Finding West Papua in the Melanesian Map

When we are talking about the West Papua today, some peoples often linked it with Melanesia. This is partly because West Papua itself is identified in to the Melanesian ethno-group. However, a big part is contributed from the recent buzz from parties with interests who support the “Free West Papua” movement. The West Papuans’ ethnic linkage has been used as a strong reason for separating West Papua from the Republic of Indonesia. This is not only leading to race politic, but also embedded with many questionable facts.

Melanesia is a sub-region of Oceania. Melanesia begins with New Guinea in the Northwest, and continues up to the Southeast through Solomon Island (Vanuatu), New Caledonia, and Fiji, which includes numerous small islands. The Andesite Line separates Melanesia from Polynesia in the East and from Micronesia in the North, along the Equator in the South.

The Melanesian indigenous people themselves are the ethno-geographic group of the Pacific Islands. The name Melanesia itself derived from the Grecian word of melas, which means black and nesoi which means islands. This suggests that the people have the same physical characteristics of having dark skin.

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Melanesia mother and her baby. via


Identifying a group of people based on their ethnicity or race is not only very difficult, but can also easily produce results loaded with errors. The term Melanesia itself has evolved from the early days when the Europeans explored the Pacific. They noted the physical differences among groups of Pacific Islanders of being black skinned. The concept of Melanesia then evolved and blurred because of the difficulty of delineation and definition of the region.

In 1998 Paul Sillitoe wrote of Melanesia: “It is not easy to define precisely, on geographical, cultural, biological, or any other grounds, where Melanesia ends and the neighboring regions… begins.”

The Republic of Indonesia is a pluralistic country with many sub-ethnic groups and hundreds of language. Coining Indonesia as a country with a specific ethnicity would not only be difficult but also impossible. West Papua is a part of the Republic of Indonesia and shall enrich its multi ethnicity and cultures.

Indonesia is a pluralist country, and it cannot enter the organization based solely on race. As the third largest democratic pluralist country, Indonesia should not get entrapped inside the racial politics. These kinds of specific foreign policy can be sued to the Constitutional Court (MK) as unconstitutional. National Law wise, it violates Article 2 on the Law of Foreign Relations and precepts number 3 of Pancasila.

Seeing West Papua as a separate entity only by ethnic identity is not only inaccurate but also an act of separatism. In any way, it is condemned by international law by any sovereign country. West Papua is a part of the Republic of Indonesia and shall enrich its multi ethnicity and cultures. It is Indonesia in every sense of the way.



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