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EMBASSY OF INDONESIA Canberra, Australia



What was the nature of the Irian Jaya issues ? Was this issue a case of decolonisation or incomplete decolonisation of Indonesia ?

Irian Jaya was a bilateral matter between the Netherlands and Indonesia regarding an incomplete process of decolonisation of the Netherlands East Indies. lrian Jaya was neither a separate entity nor a non-self-governing territory detached from the Netherlands East Indies. The problem arose when the Netherlands insisted on maintaining its presence in the western half of New Guinea. At the beginning, there was no international dimension to this problem until Indonesia brought the issue to the United Nations in 1954 after all bilateral means had been exhausted. Therefore, it would not be relevant to draw a comparison between East Timor and Irian Jaya as the crux of the problem is totally different. East Timor was recognised by the United Nations as a non-self-governing territory, with Portugal as the administering power, while Irian Jaya remained a resolved question of decolonisation of Indonesian territory of what was once the Netherlands East Indies. It was the disruption of the Dutch decolonisation process in 1949 that led to a struggle of more than a decade by Indonesia to consolidate its territorial integrity and sovereignty over Irian Jaya.

2. Did the Dutch renege on its earlier agreements with Indonesia ?

The Dutch reneged on a series of commitments made prior to the Round Table Conference of 1949 in Den Haag. For before that time, there was never any doubt in the negotiations between the Dutch and the Indonesians on the status of Irian Jaya. This is reflected in several agreements concluded between Indonesia and the Netherlands : The Linggadjati Agreement of 1947 explicitly stated "The United States of Indonesia shall comprise the entire territory of the Netherlands East Indies". The Renville Agreement of 1948 further underlined "Sovereignty throughout the Netherlands Indies is and shall remain with the Kingdom of Netherlands until, after a stated interval, the Kingdom of the Netherlands transfers its sovereignty to the United States of Indonesia", and the Roem-Van Royen Agreement of 1949 which in sum stated that the "United States of Indonesia shall comprise of the entire territory of the Netherlands East lndies in accordance with the terms of the Renville Agreement", Two other documents prove in an unmistakable way that it had never been the intention of the Dutch to separate West Papua from the rest of the East Indies colony. These were the Netherlands Constitution of 1948 and the Netherlands Report on its colony to the United Nations in 1949.

Later, the Round Table Conference of 1949 settled the conflict between the two countries, resulting in the full recognition and acceptance by the Netherlands of the independence and sovereignty of Indonesia. It did not however settle the conflict in a comprehensive manner as it left out the territory of West New Guinea. In Indonesia’s view, this constituted a case of incomplete decolonisation. For, it left out the unsettled question of West New Guinea was to be resolved within a period of one year after the transfer of sovereignty to Indonesia through peaceful negotiations between the Governments of Indonesia and the Netherlands.

3. On what basis did Indonesia claim sovereignty over Irian Jaya ?

As far as Indonesia was concerned it was the legal successor to all territories, which during colonial times were called the Netherlands East Indies, in accordance with the provisions of agreements concluded between the two countries as well as by established international legal principles. Thus it viewed Irian Jaya as an integral part of the Republic of Indonesia at the time of proclamation of independence on August 17, 1945. In this regard, it should be emphasised that the international principle of "uti posseditis juris" asserts that the boundaries of nascent post-colonial countries conform to their pre-sovereign ones. For whatever reasons, in principle and logic, the issue of title ends there.

4. Why did Irian Jaya become an issue at the United Nations ?

The bilateral question became an issue at the United Nations because Indonesia brought up the matter before the UN General Assembly at its ninth session in 1954 as no progress had been made to resolve this matter in the bilateral talks and therefore there was a need to solicit international support. Such support was further obtained at the Bandung Conference of 1955 and was incorporated into the final cornmunique requesting the United Nations to help the two sides reach a peaceful solution. The United Nations General Assembly discussed this item from the years 1954 to 1957 and then again in 1961 but a peaceful solution proved elusive.

5. What were the background developments to the New York Agreement in 1962 ?

For eight long years, the General Assembly had been unable to assist the parties in finding a solution. In light of the breakdown of relations between the two countries, Indonesia therefore availed of the initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General to join the Netherlands in informal discussions. Both the Indonesian and Netherlands Governments agreed to the intermediary of the Secretary-General U Thant and Ambassador Eilsworth Bunker of the United States of America. Largely due to their tireless efforts, and coupled with the desire of both Governments, a bilateral settlement was reached between Indonesia and the Netherlands, with the conclusion of the New York Agreement.

6. What was the role of the UN with regard to the question of West Papua ? Who were the parties to that Agreement ?

The role of the United Nations was limited to an intermediary one. In this regard, it should be noted that Article XVII of the New York Agreement stated "Indonesia will invite the Secretary-General to appoint a Representative who, together with a staff made up, inter alia, of experts referred to in Article XVI, will carry out the Secretary-General's responsibilities to advise, assist and participate in arrangements which are the responsibility of Indonesia". It is also pertinent to note that the limited role of the United Nations is reflected in the fact that the financial expenses incurred by the Secretary-General were borne by the Indonesian and the Netherlands Governments in equal shares. Nothing was to be paid for by the United Nations. From the outset, the UN's involvement was aimed at finding a solution to bilateral matter through dialogue and peaceful means.

7. What the salient feature of the New York Agreement ?

The central feature of the agreement was provision for an initial transfer of administration of this territory from the Netherlands to an interim UN authority (United Nations Temporary Executive Authority/UNTEA) effective 1 October 1962 and then for a final transfer from UNTEA to Indonesian control after 1 May 1963.

In addition, it was stipulated that an act of free choice would take place before the end of 1969 in order to determine whether or not the West Papuan peoples wished to remain subject to Indonesian jurisdiction, the arrangements of which were to rest solely with the Indonesian Government. It is important to stress that the Agreement was clearly a bilateral one and not called for by a resolution of the United Nations or by any other mandate of the General Assembly.

Were the transfers of authority in Irian Jaya from Dutch to the UN and later from the UN to Indonesia in line with the terms of the Agreement ?

The transfer of administration from the Netherlands to the UNTEA (United Nations) took place on 1 October 1962, in accordance with Article V and VI of the New York Agreement, in a ceremony when the UN flag was raised and flown side by side with that of the Netherlands. Later, on 31 December 1962, the Netherlands flag was replaced by the Indonesian flag and flown next to the UN flag. In line with the provisions of Article XII of the New York Agreement, the Administrator of UNTEA, transferred full administrative control to Indonesia on 1 May 1963. The transfer of administration from the Netherlands to UNTEA and thereafter to Indonesia was achieved peacefully and without incident. The population was prepared for the changes to be brought about by the Agreement. The disruption of essential public services was avoided and continuity in employment was maintained.

9. What were the grounds to pronounce that the act of free choice in 1969 was internationally acceptable and valid ?

The act of free choice was final, legal and irrevocable as Article XVII of the Agreement was implemented whereby the representative councils of Irian Jaya were consulted on the appropriate procedures and methods to ascertain the will of the people. Indonesia’s proposal was accepted and the enlarged councils, which included a total of 1026 members, pronounced themselves, unanimously on behalf of the people of Irian Jaya to remain with Indonesia. Considering the specific difficulties of the terrain and the condition of the population at that time, the modalities of consultations with the representative councils on procedures and methods were the best option to ascertain the free will of the people. This position was also reflected in the Secretary General's report to the General Assembly in 1969 in which he quoted his Representative's conclusion of the implementation of the act of free choice by stating that "... it can be stated that, with the limitations imposed by the geographical characteristics of the territory and the general political situation in the area, an act of free choice has taken place in West Irian...". It is also noteworthy to point out was that this episode marked a significant event for the United Nations, considering its participation in such an activity for the first time.

In sum, it is an indisputable fact that the people of lrian Jaya exercised their right of self-determination through an act of free choice conducted from 14 July to 2 August 1969 in accordance with the relevant provisions of the 1962 New York Agreement.

10. Was the UN successful in mediating the bilateral conflict between Indonesia and the Netherlands ? Why did the United Nations General Assembly only take note of the result of the New York Agreement ?

Bearing in mind the limited role of the United Nations in this conflict, it can be concluded that the Organisation was successful in acting as a mediator by bringing to an end the long-standing bilateral dispute between Indonesia and the Netherlands. Indeed, the United Nations had completed its task in finding a lasting and peaceful solution to a question, which could have posed a real threat to regional security and stability of South East Asia. In affirming the successful outcome of this act of free choice, UNGA resolution 2504 (XXIV) only took note of the result of the New York Agreement in light of its bilateral nature while acknowledging with appreciation the fulfilment of the Secretary-General and his representatives of the tasks entrusted to them under the Agreement of 1962 between the Republic of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

In reflecting the overwhelming support of the international community, the latter resolution was adopted with 84 members voting in favour, none against and 30 abstentions, as the entire process had met the requirements of the New York Agreement. It should be recalled in this context that the earlier UNGA 1752 (XVII) had taken note of that instrument when authorising the Secretary-General to carry out the tasks entrusted to him. The UNGA took note of the Agreement as envisaged In the article 1 of the Agreement which says that '... Indonesia and the Netherlands will jointly sponsor a draft resolution in the United Nations under the terms of which the General Assembly of the United Nations takes note of the present Agreement.

11. Is the claim of the Second Congress of Papua in June 2000 that lrian Jaya has been independent since 1 December 1 961 true ?

Such a claim is without foundation as the act of free choice had already been conducted in line with the provisions of the New York Agreement and all parties, including the United Nations, played their respective roles and fulfilled their responsibilities. In this regard, it should be reiterated that the UN General Assembly had noted the results of the act of free choice through resolution 2504 (XXIV) and thus consideration of this question cannot be renewed. The Dutch never recognised lrian Jaya as a sovereign entity, a fact which was confirmed in the proceedings of the New York Agreement 1962. Neither did they as the other party to the bilateral agreement challenge its outcome. Today, Irian Jaya as an integral part of Indonesia occupies a status equal to the other provinces, its people join political parties, participate in elections and send representatives to the Indonesian Parliament.

12. Considering the historical evolution and contemporary developments, what is the most appropriate solution to the issue ?

The issue of Irian Jaya has to be put in the right perspective that is that Irian Jaya was an integral part of the Netherlands East Indies during the Dutch colonialism, the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945 as well during the proclamation of Indonesian independence in 1945. The restoration of Indonesian sovereignty through the transfer of authority from United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) to Indonesia and the conclusion of the act of free choice solidified Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty over Irian Jaya. Therefore, any solution to the issue must be within the framework of the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia.

It is important to stress that Indonesia is a multi-ethnic and mufti-cultural and multi-linguistic nation with "unity in diversity" as its motto. It is therefore important to find common ground to bridge differences among its peoples as differences are common in democratic societies throughout the world. One such way is to accord greater autonomy to provinces, including Irian Jaya at the regional level so that the people can improve their lives and be assured access to the Government. Indeed, regional autonomy is destined to emerge as a unifying factor of a diverse, united and democratic Indonesia.

Problems arising from the province of Irian Jaya have to be dealt with on a national basis and the Government would view any attempt to disrupt Indonesia’s sovereignty over lrian Jaya as interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

Canberra, Australia April 2001

For additional information: Lutfi Rauf First Secretary(Information) Telephone: 61 02 62508600 - 02 6250 8641 Mobile: 0412744721 Fax 62 02 6273 6017

E-Mail: pen@cyberone.com.au 

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