West Papua (Indonesian: Papua Barat) is an eastern province of Indonesia. It covers the two peninsulas of the island of New Guinea, Bird’s Head and Bomberai Peninsulas. The province is located at the carrefour of the Pacific Ocean and the Halmahera Sea plus Ceram Sea. Manokwari is the province’s capital, while Sorong is its largest and dynamic city economically. West Papua is the second-least populous province in Indonesia, with a population of 963,600 (2019).
Historically, West Papua was under control of two Indonesian precolonial monarchies, the Majapahit Kingdom and the Sultanate of Tidore. Since the 16th century, the Dutch had colonised the region before the Japanese briefly ousted them during World War II. After the Japanese surrender, the Dutch remained in New Guinea until 1962 when they transferred the control of the region to Indonesian government as a part of the New York Agreement.
West Papua was legally created as a province in 1999, consisting of twelve regencies and one city, the province enjoys a special autonomous status as granted by the Indonesian legislation.
West Papua is well known for its Raja Ampat Islands, which contain the richest marine biodiversity in the world. West Papua has a medium Human Development Index, which is higher than that of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The government is currently attempting to improve West Papua’s infrastructure, such as building the Trans Papua highway, airports, and seaports. According to Bank Indonesia, West Papua recorded an economic growth rate of 7.7% during 2018, which is higher than the national economic growth.
Etymology of Papua
The name of Papua comes to the word Papa-Ua, names given by the Sultanate of Tidore to the deep lands of the island which means: “neither united nor unified” because at that time no king then ruled the island unlike the rest of the Moluccas. The term ‘Papua’ first appeared in a Malay dictionary made by William Marsden in 1812. Furthermore, Sollewijn Gelpke, a Dutch colonial official conducted a study of the origin of the word ‘Papua’. In the Portuguese and Spanish archives the word ‘Papua’ is a term for residents who inhabit the Raja Ampat Islands and coastal areas of the Bird’s Head Peninsula.
This province has tremendous potential, both agriculture, mining, forest products and tourism. Pearls and seaweed are produced in Raja Ampat Regency while the only traditional weaving industry called Timor fabric is produced in South Sorong Regency. Fragrant nutmeg syrup can be obtained in Fak-Fak Regency as well as various other potentials. Besides that nature tourism is also one of the mainstays of West Papua, such as the Cenderawasih Bay National Park located in Teluk Wondama Regency. This National Park stretches from the east of the Kwatisore Peninsula to the north of Rumberpon Island with a coastline of 500 km, the land area reaches 68,200 ha, sea area 1,385,300 ha with details of 80,000 ha of coral reefs and 12,400 ha of ocean.
More 50% of the total population in West Papua are the native Papuan people. They are several tribes in West Papua. The tribes that inhabit West Papua Province are the Arfak, Doreri, Kuri, Simuri, Irarutu, Sebyar, Moscona, Mairasi, Kambouw, Onim, Sekar, Maibrat, Tehit, Imeko, Tehit, Imeko, Moi, Tipin, Maya, Biak, Anggi, Arguni, Asmat, Awiu, Batanta, Biak, Bintuni, Dani, Demta, Genyem, Guai, Hattam, Jakui, Kapauku, Kiman, Mairasi, Manikion, Mapia, Marindeanim, Mimika, Moni, Muyu, Numfor, Salawati, Uhundun, and Waigeo.
When viewed from cultural characteristics, livelihoods and patterns of life, indigenous Papuans can be divided into two major groups, namely mountainous Papua or inland, highlands and lowland and coastal Papua. The belief pattern of traditional Papuan religions unites and absorbs all aspects of life, they have an integral worldview that is closely related to one another between material and spiritual worlds, which are secular and sacred and both function together.
The remaining population are mostly immigrants from other parts of Indonesia, such as the Javanese, Buginese, Makassarese, Minahasan, Torajan, Butonese, and Moluccans.
Indonesian is the official language in West Papua, just like other provinces in Indonesia. All road signs and documents released by the provincial government are written in Indonesian. However, Papuan Malay is used as the lingua franca of the province, both as a trade language and in inter-ethnic communication. Papuan Malay is considered to be similar to Ambonese Malay and Manado Malay language, and is mutually intelligible with Indonesian though it has been highly influenced by local languages. Nevertheless, its usage is currently diminishing as people that are more fluent in Standard Indonesian are increasing.
The number of local languages used by the native peoples of West Papua is quite large, counting 263 languages consisting of 5 Austronesian languages and 210 Papuan languages.
The existence of regional languages in West Papua is endangered because there are fewer users. At least 10 regional languages spread across 14 major tribes in the province are threatened with extinction, if not immediately documented and preserved. The threat of extinction is due to economic, educational and political problems. The indigenous Papuans who transact on the market must use Indonesian, because the buyers or sellers are migrants. The need for children to use Indonesian daily and the lack of education in schools about regional languages largely contributes to their disuse and extinction.
In the West Papua Province, the largest airport is Dominique Edward Osok Airport, located in Sorong. In addition, there are also Fakfak Airport, Rendani Airport in Manokwari and Utarom Airport in Kaimana. Major flights to the West Papua area from Jakarta, Surabaya and Makassar are usually via the airport in Sorong or Biak, then continue with smaller aircraft.
In Doreri Bay there are three small islands: Mansinan Island, Lemon Island, and Raimuti Island. These islands have a collection of coral reefs. It is estimated that this place has more than 20 former World War II wrecks. But what can be seen clearly is that there are around 6 ships such as Pasir Putih Wreck, a type of Navy patrol boat with a length of 12–22 meters. Pillbox Wreck, a type of commercial cargo carrier carrying around 9–16 meters of ammunition, Cross Wreck is a kind of patrol boat, Mupi Wreck, and Shinwa Maru, a cargo ship.
The Cendrawasih Bay National Park have a unique geological structure and very important oceanographic history. This marine national park has extensive coral reefs of the highest quality in the world. Cendrawasih Bay National Park is in 5 regions and two provinces, namely Teluk Wondana Regency and Manokwari Regency in West Papua Province and Nabire Regency, Yapen Island Regency and Waropen Regency in Papua Province. Local communities living around national parks use marine resources as a source of life. Cendrawasih Bay National Park is a bay surrounded by several islands, including Biak Island, Yapen Island, and the mainland New Guinea. Administratively, the area is in two Regency, namely Teluk Wondama Regency, West Papua Province and Nabire Regency, Papua Province.
Raja Ampat is an archipelago that is administratively located in the Raja Ampat Regency, West Papua Province. This island is a destination for divers who are interested in the underwater scenery. Raja Ampat Islands is one of the 10 best waters for diving in the whole world, so it has the potential to be a tourist location, especially diving tours. In this place it is also home to 75% of the world’s coral species, in the village of Saindarek, when the tides are lowest, we can see coral reefs without diving. Some unique species that can be found while diving in Raja Ampat are several types of pygmy seahorses, wobbegongs, and Manta rays.
Sawinggrai Tourism Village is a village located in Meos Mansar Subdistrict, Raja Ampat Regency, West Papua. It is one of the places in the province to see Bird of Paradise which is still maintained today. Sawinggrai Village Tourism Sites are currently inhabited by around 36 families and some of them have the expertise to make handicrafts typical of sculpture. There are four species of Bird of Paradise that are preserved here, namely the Red bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea Rubra), Magnificent bird-of-paradise (Cicinnurus Magnificus), Lesser bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea Minor) and Greater bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea Apoda). One of the four species, the Redbird of paradise, is a typical icon of Sawinggrai Village.