Hatta indeed Fought for Indonesian Sovereignty over Papua

(Photo Credit: NovoIndonesia.com)

Rudi Kurniawan Dahlan — December 2020

In Indonesian eyes continued Dutch occupation of West Irian is both a remnant of colonialism and an illegal seizure of a portion of Indonesian territory. — Hatta, 1958

In my other article titled Hatta Not Refusing Papua, I have mentioned Hatta’s point of view in seeing Indonesia’s position under Japan when trying to incorporate Papua, then still controlled by the Dutch. Hatta did not agree with Papua’s incorporation yet because he emphasized the smoothness of international recognition in seeing Indonesia’s independence without any territorial problems.

This article will show how Hatta’s attitude changed in seeing Papua as a legal, post-colonial part of Indonesia. When the struggle for recognition of independence was obtained from the Netherlands, Hatta tried to fight for the legitimacy of Indonesia over Papua in the international world. It was Hatta’s struggle against Dutch efforts to continue to survive in Papua after the Round Table Conference or well-known as the KMB agreement.

As we know, sometime after Indonesia’s independence proclamation, we fell back under the grip of the Dutch when Japan surrendered to the Allies. The proclamation of independence in August 1945 was not recognized by the Dutch and their allies. The spirit to fight for the independence of the entire archipelago which was currently controlled by the Dutch emerged. And Papua was part of the whole struggle.

So it was not surprising then that at the KMB conference in 1949, when Hatta led the Indonesian delegation, Papua became one of the agendas that were most seriously fought for.

Papua, which was then mostly known as Irian, as well as Halmahera, Morotai, and Tarakan, had never been fully controlled by the Japanese. It was the main reason why Hatta refused to include Papua into Indonesia, especially during the BPUPKI session around May-July 1945.

After the war, now Papua became an integral part of the whole Dutch East Indies to be fought for entirely together with other regions before the Dutch authorities. In this context, the fight for ending colonialism of the Dutch in all Dutch East Indies territory was undertaken based on the law of uti possidetis juris regarding the boundaries of the former colonial territory and the historical relationships of social and cultural interactions between the areas within. The law was and has been internationally applied and recognized to this day.

To this end, it is appropriate and legally robust for Indonesia to claim and fight for all territory of Indonesia during the KMB conference. Papua then became a crucial agenda to fight for.


If anyone doubts Hatta’s commitment to Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Papua region after the KMB, then they should refer to Hatta’s own writing. A substantial excerpt of the essay presents at the beginning of this article.

So, In Foreign Affairs published in April 1958 by the Council on Foreign Affairs, Hatta emphasized the claim of Papua as part of the Indonesian territory that must be fought for. As we all know, in those years Papua was still controlled by the Dutch until 1962.

In his argument, Hatta criticized the US and other Western countries for not supporting Indonesia’s demand for Papua at the UN forum. Hatta thought they were more siding with his small European ally, namely the Netherlands. For Hatta, the Papua problem is a national claim from the Indonesian people that could not t be ignored.

“This is a national claim by the Republic of Indonesia which cannot be ignored… The claim to West Irian is a national claim backed by every Indonesian party without exception…. The West Irian question thus represents a tragedy,” Hatta wrote it.

Hatta also said that the Dutch occupation of Papua was an illegal occupation of the territory that was part of Indonesia. Hatta noted, in the Linggardjati agreement in 1947, as a term, Indonesia was referred to the entire region of the territory previously controlled by the Netherland or Dutch East Indies.

According to Hatta, the Dutch unilaterally separated this part of Papua from the agreement. Hatta wrote, “Meanwhile the Netherlands unilaterally incorporated West Irian within its territory through its constitution. This unilateral action of the Netherlands Government did not in any way affect Indonesia’s claim based upon the Linggadjati Agreement.”

This arbitrary action was without doubt due to a small group of colonial-minded Dutch people who wanted to keep and remember the golden age of their colonialism. This unilateral decision was what then encouraged the Dutch to continue to maintain their stubborn stance not to let Papua go during the KMB.

Hatta regretted that at the KMB negotiations, no complete agreement was reached on the transfer of sovereignty and the Papua problem continued. Hatta also expressed his disappointment because instead of settling Papua within one year at the negotiating table, the Dutch had instead included Papua as their territory in their country’s constitution.

The UN, as the mediator was considered unable to provide a solution at that time so that the Papua problem continued between Indonesia and the Netherlands.


Hatta also rejected the fear of many that if Papua became part of Indonesia, the next step would be to claim Papua New Guinea as well. Hatta rejected this imperialistic view.

For Hatta, this accusation has no basis. According to him, the Indonesian nation does not have the same national feeling or historical relationship with the Papua New Guinea region. So, any claims that Indonesia will capture PNG as the extension of Papua on the basis of both legal and historical matters will never occur that far.

“The fear that Indonesia, after obtaining West Irian, would claim East New Guinea is totally unfounded. The Indonesian people do not feel any links of a common lot or history with the people of that area; hence their national claim, historical and juridical in nature, does not extend that far,” Hatta expressed.

Here we see how Hatta’s own opinion is not the same as the one he had been worried about at the BPUPKI trial. At that time, Hatta was concerned that if Indonesia’s territory continued to be expanded, it would also reach the Soloman islands in the Pacific.

However, as explained in the previous article, Hatta’s view as though he was refusing Papua during BPUPKI session, I believe, emerged as a counterargument against Yamin. At that time, Hatta did not agree that the basis for including Papua as Indonesian territory was based on considerations of geopolitical strategies.

So it becomes increasingly clear that Mohammad Hatta, the first vice president of the Republic of Indonesia, the father of our proclaimer, fully supported Papua as part of the Indonesian territory. We do not need to doubt Hatta’s attitude in looking at the territorial integrity of Indonesia as we know it today, namely ‘from Sabang to Merauke.’ (*)

This piece fully represents the writer’s idea. It does not express any ideas or stances of specific institutions or organizations she/he works at or is affiliated with.



Enriching discourse and understanding. A protest to Indonesian govt that unsuccessfully serves the world fair info about West Papua.

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The Wawawa Journal

Enriching discourse and understanding. A protest to Indonesian govt that unsuccessfully serves the world fair info about West Papua.