1) Administrative history ( WEST PAPUA ) 

Even after Indonesia’s independence in 1949, Irian Jaya was retained by the Dutch for various reasons. However, Indonesia claimed all of the territory of the former Dutch East Indies, including the Dutch New Guinea holdings, so it invaded Irian Jaya in 1961. It was agreed that the UN should oversee a plebiscite of the people of West Papua, in which they would be given two choices: to remain part of Indonesia or to become an independent nation. This vote was referred to as the ‘Act of Free Choice’.

However, instead of overseeing a free and fair election, little attempt was made by the UN to monitor how things were to play out in practice. Declaring that the Papuans were too ‘primitive’ to cope with democracy, the Indonesian military hand-picked 1,026 ‘representative’ Papuans – out of a population of one million – threatened to kill them and their families if they voted the wrong way, and then told them to choose. The result was ‘unanimous’: West Papua would remain part of Indonesia. Despite protests from the Papuans, a critical report by a UN official and condemnation of the vote in the international media the UN shamefully sanctioned the result and West Papua has remained under control of the Indonesian state ever since[3].

The result of the vote was understandably rejected by the Free Papua Movement (OPM). The independence movement for West Papua continues today and has in recent years been gaining considerable support internationally, with numerous campaign groups along with the International Parlimentarians for West Papua group. The majority of the protest against Indonesia by Papuans remains peaceful for fear of reprisal however the circumstances have given rise to an armed guerilla wing of the independence movement. See guerrilla warfare against Indonesia.[4]

Map of West Papua

West Papua was created from the western portion of Papua province in February 2003, initially under the name of Irian Jaya Barat; it was renamed Papua Barat (West Papua) on 7 February 2007.

In November 2004, an Indonesian court agreed that the split violated Papua’s autonomy laws. However, the court ruled that because the new province had already been created, it should remain separate from Papua. The ruling also prohibited the creation of another proposed province, Central Irian Jaya, as that division had not yet been formalised.

The split is inline with the general trend of provincial splits that is occurring in all parts of Indonesia in the post-Suharto era. The new province has so far been widely supported by the province’s inhabitants, as the new entity created more jobs and more government subsidies flowing into the province.[5]

The province changed its name to West Papua on 7 February 2007. The new name applies from that date, but a plenary session of the provincial legislative council is required to legalise the change of name, and the government needs to then issue a regulation.[6]


2) Demographics ( MALUKU ) South Maluku Republic RMS flag

Maluku’s population is about 2 million, less than 1% of Indonesia’s population.[4]

Over 130 languages were once spoken across the islands; however many have now mixed to form local pidgin dialects of Ternatean and Ambonese, the lingua franca of northern and southern Maluku respectively.[4]

A long history of trade and seafaring has resulted in a high degree of mixed blood ancestry in Malukans.[4]Austronesian peoples added to the native Melanesian population around 2000 BCE.[5] Melanesian features are strongest in the islands of Kei and Aru and amongst the interior people of Seram and Buru islands. Later added to this Austronesian-Melanesian mix were Indian, Arab, Chinese, Portuguese and Dutch genes. More recent arrivals include Bugis trader settlers from Sulawesi and Javanese transmigrants.[4]


3) NEW CALEDONIA : Politics

New Caledonia is a sui generis collectivity to which France has gradually transferred certain powers.[21] It is governed by a 54-member Territorial Congress, a legislative body composed of members of three provincial assemblies.[22] The French State is represented in the territory by a High Commissioner.[22] At a national level, New Caledonia is represented in the French Parliament by two deputies and two senators.[23] At the 2012 French presidential election the voter turnout in New Caledonia was 61.19%.[24]

For 25 years, the party system in New Caledonia was dominated by the anti-independence The Rally–UMP.[22]This dominance ended with the emergence of a new party, Avenir Ensemble, also opposed to independence but considered more open to dialogue with the Kanak movement,[22] which is part of FLNKS, a coalition of several pro-independence groups.[22]



Since 1986 the United Nations Committee on Decolonization has included New Caledonia on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.[28] An independence referendum was held the following year, but was rejected by a large majority.

Under the Noumea Accord, signed in 1998 following a period of secessionist unrest in the 1980s and approved in a referendum, New Caledonia is to hold a second referendum on independence between 2014 and 2018.[29]

The official name of the territory, Nouvelle-Calédonie, could be changed in the near future due to the accord, which stated that “a name, a flag, an anthem, a motto, and the design of banknotes will have to be sought by all parties together, to express the Kanak identity and the future shared by all parties.”[30] To date, however, there has been no consensus on a new name for the territory.[31]

New Caledonia has increasingly adopted its own symbols, choosing an anthem, a motto, and a new design for its banknotes.[32] In July 2010, New Caledonia adopted the Kanak flag, alongside the existing French tricolor, as the dual official flags of the territory.[33] The adoption made New Caledonia one of the few countries or territories in the world with two official national flags.[33] The decision to use two flags has been a constant battleground between the two sides and led the coalition government to collapse in February 2011.[29]

Ethnic groups

Communities, 2009

In 2009, 40.3% of the population reported belonging to the Kanak community, 29.2% to the European community and 8.7% to the community originating from Wallis and Futuna. The remaining identified communities represented 7.3% of the population, and included Tahitians (2.0%), Indonesians (1.6%), Vietnamese (1.0%), Ni-Vanuatu (0.9%) other Asian (0.8%) and other (1.0%). 8.3% belonged to multiple communities, 5% declared their community as “Caledonian”, 1.2% did not respond.[53]The question on community belonging, which had been left out of the 2004 census, was reintroduced in 2009 under a new formulation, different from the 1996 census, allowing multiple choices and the possibility to clarify the choice “other”.[53] Most of the people who self-identified as “Caledonian” are thought to be ethnically European.[54]

Kanak women.

The Kanak people, part of the Melanesian group, are indigenous to New Caledonia.[55] Their social organization is traditionally based around clans, which identify as either “land” or “sea” clans, depending on their original location and the occupation of their ancestors.[55] According to the 2009 census, the Kanak constitute 94% of the population in the Loyalty Islands Province, 74% in the North Province and 27% in the South Province.[55] The Kanak tend to be of lower socio-economic status than the Europeans and other settlers.[55]

Europeans first settled in New Caledonia when France established a penal colony on the archipelago.[55]Once the prisoners had completed their sentences, they were given land to settle.[55] According to the 2009 census, of the 71,721 Europeans in New Caledonia 32,354 were native-born, 33,551 were born in other parts of France, and 5,816 were born abroad.[51] The Europeans are divided into several groups: the Caldoches are usually defined as those born in New Caledonia who have ancestral ties that span back to the early French settlers.[56] They often settled in the rural areas of the western coast of Grande Terre, where many continue to run large cattle properties.[56]

Distinct from the Caldoches are those were born in New Caledonia from families that had settled more recently, and are called simply Caledonians.[56]The French-born migrants who come to New Caledonia are called métros, indicating their origins in metropolitan France.[56] There is also a community of about 2,000[56] pieds noirs, descended from European settlers in France’s former North African colonies;[57] some of them are prominent in anti-independence politics, including Pierre Maresca, a leader of the RPCR.[58]


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