West Papua and Melanesia: Sovereignty in Racial Politic

West Papua has recently been in the eye of the world. Many interested parties and observers alike have been practicing and/or discussing about the issue of racial politics in West Papua. This issue has been raised as a base for West Papua separatism from Indonesia. The Melanesian heritage has been coined as the prominent reason of grouping West Papua in to the Melanesian countries, apart from Indonesia.

Racial politics is the practice of political actors exploiting the issue of race to forward an agenda. Moreover, the common definition of separatism is the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. While it often refers to full political secession, separatist groups may seek nothing more than greater autonomy. Separatist groups practice a form of identity politics, “political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups.” Such groups believe attempts at integration with dominant groups compromise their identity and ability to pursue greater self-determination. However, economic and political factors usually are critical in creating strong separatist movements as opposed to less ambitious identity movements.

In the matter of West Papua, there are parties who encouraged the West Papua separation from the Republic of Indonesia, based only from the factor of their Melanesian descent. This identity movement is further pushed to the agenda by some, and amplified. This is a sad way to see nationality.

Based on historical records, on October 1, 1962 the Dutch government in West Irian succeeded this territory to the United Nations (UN) through the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) until May 1, 1963. After that date, the Dutch flag was taken down and replaced by the Indonesian flag and the UN flag.

Furthermore, the United Nations devise an agreement known as the “New York Agreement” to provide opportunity to the people of West Irian polled by the Act of Free Choice in 1969 represented by 175 people as a representatives of the eight districts of the time. The results showed the people of West Irian agreed to unite with the Indonesian government.

This is further supported by new findings that most of the people in Indonesia have Melanesian ancestry. Moreover, most of the Melanesian race in the world are found in Indonesia, which is approximately 80% of the population.

West Papua
Ethnical diversity in Indonesia. kelanadmc.com

Indonesia is a pluralist country, and it cannot be identified based solely on race. As the third largest democratic pluralist country, Indonesia should not get entrapped inside the racial politics. It’s good to know that the PNG’s Foreign Minister, Rimbink Pato, on the other hand, carefully showed that PNG respects Indonesian sovereignty over Papua. Racial politics is the practice of political actors exploiting the issue of race to forward an agenda.


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