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Encyclopedia > Irian Jaya
Map showing Papua province in Indonesia
Map showing Papua province in Indonesia

Papua is a province of Indonesia comprising part of the western half of the island of New Guinea and nearby islands. (see also Western New Guinea).

The name Papua may also refer to either the entire island of New Guinea or to the southern half of the neighboring country of Papua New Guinea. The name West Papua is preferred among nationalists who hope to separate from Indonesia and form their own country. The province was known as West Irian or Irian Barat from 1969 to 1973Irian is the Indonesian term for the island of New Guinea. It was then renamed Irian Jaya (roughly translated, "Victorious Irian") by Suharto, a name that remained in official use until 2002. During the colonial era the region was known as Dutch New Guinea or Netherlands New Guinea.

The province originally covered the entire western half of New Guinea, but in 2003, the western portion of the province, on the Bird's Head Peninsula, was made a separate province named West Irian Jaya.



The nature of Indonesian government in Papua is controversial. International opinion varies a great deal. Some view it as naked colonialism, others maintain that Indonesia represents a legitimate authority with a willing people. Frank expression of views is complicated by the delicate and troubled relationship many nations have with Indonesia.

According to the United States Country Studies - Library of Congress (http://countrystudies.us/indonesia/84.htm) report about Indonesian government structure:

"Since independence the nation has been centrally governed from Jakarta in a system in which the lines of authority, budget, and personnel appointment run outward and downward. Regional and local governments enjoy little autonomy. Their role is largely administrative: implementing policies, rules, and regulations. Regional officialdom is an extension of the Jakarta bureaucracy. The political goal is to maintain the command framework of the unitary state, even at the cost of developmental efficiency. Governments below the national level, therefore, serve essentially as subordinate administrative units through which the functional activities of Jakarta-based departments and agencies reach out into the country."

In 1999 it was proposed to split the province into three government controlled sectors, sparking Papuan protests (see external article (http://www.worldevangelical.org/persec_papua_21nov03.html)). In 2003 President Megawati signed an order dividing Papua into three Islamic controlled provinces: Central Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Tengah), Papua (or East Irian Jaya, Irian Jaya Timur), and West Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Barat). The formality of installing a local government for Jaraka in Irian Jaya Barat (west) took place in February 2003 and a governor was appointed in November; a government for Irian Jaya Tengah (central) was delayed from August 2003 due to violent local protests. It appears the creation of a government for this area has been shelved.


Indonesia structures regions by Regencies and districts within those. Though names and areas of control of these regional structures can vary over time in accord with changing political and other requirements, in 2001 the Irian Jaya (Papua) Province consisted of 12 regencies (kabupaten), 1 city (kotamadya), 117 subdistricts (kecamatan), 66 kelurahan, and 830 villages (desa).

Map showing major Papuan cities

The Regencies in 2001 were: Biak Numfor; Fak-fak; Jayapura; Jayawijaya; Manokwari; Merauke; Mimika; Paniai; Sorong; Timka; Wamena; and Yapen Waropen. See main article Indonesian Regencies of Papua for further details.

Hollandia, founded in 1910 had by 1962 developed into a city with modern civil, educational, and medical services. Since Indonesian administration these services have been replaced by Indonesian equivalents such as the TNI (military) replacing the Papuan police force. The name of the city has been changed from Hollandia, to Kotabaru then Sukarnopura and finally Jayapura.

Jayapura is the largest city, boasting a small but active tourism industry, it is a neat and pleasant city built on a slope overlooking the bay. Cendrawasih University campus houses the Jayapura Museum. Tanjung Ria beach well known to the Allies during the WW II, is a popular holiday resort now with facilities for water sports, and General Douglas MacArthur's World War II quarters are still intact.


Land Area
Area 420,540 km2
Rain fall 1800 to 3000 mm
Temperature 19-28°C
Humidity 80%

A central East-West mountain range dominates the geography of New Guinea, over 1600 km in total length. The western section is around 600 km long and 100 km across. Steep mountains 3000 to 4000 m and up to 5000 m high along the range ensures a steady supply of rain from the tropical atmosphere. The tree line is around 4000 m elevation and the tallest peaks are snowbound year round.

Both North and West of the central ranges the land remains mountainous mostly 1000 to 2000 m high covered by thick rain forest and a warm humid year round climate.

The third major habitat feature is the south east lowlands with extensive wetlands stretching for hundreds of kilometers.

The Mamberamo river, sometimes reffered to as the "Amazon of Papua" is the province's largest river which winds through the northern part of the province. The result is a large area of lakes and rivers known as the Lakes Plains region. The famous Baliem Valley, home of the Dani people is a tableland 1600 m above sea level in the midst of the central mountain range; Carstensz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya) is a mist covered limestone mountain peak 4884 m above sea level.

Tribal groupings in Papua

Lani, perhaps better known as Dani.








A vital tropical rainforest with the tallest tropical trees and vast biodiversity, Papua's known forest fauna includes marsupials (including possums, wallabies, tree kangaroos, cuscus), other mammals (including the endangered long-beaked echidna), many bird species (including birds of paradise, casuarius, parrots, cockatoos), the world's longest lizards (Papua monitor) and the world's largest butterflies.

Animal Class Est. Number
Mammal 180
Marsupial 70
Bird 700
endemic bird 450
Bats 70

The island has an estimated 16,000 species of plant, 124 genera of which are endemic.

The extensive waterways and wetlands of Papua are also home to salt and freshwater crocodile, tree monitors, flying foxes, osprey, bats and other animals; while the equatorial glacier fields remain largely unexplored.

Ecological dangers include deforestation at an alarming rate; the spread of the exotic Crab-eating Macaque which now threatens the existence of many species; pollution such as Grasberg mine dumping 190,000 tons of copper and gold tailings into the rivers system each day;

Postage stamps

12s stamp of 1963

During the 1960s, the region had its own postage stamps. The first were overprints reading "UNTEA" (United Nations Temporary Executive Authority) applied to the stamps of Dutch New Guinea, issued in 1962. There are four slightly different types of overprint, three types applied locally, and a fourth made in the Netherlands and sold by the UN in New York City.

These were superseded on 1 May 1963 by stamps of Indonesia overprinted "IRIAN BARAT" and a series of six commemoratives whose designs included a map of Indonesia stretching "from Sabang to Merauke" and a parachutist landing in New Guinea. These, as were later issues in 1968 and 1970, were inscribed both "IRIAN BARAT" and "REPUBLIK INDONESIA". The last issue specifically for the territory consisted of two depicting birds (Black-Capped Lory and Bird of Paradise), issued 26 October 1970.

See also

External links

  • Online Library West Papua, Irian Jaya (http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml)
  • Extensive Library, some material written by Lani (highland) tribespeople (http://www.eco-action.org/ssp/resources.html)
  • PapuaWeb (http://www.papuaweb.org/)
  • "Human Abuse in West Papua - Application of Law to Genocide" (http://www.law.yale.edu/outside/html/Public_Affairs/426/westpapuahrights.pdf)
  • "Prison, Torture and Murder in Jayapura - Twelve Days in an Indonesian Jail" (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2000) (http://www.nzz.ch/dossiers/2001/westpapua/2000.12.22-engl-article72F07.html)
  • Map showing the three new provinces (http://www.papuaweb.org/goi/pp/peta-hr.gif)
  • Declassified US documents on "Act of free choice" (http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB128/index.htm)


  • The Deforesting of Irian Jaya, 1994 (http://russbaker.com/The%20Nation%20-%20The%20Deforesting%20of%20Irian%20Jaya.htm)
  • m.com/primnews/10201.html Monkeys Threaten Papua's Wildlife (http://veederandld.20) . (http://www.sidsnet.org/archives/biodiversity-newswire/2001/0055.html)
  • Wetlands Study (http://www.wetlands.or.id/irj20.htm)

Provinces of Indonesia
Sumatra (Sumatera):

DI Aceh | North Sumatra (Sumatera Utara) | West Sumatra (Sumatera Barat) | Bengkulu | Riau | Riau Islands (Kepulauan Riau) | Jambi | South Sumatra (Sumatera Selatan) | Lampung | Bangka-Belitung

Java (Jawa):

DKI Jaya | West Java (Jawa Barat) | Banten | Central Java (Jawa Tengah) | DI Yogyakarta | East Java (Jawa Timur)


West Kalimantan (Kalimantan Barat) | Central Kalimantan (Kalimantan Tengah) | South Kalimantan (Kalimantan Selatan) | East Kalimantan (Kalimantan Timur)

The Lesser Sunda Islands (Nusa Tenggara):

Bali | West Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Barat) | East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur)


West Sulawesi (Sulawesi Barat) | North Sulawesi (Sulawesi Utara) | Central Sulawesi (Sulawesi Tengah) | South Sulawesi (Sulawesi Selatan) | South East Sulawesi (Sulawesi Tenggara) | Gorontalo

The Maluku Islands and New Guinea (Irian):

Maluku | North Maluku (Maluku Utara) | West Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Barat) | Papua

Countries in Oceania
Australia | East Timor | Fiji | Kiribati | Marshall Islands | Federated States of Micronesia | Nauru | New Zealand | Palau | Papua New Guinea | Samoa | Solomon Islands | Tonga | Tuvalu | Vanuatu
Other political units: American Samoa | Cook Islands | Easter Island | French Polynesia | Guam | Hawaii | Maluku Islands | Midway Atoll | New Caledonia | Niue | Norfolk Island | Northern Mariana Islands | Papua (Indonesia) | Pitcairn Islands | Tokelau | Wake Island | Wallis and Futuna | West Timor

  Results from FactBites:
Travelling to Indonesia (Irian Jaya) (921 words)
Irian Jaya, the western half of the island, is Indonesia's biggest province of about 410,000 square kilometers, representing almost 21 percent of the country's total land area.
Irian Jaya is a land of exceptional natural grandeur.
Although Irian Jaya is famed for its Bird of Paradise, the province's fauna is not particularly rich.
West Irian Jaya - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (235 words)
West Irian Jaya (Indonesian: Irian Jaya Barat) is a province of Indonesia on the western end of the island of New Guinea.
West Irian Jaya was created from the western portion of Papua province in February 2003.
The capital of Irian Jaya Barat is in Manokwari.
  More results at FactBites »



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