West Papua province (Indonesian: Papua Barat) is a province of Indonesia. It covers the two western peninsulas of the island of New Guinea, Bird’s Head Peninsula and Bomberai Peninsula, along with nearby islands. The province is bordered to the north by the Pacific Ocean, to the west by the Halmahera Sea and the Ceram Sea, to the south by the Banda Sea, and to the east by the province of Papua and the Cenderawasih Bay. Manokwari is the province’s capital, while Sorong is its largest city. West Papua is the second-least populous province in Indonesia, with a population of 760,422 according to the 2010 census by Statistics Indonesia; the latest official estimate (as at mid 2019) is 963,600.
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, but it was not inaugurated until 2003. Consisting of twelve regencies and one city, the province enjoys a special autonomous status as granted by the Indonesian legislation.
Located on the western half of the island of New Guinea and long racked by a simmering violent separatist insurgency, Papua encompasses Indonesia’s two easternmost provinces.
A former Dutch colony, West Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia in 1969, after an undisputed vote of about 1,025 representative tribal leaders. The result of the plebiscite was overseen and endorsed by the United Nations.
Since the democratization in 1998, especially since 2007, democracy by mean of elections has been introduced to increase political participation in Papua and West Papua. The fact that the leaders of Papua and West Papua provinces are democratically elected by the people has strengthened the legality of West Papua as a province of Indonesia.