Documents show how cold-war politics legitimised Indonesia's hold on the region The US government under Richard Nixon knew Indonesia would rig the 1969 UN-sponsored vote which legitimised Papua's incorporation into Indonesia, declassified diplomatic cables reveal. The United States administration also knew that as many as 90 per cent of Papuans wanted independence, but still lobbied to have the United Nations ratify the allegedly fraudulent referendum, known as the Act of Free Choice, the documents show. Civil rights groups in Papua, which still covets independence, say fresh proof that the 1969 vote was rigged means the UN should stage a new referendum to decide the territory's future. 'The UN should review this Act of Free Choice and they should hold a new referendum, and the Papuan community can choose whether we want to be part of Indonesia or not' said Ferry Marisan, of the Institute for Human Rights Study. The referendum, in which 1,022 tribal leaders unanimously voted to join Indonesia, was part of an agreement brokered by the US in order to resolve a standoff between the Dutch, the former colonial power in Papua, and the Indonesians who were trying to annex the island. Indonesia's then president Sukarno argued that Papua, on the eastern edge of the archipelago, rightfully belonged to Indonesia, like the rest of the former Dutch East Indies. The US, fearing that the pro-communist Sukarno would ask Beijing or Moscow for support, wanted to appease the Indonesians, wrote Edmund McWilliams, a retired senior US Foreign Service Officer who yesterday released a report containing the declassified documents. The declassified cables and State Department correspondence reveal how the predominantly Christian and ethnically distinct Melanesian Papuans became victims of cold-war politics. The Nixon government knew as early as 1968 of the Indonesian plan to rig the vote, with a 1968 US embassy aerogramme citing 'most observers' as concluding that while there was broad Papuan support for independence, 'Indonesia will not permit a plebiscite which would reach such an outcome'. Another embassy report, quoting a UN official, showed the embassy was aware of how Indonesia would hand-pick tribal representatives to participate in the vote, saying the 'majority will be Indonesian or Indonesian controlled'. The cables also reveal the US government was aware of how Papuans resented being ruled by ethnic Malays from Indonesia. Papuans 'resent [the] arrogance of Indonesian military and blame Indonesian officials for drastic shortages of goods and poor living standards now prevailing', reads a 1967 cable. Indonesia occupied Papua until 1967 as part of a 1962 agreement between the Dutch, Indonesia and the UN which allowed them to run the country before the referendum. A later cable in 1969 concludes: 'Probably a decided majority of the Irianese [ethnic Papuan] people are in sympathy with the Free Papua cause or at least intensely dislikes Indonesians.' During their occupation the Indonesian army launched a repressive operation against independence groups. A 1969 US embassy aerogramme reported that the Indonesian military issued death threats to any Papuan who did not vote for integration. The UN delegate sent to oversee the vote was sidelined by the Indonesians and tribal delegates were plied with alcohol.