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Act of Free Choice is a success in postcolonial territorial disputes

Papua postcolonial territorial disputes

Dr. Martin Ira Glassner (1998) stated in his book : “The UN’s record in postcolonial territorial disputes is not good, with West Irian the solitary success.

Source: Glassner, M. I. (1998) The United Nations at Work. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, page 270.

Papua postcolonial territorial disputes

The strong statement by Dr. Glassner showed the referendum or the Act of Free Choice in 1969 is a success story of returning the Western part of Papua island to Indonesia.

After the Second World War, Indonesia which known before as the Dutch East Indies fought for independence from the Netherlands and the right to self-determination.

A bloody war for Independence was fought for 350 years and after Indonesia’s independence declaration, for four years Indonesia has fought against the Netherlands and in 1949 the Netherlands surrendered and the newly formed country claimed all the areas of the former Dutch colony as her own, including the Western part of Papua island.

West Papua New Guinea, however, remained in the hands of the Netherlands until the mid-1960s when an agreement was signed with Indonesia for the region to be transferred to Jakarta provided that the people of West Papua were granted a referendum by the end of the decade, which was successfully finalised the return of West Papua into Indonesia.


Located on the western half of the island of New Guinea and long racked by a simmering violent separatist insurgency, Papua encompasses Indonesia’s two easternmost provinces.

A former Dutch colony, West Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia in 1969, after an undisputed vote of about 1,025 representative tribal leaders. The result of the plebiscite was overseen and endorsed by the United Nations.

Since the democratization in 1998, especially since 2007, democracy by mean of elections has been introduced to increase political participation in the two provinces. The fact that the leaders of Papua and West Papua provinces are democratically elected by the people has strengthened the legality of the region as a province of Indonesia.

During the Abdurrahman Wahid administration in 2000, aside from changing the province name from “Irian Jaya” to “Papua”, Papua gained a “Special Autonomy” status, a political compromise between Papuans and the central government.

The political will of politicians in Jakarta to proceed with the implementation of the Special Autonomy was formalized in 2001 with the special autonomy law.

West Papua View All

This Blog has gone through many obstacles and attacks from violent Free West Papua separatist supporters and ultra nationalist Indonesian since 2007. However, it has remained throughout a time devouring thoughts of how to bring peace to Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia.

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