Irian Jaya, Indonesia


Western New Guinea is the Indonesian western half of the island of New Guinea and consists of two provinces, Papua and West Papua. It was previously known by various names, including Netherlands New Guinea (1895-1st Dec 1961), West Papua (1st Dec 1961-1 October 1962), West New Guinea (1 October -1 May 1963), West Irian (1 May 1963–1973), and Irian Jaya (1973–2000). The incorporation of western New Guinea into Indonesia remains controversial with human rights NGOs, including some supporters in the United States Congress and other bodies, as well as many of the territory's indigenous population. Many human rights NGOs refer to it as West Papua.

Western New Guinea was annexed by Indonesia under the controversial Act of Free Choice in 1969. In 2003, the Indonesian central government declared that the province would be split into three provinces: Papua Province, Central Irian Jaya Province, and West Irian Jaya Province. Opposition to this resulted in the plan for Central Irian Jaya province being scrapped, and even the designation of West Irian Jaya Province is still legally unclear. Despite this, the West Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Barat) province was formed on February 6th, 2006 and the name was officially changed to West Papua (Papua Barat) on February 7th, 2007. The independent sovereign state of Papua New Guinea (PNG) borders Papua Province to the east.


Papuans, the native people of New Guinea, are a Pacific Melanesian people, as are those of the Solomons, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji. Papuans have inhabited the Australasian continental island of Papua for over 40,000 years while Austronesians have been there for several thousand years. These groups have developed diverse cultures and languages in situ; there are over 300 languages and two hundred additional dialects in West New Guinea alone (See Papuan languages, Austronesian languages).

On June 13, 1545 Ortiz de Retez, in command of the San Juan, left port in Tidore, an island of the East Indies and sailed to reach the northern coast of the island of New Guinea, which he ventured along as far as the mouth of the Mamberamo River. He took possession of the land for the Spanish Crown, in the process giving the island the name by which it is known today. He called it Nueva Guinea owing to the resemblance of the local inhabitants to the peoples of the Guinea coast in West Africa.

Dutch control

In 1828, the Dutch claimed the south coast west of the 141st meridian, and in 1848 added the north coast west of Humboldt Bay. The Netherlands established trading posts in the area after Britain and Germany recognised the Dutch claims in treaties of 1885 and 1895. At much the same time, Britain claimed south-east New Guinea later known as the Territory of Papua and Germany claimed the northeast, later known as the Territory of New Guinea.

In 1923, the Nieuw Guinea Beweging (New Guinea Movement) was created in the Netherlands by ultra right-wing supporters calling for Dutchmen to create a tropical Netherlands in Papua. This prewar movement without full government support was largely unsuccessful in its drive, but did coincide with the development of a plan for Eurasian settlement of the Dutch Indies to establish Dutch farms in northern West New Guinea. This effort also failed as most returned to Java disillusioned, and by 1938 just 50 settlers remained near Hollandia and 258 in Manokwari.

In the early 1930s, the need for a national Papuan government was discussed by graduates of the Dutch Protestant Missionary Teachers College in Mei Wondama, Manokwari. These graduates continued their discussions among the wider community and quickly succeeded in cultivating a desire for national unity across the region and its three hundred languages. The College Principal Rev. Kijne also composed "Hai Tanahku Papua" ("Oh My Land Papua"), which in 1961 was adopted as the national anthem.

A exploration company NNGPM was formed in 1935 by Shell (40%), Mobil (40%) and Chevron's Far Pacific investments (20%) to explore West New Guinea. During 1936, Jean Dozy working for NNGPM reported world's richest gold and copper deposits in mountain near Timika he named Ertsberg (Mountain of Ore). Unable to license the find from the Dutch or indigenous landowners, NNGPM maintained secrecy of the discovery.

In 1942, the northern coast of West New Guinea and the nearby islands were occupied by Japan. Allied forces expelled the Japanese in 1944, and with Papuan approval, the United States constructed a headquarters for Gen. Douglas MacArthur at Hollandia (now Jayapura) and over twenty US bases and hospitals intended as a staging point for operations taking of the Philippines.

West New Guinean farms supplied food for the half million US troops. Papuan men went into battle to carry the wounded, acted as guides and translators, and provided a range of services, from construction work and carpentry to serving as machine shop workers and mechanics.

The Dutch retained possession of West New Guinea from 1945, but upon reaching Java 4,000 km west they did not find similar levels of support from the population of Java. Indonesian leaders Mohammad Hatta and Sukarno had declared independence weeks before and claimed all Dutch possessions should become part of the United States of Indonesia. The dispute continued until the Round Table Conference, which was held from August to October 1949 at the Hague. Unable to reach a compromise on the matter of West New Guinea, the conference closed with the parties agreeing to discuss the West New Guinea issue within one year.

In December 195 the United Nations requested the Special Committee on Decolonization to accept transmission of information regarding the territory in accord with Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations. Article 73e constituted formal recognition of the territory's right to independence and the Netherlands obligation to assist. After repeated Indonesian claims to possession of Dutch New Guinea, the Netherlands invited Indonesia to present its claim before an International Court of Law. Indonesia declined the offer. Concerned by Indonesian insurgencies beginning in 1950, the Netherlands accelerated its education and technical programs in preparation for independence. A naval academy was opened in 1956, and Papuan troops and naval cadets began service by 1957.

By 1959, Papuans were nurses, dental surgeons, draftsmen, architects, telephone repairmen, and radio and power technicians, cultivating a range of experimental commercial crops and serving as police, forestry and meteorological staff. This progress towards self-government was documented in reports prepared for the United Nations from 1950 to 1961.

Local Council elections were held and Papuan representatives elected from 1955. On 6 March 1959 the New York Times published an article revealing the Dutch government had discovered alluvial gold flowing into the Arafura Sea and were searching for the gold's mountain source. In 1959, Freeport Sulphur, (at the time, a company many believe to have had strong links to the Rockefeller family) approached the Dutch East Borneo company for partnership. An agreement signed in January 1960 to lodge a Dutch claim for the Timika area as a copper deposit did not inform the government about the gold or known extent of the copper deposit.

Election of a national parliament began on 9 January 1961 in fifteen electoral districts with direct voting in Manokwari and Hollandia to select 26 Councillors, of whom 16 were elected, 12 appointed, 23 were Papuan, and one female Councillors. The Councillors were sworn in by Governor Platteel on 1 April 1961, and the Council took office on 5 April 1961. The inauguration was attended by officials from Australia, Britain, France, Holland, New Zealand, and members of the South Pacific Commission; a large Australian delegation was headed by Mr Hasluck MP and included Sir Alistair McMullan, President of Australian Senate. The United States declined the invitation to attend the inauguration.

After news that the Hague was considering an United States plan to trade the territory to United Nations administration, Papuan Councillors met for six hours in the New Guinea Council building on 19th October 1961 to elect a National Committee which drafted a Manifesto for Independence & Self-government, a National flag (Morning Star), State Seal, selected a national anthem ("Hai Tanahkoe Papua" / "Oh My Land Papua"), and called for the people to be known as Papuans. The New Guinea Council voted unanimous support of these proposals on 30th October 1961, and on the 31st October 1961 presented the Morning Star flag and Manifesto to Governor Platteel who said (translated) "Never before has the oneness of the Council been put forward so strongly." The Dutch recognized the flag and anthem on November 18, 1961 (Government Gazettes of Dutch New Guinea Nos. 68 and 69), and these ordinances came into effect on December 1, 1961.

Indonesian control and resistance

At the US White House a proposal to have the Netherlands trade West New Guinea to Indonesia was opposed by the Bureau of European Affairs who viewed this "would simply trade white for brown colonialism"; but from April 1961 Robert Komer and McGeorge Bundy promoted a plan to have the United Nations give the transfer an outward appearance of legitimacy. Though reluctant, John Kennedy was told the transfer of the territory was the only means to prevent Indonesia turning to Soviet aid.

The Morning Star flag was raised next to the Dutch tricolour on December 1, 1961, an act which Papuan independence supporters celebrate each year at flag raising ceremonies. National Committee Chairman Mr Inury said: "My Dear compatriots, you are looking at the symbol of our unity and our desire to take our place among the nations of the world. As long as we are not really united we shall not be free. To be united means to work hard for the good of our country, now, until the day that we shall be independent, and further from that day on."

On January 2, 1962 Indonesia which had made seven known insurgency attempts since 1950 now created the Mandala Command headed by Brig. General Suharto to coordinate military efforts for the territory. Two previous insurgencies, Pasukan Gerilya 100 (Nov. 1960) and Pasukan Gerilya 200 (Sept. 1961), were followed by Pasukan Gerilya 300 with 115 insurgents leaving Jakarta on four Jaguar class torpedo boats (January 15), intercepted in the Aru Sea the lead boat was sunk and 51 survivors were picked up after Commodore Yos Sudarso went down with his boat.

Continuing US efforts to have the Netherlands secretly negotiate the transfer of the territory to Indonesian administration eventually succeeded in creating the "New York Agreement" signed in August 1962. The Australian government, which previously had been a firm supporter of the Papuan independence, also reversed its policy to support incorporation with Indonesia.

The agreement, ratified in the UN on September 21, 1962, stipulated that authority would transfer to a United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) on 1 October 1963, and that once UNTEA had informed the public of the terms of the Agreement had the option to transfer administration of the territory to Indonesia after May 1, 1963, until such time as an "Act of Free Choice" could determine the will of the people. Under Article 18 of the Agreement "all adults, male and female, not foreign nationals" were to be allowed to vote in an Act "in accordance with international practice".

On May 1, 1963 UNTEA transferred total administration of West New Guinea to the Republic of Indonesia. The capital Hollandia was renamed Kota Baru for the transfer to Indonesian administration and on 5th September 1963 West Irian (former Netherland New Guinea) was declared a "quarantine territory" with Foreign Minister Subandrio administrating visitor permits. Since the 1960s, consistent reports have filtered out of the territory of government suppression and terrorism, including murder, political assassination, imprisonment, torture, and aerial bombardments. The Indonesian government disbanded the New Guinea Council and forbade the use of the West Papua flag or the singing of the national anthem. There has been considerable resistance to Indonesian integration and occupation, both through civil disobedience (such as Morning Star flag raising ceremonies) and via the formation of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM, or Free Papua Movement) in 1965. The movement's military arm is the TPN, or Liberation Army of Free Papua. Amnesty International has estimated more than 100,000 Papuans have died as a result of government-sponsored violence against West Papuans, while others had previously specified much higher death tolls.

After General Suharto replaced Sukarno as President of Indonesia, Freeport Sulphur was the first foreign company awarded a mining license, a 30 year license to mine the Tembagapura region of Papua for gold and copper.

In 1969, General Sarwo Edhi Wibowo oversaw the Indonesian conduct of the widely criticized "Act of Free Choice". Prior to the vote, the Indonesian military rounded up and detained for one month a large group of Papuan tribal leaders. The Papuans were daily threatened with death at gunpoint if the entire group did not vote to continue Indonesian rule. Assembled troops and two Western observers acted as witnesses to the public vote; however, the Western observers left after witnessing the first two hundred (of 1,054) votes for integration. With the US embroiled in the Viet Nam War and concerns about the potential rise of Communism in Southeast Asia, the US and other Western powers turned a deaf ear to protests over the circumstances surrounding the vote. The process was deemed to have been an "Act of Free Choice" in accordance with the United Nations requirements, and Indonesia formally annexed the territory in August. Dissenters mockingly called it the "Act of No Choice".

In 1971, construction of the world's largest copper and gold mine (also the world's largest open cut mine) began. Under an Indonesian agreement signed in 1967 (two years before the "Act of Free Choice"), the US company Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. holds a 30-year exclusive mining license from the official opening of the mine by Suharto in (1973), extended in 1991 by another 30 years. After 1988 with the opening of the Grasberg mine it became the biggest gold mine and lowest extraction-price copper mine in the world. Locals made several violent attempts to dissuade the mine owners, including blowing up a pipeline that July, but order was quickly restored.

The 1990s saw Indonesia accelerate its Transmigration program, under which tens of thousands of Javanese and Sumatran migrants were resettled to Papua over a ten-year period. Prior to Indonesian rule, the Asian population was estimated at 16,600; while the Papuan population were a mix of Roman Catholics, Protestants and paganpeople following tribal religions. Critics suspect that the Transmigration program's purpose is to tip the balance of the province's population from the heavily Melanesian Papuans toward western Indonesians, thus further consolidating Indonesian control.

A separatist congress in 2000 again calling for independence resulted in a military crackdown on independence supporters. In 2001, a now-majority Islamic population was given limited autonomy. An August 2001, US State Department travel warning advised "all travel by US and other foreign government officials to Aceh, Papua and the Moluccas (provinces of North Maluku and Maluku) has been restricted by the Indonesian government".

During the Abdurrahman Wahid administration in 2000, Papua gained a "Special Autonomy" status, an attempted political compromise between separatists and the central government that has weak support within the Jakarta government. Despite lack of political will of politicians in Jakarta to proceed with real implementation of the Special Autonomy, which is stipulated by law, the region was divided into two provinces: the province of Papua and the province of Irian Jaya Barat, based on a Presidential Instruction in January 2001, soon after President Wahid was impeached by the Parliament and replaced by Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri. The division of the province has neither directly cancelled the Law of Special Autonomy of Papua nor engaged ongoing protest in the region. There was brief consideration of dividing the territory into thirds, but the plan was quickly abandoned.

In January 2006, 43 refugees in a traditional canoe landed on the coast of Australia with a banner stating the Indonesian military was carrying out a genocide in Papua. They were been transported to an Australian immigration detention facility on Christmas Island, 2600 km north-west of Perth, and 360 km south of the western head of Java. On March 23, 2006, the Australian government granted temporary protection visas to 42 of the 43 having determined all 43 were bonafide refugees. A day later Indonesia recalled its ambassador to Australia.

City/Town : Latitude: -4, Longitude: 136


Matches 1 to 2 of 2

   Last Name, Given Name(s)    Died    Person ID 
1 Schuur, Simon Cornelis  15 Sep 1971Irian Jaya, Indonesia I160271
2 Hoijer, Cornelia Jacoba  02 Apr 1956Irian Jaya, Indonesia I119037


Matches 1 to 1 of 1

   Last Name, Given Name(s)    Residence    Person ID 
1 Riem, Ruurd  01 May 1959Irian Jaya, Indonesia I530921

This site powered by The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding v. 13.1.2, written by Darrin Lythgoe © 2001-2022.

Maintained by Hans Weebers. | Data Protection Policy.