1962 – New York Agreement [NYA]
While the Papuans with the support of the Dutch, and conforming with UNGA resolutions 1514 (XV) and 1541 (XV) concerning Non-Self-Governing Territories, worked with confidence and enthusiasm toward the execution of self-determination, Indonesia pursued its claim to the territory. After several Indonesian armed incursions into West Papua, and increasing tension between the Netherlands and Indonesia, the United States pressed the two countries to the negotiating table.
This resulted in the signing of the so-called New York Agreement on August 15, 1962 (NYA) at the UN Headquarters. The General Assembly took note of the Agreement in resolution 1752 (XVII) and authorized the Secretary-General to carry out the tasks entrusted to him therein. The negotiations and the agreement were remarkable for the absence of any Papuan involvement. On 1 September 1962, only nine of the twenty-eight New Guinea Council members voted to endorse the New York Agreement. In a second vote, half the council walked out leaving the remaining fourteen to vote in favour by twelve to two.
The first step in the NYA was the establishment of a UN Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA), headed by a UN administrator. Under the jurisdiction of the Secretary-General, UNTEA would have full authority after 1 October 1962 to administer the territory of West Papua, to maintain law and order, to protect the rights of the inhabitants and to insure uninterrupted, normal services during a period of several months until, in turn, the administration of the territory was transferred to the Indonesian Government.
The most important part of the NYA was for the Papuans article XVIII which stated: “Indonesia will make arrangements, with the assistance and participation of the UN Representative and his staff, to give the people of the territory the opportunity to exercise freedom of choice. Such arrangements will include: […] d. The eligibility of all adults, male and female […] to participate in the act of self-determination to be carried out in accordance with international practice […]”. Article XX stated: “The act of self-determination will be completed before the end of 1969”.
The administration was transferred to Indonesia on 1 May 1963. From then on, the people in West Papua became victims of expectations, confusion, violence and oppression. Within days, Indonesian president Sukarno ordered the banning of all existing Papuan political parties and all unofficial political activity. Later that month (21 May, 1963), confidential Australian communication reported that the Dutch and UN Under Secretary General Narasimhan had agreed that a Papuan act of self-determination need not involve any direct voting on the issue by the Papuan population. Instead, some form of ‘representative’ assembly could decide on behalf of the people.
One year later, May 1964, UN Under Secretary-General Rolz-Bennett met Indonesian president Sukarno in Jakarta. He privately repeated Narasimhan’s view that the Papuan act of self-determination need not include any direct voting by the West Papua population on the issue. Again a year later, May 1965, Sukarno ruled out any act of self-determination for West Papua. He claimed that the Papuans did not want it. After sporadic revolts against the Indonesian presence, Papuans in the Birds Head region, founded the Operasi Papua Merdeka (OPM, Free Papua Movement) in 1965. More Papuan attacks followed throughout the territory.
On August 4, 1965, Indonesia launched Operation Sadar, the first Indonesian military counter-insurgency. In Indonesia meanwhile, an unsuccessful coup attempt took place (30 September 1965), after which Sukarno’s powers were decreased. Finally, in July 1966, he was replaced by president Suharto. In September 1966, during a visit to the UN in New York to arrange Indonesia’s re-entry to the organisation , Foreign Minister Malik announced that Jakarta would permit a Papuan act of self-determination.
In August 1968, Ortiz Sanz who was appointed UN Representative for West Irian (UNRWI) in April, arrived in West Papua. In November of that year he suggested a ‘mixed method’ for the Act of self-determination in a meeting with Sudjarwo Tjondronegoro, the main official point of contact for the UNRWI. Ortiz Sanz informed Sudjarwo that he could suggest no other process except “the democratic, orthodox and universally accepted method known as ‘one-man, one-vote”. However, having observed the “geographical and human realities” of the territory, he conceded that this method would only be appropriate in urban areas.
Other areas could rely on “collective consultations”. In January 1969, Ortiz Sanz was informed of Indonesia’s rejection of his ‘mixed method’ suggestion for the act. Indonesia intended to consult the nine Representative Councils of West Irian in order to obtain their approval for implementing the Act through the method recommended by Jakarta. These councils had been set up in 1963 after UNTEA’s departure and replaced the Regionally Councils originally established by the Dutch. Whereas the original councils had been partially, and in some cases wholly, elected by universal suffrage, the “Representative” Councils were effectively appointed by the Indonesian authorities.
Jakarta’s recommended method was for these existing councils to be enlarged to form eight regional ‘Assemblies’ (merging two of the nine councils). These would then each reach a collective decision on the questions posed in the final Act. In March-April 1969, eight regional councils met to consider the Indonesian proposals for the Act. Indonesian and UN reports say that the councils all accepted while emphasising that the Act would be unnecessary.
In contrast, a British journalist, Garth Alexander, claimed that at the council meeting he witnessed in Merauke most members called for a more democratic method for the Act. On April 11, Papuans staged a demonstration in front of Ortiz Sanz’s Jayapura residence calling for a referendum on self-determination. They were dispersed by Indonesian troops who arrested many demonstrators despite military assurances to Ortiz Sanz that they would take no action.
On April 19, 1969, Indonesia started the selection process for additional Assembly members for the Act, without any UN involvement. Ortiz Sanz requested that some fresh selections were held in areas where no UN officials had been present during the selections. In the end the UN witnessed six selections in which 195 of the 1022 representatives were selected who eventually took part in the Act. By early July, Indonesia isolated the representatives for the Act from the rest of the population. The Act of Free Choice began on July 14, 1969 with an unanimous vote by the Merauke Assembly to remain with Indonesia. The same unanimous results came from subsequent meetings of the Assemblies in Wamena, Nabire, Fakfak, Sorong, Manokwari, Biak and finally on August 2 in Jayapura.
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