Crawford House Publishing
The West New Guinea Debacle Dutch Decolonisation and Indonesia 1945-1962

This is a history dealing with the end of Dutch colonial rule, the early years of independent Indonesia, the West New Guinea question, and the emergence of Papuan nationalism. The book covers several key themes.

The Indonesian Revolution (1945 to 1949) is treated only summarily. The book chiefly concentrates on Dutch policies and perspectives, which have so far generally been ignored in existing English-language publications.

Netherlands-Indonesian relations between 1950 and 1958 are treated in depth, with a description and analysis of the struggle for power between the early, more Western-attuned and economic-rationalist cabinets, on the support of which the fate of the vast Netherlandscontrolled export economy was dependent, and the masses, driven by Sukarno and the populist parties. By 1957-58, with the destruction of whatever had existed in the way of Western-style democracy, the power of the army and the Communist Party significantly boosted, and the economy corrupted on the verge of bankruptcy, the West New Guinea question drove Dutch-Indonesian relations to the brink, speeding the nationalisation of the vast Dutch economic empire.

West New Guinea and Papua nationalism began as early as the 1920s and 1930s, and by the early 1950s the Dutch had set about guiding the Papuans towards independence. This policy had to be aborted, however, with the threat of an Indonesian invasion and the unwillingness of the US to provide armed support to Dutch forces. As a result, Australia, too, was reluctantly forced to abandon the Dutch.

There is sufficient documentary evidence to prove that Washington had from the beginning remained lukewarm towards Dutch policy on West New Guinea. Throughout the 1950s, the US attempted to balance its relations with the Netherlands and Indonesia. Even when the Soviet-backed Indonesian armed forces stood seemingly poised for a full-scale invasion of West New Guinea, Washington continued to refuse Dutch requests for armed intervention in the case of an attack. US policy swung towards Jakarta under Kennedy, and West New Guinea was sacrificed to serve US objectives in Indonesia.

Australia was forced to accept the inevitable. It had actively encouraged the Netherlands to hold onto West New Guinea, completed agreements on economic and social cooperation, and conducted in-depth studies about a possible Australian-Dutch defence system against Indonesian aggression. Without US military support, however, the situation became untenable. This book will be required reading for those seeking to understand the genesis of the situation in West New Guinea today, where Papuan nationalism is again in the ascendant following the recent dramatic events leading to the independence of East Timor.


Chris Penders


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Photographs, maps


Portrait; hardcover; c. 416 pages


228 x 152 mm



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