Herstein article reveals more pieces of MvM story
OCDP reports on the real Papua New Guinea

West Papua: persistent dreams of a PNG union

Extracts from a recent article in which journalist BERTIL LINTNER  looks at the turbulent history and aspirations for a possible future for the Indonesian province of Papua

When the Dutch finally left Indonesia in 1949 -- four years after the declaration of independence -- they held on to their western half of New Guinea. They argued that the territory was culturally different from the rest of the old colony and, if ceded to Indonesia, the Papuans would be exploited by the more politically and economically sophisticated Javanese.

The new Indonesian nation, however, saw it differently. One of the catch phrases of independence leader Sukarno was of Indonesian sovereignty "from Sabang to Merauke"…  The Dutch initially ignored such sovereignty slogans and throughout the 1950s initiated several moves to make their part of New Guinea an independent state.

Basic education was improved, a naval academy was opened, Papuans began to serve in the military as well as civil services and local elections were held in December 1961. The territory even adopted its own national anthem and flag with the white Morning Star, symbolizing the hope for a new day era.

All this happened at a time when Southeast Asia was in deep turmoil. Communist movements were strong throughout the region and especially in Indonesia, where it was a powerful and legal political party. The United States warned the Netherlands against trying to defend its New Guinean possession if Jakarta attempted to use force to extend its writ to Merauke…

The Netherlands gave in and, on Aug. 15, 1962, signed an agreement in New York with Indonesia according to which the United Nations would assume temporary control over the territory. It would then be transferred to Indonesia -- but on the condition that the Papuans would have the right to decide their own future.

On May 1, 1963, Indonesia took full charge of the territory and first renamed it West Irian and later Irian Jaya. In mid-1969, the promised "referendum" was eventually held, but The Act of Free Choice, as it was called, was open only to 1,025 handpicked delegates, which predictably all voted in favor of integration with Indonesia. On Nov. 19, 1969, the U.N. General Assembly accepted the results and Western countries turned a deaf ear to local protests over the dubious circumstances of the vote.

By 1965, the OPM had already been established along with an armed wing, the National Liberation Army, or OPM-TPN, and hit-and-run attacks were launched in the highlands. [Ruben] Maury joined the OPM in 1970, abandoning his family and a job as a pharmacist in Jayapura...

Mr Maury spent eight years in the jungles and highlands of West Papua before he and some of his ill-equipped followers crossed into independent PNG in 1978. But the newly independent state did not want to antagonize its powerful Indonesian neighbor, and promptly arrested the OPM fighters. In 1979, they were all released and four of them were accepted as political refugees in Sweden...

The OPM would find it difficult to establish a coherent sense of nationhood among the Papuans. They just need look across the border into PNG, which many observers consider a nearly failed state with rampant crime, murder rates among the world's highest, and severe environmental degradation driven by an economy almost entirely dependent on the export of raw natural resources.

Still, the OPM's Stockholm representatives see separation from Indonesia as just the first step; the next would be a union with PNG. "Historically, our ties have been with Oceania. Our connections have always been eastwards, not westwards," [Daniel] Kafiar says.

Source: Far Eastern Economic Review, 17 June 2009. Thanks to John Fowke for directing us to this excellent article


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Moale Rivu

Many thanks for the new issue of PNG Attitude. Deveni Temu, now on the new PNGAA executive, is a wantok from the same village as I and elder brother to Deputy PM, Dr Puka Temu.

Read in a previous issue that Jane Belfield is still around. Started my career when she was the morning sub-editor at NBC news. Don’t know whether she stil remembers me but, all the same, pass on my best wishes. Do you know whatever happed to Margaret Brooks from the Wonga Hostel?

By the way, I saw an interesting piece on you last week by Ronald Bulum in The National. Could not reach you by mail to congratulate you as I was in the bush on the border at Vanimo for ten days.

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