To understand the Free Papua movement, there’s a few things to get out of the way first. First, what is Papua? Second, why does it need freedom? Third, who from? For a great deal of individuals, when they hear ‘Papua’ they think of Papua New Guinea. It’s not too far off, seeing as West Papua is just the western half of the New Guinea island, with ‘Papua’ being a name referring to the island before contact with the west. West Papua is directly to the west of Papua New Guinea, with the island split neatly in two. So how the hell did it get that way?
Lengthy before the Free Papua Movement, like so many modern nations, West Papua is a product of colonialism. Western New Guinea was colonized by the Dutch at first, while the East was finally colonized by the Germans in the late 1800s. (With the south-east additionally being annexed by Britain, because in fact the Brits had to be concerned somewhere.) As with many different things, this complicated mixture of colonialism was shook up by WW1 and the Treaty of Versailles, granting the German territory to Australia, who by this point have been administering the British territory as well. This split the country quite evenly down the middle between the Dutch and the Australians.
In 1975, the Japanese portion of the island was granted independence and became Papua New Guinea. Meanwhile, the Dutch administered western portion had the unfortunate situation of pushing to become independent proper subsequent to impartial Indonesia. The Dutch had been gradually loosening their grip for a while and in 1961, a nationwide parliament had been elected with intentions to declare independence in 1970. Indonesia meanwhile had shaped largely out of the Dutch East Indies, an amalgamation of most of the Dutch island colonies in that area, of which Papua was one. This, in Indonesia’s eyes, gave them declare to Papua despite the enormously different political history.
Indonesian president Sukarno pushed heavily for intervention to say West Papua, though unwillingness to go to war outright prevented an invasion. Ultimately, Sukarno sought the US to function a mediator, leveraging their position as a ‘non-aligned’ country to gain favour, implicitly suggesting that they could ally with the us if not appeased. The Dutch relented, allowing Indonesia to imagine administration of West Papua till such a time as a referendum might be carried out, stirring the beginning of what would turn out to be the Free Papua Movement. This referendum, the ‘Act of Free Selection’, was to find out the future of the country and contain a vote on behalf of the entire country. This is, after all, how referendums function.
Under the new, decidedly a lot more genocidal leader Suharto took over in Indonesia, it was abruptly decided that the New Guineans were ‘too primitive’ for democracy and instead a traditional Indonesian ‘election of elders’ was performed. This election, held August 2nd 1969, involved only a hand-picked grouping of just over a thousand West Papuans have been allowed to vote. The vote was suspiciously unanimous, supporting integration with Indonesia and thus leading to West Papua turning into the 26th official province of Indonesia. This has understandably led to the Act of Free Alternative being labelled the ‘Act of No Alternative’, inevitably spurring the Free Papua Movement. With that out of the way, let’s move on.
The Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka – OPM) was formally founded in December of 1963, not long after Indonesia assumed administration of the area but earlier than formal annexation. December first was declared ‘Papuan Independence Day’ and common flag elevating ceremonies began by separatist teams on this date, making up a large portion of the country. When their efforts have been ignored and West Papua was formally annexed by Indonesia, things swiftly started to heat up. On July 1st 1971, three Free Papua Movement commanders declared the Republic of West Papua and drafted a constitution, a functionally symbolic move for which the Papuan individuals would work towards, equally to the Irish proclamation of 1916 which provided a foundation for the independence movement of the early 1920s.
From 1976, the Free Papua Movement went on the offensive, threatening an Indonesian mining company for funding and finally conducting mass sabotage campaigns against the corporate all through the summer season of 1977. In 1982, the Free Papua Movement Revolutionary Council was further established, searching for to achieve recognition from worldwide bodies and grant their wrestle additional legitimacy. This ultimately led to a 1984 offensive towards the Indonesian military, finally ending with the Free Papua Movement being pushed out of the country into Papua New Guinea.
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