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Papua vote to join Indonesia 'a sham' reports Dutch study

Indonesian coverage

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

JAKARTA - A key 1969 vote on the future of the former Dutch colony Papua was a ’sham’ orchestrated by Jakarta, a Dutch government-commissioned study has found. That vote, which officially made the territory part of Indonesia, has been followed by decades of abuse at the hands of the Indonesian military.

The 740-page book, "An Act of Free Choice," culminates five years of research by Dutch author Pieter Drooglever. He studied the matter at the request of the Dutch government, which ruled Indonesia and New Guinea for centuries.

When the Netherlands relinquished the Dutch East Indies after World War II, West New Guinea was not included in the agreement with Indonesia. Only in 1962 did the Netherlands agree to place West New Guinea under UN rule, after strong international pressure.

Having been promised a popular vote on its sovereignty, West New Guinea was placed under Indonesian control six months later. In 1969, its status as an Indonesian province was set when, Drooglever concluded, the Indonesian government rigged a vote by 1,022 inhabitants on behalf of the population of around 700,000.

UN observers were turned away from the voting site, the result of which was declared to be 100 percent in favor of joining Indonesia.

General strike

"The Act of Free Choice ended up as a sham," Drooglever wrote in the summary of the book. "A press-ganged electorate acting under a great deal of pressure appeared to have unanimously declared itself in favor of Indonesia."

Moves to question the legitimacy of the 1969 vote have also been rife in Papua. Some Papuan groups promised a general strike to force the central government to heed demands for a review of the referendum and dissolution of the newly established Papua People's Council.

The date for the strike coincides with the December 1 anniversary of the Free Papua Movement, which has waged a low-level armed struggle for independence against the central government. "The Indonesian government has given us nothing but impoverishment," according to the West Papuan People's Struggle (PEPERA PB) Front at a Jakarta press conference. The groups also plan to hold rallies.