Episode 75: Unpacking the Recent West Papua Protests


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In this episode, we discuss the recent protests that broke out in Manokwari and Jayapura over the recent arrest and detention of 43 West Papuan students in Surabaya over allegations of destroying and damaging the Indonesian flag. We want to unpack the historic tensions and conflicts that has led to this point. We begin with the historic tussle in the 1950’s and 60’s over West Papua between the Dutch and the new Republic of Indonesia that eventually led to a peace agreement called the New York Agreement in 1962. This agreement gave Indonesia West Papua, but also demanded a vote to be held that will ask the West Papuans to decide if they wanted to be a part of the new Republic. This referendum, known as the infamous “Act of Free Choice,” was held on August 2, 1969, and over 1,000 men and women selected by the Indonesian military unanimously voted to join Indonesia. Many politicians, journalists, and historians acknowledged that the referendum was unfairly executed and held under immense pressure from the Indonesian military, with threats of violence and repercussion forcing those chosen to vote in favor of Indonesia. To this day, various independence movements and NGOs have advocated for a new referendum that will allow West Papuans a truly fair and just vote, much to the displeasure of the Indonesian government. All of this contributes to the tension that underpin West Papua’s complicated relationship with Indonesia. While this story continues to break and develop, we want to urge our listeners and fellow Indonesians to address our own prejudices against West Papuans, especially since the initial incident was sparked by a hoax story circulated in social media. We have a lot of work to do to reconcile the historically unjust and unfair treatment of West Papuans in order to even begin considering a future solution, and it is our responsibility as Indonesians to ensure that the promises of our nation truly includes everyone from Sabang to Merauke.

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