Papua is Indonesia’s furthest eastern province and is described as being as the “bird’s head region”. During the colonial era it was referred as Dutch New Guinea. Papua was also once known as the province of West Irian and officially became a province under Law No 12 of 1969 which established the autonomous province of West Irian. In 1973 the name West Irian was changed to Irian Jaya, which was used officially until 2002, when Law No 21/2001 regarding the Special Autonomy of Papua came into effect. Geographically, Papua is located between 0° 19’ – 10° 45’ longitude and 130° 45’ – 141° 48’ latitude, and occupies the western half of New Guinea, which is the second largest island in the world after Greenland.
Papua is the largest province in Indonesia in terms of size and occupies 21.9% (421,981 square kilometers) of Indonesia’s total territory; from west to east (Sorong to Jayapura) Papua measures 1,200 km (744 miles) and from north to south (Jayapura to Merauke) it measures 736 km (456 miles). Aside from the mainland, Papua also has a lot of islands off its shores. Off the northern shore there are the islands of Biak, Numfor, Yapen and Mapia, to the west the islands of Salawati, Batanta, Gag, Waigeo and Yefman and to the south the islands of Kalepon, Komoran, Adi, Dolak and Panjang. In the east Papua borders onto Papua New Guinea.
Papua is a region full of potential. A small population and an abundance of natural resources mean there are a lot of opportunities for the economy to develop. Papuan land contains forests, oceans, a high level of biodiversity and a lot of land suitable for agriculture. Papua also has natural gas reserves, oil and other minerals and metals ready for extraction.
In terms of the central government’s efforts to ensure Papua is not left behind developmentally in relation to other provinces in Indonesia, and in order to decrease the potential for conflict resulting from such an imbalance, the government enacted Law No. 21/2001 regarding Special Autonomy for Papua which gave greater authority to the regional government of Papua in order to speed up the process of development. (Bakti.org)