Originally a Dutch colony like the rest of Indonesia, West Papua held elections in 1959 and the elected council took office in 1961, in preparation for full independence. However, the Dutch handed the area over to a UN temporary administration, who in turned gave it over to Indonesia in 1963. The controversial plebiscite known as the Act of Free Choice , held in 1969, resulted in an improbable 100% vote in favor of joining Indonesia. The region, renamed first as Irian Barat (West Irian) and then Irian Jaya (Glorious Irian) has been under heavy Indonesian military control ever since, with the outgunned Free Papua Movement (Operasi Papua Merdeka or OPM) fighting for independence.
The name Papua was restored in 2000 in a sop to the nationalists. The province was split into two in 2003 in a highly controversial move, with the Bird’s Head Peninsula and surrounding islands becoming West Papua (Papua Barat). A further split, to create a third Central Papua province, was abandoned due to fierce opposition.