History of Papua

I. Before 1828

The island of New Guinea was part of Sahul continent at least 40,000
years ago. After sea level rose at the end of Plesistocene glacial
period. The part of Sahul continent submerged, separating New Guinea
island with Australia. Papuans had occupied the area around the
equatorial zone ever since.

New Guinea Island was first sighted by Portuguese Antonio d’Abreu
abroad the Santa Caterina in the Fall of 1511. However, it is not
clear who visited the island first. It was either done by Portuguese
Jorge de Meneses in 1526 or Spaniard Alvaro de S. Ceron Saavedra in
1528. Jorge de Meneses was sailing from Goa to Ternate but take a
shelter at “Isla Versija” which might actually be “Warsia”, a place in
northwest coast or island of Waigeo. Alvaro de S. Ceron Saavedra
stayed at New Guinea for 30 days due to lack of wind to set sail. On
June 13, 1545 Spaniard Ynigo Ortiz de Retez sailed “San Juan” ship
from Tidore to Mexico. He landed on 3 islands, and eventually reached
the mouth of River Bei. He tought the land was similar to another
Spanish possession, “Guinea” on African continent, so he named the
island “New Guinea”. 100 years later “New Guniea” is discovered as
island, although in 1607, Spaniard Luiz Vaez de Torres remarked the
island, but it was not made available to cartographers.

Dutch East Indies Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC), a
large company supported by the government of Netherland sent an
expedition east from Bantam in search of natural resources. In 1642,
Abel Tasman, worked for VOC, explored the coasts of New Guinea. VOC
eventually had a little interest on New Guinea. VOC let Sultans of
Tidore to oversee New Guinea. They hoped that it could lessen piracy
and prevent Spain and England from entering the Spice Islands.

Several attempt had been made to colonize the New Guinea. It was first
done by John Hayes in 1793. all of it failed due to diseases and
hostility of Papuan people.On March 17, 1824, the British and Dutch
signed “Treaty of London” to divide the territories in southeast Asia.
The British claimed Malaya, Singapore, and North Borneo. The Dutch
claimed Sumatra, Java, Maluku, and Irian Jaya. It is thus became the
boundaries of the Republic of Indonesia.

2. 1828 – 1941

New Guinea was then being divided. The Dutch claimed the area west of
141 East Longitude. The first establishment was made in Merkusoord /
Fort Du Bus in 1828. It was abandoned in 1836. The Dutch eventually
build permanent administrative posts at Fakfak and Manokwari in 1898.
Germany annexed the northeast as Kaiser Wilhelmsland. The southeast
was claimed by England with the establishment of Port Moresby. Neither
empire built administrative post in New Guinea. The Dutch was the
first one to establish administrative post in Manokwari. The Dutch
kept its presence there until Japan invaded the region in 1941

3. 1941-1945

New Guinea dominates the Solomons and western sea lane to Australia.
That means, it is a strategic island for accessing Australia. However,
Japanese already occupied the island. The Allies had to eject the
Japanese from the island. 13,000 Japanese died here; 2,100 Australians
died and 3,500 were wounded; and 2,000 Americans died and 950 were
wounded. Japanese invaded the Dutch part of New Guinea from November
1941 to April 1942. The Allies went westward to the Bird’s head and
jump off to the Philippines.

4. 1945-1962

With the end of World War II, Indonesia declared independence from
Netherland. They gained full independence on December 27, 1949, and
attempted to claim West Papua. At that time, Netherland still retain
its colonial presence in West Papua. Series of negotiation took place
from 1950 to 1962 regarding the independence of West Papua. Party
involved includes Indonesia, Netherland, Australia and OPM (Organisasi
Papua Merdeka, Free Papua Movement). Indonesia claimed the region,
while Australia and Netherland formulated blueprint for West Papua’s
independence with OPM. Netherland even elected a West Papuan Council
(Nieuw Guinea Raad) and created national anthem, flag and set the
independence date for West Papua. This infuriated Indonesia, and they
sent military forces to West Papua. The war between Netherland (and
possibly Australia too) and Indonesia is inevitable.

5. 1962-1969

From October 1, 1962 to May 1, 1963, West Guinea (West Papua) was part
of UNTEA, United Nation Temporary Executive Authority. Around that
time, the Cold War between Soviet Union and the United States had
started. Soviet Union offered billion dollars arms deal to Indonesia,
and the United States counter that with comparable deal. The United
States pressured Netherland and Australia to cease involvement in West
Papua independence. The United States then offered West Papua to
Indonesia. All of this effort to ensure that Indonesia will not fall
to communism. On May 1, 1963, Indonesia took control of West Papua and
disbanded the West Papuan Council. Indonesia change the name of West
Papua to Irian Jaya

6. After 1969

On July 15 to August 2, 1969, Village council of Irian Jaya vote in
favor of joining Indonesia. It is then formally made a province on
September 1969. The name was changed back to West Papua on January 3,
2000 by Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid

Mindra Wamanata