World powers turn blind eye to indigenous rights
ON December 1 1961, Dutch troops lowered the Netherlands flag for the last time over its New Guinea territories.
As the flag descended from poles across the territory, a new standard rose in its place – the Morning Star of the independent nation of West Papua.
That independence would be short-lived, however, as a resource-hungry and recently independent Republic of Indonesia vied to take hold of every possession of the departing Dutch.
Aided and abetted by the United States and Australia, Indonesia would annex West Papua in 1962 with the world feigning ignorance of the blatant rape of democracy.
The Netherlands took possession of what it named the Dutch East Indies – what is now Indonesia and the western portion of the island of New Guinea – in 1660 and held the territory through two world wars.
But an independence struggle led by General Sukarno saw the Dutch agree to relinquish control of all its possessions excluding Dutch New Guinea.
Instead it agreed to grant independence to the ethnic Melanesians who lived in Dutch New Guinea separately from its deal with Sukarno. This was supported by Australia who controlled Papua and New Guinea to the east.
In January 1961 after territorial elections, the Dutch governor swore in the New Guinea Council comprising 28 members and the council’s inauguration on April 1 of the same year was attended by Australia, Britain, France the Netherlands, New Zealand and other Pacific Forum nations.
The Council appointed a committee to draft a manifesto showing their desire for independence, design a flag and compose an anthem.
On October 31 the first Morning Star flag was presented to the Dutch governor and West Papua was allowed to use this, the anthem and coat of arms.
The official raising of the flag took place on December 1 1961 and Indonesia invaded the territory one month later.
Papuan fighters – trained by the Dutch to provide internal security for the new nation – captured 296 of the 1429 invading paratroopers and handed them over to their colonial rulers. A further 216 of the invading force were killed or never found.
The Dutch feared heavy casualties would eventuate from a protracted jungle conflict and sought the help of the United States as a mediator to prevent a drawn out war with Indonesia.
President John Kennedy – fully aware of the Dutch desire that the Papuans retain independence – decided that it would be best for the US to make Indonesia an ally.
The world’s newest independent state at that point became a pawn to be sacrificed for the geo-political needs of the US.
Of course, the “threat” of communism was invoked as justification for the US agreeing to allow Indonesia control of the territory and to oversee an act of self determination which would eventually be doctored while the United Nations looked on in silence.
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