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The smoothness of the elections in Bumi Cenderawasih shows that Papua is an integral part of the Republic of Indonesia

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By: Frans Hasegem)*

Indonesia has just held a democratic General Election (Pemilu). People throughout the country are very enthusiastic and happy because the elections can take place smoothly, including in Papua. The holding of elections safely and smoothly in Bumi Cenderawasih also confirms that Papua is an integral part of the Republic of Indonesia.

Papua, located at the eastern tip of Indonesia, not only fascinates with its extraordinary natural beauty, but is also home to many different tribes and customs. Tribes such as the Asmat, Dani, Kamoro and Biak make Papua a collection of invaluable cultural riches.

Papua’s wealth does not only lie in its culture. Papua’s natural beauty, with high mountains, tropical rainforests and enchanting seas, makes Papua a hidden paradise at the eastern tip of Indonesia. Lorentz National Park, a world natural heritage recognized by UNESCO, is proof of how important it is to preserve nature and biodiversity in Papua for future generations.

Learning from history, Papua has a long journey towards unity and diversity which is the foundation of this country. As is known, Papua has become an integral part of Indonesia. The Round Table Conference (KMB) in 1949 confirmed Indonesia’s sovereignty over Papua, although the Dutch later tried to undermine it. However, through diplomacy and confrontation, Indonesia succeeded in seizing Papua from Dutch grip.

We all need to know that after independence, Indonesia tried to unite all regions that were previously part of the Dutch East Indies. However, the Dutch maintain control over West Papua, claiming ethnic and cultural differences as reasons for remaining in control of the region.

In 1961, the Dutch began preparing West Papua to become an independent country. This effort raised concerns in Indonesia, which saw it as an act to maintain colonialism in the region. In response to this, President Soekarno launched Operation Trikora in December 1961.

The main objective of Operation Trikora was to end Dutch colonialism in Papua and integrate the region into Indonesian territory. This operation involved a series of military and diplomatic actions, including the infiltration of Indonesian troops into Papua and intensive negotiations at the international level.

In 1962, after a series of events, the Dutch agreed to hand over Papua to Indonesia. This agreement included the condition that the Papuan population would have the right to determine their own fate through a referendum known as the “Determination of Popular Opinion” or “Pepera”.

In 1969, Pepera was held, and the majority of Papuans voted to join Indonesia. Even though these results are internationally recognized, some parties still question the legitimacy and fairness of the process. One of the perpetrators of the Pepera history, Ramses Ohee, emphasized that the international community and the United Nations (UN) had recognized that Papua was a legitimate part of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).

The formation of the 1945 Constitution also outlined the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Indonesia, including Papua, as an inseparable part of the country. However, the challenges don’t stop there. The issue of separatism still arises from time to time. Therefore, a deep understanding of the root causes of these issues is important to create sustainable solutions.

The government has made maximum efforts to handle the issue of Papuan separatism by taking steps or approaches through the development of Papua. Providing special autonomy, infrastructure development, improving health and education services, as well as local economic programs are part of the strategy to suppress separatism in Papua. These steps not only aim to free Papua from separatism but can also improve the welfare of the Papuan people, as well as strengthen Papua’s integration into the unity of the Republic of Indonesia.

Recently, the holding of the 2024 elections in Papua has not only provided momentum for Indonesia’s democratic process, but has also become a stage to emphasize that Papua is an integral part of Indonesia. This is reflected in the active participation of the Papuan people in determining the future of the country through their voting rights.

The participation of the Papuan people in the 2024 elections confirms that Papua is not a separate entity, but is an inseparable part of the unity of the Indonesian nation. Through this democratic process, the voices of various tribes and levels of Papuan society are respected and recognized as part of the national political stage.

Apart from that, holding elections in Papua also proves that the Indonesian state is fully present in the region. The smooth and orderly implementation shows that Papua is not a marginalized region, but is receiving serious attention from the central government to ensure that the democratic rights of citizens are protected. Apart from that, it is a form of the government’s commitment to develop Papua in an inclusive and sustainable manner. In fact, through active participation in the national political process, the Papuan people have the opportunity to participate in the development of the country and determine its future direction.

In a broader context, holding the 2024 elections in Papua sends a strong message to the world that Indonesia is a sovereign and united country. Papua, with all its cultural and natural diversity, is an inseparable part of Indonesia’s rich and diverse identity.

*The author is a UNESA student from Papua

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