Act of Free Choice (Indonesian: Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat, PEPERA) was the title of an Indonesian military presentation in 1969 to establish an Indonesian claim that the Melanesian population of Western New Guinea had chosen Indonesian rule and rejected independence. General Sarwo Edhi Wibowo had approximately 1025 Melanesian men selected as the West New Guinea representatives.
Although United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2504 did acknowledge that an event called Act of Free Choice took place, neither the General Assembly nor International Court of Justice gave their opinion about the event, nor did they claim the Act to have been any form of self determination.
International demands for the United Nations to resume its decolonization obligation for Western New Guinea increased after the publication of United States Department of State telegrams from 1968 and 1969 confirming US knowledge of the Indonesian military efforts to prevent a referendum or plebiscite by requiring the Act of Free Choice be conducted as a military version of Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat. Although the United Nations representative Ambassador Fernando Ortiz-Sanz was unable to get Indonesia to allow a "one-man, one-vote" within the territory, the Indonesian authorities declared that there was a unanimous vote against independence.
However, participants and other observers question the conduct and legitimacy of the process. They contend that the Indonesian process violated terms of the New York Agreement such as Article 18 which stated "The eligibility of all adults, male and female, not foreign nationals to participate in the act of self-determination to be carried out in accordance with international practice", and did not allow people to vote in their own plebiscite. Men who were selected for the vote subsequently testified that they had been blackmailed into voting against independence with threats of violence against their families and communities. Although Indonesia denies these allegations, recently released United States government correspondence indicates that the pro-Indonesian outcome was effectively agreed in advance between Indonesia and the U.S.
Under Article 17 of the New York Agreement, the plebiscite was not to occur until one year after the arrival of U.N. representative Fernando Ortiz-Sanz in the territory on 22 August 1968. However after NASA announced the Apollo 11 flight schedule to land on the Moon for July, Indonesia proposed the plebiscite be conducted six weeks early during July 1969. Later journalist Hugh Lunn would testify that the Reuter's agency repeatedly told its correspondents not to attend west Papua during the plebiscite.
Though the United Nations took note of the results; there has been continued calls for the United Nations to conduct its own referendum in accord with the original New York Agreement. Those calling for a vote, have also pointed to the 30 year license which Indonesia sold to the Freeport-McMoRan company for Papuan mining rights in 1967, and to the Indonesian military's response to the East Timor referendum, as support for discrediting the 1969 Act of Free Choice. The Indonesian Government position is that the United Nations noting of the results validates the conduct and results.
The agreement continues with Article 18: