“Without Irian Jaya [Papua], Indonesia is not complete to become the national territory of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia.” In recalling this statement of President Sukarno, her father, Megawati Sukarnoputri gave voice to the essence of the nationalists’ conception of Papua’s place in Indonesia and its importance. Indonesia today confronts renewed Papuan demands for independence nearly three decades after Jakarta thought it had liberated the Papuans from the yoke of Dutch colonialism. Indonesia’s sovereignty in Papua has been contested for much of the period since Indonesia proclaimed its independence— challenged initially by the Netherlands and since 1961 by various groups within Papuan society. This study argues that even though Indonesia has been able to sustain its authority in Papua since its diplomatic victory over the Netherlands in 1962, this authority is fragile. The fragility of Jakarta’s authority and the lack of Papuan consent for Indonesian rule are both the cart and the horse of the reliance  on force to sustain central control. After examining the policies of special autonomy and the partition of Papua into three provinces, the authors pose the question: If Jakarta is determined to keep Papua part of the Indonesia nation—based on the consent of the Papuan people—what changes in the governance of Papua are necessary to bring this about?

About the Author
Dr. Richard Chauvel is Director of the Australia Asia Pacific Institute at Victoria University in
Melbourne,Australia. Dr. Ikrar Nusa Bhakti is Head of the Research Center for Political Studies
at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

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