea, the colonial administration made little efforts to further the education of West Papuans beyond elementary levels of literacy and handicraft. Not even during the height of the "decolonisation" show of 1961 did it think of setting up a university in the territory.
But if alleged release into "independence" in 1961 did not bring any change for the West Papuans on this point, their release into independence in joining the rest of Indonesia in 1963 did: they immediately benefitted from a standing regulation that required every Indonesian province to have an own university. Consequently, West New Guinea got the first university in its history, Universitas Cendrawasih, which rapidly developed into a centre of higher learning for West Papuans. Apart from that, as normal Indonesian citizens, West Papuans had open access to all universities, institutes, technical high schools, vocational and other schools all over Indonesia. As Indonesian citizens they could also benefit from student and other educational programs offered in other countries for Indonesians, and thus West Papuans soon also began graduating from foreign universities.
Although the New Order regime was notorious for the political restrictions it set on access to study and public offices (the Javanese victims of such restrictions probably outnumbered any other ones by far), no ethnical restrictions existed (As a student in the early 1960s, I myself made the acquaintance of a Dayak studying meteorology abroad, who told me his grandfather had been the "strong man" in their village because of having the largest collection of human skulls!).
A new generation of West Papuan intellectuals emerged as a result of all this, very different from the generation that was co-opted into the "decolonisation" farce of 1961. They had profited from a more advanced level of education, in the sense of level of expertise, as well as of wideness of horizon. These were now critical and outspoken people, and it was only natural, that they would inevitably be in opposition to the dictatorial Soeharto regime, no matter whether they studied at home (e.g. Arnold Ap), or abroad (e.g. Tom Wanggai; in Japan). Ironic as this may sound, but the educational background underlying the intellectually magnificent organisation of the West Papua Conference was among others probably also one of the fruits of West Papuan reunification with independent Indonesia in 1963.
Obvously, whatever inadequacies the Indonesian system of education may have (this is, after all, a developing country), from which all Indonesians -- West Papuans not exempted -- have suffered in one way or the other, the choice or palette of educative programs that became accessible to West Papuans since 1963 was not biased in a way which would have either promoted or even only preserved economic dependence or ethnic submissiveness.
But even this was not enough. Equal rights are not equal rights when potential claimants are for other reasons handicapped in their access to realisation of those rights. Hence, in the US for example, handicaps inherited from past inequalities led to regulations giving preference to a female or black applicant, by contrast to a male or white one respectively, in case of identical qualifications. Therefore, in view of their having been in colonial dependence 12-13 years longer than the other Indonesians, providing equal access to educational opportunities for West Papuans was not enough.
Indeed, from the moment of reunification in 1963, the Indonesian government under Sukarno provided West Papuan applicants generous priority conditions for acceptance in universities and technical schools all over Indonesia, including the more prestigious better equipped centrally located institutions of that time. If in the US some losing male or white applicants have sued against the allegedly "discriminative" regulations that gave preference to their female or black competitors, so too in Indonesia, students of other ethnicities occasionally protested or demonstrated in 1964-1965, claiming to have been "discriminated" as a result of the priorities for West Papuan students.
If missing steps to upgrade education facilities to university level aptly expose the lack of seriousness of the decolonisation actions of 1961, so by contrast do the setting up of Universitas Cendrawasih and the priorities accorded to West Papuans at educational facilities in the rest of the country reveal the sincerity of the decolonisation into independent Indonesia of 1963 despite all possible inadequacies in political, economic, and cultural aspects of the reunification programm this still underdeveloped country was able to provide for West Irian. It certainly contradicts descriptions of a hostile "annexation" of West New Guinea by a Sukarno guided by "imperial" traditions of mediaeval Majapahit. This may have answered to propaganda considerations of the cold war period, and may later have seemed "in character" for an Indonesia one only knew from Soeharto's regime. But one cannot go on keeping up these legends and be honest to the West Papuans at the same time.
With regard to the above mentioned "inadequacies", one must particularly touch upon programs aimed at introducing hunter- gatherer and other egalitarian communities of the hinterland into modern global conditions of economic life. However diletantic some of the programs may appear, and however pathetic some of the failures may seem (cf. recent construction of parallel housing in the Puncak Jaya area, houses in traditional unhygienic mode and such with improved hygiene conditions, where all tribespeople, old and young, chose to exclusively occupy the unhygienic houses), there are two things one should bear in mind:
The first is, that on an international scale, the basic problem of introducing egalitarian communities into modern economic conditions is fraught with problems even when one sets aside either latently or even acutely criminal accompanying features. Whether in Indian reservations in the US, treatment of Indios in the Amazon Basin, or of Aborigines in Australia, there is still a lot that has to be learned. One must therefore also allow for even well-meaning Indonesian officials to be perplexed, and not to be necessarily acting out of racist or colonialist arrogance.
But one thing needs to be stressed, it is not programs aimed at bringing egalitarian communities into the globalised industrial world that transgresses their basic rights. It is quite the opposite, programs aimed at perpetualising underdeveloped economic conditions which indeed deserve to be called colonialist, because they condemn these communities to remaining completely at the mercy of industrial societies. One should also not let oneself be misled by fashionable notions about being "in harmony with nature". Communities at all stages of economic development (also egalitarian neolithic communities) have in the past caused sometimes irreparable damage to nature. But modern industrial society is the only one to realise this when it happens, as well as to be capable of sufficient insight into underlying processes to contemplate remedying the situation.
The second point is, that also on a domestic Indonesian scale, inadequate dealing with egalitarian communities is not an exclusive feature of West Irian. Ethnic communities with comparable levels of economic sophistication can be found on all the other major islands (including Java: cf. Tenggerese) and on many lesser ones all over Indonesia. Many were the victims of scandalous machinations of the Soeharto regime, typically depriving them of rights to traditional lands in favour of large forestry and mining companies. Among the cruelest plights was probably that of the Mentawais whose island off the Sumatran west coast was alotted to a lumber concessioner. This brings us to a more fundamental question:
However significant some of the contrasts to classical colonial situations already mentioned above may seem, ethnic discrimination is perhaps only a superficial characteristic of colonialism. At the base of colonialism lay economic interests, which typically manifested itself eventually as a perpetualisation of economic exploitation of a territory and its people.
An important factor engendering feelings of having been victims of Indonesian "colonialism" among West Papuans is the exploitation of the island half's natural resources, particularly by large foreign companies. There are two aspects to this problem. The one, more simply correctable aspect, is that revenues from the mining companies has been flowing to the central government in Jakarta, and hardly anything of it has flown back to benefit the province. This situation obviously fits so neatly into established patterns characterising colonialism, that one can hardly blame the West Papuans for drawing that analogy.
Similar conclusions were also drawn by the Achehnese. It is indeed a sore point in Indonesian political and economic reality already extant long before Soeharto, and possibly rooted in structures inherited from the preceding colonial period. But, since the downfall of Soeharto, it is being addressed for the first time, and one may count upon the provinces recieving a substantially larger share of such revenues in future. It is indeed not a specific problem of West Irian, and does not make it any more a colony than the other provinces. But as Acehnese and West Papuans both are, each in their own way, latercomers in the Indonesian ethnic community, they are more apt to observe the situation in its specific local significance alone, rather than in a larger all-Indonesian frame.
The second aspect is the implementation of the state apparatus in all its brutality in dealing with all differences between the companies and the local population. This was a specific feature of the Soeharto regime, and the brutality of his military was quite comparable to worst traditions of former colonial powers, or perhaps even worse.
Although Soeharto only gained full power in 1966, the military already began taking partial control in the lst years before that. Nevertheless, when West New Guinea rejoined Indonesia as West Irian in 1963, the country was still very much under a civilian government.
But independence is not a guarantee to freedom and prosperity. It merely means holding one's fate in one's own hands, for the better, or for the worse. So when Indonesia slithered into a political crisis which brought Soeharto and his New Order regime to power, this fate was also shared by West Papuan Indonesians. Like Indonesians in other regions of the country, West Papuans experienced undescribable sufferings as victims of what has been described as state terrorism, and through repeatedly reported violations of basic civil rights. Cruelest of all was perhaps the racial humiliation to which the apparatus of the regime subjected the population.
But thanks to the combined efforts of wide layers of the Indonesian population from Sabang to Merauke in the movement for reform and democracy, Soeharto was forced to 'abdicate'. A democratically elected government has assumed executive responsibility, and is step by step dismantling remains of the New Order regime and restoring civil rights of the population, freedom, and democracy. And so the West Papuans too are beginning to get a taste of life in independence again, for example in that they could now freely run this West Papua Conference.
The main problem at present lies in that the formation of the newly elected democratic government did not abruptly lead to a stop to the brutalities. For the victims it is difficult to understand, and this puts the government under strong, even if undeserved pressure.
The transition to democratic rule, by far not yet completed, did not take place as a violent revolution, destroying the old regime. The new government inherited Soeharto's entire apparatus almost completely intact, and has had to painstakenly reform it in the face of inevitable tenacious resistance of the old guard. What this means specifically for the West Papuans I can only elaborate in section 6. For the present I can only indicate, that the numerous and repeated brutalities of the apparatus call for serious investigation and punishment of the responsible, in West Irian as well as in all the other provinces, including those in Java. However, as in the case of the centrally monopolised revenues, this is not a circumstance that singles out West Irian to make it a colony (unless all of Indonesia was Soeharto's "colony").
Now we still have to consider some indirect indications which might lead to characterising West Irian as an Indonesian colony.
One circumstance that has been put forward is the notion, that West New Guinea only became part of Indonesia because it got included in Netherlands East Indies of which Indonesia is the successor state. Assuming that Netherlands East Indies was a colonialist construction, the inclusion of West New Guinea into Indonesia would then at least have to be considered as a consequence of colonialism.
In reality, however, West New Guinea became part of a cultural, economical, and political sphere which I'll tentatively call "Malayo-Indonesia" very long before it was included by the Dutch into Netherlands East Indies. In fact, West New Guinea fell into Dutch hands not in consequence of a direct conquest or appropriation through some Dutch military or exploratory action in any part of that territory. It fell into Dutch jurisdiction as a result of the subjugation of the Sultanate of Tidore which had previously held suzerainty over parts of West New Guinea. The first Dutch military post in the entire territory dates from the end of the 19th century, more than 200 years after a Dutch treaty with Tidore in 1660 documented the latter's jurisdiction over regions of New Guinea referred to as the Papua lands.
In other words, it was not as a result of direct colonial conquest leading to incorporation into Netherlands East Indies, that West New Guinea became part of Indonesia when the latter proclaimed its independence. In truth it was the other way round: West New Guinea got to be included into Netherlands East Indies -- hence also into Indonesia -- because relevant parts of the territory had already been involved in the Malayo-Indonesian culture sphere of ethnicities (by far not only through Tidorese activity), and had already been culturally separated from East New Guinea and the South Pacific very long before first European contact with any of the respective regions.
It should be stressed that the Tidorese and their neighbours, the Ternatans, respectively inhabiting the islands Tidore and Ternate to the west of Halmahera in North Maluku, have been solidly integrated in the traditional Malayo-Indonesian economic and cultural sphere since some two millennia. However, they are not Malayo-Polynesians. Both are linguistically as well as racially much closer to Papuans of New Guinea, than to Malays or Javanese (linguistically, they are even more "Papuan" than the Biaks or several other West New-Guinean ethnicities which are also Malayo-Polynesian).
The expansion of Tidorese rule to include relevants parts of West New Guinea represented a normal process of economically motivated territorial consolidation which accompanied transition to more productive economic relations and more sophisticated political structures as could be witnessed in proto-historic times all over the world. But in contrast with the analogical westward expansion of Ternatan influence to include North Sulawesi, the eastward Tidorese expansion did not even involve incorporating racially disparate populations. The ethnic diversity involved in the Tidorese expansion thus actually resembled e.g. that of Brits, Picts, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, etc. in the makings of Britain. By contrast the Ternatan westward expansion involved a greater degree of diversity -- the Minahassans of North Sulawesi are among the lightest skinned peoples of Indonesia (considerably lighter than Javanese and Malays), their language is generally associated with the Philippinic group of Malayo-Polynesian languages.
Together, the combined Tidorese-Ternatan-centred process that promoted the beginnings of social stratification in formerly egalitarian communities in the north of West New Guinea and of Sulawesi covered a large swath of Central and East Indonesia extending from the Sangir-Talaud Islands and Minahassa (before and in the north of Sulawesi) till Cendrawasih (former Geelvink) Bay and the Sarmi Coast (both in the north of West New Guinea). It is remarkable, that the driving force behind this historic development, which connected West New Guinea with other parts of Indonesia, were peoples with Papuan/Melanesian racial features, and not mongoloid Indonesians such as e.g. Javanese or Malays. The war fleet of Ternate once even effectively delayed Spanish southward advancement towards Mindanao and the Sulu Islands.
One remaining trace of the Tidorese-Ternatan joint expansion is, that the word for king in Tidorese and Ternatan, "kolano", has been taken up in many languages of the area in the meaning of king or chief, e.g. Sangir "kulano", Tondano "kolano", Biak "koranu", Sarmi "korano".
But all that was by far not the only historical development which tied West New Guinea with the rest of Indonesia well before first European contact.
The oldest connections associate the northwest of New Guinea with North Maluku racially and linguistically. The Non-Malayo- Polynesian North Halamhera peoples (including Tidorese, Ternatans, Tobelos, Galelas, a.o.) are most closely related with a Papuan language phylum in the Birdshead (Kepala Burung, Vogelkop) Peninsula. Approximately 4000 years before present, Malayo-Polynesian seafaring peoples wedged in between. Their descendents now speak a group of mutually closely related Malayo-Polynesian languages in and around South Halmahera (e.g. Buli, Biga) and in the Cendrawasih (former Geelvink) Bay, e.g. Biak, Numfor, Mafor, Windesi, a.o.
Those are the two oldest links between West Irian and other parts of Indonesia, but they do not serve to contrast the western half of New Guinea with the eastern half, because, Malayo-Polynesians also moved further into Oceania. However, in the Bismarck Islands (in the north of present PNG), Malayo-Polynesians and Papuans between 3800 and 3600 years ago developed a culture, known as the Lapita culture, which then spread further into much of the South Pacific. It was never represented in West New Guinea (or Maluku), and can thus be seen as the oldest significant culture contrast between East and West.
This was followed by three developments involving West New Guinea, and contrasting it with East New Guinea and the South Pacific. The first resulted from the introduction of grain agriculture (as distinguished from the cultivation of tubers as staple) into East Indonesia. The first grain crop was foxtail millet (in Indonesian "jawawut", in Numfor "pokem") from mainland China via Taiwan, the Philippines, and Sulawesi. It is evidenced archaelogically in Timor in a layer of a bit later than 3000 years ago. This was followed by rice (Biak, Numfor, Windesi "fas") some time after 2500 years ago (earliest finds in the Malayan Peninsula and Sulawesi are from c. 2500 years ago). Both crops were eventually introduced to the Cendrawasih Bay area in the north of West Irian, perhaps already before 1000 years ago. There is, by contrast, no evidence of grain cultivation in East New Guinea or in the South Pacific before first European contact.
The second development was the distribution of the "ship-of-ancestor- spirits" (also known as "ship-of-the-dead", "spirit-ship") cult, and of bronze kettledrums (also referred to as Dongson drums, moko drums) on which they were depicted, from Indochina eastwards through the length of Indonesia from around 2500 till around 1800 or less years ago. The easternmost peoples to prominently reflect that "ship-of- ancestor-spirits" cult in their religious beliefs and rituals are the Asmat in the south of West Irian. And so, not only the north, but also the south of West New Guinea exhibits ancient culture ties with the rest of Indonesia. This religious cult is not represented anywhere in East New Guinea or the South Pacific.
The third development, probably the most significant of the three, was the beginning of the spice trade which brought East Indonesia into the worldwide trade network since approximately 2200 years ago. This is indicated by first appearance in India and China of the clove which originally grew exclusively in the islands of Bacan, Makian, Mutir, Ternate, and Tidore (all in North Maluku), and by first appearance of onyx beads from the western coast of India in Halmahera.
The importance of this development is that it signifies the beginning of that which one could call "Malayo-Indonesia", that is a ring of ethnic communities tied by a network of trade and navigation that traversed the entire archipelago. The language spoken by the sailors navigating at least the western and central routes seems since the very beginning to have been Malay (in the East perhaps since a bit later, around 1300 years ago). However, judging from Chinese sources of the 3rd till 9th centuries A.D., these Malay-speaking sailors were apparently not nuclear (actual) Malays, but negrito "Sea People" (Orang Laut, perhaps also ancestors of Sama and Bajau). Although similar in skin coloration and hair texture, Negritos are however racially distinct from Papuans and Melanesians. It is nevertheless remarkable, that at the beginning of the Malayo-Indonesian tradition too, the decisive actors were not mongoloid Indonesians (i.e. not Javanese or Malays) either.
As a consequence of the use of Malay by the sailors, local dialects of Malay gradually formed spontaneously in the various ports of call. At arrival of Europeans 500 years ago, a form of Malay was already established as contact language as far east as North Maluku. These colloquial or contact Malay dialects thus developed to a substantial extent without direct involvement of the actual Malays themselves, becoming a shared or common linguistic feature of the Malayo-Indonesian community quite detached from the nuclear Malay ethnicity. Therefore, being a Malay-speaker did not mean being a nuclear/actual Malay.
Although activity of Malay-speakers were already reported in West New Guinea before establishment of Dutch posts there, a local dialect of Malay apparently only gained prominence as a result of immediate Dutch administration in the 20th century (no local contact Malay dialect existed in East New Guinea or the South Pacific). But the circumstance that colloquial forms of Malay finally also became widespread in West New Guinea was perhaps one of the factors that motivated West Papuans to feel sufficiently part of Indonesia to join the struggle for Indonesian independence in the 1940s, and to even keep it up in the 1950s, in the face of stiff repressions, in isolation after the rest of the country was already enjoying independence.
Other effects of the inclusion of West New Guinea into the Malayo- Indonesian culture sphere nevertheless already became apparent long before first European contact.
One important effect is the introduction of metals (copper/bronze, iron, silver, gold) and of metallurgy (bronze, iron). It should be stressed, that some West Papuan communities were acquainted with metal not just as a ready product introduced from outside, but produced and processed it themselves. No knowledge of metal, much less of metallurgy, is reported for East New Guinea before first European contact. In other words, at European contact, East New Guinea and the South Pacific were still in the stone age, while West New Guinea was like other parts of Indonesia already in the iron age.
For West New Guinea, closer studies into the concrete technology, the accompanying rituals, and corresponding vocabulary indicate, that metallurgy was apparently introduced through contact with peoples of Central Maluku. This is significant in two respects: firstly, that it seems not to have been a result of the Tidorese expansion, but probably preceded it; secondly, that it was certainly not the result of any sort of "civilisation-bringing" activities of Malays or Javanese.
Another important effect is participation in metal-money mediated trade. Chinese sources confirm that the metal used as money in Malayo-Indonesia was silver (in the West Indonesia occasionally also tin). Originally, leaf silver was simply cut to size to meet a payment. The word used for money silver was initially "salaka", a loan from India. A bit over 1700 years ago, Funan situated in presentday Cambodia gained supremacy over the perimeter of the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, causing Malay-speaking navigation to China to take a roundabout route via the Strait of Makassar and the Philippines. At the same time, "salaka" as word for money silver seems to have been replaced in Malay by "perak" (also probably pronounced "pirak") taken from Khmer (the language of Funan).
Consequently the word for silver or money in many languages of the Philippines reflect the newer Malay word "perak/pirak". However, in East Indonesia which had been already involved in the spice trade since much earlier, the word for silver more often reflects the old word "salaka", confirming that introduction of metal-money mediated trade here predates the period of Funan supremacy. It is therefore quite remarkable, that the words for silver in languages of the Cendrawasih Bay region reflect "salaka", for example: Biak "sarah", Numfor "sarah", Mafor "sarak", Windesi "serak".
However, as local contact-forms of Malay only developed here very late, it seems probable that the words were not obtained directly from Malay-speakers, but perhaps from some Central Maluku language which had acquired the word from Malay at an earlier time (cf. Haruku "salaka", Masarete "eslaka", Bonfia "sela'a", etc.). So, introduction of metal-money mediated trade in West New Guinea perhaps took place at about the same time as that of metallurgy which had also been acquired through contact with Central Maluku. Albeit, the word could theoretically also have been obtained later from Tidorese which had also acquired "salaka" for silver.
In East New Guinea before European contact we do not find any form of free money-mediated trade, and of course also no metal money. There were certain forms of money made of stone or shell, but they were not used in free trade, but only in certain ritual forms of exchange with traditionally determined participants, roles, and objects. In the Kiriwina (Trobriand) Islands it was called the "Kula", in the Gulf of Papua it was the "Hiri". So, on this point too, West New Guinea resembled the rest of Indonesia, rather than East New Guinea.
It is of course quite within the nature of such ethno-geographic complexes, in which a great number of countries and ethnicities are brought together by economic ties as in the Malayo-Indonesian community, that there would be continuous efforts to also unite the whole, or considerable portions of it, politically under a single power centre. The earliest Malay empire of Yawadwipa probably only involved the westernmost part of Malayo-Indonesia. The Malay empire of Sri Wijaya which rose to power a bit over 1300 years ago apparently extended its hegemony as far east as Sulawesi, perhaps even till parts of Maluku, and northwards to include parts of the Philippines, at some time also Cambodia.
During the following period up to around 700 years ago, hegemony in the region gradually moved to Central Java, ending in the emergence of the Central Javanese empire of Majapahit. At the peak of its power, it held suzerainty over a region more or less coinciding with the territories of Malaysia and Indonesia in the west and centre (in the north perhaps including some southern parts of the Philippines), and extending to the east to include North Maluku and the Onin area around Fakfak on the westcoast of West New Guinea.
The notation of Onin (spelled "Wwanin", cf. also the spelling "Ambwan" for Ambon) in the 14th-century Old Javanese Nagarakrtagama is the first reference to any part of New Guinea in any historio- graphic source. Although it was obviously not the first part of West New Guinea for which involvement in the Malayo-Indonesian community can be inferred, it provides further indication that that involvement was not restricted to the north coast.
On the other hand, there is one persistent notion connected with inclusion of Onin among the vassal territories of Majapahit which needs to be corrected. It is the assumption that it serves as proof that West New Guinea belongs to Indonesia. If that were true, then Malaysia, Brunei, East Timor, and parts of the Philippines would "belong" to Indonesia as well, whereas the greater part of West Irian actually would not. The absurdity of the former line of argumentation is actually clear when one tries to decide, whether Malaysia and part of Indonesia "belong" to Cambodia (considering the situation under Funan), or whether Cambodia "belongs" to Indonesia (refering to the situation under Sri Wijaya). In reality, Indonesia is neither the successor state of Sri Wijaya nor that of Majapahit. It is that of Netherlands East Indies. But it is the third major Malayo-Indonesian archipelagean state formation, after Majapahit and Netherlands East Indies, to have included a western part of New Guinea in its territory (the fourth if one includes the Sultanate of Tidore; I am not informed about whether the Makassarese Sultanate of Gowa had spread its activity as far east as New Guinea).
One important feature of the Majapahit period was the development of cities as emerging centres of a mercantile and craftsmenly middle class. The mercantile centres throughout Malayo-Indonesia converted to Islam, and finally strove to free themself from the overlordship of Hindu Majapahit. This led around 500 years ago to the defeat of Majapahit by the Sultanate of Demak.
The expected logical continuation of this process would actually have been another political unification of Malayo-Indonesia, this time under an Islamic central power. But the decisive victory of the Islamic party over Hindu Majapahit coincided with the loss of Malayo-Indonesian monopoly on the spice trade that had been based on the closely kept secret of the navigation route to Maluku. This had been the economic basis of the wealth and power of the Islamic polities. With entrance of the Portuguese, and subsequently also of other Europeans into the spice trade, the Islamic revolution came to a halt. Demak fell, and feudal relations of the Majapahit period were restored in Mataram.
This left Malayo-Indonesia in a dualistic Islamic/non-Islamic state. Practically, only Java was almost entirely islamicised (the Tenggerese and Baduis are non-Islamic). most of the Bataks in Sumatra, Dayaks in Kalimantan, Torajas in Sulawesi, etc., remained not islamicised. The further to the east, the smaller the share of Islamic ethnicities. Nevertheless, West New Guinea was also included in that whole process. Thus, for example, the Kowiai in West Irian are Muslims. As far as I am informed, there are no indigenous Muslim ethnic groups in East New Guinea or the South Pacific. That is to say, they have no experience with the kind of problems so typical for all of Indonesia, and with which the organisers of the West Papua Congress had coped so masterfully, i.e. cooperation between Muslims and Christians, and with other religious communities.
Instead of a reunification under Islamic Demak, Malayo-Indonesia began to undergo renewed political unification by the Christian Netherlands instead, but with some restrictions. Already before that, the Northern and Central Philippines had been extracted by Spain, and later, Mindanao and the Sulu Islands also came under Spanish rule. What was left of Malayo-Indonesia was then finally divided between Great Britain and the Netherlands by the Treaty of London. All this is the main reason why I use the term Malayo- Indonesia for the previous periods. The processes of those times not only concerned what is now Indonesia, but also Malaysia and at least part of the Philippines.
The subsequent development in the subdivisions of Malayo-Indonesia were characterised on one hand by the fact, that they proceeded under totally different conditions of colonial rule by the Dutch, British, and Spaniards (later replaced by the Americans). On the other hand, the development of the urban middle class and economic relations based on commodity exchange and production with hired labour have a vital role in the formation of modern national identities. The borders that separated territories of the three different colonial powers therefore much more effectively delimited national formations from each other, than all former divisions. For it was during this latter period, that those social and economic relations underwent a particularly intensive development.
Hence, distinctions in national identities between modern urbanised Malays of Indonesia and modern urbanised Malays of Malaysia are much more significant, than differences between the former and e.g. modern urbanised Javanese, Banjarese, Buginese, or Ambonese. By contrast, such distinctions among egalitarian ethnic communities on alternating sides of e.g. the border between Indonesian West Kalimantan and Malaysian Sarawak may remain quite negligible, until they get absorbed into the respective national commodity-economies.
So too, at the border between West Irian and PNG, there may be quite significant distinctions between urban Papuans e.g. in Numbai or Manokwari and urban Papuans in Port Moresby. But, for egalitarian communities in the hinterland the national border has little significance. It is however the urban population, particularly the urban middle class, which plays a determining role in the formation of national identity.
If we now inspect more closely the border between Indonesia and PNG on one side, and the border between Indonesia and Malaysia on the other, then at a first glance, the border to Malaysia may seem more "nationally delimiting" than the border to PNG. This is because contrastive Dutch and British administrative conditions in the west existed since at least a century earlier than in the east, and urbanisation in Malaysia and West Indonesia was more advanced than in New Guinea. At a second glance, however, one will have to admit, that it is actually the other way round. For, the border to Malaysia was a totally novel boundary introduced as a result of the Treaty of London, cutting off Johore from the Sultanate of Riau, and cutting off peninsular vassal territories of the Sumatran kingdom of Minangkabau from the liege lord they secretly continued to revere out of religious tradition even for many years after the Treaty came into force.
In New Guinea, by contrast, the arbitrarily drawn colonial border line happened to separate that part of the island, which had already long been included in the Malayo-Indonesian community, from the other part that still remained completely outside that community. This was because Dutch access to the island was mediated along existing Malayo-Indonesian lines of communication. The contrast between West and East New Guinea was thus not exclusively a product of colonialism, as was the contrast between Malaysia and West Indonesia. Here, colonialism merely consolidated already existing delimitations. Only in the interior, still inhabitted by egalitarian groups, are the national borders in New Guinea and in Kalimantan still quite arbitrarily imposed imaginary lines. This is probably also true e.g. for the borders of Brasil to its neighbours in the upper Amazon region.
In summary, it is important to realise, that as a consequence of the historical inclusion of West New Guinea within Malayo-Indonesia, and its having been part of Netherlands East Indies and of Indonesia, a sudden separation would lead to all kinds of "unexpected" problems.
The most obvious of these would be the problem of language. This was already demonstrated at the West Papua Congress itself in projections of a future separate West Papuan state. Delegates were apparently at a loss, trying to decide on a national language, and named three: English, Dutch, and Tok Pisin. The problem is, that the only language of interethnic communication in West Irian is Malay: Bahasa Indonesia in education and formal discourse, and Irian Malay in colloquial communication. Hoping to change this per legislative decision is quite illusionary, as has recently been demonstrated in East Timor. There, just 24 years of Indonesian administration led to a really tragic linguistic schism between the younger Indonesian-speaking generation of intellectuals and the elder Portuguese speaking one. In West Irian, even if one leaves aside the century-old Irian Malay tradition and whatever School Malay might have been taught under Dutch administration, Indonesian administration alone now covers a period of 37 years.
Just as serious would be problems arising if one would try to unite West New Guinea with PNG instead of with Indonesia. West Papuans probably do not realise that the very sympathetic and cordial solidarisation which they experience from peoples of PNG and the South Pacific in their present predicament do not actually serve as demonstration of some sort of common ethno-cultural basic national identity. It should be remembered, that a similar emotional warmth existed between peoples of Southeast Asia in the 1940s and 1950s. This kind of solidarity between various nationalities with some conspicuous but skin-deep common features remains stabile as long as concrete national borders tacitly safeguard disparate fundamental interests of each nation from interference by the respective other.
Should one unite West New Guinea with PNG, deeply rooted culture features of e.g. West Papuan ethnicities of the north coast with centuries of mercantile tradition would clash quite sharply with established cultural inclinations of East Papuans. In West and Central Europe, efforts towards a united Europe still are in the stage of cautious projections of a future federation, although intensive mutual economic infiltration in a common market has been preparing the grounds for almost half a century now.
Against this, of course, there is the much lamented contrast between "Papuans" and "Javanese". In truth, however, the whole of Indonesia is rife with interethnic contrasts, and this is not different within each individual island, West Irian not excluded. But many observers are simply blinded by external distinctions of race, which lets West Papuans appear much more "naturally" grouped with East Papuans, and just as "unnaturally" with "Javanese". Nevertheless, there is no distinct boundary between the distribution areas of australoids (i.e. Negritos, Papuans, Melanesians taken together) and mongoloids in Indonesia, and such a boundary most certainly does not run between West Irian and the remaining Indonesian provinces. One finds australoids as far west as in Sumatra and in the island of Enggano to the west of it. Communities with mixed racial features are spread throughout Maluku and Nusa Tenggara, but also occur e.g. in Sumatra or Sulawesi.
Javanese however form the largest ethnic group in Indonesia, and so, even in case of strict proportionality, one would expectably find more Javanese in all fields of activity, thus creating the optical impression of dominance. Of course, variant ethnic preferences lead to even overproportional representation of Javanese in some walks of life -- e.g. among civil servants -- and an underproportional one in others -- e.g. among merchants and traders. Buginese, Makassarese and Minangkabaus, by contrast, seem to exhibit the opposite preference. The probably most expansionist ethnic group in Indonesia has however since some centuries been the Buginese, and not the Javanese. And Madurese, also more expansionist than the Javanese, have even for some centuries been expanding into originally Javanese territory in East Java.
But one circumstance may have contributed to particular apprehension of West Papuans towards Javanese. Already since the 1950s, it had been standard military policy in Indonesia to deal with local unrests using troops of divergent ethnic origin. I personally know of Muslim Sundanese in West Java who had an aversion towards Bataks (from Sumatra). It just so happened that the troops implemented to fight the DI/TII rebellion in the part of West Java where they lived were Bataks. It seems probable that the greater part of troops that were set in against the OPM and the population in West Irian were from Java.
Considering the extent of the brutalities that were committed against the population in West Irian, one will probably have to bear with prolonged and intense anti-Javanese sentiments in parts of the population, if the greater part of the troops involved in the repressions had been Javanese. The circumstance, that Javanese probably also make up the greaster part of NGO activists working for human rights, medical and economic relief, and invironmental protection in West Irian, and also make up a substantial part of members of church organisations operating in the province, does help of course. But they cannot fully neutralise the intensive shock effect and traumas occasioned by the military.
The preceding sections have been principally concerned with investigating all the verious circumstances that have a bearing on the central question which one must answer first, before one can seriously consider any further line of procedure or action. That question is, whether the oppressive regime under which the West Papuans have been suffereing in for three and a half decades was a colonialist one, or whether it was a military dictatorship. The question is important, not from the point of view of purely academic interest, but because the determination of a correct future policy for West Papuans depends entirely upon correctly answering that question.
On the basis of the foregoing discussion, all indications seem to lead to the conclusion that West Irian cannot under reasonable considerations be classified as a colony of Indonesia. But, like the rest of Indonesia, it has suffered for three and a half decades under a particularly vicious military dictatorship. Nevertheless, due to some specific conditions, particularly the delayed reunification into Indonesia in 1963 instead of 1949-1950, the subjective impression made by the brutalities of the regime upon West Papuans was not one of military dicatorship, but of colonialist subjugation.
It should be noted, however, that even if West Irian had been a colony of Indonesia, it would not necessarily have had to secede as separate state. Theoretically, there would still have been the (under the circumstances perhaps rather unlikely) option of joining Indonesia as an equal.
On the other hand, the fact that it is actually not a colony of Indonesia does not automatically exclude secession through a democratic and lawful procedure as a viable option. So, even having answered the question, of whether it is a colony or not, does not save us from also having to decide between either secession from or continued integration in the Republic of Indonesia. However, not being colonial dependents, West Papuans as formally equal citizens have more rights and hence also more bargaining leverage in negotiating a satisfactory solution with the government, whether either secession or continued integration.
There are many factors which would let continued integration within the Republic of Indonesia appear the most recommendable option. But most of them are not so simply explained as that which was discussed in the previous sections, firstly because I myself am less qualified to attempt such explanations, and secondly because they involve matters on which established views are even more diversified. So I will only concentrate on a few more general macro-scale problems.
Before I do that, however, there is one point which one must bear in mind, and that is the main factor that lets separation from Indonesia appear imperative. The New Order regime has treated indigenous culture of the West Papuans with the arrogance of conquistadores, pressuring the population which they insultingly classified as "primitive" into adopting the regime's notion of "civilisation". The military regime's quite general contempt for human dignity in all its dealings with civilian society had a particularly antagonising effect on West Papuans.
The main motive behind the West Papuan drive for separate independence is therefore that of regaining their human dignity and salvaging the individuality of their culture. Sufficient rationality to cope with something like this in a politically pragmtic or balanced assessment of relative priorities of interests can only be demanded from the urban population with middle class associations. But egalitarian communities of the interior with recent or partial hunter-gatherer backgrounds have traditional ideologies based on the experience of complete dependence on the for them magical, i.e. not rationally fathomable providence of the natural environment. They will therefore be predictably susceptible to messianistic cults of magical providence like that of Cargo in East New Guinea (contrasted to more personality- orientated messianistic cults in peasant movements in West Indonesia or in the world in general). The notion of "independence" has posibly acquired for them such a magic quality as icon of deliverance from the "pestilence" embodied by the regime.
Therefore, as a whole, the spiritual force of the idea of independence is stronger than any rational arguments that may favour continued adherrence to the Republic of Indonesia, so any concepts of retaining West Irian in Indonesia based on these latter arguments will only have a chance for realisation if they also adequately fulfill expectations on sustainment of ethnic dignity and cultural individuality that underly the drive for separate independence.
Now, let us consider some of those arguments.
Economically, West Irian is not only quite thoroughly integrated within Indonesia with its entire infrastructure, but, for historical reasons, it is still one of the least economically developed provinces (beside perhaps East Nusa Tenggara). It may seem simple to separate West Irian from the rest of Indonesia politically, but economically it would remain substantially dependent on Indonesia. Just like Indonesia in the 1950s, which discovered that independence merely meant transition from colonial to neo-colonial dependence because key industries and vital elements of the infastructure remained in Dutch hands, so also would a separated West Papua remain economically dependent of Indonesia considerably more than e.g. dependence of PNG in certain technical matters from Australia.
Integrated in a democratic Indonesia, West Papuans would retain various political means of influencing central executive and legislative decisions, particularly in view of increased autonomy of provinces presently being developed. After all, as we have seen, West Irian is not a colony, but a province, and its population can claim equal rights as normal citizens. But as a separate state, it would have to lead all attempts at influencing Jakarta's decisions having a bearing on West Papuan economic dependence through conventional diplomatic channels.
Indonesia in the 1950s decided to free itself of its economic dependency by nationalising Dutch companies. But unfortunately, Indonesia did not yet have sufficiently trained specialists to run the companies, so that the economic situation deteriorated even further, finally ending in the political crisis which allowed Soeharto to usurp power. Analogical problems will also hound a separate West Papua.
There is of course no law that reqires an independent West Papuan political establishment to fall into the same pitfalls into which the Indonesians had once blundered. But already the coexistence of an indigenous and a culturally divergent immigrant population creates the potentials of antagonisms we find for example in Fiji. Culture diversity not only exists in comparison to immigrants. The range of indigenous diversity alone, between northcoast mercantile traditions and egalitarian hunter-gatherer communities, greatly exceeds that e.g. in PNG. And in combination with influencing of local politicians by prosperous foreign companies, this leads to a potentially even more explosive situation than in the Solomons. What exploitation of rich resources can do one could also see in Zaire (copper), Nigeria (oil), Sierra Leone (diamonds). Being part of a large national formation like Indonesia would, under conditions of a democratic state, provide greater security in dealing with large companies.
So what? Does not everyone have a sovereign right to make their own mistakes in their own fair chance for success or failure in pursuit of happiness and prosperity?
Indeed, but, firstly, the West Papuans probably will not get a fair chance. In view of international guarantees and reassurances supporting continued integration within Indonesia, separation would have to be fought out in a purely domestic political showdown with the government. Even if that succeeds, and the military does not go on a rampage, a fledgling West Papuan government would have to fulfill expectations of almost messianistic dimensions from an extremely traumatised population under conditions of total economic dependence. One succeeded in sustaining unity at the West Papua Congress because all were facing a common outside challenge. Once West Papua is independent, that unifying factor would be gone. The point will come, when the political class will see no other way than recourse to an authoritarian regime (this happened just about everywhere in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, sometimes under far less compelling circumstances).
Secondly, the West Papuans have actually already paid their entrance fees, and should not be required to pay it a second time at a probably even stiffer price. It is indeed "unfair", that West Papuans joined the rest of Indonesia too late to take part in the "making of mistakes" in the process of coming of age of Indonesia's political class. But it came just in time to take a sizable share of the punishments for those mistakes: the economic crisis of the 1960s, the brutalities of Soeharto's military regime, ending in the economic crisis of the outgoing 1990s still not yet ended till now. So it is actually entitled to share all future dividends of the joint venture "Republic of Indonesia".
Now the West Papuans stand before a fork in the road. They can take the long road to a future of stability which takes them once more through all the perils they have actually already gone through, with no guarantee that it will lead to success, or they can take the short road that is open to them, where they also have no guarantee for success, but where they are at least part of a much larger community with which to share the risk. In case they decide to follow the first road, and insist on secession, they would stand alone, facing the joint opposition of the government and the remnants fo the old regime in the military and burocracy. But in case they decide to take the short road to democracy and stability, they would suddenly find a lot of allies: the government and all reform and pro-democracy forces and particularly all other ethnic groups with comparable problems in the country, all of which would collectively face only one oponent: the remnants of the former regime or so-called "status quo" faction. Which of the roads would be more likely to lead to success?
To be able to take advantage of this shorter road, one has to solve two problems.
Problem No. 1: The resolution of the West Papua Congress called for secession of West Papua from Indonesia, and this was quite inevitable for two reasons. The first, it was correct from a tactical point of view, because anything less would not have sufficiently impressed the political establishment in Jakarta to take the West Papuans seriously. The second, even if the moderate leaders of the West Papuans may have been tempted to touch a more compromistic tone in the resolution, the expectations of the hardliners in the Congress and of the tribesmen from the mountains in the streets left no other choice, if unity was to be maintained.
If one were to meet the government half way in future negotiations, one would then have to sell this to those hardliners and tribesmen. For this one must understand the reason for the adamant position of these latter, it is that matter of human dignity and cultural individuality already touched upon above. West Papuan middle class moderates are culturally more adapted to national All-Indonesian modalities of life, but it is the peoples from the interior who have suffered particularly badly from the inhuman culture policy of the regime.
Therefore, whether or not West Papuan moderates could agree to continued integration in Indonesia depends not on their own will (which is probably there). It depends on the government's capability of creating conditions that would also make such a decision acceptable to the peoples of the interior. These must be convinced of sustained future respect for their dignity and cultural individuality.
An important step has already been done in this direction, and that is the drive towards so-called "Papuanisation" of the administration and services in the province. All government offices and resorts should be encouraged to consult West Papuan personalities, activists, organisations when seeking solutions for concrete problems. And finally, West Papuans should also be more frequently employed in various services outside Irian Jaya, and particularly in Jakarta.
Another absolutely imperative step should be rapid enactment of a law against racism, tribalism, and religious sectarianism. Racial and ethnic equality is guaranteed by the constitution, and all Indonesian administrations since 1945 have abided by this at least with regard to indigenous ethnic groups (unfortunately not also with regard to non-indigenous ones) as something quite self-evident and not needing any further debate. But this has proven not to be enough, because there have been frequent acts of racism, tribalism, and religious intolerance. We therefore need a law which criminalises each individual outbreak of such acts, and determines sufficiently deterent punishments. Attacks on West Papuan communities outside West Irian should face determined official reprisal.
No officer or burocrat may in future insult a Papuan as "a primitive" with impunity, but must be assured of immediate dishonourable discharge. Every participation of any member of the apparatus in sectarian violence of any kind should likewise lead to swift and inexorable punishment. Commanding officers seeking to escape responsibility for systematic or substantial transgressions of subordinates by claiming to have had no knowledge of the developments should face inevitable demotion by two or more ranks for reason of obvious incompetence and failure in duty.
In places where activities of foreign companies have led to clashes with local ethnic groups, it must be guaranteed that the apparatus will not function as the political or military arm of that company, but will uphold the law and help the population in reaching reasonable understanding with the company. In this, one must anticipate that local officials will predictably face highly tempting pecunary incentives from rich companies, and precautionary measures must become effective before rather than after damage has been done, or at least swiftly enough to avoid the even temporary public impression of their impunity. Although this of course does not only concern West Irian, but precautions are particularly important in this province.
Problem No. 2: Just as important as that care should be taken that the West Papuan side will be in a situation that realistically encapacitates it to reach an adequate political solution, so too must the government attain such a situation. At present, this is not at all the case yet.
To be able to guarantee the conditions which would make it possible for West Papuans to feel at home within an Indonesian unitary state, the government must gain sufficient control over the state apparatus to exclude further sabotage by so-called "rogue" structures of the former military regime, but these are unfortunately still very much intact, and in possession of ample resources and logistical networks. This situation is creating a kind of vicious circle.
The most ridiculous aspect of the present constellation is that West Papuans are standing face-to-face against the government that appears to be on the same side of the fence as the rogue military, rather than that West Papuans and the government were in the same boat facing up to their common foe, the rogue military.
On one side, the rogue military is the collective foe of civil government and of West Papuans, Acehnese, ethnic groups and peasants reclaiming unlawfully expropriated lands, etc., etc. The most obvious solution would be for all these to join forces and gang up against that rogue military. Democracy and government by rule of the law could then be erected quite efficiently. On the other side, the government is the hostage of a state apparatus which is still controlled to a significant extent by the rogue military and other elements of the former regime. It is in certain sense like a mind caught in the wrong body, or more exactly like a person whose hands and feet have an adverse mind of their own.
The president has been remarkably successful in encroaching step by step upon the influence of the rogue military, compelling them to retreat ever further. He has now been stopped in his further advance by the rogue military which suddenly regained some strength through a strategy it already once successfully employed in 1965-1967. It has found "useful suckers" to pull out the hot chestnuts out of the fire for it. The rogue military has been able to incite some opportunistic minor Muslim parties to block President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) from further steps towards democracy and generally weakening his position. This is also seriously endangering prospects of sustainment of territorial integrity of a unitary Indonesia.
Above I touched upon the coming of age of the Indonesian political class. But Indonesia is large and non-homogenous in its state of development. The New Order regime had disenfrachised broad layers of society. The reopening of democratic opportunities of representation also brought some immature political elements, mainly in some minor Muslim parties, which have continuously been the source of disruptive interferences into the reform process.
Already right after the elections of 1998, they tried to blackmail the establishment into conceding them a larger number of parliamentary seats than their share of the vote, by threatening not to endorse the results of the elections (which required a unanimous vote). Subsequently, they almost caused a crisis in the presidential elections, when the most promising candidate of the democratic reform wing was a woman (Megawati Soekarnoputri), by arbitrarily claiming that a woman as president was in conflict with Islamic law. But beside the fact that the gender of the president of a secular republic is not regulated by Islamic law, the attempt to bar women from the office of president violates the Indonesian Constitution.
With such opportunistic antics, those minority Muslim parties are only demonstrating their immaturity, because they are actually sawing away the very branch on which they are sitting.
In 1965-1967, the military did not risk openly moving forwards itself to undermine and then topple the then President Sukarno. In the countryside, they incited followers of national and muslim parties to massacre communists and other leftists. In the cities they got intellectuals and students to demonstrate against Sukarno and to purge ministries and other government agencies, etc. But when the dirty work had been done for them, and the military regime felt securely in power, it in turn purged its recent allies it no longer needed, to deprive them of a share in the new power structure.
The Muslim minority parties which are presently lending themselves as the same kind of "useful suckers" to the rogue military and Soeharto's crony circle should not believe that they will somehow fare better if these latter should come to power again. The small parties owe their existence to the process of democratisation, and will be the first to succumb in case of a renewal of military dictatorship, because they cannot mobilize the kind of mass followings that back the major political parties. Their erratic behaviour is not getting any appreciation abroad, so they can hardly count on help from there when the military decides it no longer needs them.
Already now, the rogue military has managed to upset investigations into the Tanjung Priok massacre of Muslim activists. This has only been possible because of continuous efforts by the small Muslim parties to destabilise Gus Dur's government. One can hardly wish for a more convincing demonstration of how counterproductive this opportunistic politicking is for own Muslim interests.
More important than perspectives for opportunist party functionaries are the business interests that stand behind them. These are partly aggressive expansionist local business interests that speculate on short term windfall advantages from the opportunistic manoeuvres that are making life difficult for the president. These are very shortsighted schemes, because even illegal profits of the mafia finally want to be invested in a legal established market in a stabile legal financial environment, and this is not different for windfall profits. Business in general, whether local or national-scaled, new or well established, require democratic government with dependable legal institutions. The opportunistic business circles behind political manoeuvres aimed at destabilising the government are therefore actually shooting their very selves in the foot.
Another part of those opportunistic business circles are apparently tied either with economic enterprises of the army, or with businesses of Soeharto's crony circle. This rogue capital is particularly difficult to deal with, because they do not necessarily stand to lose in case of a restoration of military dictatorship. But if they continue to cause trouble to the government and thus sabotage the reform to democracy and restoration of peace in the provinces, they leave the government no other choice than to expropriate the wealth of the Soeharto clan and crony circle, and to privatise army-owned businesses.
Already in the 1970s, army officers gained control of lands and businesses in the provinces, greatly to the disadvantage of already established local businesses and traditional landowners. Privatisation of military businesses and investigations into illegally amassed fortunes by army officers could be channelled to bring advantage to local businesses, which would bring good points for the government. Clan and crony-owned enterprises could be reappropriated in an analogical fashion if it becomes evident that they are serving as means to undermine peace, stability, and restoration of democracy.
One must bear in mind, that the democratic government has not yet been finally established, but that the former regime is still far from having been entirely liquidated. Political parties will only be able to take full advantage of a free competition of opinions and policies when democracy is fully established. Before that, many oppositional policies would automatically benefit antidemocratic interests of restoring the old regime and thus be subversive to democracy. It is for this reason, that the government was formed as a coalition of all parties represented in parliament. One must therefore constantly remember, that breaking out of the coalition at this stage is "counter-reformation".
So far, the military as well as clan and crony circles have been tenaciously resisting inverstigations into their involvement in past crimes of corruption and violation of human rights. But there still is another category of crimes that has not yet been even touched upon. Continuous violations of human rights and corruption of local resources has led to the acute danger of the country falling apart, and presently still continuing incitement of violence in the provinces, particularly in Maluku, is severly aggravating the situation. Therefore, the next step for government investigations can already be based on charges of treason. Rogue elements in the military will probably not be able to rally inner solidarity from the ranks when charged with treason.
Success of the reform to democracy is a vital condition for the preservation of national unity and continued integration of West Irian and Aceh in the Republic of Indonesia. If the president does not succeed, these two provinces will have no other choice than to force a separation from the Republic. Because, however dubious their perspectives in case of a separate development might be, remaining within an Indonesia in which the army retains its extraordinary prerogatives and in which democratic rules of government are not guaranteed would be for them even more disastrous.
This series of discussions on the problems raised by the West Papua Congress began with an appraisal of the organisation and immediate results of that congress, in which the exceptionally high skill of the organisers and their very valuable contribution to the general process of democratisation as well as to the preservation of national unity were noted. In the time between the writing of that first section and the present sixth and last one (the delay in outputing this section was due to my attending a conference these last three days on conflict and violence in Indonesia), there have been new developments which can only serve to confirm that first appraisal.
After yesterday's meeting with the president, the official representatives of the Papuan Council stated their trust in and support of the president, and at the same time warned that any attempt to topple the president would automatically lead to secession of West Irian.
Again, like in the results of the West Papua Congress, the West Papuans have given an important lesson to all Indonesians: the president and all national reform and pro-democracy forces on one side, and West Papuans, Acehnese, and other ethnic groups that have become victims of the regime on the other side, are each other's natural allies, and must join forces with each other as the one and only chance for reform to democracy in Indonesia to be successful.
As long as each of them fights for themselves, and even against each other, they are making it very easy for the enemies of democracy. Now too, just like during the struggle for independence from colonialism, the most effective strategy of the enemy of the nation is "divide et impera". In fact, the easiest way to dertermine who is a true enemey of the nation is to observe who is trying to divide rather than to unite. The only chance for the nation to succeed in overcoming the crisis is to restore and maintain unity.