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History of Saving Papua

The following article is a history of saving Papua written by Ambassador Freddy Numberi (Vice Admiral of the TNI (ret)), who is an exceptional historical witness, because as Papuan, he was inside the society who experienced the decisive historical era in the 1960s.


In the process of returning West Irian (Papua) to Indonesia, both diplomacy and military pressures produced many results. This is reflected in the Memorandum of Foreign Minister of the Netherlands Luns to Under Secretary of the United States (US) John Foster Dulles, dated October 1, 1958 as follows:

  1.  That the US government reminds Indonesia of the issue of human rights and the principles of international law so that the security of the Dutch people and their interests in Indonesia is maintained.
  2. The US is committed to not selling weapons to Indonesia, which can be used to attack Netherlands New Guinea.
  3. That the US representative to the North Atlantic Organization (NATO) emphasize member countries not to sell heavy weapons to Indonesia.
  4. With regard to the Netherlands Nieuw Guinea, the US should immediately make policies that oppose Indonesia in the use of military force against the integrity of the Netherlands Nieuw Guinea. If there is military aggression, it is hoped that the US will take all possible measures to support the Netherlands.

Then J.F. Dulles made a statement that from the results of his discussions with officials in Indonesia, both the prime minister, foreign minister and other official officials said that Indonesia would not use force against Papua.

Soviet Union support

In the process of restoring Papua, Indonesia strengthened its military strength. This is because Indonesia failed in the process of international diplomacy, especially at the United Nations. This fact made Bung Karno angry and took drastic steps.

In December 1960, Bung Karno assigned General A.H. Nasution went to Moscow, the Soviet Union and succeeded in making an agreement to buy and sell weapons worth 2.5 billion US dollars with long-term payment terms.

At that time it was recognized that Indonesia had the strongest military power in Southeast Asia. In April 1961, Robert Komer (US security advisor) and McGeorge Bundy (US national security leader) prepared plans for the UN to legally return Papua to Indonesia.

President John F. Kennedy finally supported this because the Cold War climate (1949-1991) at that time was worrying, that if there was a war between the Netherlands and Indonesia, then the entire Southeast Asian region would become communist.

With the assistance of the Soviet Union, Indonesia purchased a variety of military equipment including 41 MI-4 helicopters (light transport), 9 MI-6 helicopters (heavy transport), 30 MiG-15 jets, 49 MiG-21 attack aircraft, 12 submarines the Whiskey class, dozens of corvettes, and 1 Sverdlov class cruiser (named after the target of the operation, Irian KRI).

Of the bombers, there were 22 Ilyushin II-28 light bombers, 14 TU-16 long-range bombers, and 12 maritime TU-16s equipped with AS-1 “air to surface” anti-ship missiles. Kennel While of the types of transport aircraft there were 26 light transport aircraft types IL-14 and AQvia-14, 6 heavy duty Antonov An-12B aircraft made by the Soviet Union and 10 C-130 Hercules heavy transport aircraft made in the US.

To achieve air superiority, the first preparations undertaken by the Air Force were to repair war-damaged airbases, which would be used for infiltration operations and face open operations on the West Irian mainland. Air Bases and Landing Strips, which are widely available along the border of Maluku and West Papua, are Japanese heritage. The airbase and landing strip were last used in 1945, and after that they were not used anymore. The situation of the Air Base and Landing Strip was untreated and many were damaged and overgrown with weeds and trees. The Air Force Base (PAU) and landing strip, ready for operation in 1961, are:

  • PAU Morotai (North Maluku)
  • PAU Amahai (Maluku)
  • PAU Letvuan (South East Maluku)
  • PAU Kendari (Southeast Sulawesi)
  • PAU Kupang (NTT)
  • PAU Gorontalo
  • PAU Jailolo (North Maluku)
  • PAU Pattimura (Maluku)
  • PAU Liang (Central Maluku)
  • PAU Lahat (South Sumatra)
  • PAU Namlea (Maluku)
  • PAU Langgur (North Maluku)
  • PAU Dokabarat (Maluku)
  • Selaru PAU (Southeast Maluku)

In 1961, the highest command of the Dutch military was held by the Vice Admiral (Schout-bij-Nacht) L.E. Reesers. This supreme command is in charge of the Army (Land Macht) and Navy (Zee Macht) units. The highest command of the Air Force is held solely by the Air Force (Lucht Macht).

The General Headquarters of the Dutch Armed Forces (Algemene Hoofd Kwartier) is in Hollandia (Jayapura). The Operational Headquarters (Operationeel Hoofd Kwartier) is in Biak, including the position of the Third Commandant of the Armed Forces.

The strength of the Dutch Armed Forces

The strength of the Dutch Armed Forces in late 1961 consisted of:

Dutch Army (KL):

  • 1 infantry brigade comes from infantry regiment “Oranje Gelderland” with 3 battalions stationed in Sorong, Teminabuan, Fakfak, Kaimana and Merauke.
  • 1 detachment to counter airstrikes, approximately 500 personnel.
  • The Papua Brigade which was estimated at the end of 1961 was only formed.

Dutch Navy (KM):

  • Dutch maritime strength in the form of: 1 aircraft carrier, 1 cruiser, 3 destroyers, 2 submarines, 10 LST, 2 survey ships.
  • Corps Mariniers (CM) in the form of 1 brigade, consisting of 3 battalions.
  • Marine Luchtvaart Dienst (MLD) in the form of 1 squadron of fighter aircraft including Firefly, 3 amphibious Catalina aircraft, 2 squadrons of Martin Mariner reconnaissance aircraft, 6 Neptune anti-submarine bombers.

Dutch Air Force (ML):

  • 1 Hawker Hunter MK VI ambush aircraft squadron with 6 planes ready for operation.
  • 1 spy helicopter flight.
  • 2 Dakota transport aircraft squadrons.

Dutch Police:

  • General Police (Algemene Politie) as many as 1,700 people. The detachment posts are up to the onder district level.
  • The Mobile Brigade (Mobiele Politie) was formed in teams with infantry combat structures.

When juxtaposed with the military power of Indonesia and the Netherlands at that time, viewed from the aspect of military operations, the military strength of Indonesia is superior.

Besides that in the event of armed conflict, Indonesian logistical support is more easily achieved because of its proximity to the operational area, compared to the Netherlands which must bring from the Netherlands.

Kennedy’s Secret Note to de Quay

After Bung Karno stirred up the spirit of Trikora on 19 December 1961 supported by the fact of the Arafura Sea battle on 15 January 1962 between the Netherlands and Indonesia where Commodore Yos Soedarso was killed along with KRI Tigers’ crew.

This convinced President John F. Kennedy that Bung Karno was very serious about recapturing Papua from the Netherlands. Seeing the situation that began to “heat up”, President John F. Kennedy made a secret note to the Dutch Prime Minister Dr. J.E. de Quay on April 2, 1962 which essentially emphasized:

  1. To respect the position of both parties, a peaceful solution through the United Nations is the best solution to resolve the Papua problem.
  2. If there is a war, it will not benefit all parties, especially the West and will not necessarily be won by the West.
  3. Whatever the outcome, the entire Asian region will be seriously damaged.
  4. Only the communists will benefit from the armed conflict. If Indonesia becomes communist, then Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia will share this influence, even though the US has the commitment and obligation to help these countries.
  5. Ellsworth Bunker will act as a spokesperson in facilitating talks between the Netherlands and Indonesia through the United Nations.
  6. The West New Guinea government will be temporarily taken over by the United Nations (UNTEA) before being handed over to Indonesia, and the US government will fully support this process through the United Nations.


This Secret Note dated April 2, 1962 that changed all processes to find a peaceful solution through the UN legally by respecting the efforts of all parties in the Dutch and Indonesian dispute. This process starts from:

  1. New York Agreement dated August 15, 1962 signed by the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Subandrio and the Dutch Ambassador J.H. van Roijen and C.W.A. Schurmann as representative of the Netherlands.
  2. Rome Joint Statement on May 20-21, 1969 signed by Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik and Dutch Foreign Minister J.M.A.H. Luns and the Dutch Minister of Development Affairs B.J. Udink.
  3. Determination of People’s Opinion (PEPERA) which was carried out in Papua from July-August 1969 under UN supervision through UNTEA. This PEPERA has also drawn criticism.
  4. UN Resolution 2504 (XXIV) dated 19 November 1969. Before this resolution was approved and endorsed by the United Nations, member countries present at this General Assembly, first discussed it at the plenary meetings of the PEPERA results. The results of this PEPERA were read by Ortiz Sanz as the official representative of the UN envoy to the UN Secretary General U Thant. Then it was read by the UN Secretary General with the results that 84 countries agreed, countries that did not agree were zero, 30 countries abstained and 12 countries did not attend, then ratified as UN Resolution No. 2504 (XXIV) November 19, 1969.

In the Noting section stated:

“The Indonesian government, in carrying out its national development plan, pays special attention to the progress of West Irian, keeping in mind the specific conditions of its population, and that the Dutch Government, working closely with the Indonesian Government, will continue to provide financial assistance for this purpose, particularly through the Asian Development Bank and United Nations institutions.”

Republic of Indonesia Law No. 21 of 2001 concerning Special Autonomy for the Province of Papua, which in point Considering point f, states “that the administration and implementation of development in Papua Province so far have not fully fulfilled a sense of justice, not yet fully enabled the achievement of people’s welfare, not fully supported the realization of enforcement. law, and not yet fully showing respect for Human Rights in Papua Province, especially the people of Papua “.

This is in line with the “spirit” Noting from Resolution 2504 (XXIV) 19 November 1969. But unfortunately, after 32 years of the resolution, the Special Autonomy Law on Papua was born which incidentally has not been implemented according to the expectations of the Papuan people.

According to the author, this is a PEACEFUL SOLUTION, LEGAL AND RESPECTED in the process of returning the Papua colony to its legal owner, the Republic of Indonesia. This also saved many lives in Papua, so that they would not die in vain in the event of war between Indonesia and the Netherlands. Proverb: “When elephants fight, ants must die trampled”.

Hopefully with this “history of saving Papua” can provide enlightenment for Indonesian people, especially in Papua, both old and young West Papuan that UN Resolution 2504 (XXIV) 19 November 1959 is actually a peaceful solution to save the Orang Asli Papua from political uncertainty.

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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