Australian Involvement in So-Called ‘Act of Free Choice’
The Australia West Papua Association (Sydney) calls on the Australian Government to follow the Dutch governments example
and commission a study into our own involvement in the so called ‘act of free choice” in West Papua.
AWPA congratulates the author Pieter Drooglever on the release of his report "An Act of Free Choice', commissioned by
the Dutch government which concludes that the so called ‘act of free choice’ was a sham.
This is exactly what the West Papuan People have been telling the international community for years. The West Papuan
People refer to this 'act' as the 'act of no free choice". (Only 1,022 hand-picked voters - one representative for
approximately every 800 West Papuans - were allowed to vote, and under coercion, voted to remain with Indonesia)
Joe Collins of AWPA said “the Australian Government should follow the Dutch governments example and commission a study
into our own involvement in this so called ‘act of free choice”.
One example of Australia’s involvement: In the then Australian administered colony of PNG, Australian officials removed
two West Papuan leaders, Clemens Runawery and Willem Zonggonao, from a plane (just weeks before the UN supervised vote)
at the request of Indonesia. They were on their way to New York to lobby the UN on behalf of the West Papuan people and
were carrying testimonies from many West Papuan leaders calling for independence.
Joe Collins said one way the Australian Government could make up for its past mistakes in relation to West Papua, is by
using its influence with the Indonesian Government to help facilitate talks between the Indonesian government and the
West Papuan leadership to help solve the many issues of concern in the territory.
Its also time that the UN itself looked into its own handling of the “act’ which is what the international solidarity
movement for West Papua is calling for. As one UN official, a retired Undersecretary General, Chakravarthy Narasimhan
(who handled the takeover) said rcently,
Nobody gave a thought to the fact that there were a million people who had their fundamental human rights trampled …’
‘It was just a whitewash. The mood at the United Nations was to get rid of this problem as quickly as possible.’
In the 1880s the island was partitioned by three Western powers. The Dutch claimed the western half, while the Germans
and British divided the eastern half into German New Guinea in the north and British Papua in the south. Eventually the
Eastern half became the independent nation of Papua New Guinea in 1975. The Republic of Indonesia was created in 1949
when the Indonesian people won their struggle for independence against their former colonial masters, the Dutch.
West New Guinea, due to its distinct Melanesian population, was retained as a colony by the Dutch and during the 1950’s,
the Dutch government prepared the territory for independence. President Sukarno however, consistently maintained
Indonesia’s claim to all the former territory of the Dutch, and when his demands were not met, armed conflict ensued in
Under pressure from the United States to come to terms with Indonesia, the Dutch agreed to secret negotiations and in
August 1962, an agreement was concluded in New York between the Netherlands and Indonesia. Under this agreement, the
Dutch were to leave West New Guinea and transfer sovereignty to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority
After seven months the United Nations (UN) transferred power to Indonesia with the provision that a referendum be held
to determine Papuan preference for independence, or integration with Indonesia.
The 1969 ‘Act of Free Choice’
From the moment Indonesia took over the administration from UNTEA, the oppression of the West Papuan people began. A
sham referendum called the ‘Act of Free Choice’ was held in 1969, under UN supervision. Only 1,022 hand-picked voters -
one representative for every 800 West Papuans - were allowed vote, and under coercion, voted to remain with Indonesia.
Nor were there any women representatives in this referendum. The West Papuans call this the ‘act of no choice.’
The UN representative sent to observe the election process, produced a report which raised concerns about serious
violations of the New York Agreement and, in spite of this ‘duly noted’ report, West Papua was handed over to Indonesia
in November 1969.
The West Papuan People have been asking for their right to a true act of self- determination ever since.