Papua Selatan – South Papua

History of South Papua Province

South Papua Province is one of the provinces in Indonesia that has been expanded from Papua Province. The capital is in Merauke Regency. South Papua was created from Papua Province along with two other provinces, namely the provinces of Mountainous Papua and Central Papua based on Law Number 14 of 2022, which was signed by the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, on July 25 2022.

South Papua has been fighting to become a separate province since 2002 and was again proposed to become a province in 2020. Thus, the journey to form South Papua in order to make the Land of Papua more developed is not as easy as turning the palm of your hand. On the other hand, the journey to form the province, which is also known as the Anim Ha traditional region, took around 20 years.

The expansion of South Papua province was initially planned to consist of five districts, namely Asmat Regency, Boven Digoel Regency, Mappi Regency, Bintang Mountains Regency and Merauke Regency. Based on considerations for the Bintang Mountains Regency area, he chose to resign.

South Papua is in the lowlands directly bordering Papua New Guinea with many swamps and large rivers such as Digul and Maro. This region has agricultural products such as sago and fish which support tribes on the riverbanks and coasts such as Marind, Asmat, Kombay, Koroway, Muyu and other tribes.

The tribes in South Papua are included in the Anim Ha traditional territory. They generally use rowing boats and make wood carvings, especially Asmat. In South Papua there is the Wasur National Park which has high biodiversity such as wallabies, musamus or giant ant houses, and birds of paradise.

Colonial Period

Long before the arrival of Europeans in the South Papua region, the area was inhabited by tribes who survived by hunting, gathering and gardening. Then in the 19th century, Europeans began to colonize the island of Papua. They divided the region in a straight line which caused the western part to become Dutch New Guinea and the eastern part to become British territory.

However, Marind residents who were known as head hunters often crossed the border, so in 1902 the Dutch government established a military post at the eastern tip of South Papua.

The post, which is located around the Maro River, was established to strengthen the border and eradicate the hunting tradition carried out by Marind residents. Apart from that, the Dutch also made it a place to spread Catholicism which was also aimed at ending the tradition of head hunting by Marind residents. Gradually, the post became increasingly busy because of its location on the Maro River, the Dutch government also named the area Merauke and designated it as the capital of South New Guinea Province. Javanese people then began to arrive to open rice fields there.

As time went by, the Dutch received information about the existence of a larger river, namely the Digul River. Based on this information, the Dutch government moved quickly to carry out an expedition there. In fact, in the 1920s, the idea emerged from the Dutch to use the interior of Papua as a detention camp which they named Tanah Merah. In other words, the Digul area is a place for national figures and proclaimers, such as Sutan Sjahrir and Moh. Hatta, exiled by the Dutch.

In the 1960s, when the Dutch had left these areas, Tanah Merah became increasingly crowded and eventually became Boven Digoel Regency. Around the 1960s, all of Dutch New Guinea was controlled by Indonesia and the Southern New Guinea region was changed to Merauke Regency. In 2002, Merauke Regency was divided into four districts, namely Merauke Regency as the parent district, Boven Digoel Regency, Mappi Regency, and Asmat Regency. In 2022, all of these regions will be united into the Province of South Papua.