Upcoming event: Oxford Symposium on Justice and Self-determination in West Papua

Oxford Transitional Justice Research


Saturday, 6 February - 9am-6pm
Lecture Theatre, Social Science Building, Manor Road, University of Oxford

In 1969, after a history of rule by Dutch and Indonesian governments, West Papua was finally offered the right to exercise self-determination under the supervision of the United Nations. 1,026 hand-picked West Papuans, out of a population of some 700,000, were invited to vote – they chose in favour of Indonesian sovereignty. Dubbed the Act of Free Choice, this sham referendum is still not accepted by large parts of Papuan society and has to be enforced with vigour by the Indonesian administration up to the present day. The contested histories arising from the Act of Free Choice in Papua – in particular concerning Papua’s status as a part of Indonesia and Papuan claims to self-determination – are at the root of ongoing conflict and human rights abuse in Papua.

This full day symposium, hosted by Oxford Transitional Justice Research, the Institute of Netherlands History in The Hague and OneWorld Publishers, will look at the historical, political and transitional justice issues emerging from these events and their consequences for West Papua and the wider international community. The symposium will draw insights from law, politics, international relations, economics and history.

The symposium will also serve as the launch in the United Kingdom of the English translation of the publication by P.J. Drooglever on the decolonisation of West New Guinea, now under the title of: An Act of Free Choice; Decolonization and the right to self determination in West Papua (Oneworld Publications, Oxford 2009). This study, written upon the request of the Dutch parliament and initially published by the Institute of Netherlands History in The Hague, offers access to a wealth of information on the decolonization of the former Netherlands colony, which is highly relevant in considering the present position and future of the Indonesian province of Papua and its inhabitants.

The symposium will explore the following themes:
- Statements made by Papuans on their personal experiences and expectations, seen from the perspective of the final years of the Dutch period and the later decades of Indonesian administration.
- Recent developments within Papua society and the international context, including interactions between power politics and changes in international law and, in particular, legal provisions for the right to self-determination.
- The poor human conditions in West Papua, including human rights abuses and low economic development, followed by a discourse on the instruments available to improve or remedy this situation.
- Ongoing problems in the territory, a theme explored by two experts from Indonesia who will explore the issue of special autonomy, the importance of the interpretation of the past for the present and the possibilities for creating a better future in Papua.

To register to attend, please email your name and affiliation to Lionel Nichols (lionel.nichols@lincoln.ox.ac.uk)

9.00 – 9.30. Registration, coffee and tea
9.30 – 9.40. Opening Remarks (Phil Clark, Convenor of Oxford Transitional Justice Research)

Morning Session: Papuan History in Perspective (Chair: Anne Booth, Professor of Economics, SOAS)

9.40 – 10.00 The origins of Papua nationalism (Pieter Drooglever, Institute of Netherlands History)
10.00 – 10.20 The role of the United States in the New Guinea Dispute (Albert Kersten, University of Leiden)
10.20 – 10.40 The UN and the Act of Free Choice (John Saltford, author of The United Nations and the Indonesian Takeover of West Papua 1962-1969)
10.40 - 11.30 Discussion
11.30 – 13.00 Lunch

Afternoon Session: Papua Today – Rights, Justice and Autonomy

Papuan Rights and Aspirations (Chair: Viktor Kaisiepo, designated international representative of the Papua Customary Authority)
13.00 – 13.20 Melanesian Dreams (Jos Marey, former chairman of Papua Student Association)
13.20 – 13.40 Living for Independence (Benny Wenda, Papua leader in exile)

13.40 – 14.00 Considerations on the right to self-determination (Charles Foster, The Ethox Centre, Department of Public Health & Primary Health Care, University of Oxford)
14.00 – 14.20 Human Rights and Transitional Justice - Justice for Papuans?
(Jennifer Robinson, DPhil candidate in Law, University of Oxford)
14.20 – 15.00 Discussion
15.00 - 15.15 Tea break

Investigating Autonomy (Chair: Phil Clark)
15.15 – 15.45 Revisiting History and Special Autonomy for Papua (Agus Sumule, first advisor to the governor of Papua)
15.45 – 16.15 A Roadmap for West Papua? (Muridan Widjojo, member of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences)
16.15-16.55 Discussion
16.55 – 17.00 Closing Remarks (Kaveh Moussavi, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford)
17.00-18.00 Drinks and Papua music (Lani Singers)