Indonesia Table of Contents
A transmigration village guardpost, Irian Jaya. The sign reads "Entering traffic and visitors must check with the guard."
Irian Jaya, the former Dutch New Guinea or West New Guinea, remained under Dutch control after Indonesian independence in 1949. A combination of Indonesian political and military pressure and international efforts led to an October 1962 Dutch transfer of sovereignty to the United Nations (UN) Temporary Executive Authority, which was supported by a military observer force that oversaw the cease-fire. In May 1963, full administrative control was handed over to Indonesia. After a 1969 Act of Free Choice, the territory, which the Indonesians called Irian Barat (West Irian) until 1972, was integrated into the republic as Indonesia's twenty-sixth province. Rich in natural resources, Irian Jaya (Victorious Irian)--as the province was renamed in 1972--in 1992 was the largest and least-populated province. Indonesia's efforts to exploit the resources and assimilate the indigenous Papuan and Melanesian populations into the national administration and culture met sporadic armed resistance from the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and aroused international concerns.
Although the OPM became a marginal domestic actor, more visible as an international symbol, the fact of its existence justified an intimidating Indonesian military presence in the province, where suspicions about Irianese loyalties led to abuses in the civil-military relationship. Cultural differences between Indonesians and the indigenous population and complaints about the Javanization of Irian Jaya exacerbated tensions. The cultural conflict was aggravated by indigenous people's perceptions that they were being left behind economically by a flood of Indonesian immigrants coming in via the central government sponsored transmigration program (see Glossary; see Migration , ch. 2; Economic Benefits and the Transmigration Program , ch. 3). Native-born Irianese also resented the so-called spontaneous immigrants who dominated the informal sectors of urban economies. International critics of Indonesian policy in Irian Jaya accused the central government of waging a kind of demographic genocide.
Data as of November 1992