Johan B. P. Maramis:






The Round Table Conference

After years of bloody revolutionary war and several failed  attempts to end the conflict the situation in West Irian noticeably deteriorated and endangered peace in the region. The international community pressured the Netherlands to seek a solution to the dispute. Both sides ultimately agreed to convene a Round Table Conference towards the end of 1949 in The Hague where Netherlands would agree to transfer  sovereignty of West Irian to the Republic of Indonesia.


It may be recalled that at the conclusion of the Conference it was not possible to reconcile the views of Indonesia and Netherlands on New Guinea which remained therefore in dispute and that within a year from the date of the transfer of sovereignty the political status would be determined through negotiations. The negotiations did take place but failed to produce satisfactory results. Negotiation  however continued beyond the stipulated one year period. By mid 1951 it became impossible to continue due to the persistent refusal of The Netherlands  to negotiate any further. Having exhausted bilateral negotiations Indonesia ultimately decided to seek a solution through multilateral channels notably the United Nations.


 United Nations involvement

The question of West Irian was not a new one for the General Assembly of the United Nations.  In 1954 at the request of Indonesia it was placed in the agenda of the ninth session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Indonesia had no option but to bring this matter before the General Assembly. After full consideration the First committee adopted, by more than two third majority, a draft resolution on this question and expressed the hope that the two parties would pursue their endeavours to find a solution. The General Assembly however failed to adopt said resolution.


Colombo Plan Powers meeting

 After the ninth session, the Prime Ministers of the five Colombo Plan Powers- India, Ceylon, Burma, Pakistan and Indonesia - met in Bogor Indonesia in December 1954 and supported the position of Indonesia while expressing their earnest hope that the Netherlands would reopen negotiations to implement their obligations under the solemn agreement concluded by them with Indonesia. Unfortunately The Netherlands turned a deaf ear to this earnest appeal while relations between the two parties deteriorated  considerably.


Asian-African conference

The Asian-African conference convened at Bandung in April 1955 also supported the position of Indonesia and urged the Netherlands to reopen

negotiations as soon as possible and expressed the earnest hope that the United Nations  would assist the parties concerned in finding a peaceful solution to the dispute. The Conference deemed it only appropriate to bring the question to the attention of the tenth session of the General Assembly. They were confident that the G.A. this time would not fail to make the necessary recommendations in the interest of peace and co-operation among nations. The tenth, eleventh and twelfth sessions of the General Assembly again failed to produce any results.


New York Agreement on West New Guinea

After having exhausted both bilateral and multilateral channels. Indonesia became frustrated and resorted to physical means to end the conflict. This action created a dangerous situation and could threaten peace and tranquillity  in the region which prompted UN Secretary General U Thant to seek ways to revitalize  bilateral negotiations with the help of the experienced  American Ambassador Elsworth Bunker. Negotiation took place in a  small city near Washington DC and after days of tough bargaining  in which Ambassador Bunker played a crucial role the meeting succeeded to produce an Agreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia concerning  West New Guinea.


The purpose of the Agreement was twofold.

First, the Agreement provided that, shortly after it came into force, the administration of West New Guinea (West Irian) would be transferred by the Netherlands to a United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) established by and under the authority of the UN Secretary General. This Authority, which was to be headed by an United Nations Administrator, Dr. Abdoh of Iran, would after 1 May 1963, transfer administration of West Irian to Indonesia. Secondly, the Agreement contained certain guarantees for the population of the territory, including detailed provisions regarding the exercise of the rights of self-determination under arrangements made by Indonesia with the advice, assistance and participation of the Secretary General, who would appoint an United Nations Representative for that purpose. The act of self-determination was to take place before the end of 1969.


The Agreement came into force upon the adoption by the General Assembly  of  resolution 1752 on 24 September 1962 (X VII). In that resolution the General Assembly took note of the Agreement, acknowledged the role conferred upon the Secretary General and authorized him to carry out the tasks entrusted to him in the Agreement.


Cease-fire arrangements.

In a related understanding of the main agreement, the two parties agreed to the cessation of hostilities and requested the Secretary General to provide the necessary assistance to make it effective.

The cease-fire came into force on 18 August 1961. The task of assisting in the implementation of this agreement was entrusted to Brigadier-General Indar Jit Rikhye, Military Advisor to the Secretary General. He was to be responsible to making arrangements for the arrival of the United Nations security force.  Six member states Brazil, Ceylon, India Ireland, Nigeria and Sweden agreed to provide  21 military observers to supervise the cease-fire arrangements. On 21 September Brigadier General Rikhye was able to report that all actions concerning the cessation of hostilities had been completed without incident.


The Netherlands transferred the administration of the territory to UNTEA, which was directly responsible for the administration of West Irian between 1 October 1962 and 1 May 1963. UNTEA transferred full administrative control of the territory to the Republic of Indonesia on 1 May 1963. With these transfers of administration the first part of the Agreement was implemented.


Cases of unrests

There were some cases of unrest and turmoil marked by sporadic armed clashes, increased border crossings  and anti Indonesia campaign instigated by the Free Papua Organization to disrupt the implementation of the act of free choice. The Government however took adequate measures to have the conduct of the act of free choice implemented as scheduled.


Maintenance of law and order

In response to the Secretary General’s request, the Government of Pakistan provided a force of some 1.500 men to serve as the United Nation Security Force (UNSF). The Government of Canada and the United States provided supporting aircraft and crews. Major General Said Uddin Khan of Pakistan was appointed by the Secretary General as Commander of UNSF. By the time UNTEA had assumed responsibility for the territory, all officers of Dutch nationality had left,  temporarily replaced by officers from the Philippines who in turn were later replaced by Indonesians. By the end of March 1963, the entire corps was officered by Indonesians. The withdrawal of The Netherlands’ naval and land forces was effected in stages. By 15 November 1962, this process had been completed without incident


Indonesia ceased co-operation with United Nations

In January 1965, however Indonesia withdrew its active participation in the United Nations and thus the future implementation of the second phase of the Agreement became an unworkable proposition. Only in the middle of 1966 Indonesia decided to restore its relations with the United Nations. On 27 April 1967 Foreign Minister Adam Malik in a press conference announced that Indonesia would honour the obligations stipulated in the New York Agreement. The Secretary General sent his representative, the Under-Secretary General for Special Political Affairs Mr. Rolz-Bennet  to Indonesia for the purpose of holding discussions with the Government concerning the implementation of the last phase of the New York Agreement. I was present during the discussion with Rolz- Bennet. He was a friendly and understanding man. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 1 August 1967 which reaffirmed Indonesia’s commitment as stated in the Agreement and  the act of Free Choice  would be implemented  before the 24th session of the G.A. in 1969 between the month of April and July 1969 and that one year before the act of self-determination the Secretary General would appoint a Representative as called for in the Agreement. His choice for this function was Ambassador Fernando Ortiz-Sanz, the Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the United Nations and his appointment would be effective April first, 1968. The Indonesian Government agreed to U Thant’s proposal and considered that the most convenient  time to commence his duties would be the middle of August 1968.


Meanwhile the Government appointed the Special Assistant to the Foreign Minister for West Irian  Affairs, Ambassador  Sudjarwo  Tjondronegoro,  as Mr. Ortis-Sanz counterpart. On August 12, ambassador Ortiz-Sanz accompanied by his wife  and staff members arrived in Jakarta.  I was in the welcoming party which received them.


Implementation of the Second phase of the Agreement

The role of the United Nations  in the second period was according to the agreement ‘to  advise, assist and participate in the arrangements which were the responsibility of Indonesia for the act of free choice” having in mind the interest and welfare of the people of the territory

The obligations of Indonesia were to make arrangements for the act of free choice which include consultations (musyawarah) with the representative councils on procedures and appropriate methods to be followed to ascertain the  freely expressed will of the  population; the determination of the actual date of the exercise of free choice and the formulation of questions in such a way as to permit the inhabitants to decide whether or not they wished to sever their ties with Indonesia. The Indonesian Government’s intension to consult the representative councils through musyawarah consisted of reaching a decision based on discussions, understanding and knowledge of the problem. It planned to carry out the act of free choice consecutively through eight consultative assemblies compromising some 1.925 representatives.


Sharing of costs

Also relevant to the implementation of the second part of the Agreement was the obligation of the two parties to reimburse all the costs incurred by the United Nations and to make  available suitable funds in advance for the discharge  of the Secretary General’s responsibilities. The parties agreed that they would share on an equal basis the costs of such reimbursements and advances.


Financial Assistance

The Asian Development Bank promised to give financial assistance as was also the case with The Netherlands which planned to contribute  US$ 10 milion each year for a period of three years. This fund was to be administered by the United Nations and was named Fund for West Irian (FUNDWI) Consultations with the local representative councils.


The consultations of the central government with the representative of the councils in West Irian on the method and procedures of the act of free choice carried out with the eight regency councils. The draft concept of the Government was the subject of these consultations and were completed on April 11, 1969. The councils accepted the Government proposal to implement the act of free choice in order to fulfil an international obligation. They also expressed agreement with the method proposed by the Government for carrying out the act of free choice, through consultations (musyawarah) with the consultative assemblies specifically established in each regency for the purpose. They accepted also the advise of Ortiz–Sanz to enlarge the membership of the assemblies and to include representatives of all sectors of the population elected by the people.


Mixed system

Considering the specific geographical, social and human realties, the method to be contemplated should be musjawarah with the consultative assembles and not the method of one man one vote in the urban areas  and collective consultation in less accessible areas in the interior as was suggested by Ortiz-Sanz. The Government considered the mixed method too complicated and not suitable for the conditions and situation of the territory.


Determination of the date and formulation of questions

The Government intended to carry out the act of free choice during the period 14  July to 5 August 1969. The main subject to be submitted and to be considered was: whether the people would like to remain with the Republic of Indonesia or not (which means severing tie with Indonesia).


Conduct and execution of the act of free choice

As planned the sessions of the consultative assembly for the act  of free choice started in Merauke regency on Monday July 14 1969 and ended in  Djajapura regency on Saturday August  2 1969.  By this time the act of free choice for the whole of West Irian was completed. Immediately after the conclusion of the act of free choice the Minister of Home Affairs issued a statement on August 2, 1969 that the act of free choice was completed in good order and the result unanimously adopted as the wishes of the entire people of West Irian to remain united with the Republic of Indonesia and rejected separation from the territory of the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia. The Foreign Minister Adam Malik on the same day confirmed the Minister of Home Affairs statement.


Closing Remarks

In his report to the Secretary, Ortiz–Sanz in his closing remarks expressed his reservation regarding the implementation-of article XXII of the agreement relating to “the rights, including the right of free speech, freedom of movement and of assembly of the inhabitants of the area”. He stated that this important provision was not fully implemented and that the Administration exercised at all times a tight political control over the population. Nevertheless he further observed that on the basis of the facts presented in his report and the documents referred to, he stated that with the limitation imposed by the geographical characteristics of the territory and the general political situation in the area, the act of free choice had taken place on West Irian in accordance with Indonesian practice, in which the representatives of the population  expressed their wish to remain with Indonesia.


The debate in the General Assembly

An additional items was included in the General Assembly which was proposed by the Secretary General regarding the agreement of Indonesia and The Netherlands  which included his report on the implementation of the agreement coupled with a draft resolution sponsored by Belgium, Indonesia, Luxembourg, Malaysia,  Netherlands and Thailand. The debate of the Secretary General’s report on the implementation of the act of free choice evoked criticism from some African countries led by Ghana and Dahomey. They argued that the method of musjawrah was a gross violation of the internationally accepted methods like referendum and plebescite. They requested that the question of West Irian would continuously remain in the General Assembly and requested also to give the people of West Irian another chance in 1975 to exercise  the act of self-determination.


I was present during the debate and shocked to hear phrases like “disguised annexation” and “Indonesia is a colonial power” used by several African delegates. The Indonesian delegation, including myself, had therefore to lobby hard to gain more support to reject the amendments proposed by those African delegates. Those amendments were rejected by roll call voting with 60 against 15 in favour and 39 abstentions.


The final outcome

The resolution without amendment was accepted by roll call voting, with 89 in favour, none against and 14 abstentions. This United Nations vote finally put to an end the question and drama of West Irian.





Posted:  28 April 2002      Admin: rudyct