Netherlands New Guinea

Netherlands New Guinea
Nederlands Nieuw-Guinea
Dutch colony

Flag Coat of Arms
Setia, Djudjur, Mesra  (Indonesian)
"Loyal, Honest, Affectionate"
"William" (Official)

Hai Tanahku Papua
"Oh My Land Papua" (Proposed)

Netherlands New Guinea
Capital Hollandia
Language(s) Dutch, various Papuan and Austronesian languages
Religion Christianity, Animism
Political structure Colony
Historical era Cold War

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 - Established December 27, 1949
 - Disestablished October 1, 1962
Area 420,540 km2 (162,371 sq mi)
Currency Netherlands New Guinean gulden
Steamboat connections in Netherlands New Guinea in 1915.

Netherlands New Guinea (Dutch: Nederlands Nieuw-Guinea) refers to the West Papua region while it was an overseas territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1949 to 1962. Until 1949 it was a part of the Netherlands Indies. It was commonly known as Dutch New Guinea. It is currently Indonesia's two easternmost provinces, Papua and West Papua (administered as one single unit prior to 2003 under the name Irian Jaya).

The Netherlands retained New Guinea when Indonesia became independent in 1949. The arguments of the Dutch government for this changed repeatedly over time. At any rate the Dutch policy with regard to New Guinea was strongly influenced by the Dutch position towards Indonesia. On the one hand the Netherlands wanted to use New Guinea as a Dutch sphere of influence in the region. On the other hand by developing New Guinea and emancipating the Papuan population the Netherlands wanted to vindicate itself as a responsible colonial power.

Indonesia claimed New Guinea as part of its territory. The dispute over New Guinea was an important factor in the quick decline in bilateral relations between the Netherlands and Indonesia after Indonesian independence. Starting in 1962, under pressure from the international community and under threat of armed conflict with Indonesia, the Netherlands relinquished control and a series of events led to the eventual official annexation of New Guinea in 1969 to Indonesia.


New Guinea until WW II

Until after the Second World War the western part of the island of New Guinea was part of the Dutch colony of the Netherlands Indies. The Netherlands claimed sovereignty over New Guinea within the Netherlands Indies through its protection over Tidore, a sultanate on a Moluccan island west of Halmahera. In a 1660 treaty the Dutch East India Company (VOC) recognised Tidore's supremacy over the Papuans, the inhabitants of New Guinea. Probably this referred to some Papuan islands near the Moluccas, although Tidore never exercised actual control over New Guinea. In 1872 Tidore recognised Dutch sovereignty and granted permission to the Kingdom of the Netherlands to establish administration in its territories whenever the Netherlands Indies authorities would want to do so. This allowed the Netherlands to legitimise a claim to the New Guinea area.

The Dutch established the 141st meridian as the eastern frontier of the territory. In 1898 the Netherlands Indies government decided to establish administrative posts in Fakfak and Manokwari, followed by Merauke in 1902. The main reason for this was the expansion of British and German control in the east. The Dutch wanted to make sure the United Kingdom and Germany would not move the border to the west. This resulted in the partition of the island of New Guinea.

In reality the most part of New Guinea remained outside of colonial influence. Little was known about the interior; large areas on the map were white and the number of inhabitants of the island was unknown, although the so-called Carstensz Expedition was undertaken in 1936. The indigenous inhabitants of New Guinea were Papuans, living in tribes. They were hunter-gatherers.

Pre-war economic activity was limited. Only coastal and island dwellers traded to some extent, mostly with the Moluccan islands. A development company was founded in 1938 to change this situation, but it was not very active. So, until WWII, New Guinea was a disregarded and unimportant territory within the Netherlands Indies.

Homeland for the Eurasians

The group that was most interested in New Guinea before the war were the Eurasians or Indo people. Before the war some 150.000 to 200.000 Eurasians were living in the Netherlands Indies. They were of mixed European and Indonesian descent and identified with the Netherlands and the Dutch way of life. In the colonial society of the Netherlands Indies they held a higher social status than indigenous Indonesians ("inlanders"). They were mostly employed as office workers. As the educational level of indigenous Indonesians was on the rise, more and more Indonesians got jobs previously held by Eurasians. These had no other means of making a living, because, as Europeans, they were forbidden to buy land on Java. This situation caused mental and economic problems to the Eurasians. In 1923 the first plan to designate New Guinea as a settlement territory for Eurasians was devised. In 1926 a separate Vereniging tot Kolonisatie van Nieuw-Guinea (Association for the Settlement of New Guinea) was founded. In 1930 it was followed by the Stichting Immigratie Kolonisatie Nieuw-Guinea (Foundation Immigration and Settlement New Guinea). These organisations regarded New Guinea as an untouched, almost empty land that could serve as a homeland to sidelined Eurasians. A kind of tropical Holland, where Eurasians, many of whom never visited the Netherlands, could create an existence.

These associations succeeded in sending settlers to New Guinea and lobbied successfully for the establishment of a government agency to subsidise these initiatives (in 1938). However, most settlements ended in failure because of the harsh climate and natural conditions, and because of the fact the settlers, previously office workers, were not skilled in agriculture. The number of settlers remained small. In the Netherlands proper some organisations existed that promoted a kind of "tropical Holland" in New Guinea, but they were rather marginal. They were linked to the NSB party and other fascist organisations.

Origin of the dispute over New Guinea

In 1942 most part of the Netherlands Indies were occupied by Japan.[1] Behind Japanese lines in New Guinea, Dutch guerrilla fighters resisted under Mauritz Christiaan Kokkelink.[2] During the occupation the Indonesian nationalist movement went through a rapid development. After Japan's surrender, Soekarno declared the Republik Indonesia, which was to encompass the whole of the Netherlands Indies. The Dutch authorities returned after several months under the leadership of Lieutenant-Governor-General Hubertus van Mook. Van Mook decided to reform Indonesia on a federal basis. This was not a completely new idea, but it was contrary to the administrative practice in the Netherlands Indies until then and contrary to the ideas of the nationalists, who wanted a centralist Indonesia.

Linggadjati agreement

Van Mook's plan was to divide Indonesia in several federal states, negaras, with possible autonomous areas, daerahs. The whole would be called the United States of Indonesia and would remain linked to the Netherlands in the Netherlands-Indonesian Union. The Indonesian side agreed to this plan during the Linggadjati conference in November 1946. Van Mook thought a federal structure would safeguard Indonesia's cultural and ethnic diversity. Van Mook and his supporters referred to the right of self-determination in this respect: the different ethnic communities of Indonesia should have the right to govern themselves. The ethnic diversity of Indonesia was previously discussed at two conferences in Malino and Pangkalpinang.

During these two conferences New Guinea was discussed for the first time. During the Malino conference a Papuan participant declared New-Guinea should become a part of the state of East Indonesia. During the Pangkalpinang conference the right of self-determination of the Eurasian, Chinese and Arab ethnic minorities was discussed. The new Grooter Nederland-Actie (Extended Netherlands Action) send delegates to this conference, who noted Eurasians should be able to retain their culture and position; some Eurasians mentioned New Guinea as a possible homeland for Eurasians. Furthermore this conference stipulated specific territories could have special relations with the Kingdom of the Netherlands if they wanted to. However, the conference did not consider the indigenous Papuan population capable of exercising its right of self-determination.

The unilateral amendment of 'Linggadjati'

To many Dutchmen, the idea of parting with Indonesia was shocking. Many Dutch thought their country had a mission to develop Indonesia. The Indonesian wish for independence to many Dutch came as a complete surprise. Because Indonesian nationalists under Soekarno cooperated with the Japanese, they were branded as traitors and collaborators. Almost every Dutch political party was against Indonesian independence. The Protestant Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP) were very supportive of the Dutch Ethical Policy in Indonesia. The newly established liberal VVD party campaigned for a hard-line policy against the nationalists. Even the Dutch Labour Party, which supported Indonesian independence in principle, was hesitant, because of the policies of Soekarno.

Minister of Colonies Jan Anne Jonkman defended the Linggadjati Agreement in Parliament in 1946 by stating that the government wished for New Guinea to remain under Dutch sovereignty, arguing it could be a settlement for Eurasians. Probably he thought up this argument himself. A motion entered by the Catholic KVP and the Labour Party, which was accepted by parliament, stated that the declaration of Jonkman in parliament should become a part of the Linggadjati agreement. Duly accepted, the Netherlands thus unilaterally 'amended' the Linggadjati agreement to the effect that New Guinea would remain Dutch. Labour parliamentary group leader Marinus van der Goes van Naters said afterwards the Labour party entered the motion with the KVP because it feared the Catholics otherwise might reject the Linggadjati agreements.

The Indonesians did not accept this unilateral amendment. In order not to jeopardise the scheduled transfer of sovereignty, the Indonesian vice-president Mohammad Hatta offered to maintain Dutch sovereignty over New Guinea for one year and reopen the negotiations afterwards.


Thus in 1949, when the rest of the Dutch East Indies became fully independent as Indonesia, the Dutch retained sovereignty over western New Guinea, and took steps to prepare it for independence as a separate country. Some five thousand teachers were flown there. The Dutch put an emphasis upon political, business, and civic skills. The first local naval cadets graduated in 1955 and the first army brigade become operational in 1956.

Elections were held across Dutch New Guinea in 1959 and an elected New Guinea Council officially took office on 5 April 1961, to prepare for full independence by the end of that decade. The Dutch endorsed the council’s selection of a new national anthem and the Morning Star as the new national flag on 1 December 1961.

Indonesia attempted to invade the region on 18 December 1961. Following some skirmishes between Indonesian and Dutch forces, an agreement was reached and the territory was placed under United Nations administration in October 1962. It was subsequently transferred to Indonesia in May 1963. The territory was formally annexed by Indonesia in 1969 after the Indonesian Government conducted an event termed the Act of Free Choice, which under strong pressure from the Indonesian military, unanimously "approved" the annexation. This Act of Free Choice has been strongly criticised by the international community, including the group International Parliamentarians for West Papua, which has termed the act "the act of no choice". Since then the Indonesian government has endorsed a policy of immigration by people from Java and other islands. The indigenous population has been subjected to a policy styled by some[who?] as "slow genocide".[citation needed]


  1. ^ Klemen, L (1999-2000). "The Fall of Dutch New Guinea, April 1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942. 
  2. ^ Womack, Tom (1999). "The capture of Manokwari, April 1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942. 


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See also

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