NOTE: Yes, I know, it's a petition directed at statists, but in this case the UN is apparently acting against its own mandate, so I don't see it as particularly problematic that I as an anarchist should draw their attention to this - even though I also realise that freedom for Papuans will not ultimately come through organisations like the UN, this will at least raise a bit of pressure regarding the current Indonesian occupation.
To: United Nations Secretary General
To: Secretary General United Nations UN Plaza New York NY 10017, USA
Appalled by the ongoing suffering of the people of West Papua, we join a growing list of international parliamentarians and non-governmental organizations, and call on you as United Nations Secretary General to initiate a review of the UN's conduct in relation to the "Act of 'Free' Choice" in West Papua, 1968-69.
West Papua has entered its fifth decade of occupation by the Indonesian military.
Crimes against humanity have been and continue to be perpetrated against the West Papuan people. An estimated minimum of 100,000 West Papuans have died since Indonesia took over in 1963. There have been systematic violations of the human rights of West Papuans at the hands of the Indonesian regime, including extra-judicial killings, rape, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, violations of the rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, and denial of free access to NGOs, human rights groups, international observers and the media to freely carry out their work.
In 1969, instead of a proper independence referendum, 1,022 West Papuans were rounded up and forced to declare - unanimously and in public - their "wish" to integrate West Papua into the Republic of Indonesia, then ruled by the brutal dictator Suharto. The population at the time was estimated at some 800,000 people, so a fraction of one percent of the people took part.
The Act has been widely dismissed as a farce, yet no action has been taken to redress the injustice to date.
Former United Nations Under-Secretary General Chakravarthy Narasimhan, who handled the takeover, has since admitted that the process was a "whitewash":
"It was just a whitewash. The mood at the United Nations was to get rid of this problem as quickly as possible. Nobody gave a thought to the fact that there were a million people there who had their fundamental human rights trampled. How could anyone have seriously believed that all voters unanimously decided to join his [Suharto's] regime?. Unanimity like that is unknown in democracies."
The United Nations had certain responsibilities in relation to the Act, as specified in the New York Agreement, an international agreement signed at UN Headquarters by Indonesia and the Netherlands on August 15, 1962. However there is strong evidence that the UN failed to fulfill its obligations under the Agreement. A representative of the UK mission to the UN said in July 1969:
"Our strong impression is that the great majority of United Nations members want to see this question cleared out of the way with the minimum of fuss as soon as possible. the Secretariat, whose influence could be important, appear only too anxious to get shot of the problem as quickly and smoothly as possible."
In the years 1962-69, an estimated 30,000 West Papuans were killed and an atmosphere of fear and intimidation pervaded the country at the time of the Act.
Moreover, in the report of the Act by the then UN Secretary-General's Representative Ortiz Sanz, it was stated that "an act of free choice has taken place. in accordance with Indonesian practice". The New York Agreement referred to "in accordance with international practice". Evidence of what was considered international practice at the time can be found in UN General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV) of 1960. This Resolution states that the integration of one territory with another should result from the "freely expressed wishes of the Territory's peoples acting with full knowledge of the change in their status, their wishes having been expressed through informed and democratic processes impartially conducted and based on universal adult suffrage". This crucial discrepancy was not pointed out to the UN General Assembly, which voted to "take note" of the report of the Act.
Detailed substantiating documentation on the case for a review was presented to your office on 26 March 2002.
An outline briefing is available at
and more background detail is provided in "The United Nations and the Indonesian Takeover of West Papua, 1962-1969" by Dr. John Saltford.
De-classified US documents released in 2004 and edited by Brad Simpson available at
have further underlined the complicity. The US Embassy in Jakarta for example told the US State Department in a cable dated July 2, 1969 that "[private] political views of the UN team are. 95 per cent of the Irianese support the independence movement and that the Act of Free Choice is a mockery".
Former Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Sabam Siagian said in March 2004 that the Act of Free Choice in 1969 was never viewed as a truly democratic exercise.
In December 2004 a British foreign office minister admitted in parliament that the handpicked representatives were coerced into declaring for inclusion in Indonesia.
Given the overwhelming evidence, and appalled by the ongoing suffering of the people of West Papua, we therefore call on you as United Nations Secretary General to initiate a review of the UN's conduct in relation to the "Act of 'Free' Choice" in West Papua, 1968-69.