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Papuan self-determination - Historical roots VIII
Arie Brand's excellent introduction to the politics of West Papua continues, exclusive to Webdiary. If anyone needs to catch up:
Part I Economically "worthless"?
by Arie Brand
This requires some explanation. Until not long before that the required qualification for employment in the Netherlands East Indies field service as a district officer (controleur) was the Dutch equivalent of a Master's degree in 'Indology', a subject consisting of a combination of ethnology, islamology, language, law etc. With the transfer of sovereignty to Indonesia the relevant faculties in Leiden and Utrecht had disappeared. It was the idea of Dr. Jan van Baal, the then Governor of New Guinea, to start with a course in New Guinea, having this supplemented by a few years field service after which chosen candidates would have further appropriate university training in Holland. This whole idea was based on the belief that at least one group of young civil servants would spend their entire career in Papua - a belief that must have been shared by all who were involved in authorizing funding for this rather costly set up.
Governor Van Baal, who was no fool, testified to this belief in the speech, given on 27th December 1954, at the opening of this School (of which I attended the first course - the text of this speech is added as an appendix to his two volume autobiography Ontglipt Verleden - The past that has slipped away - op cit). He posed there the question how the population could be prepared for independence in a democratic spirit and from what he said there it is clear that he thought in the first place of the creation of representative bodies on the local and regional level. But it is also clear that he apparently believed that there was still enough time for this. He told us that, since we were on average, 22,23 years old, we would probably be working in the country for another 27 years, and he compared these coming years to the period 1904 – 1931 in the history of Indonesia: 1904, the beginning of the period Van Heutsz, the period of expansion and further intensification of administrative control, and 1931 as the year in which ‘all causes were already present for the storms that since have gone over that country…’(Van Baal, 1989, VolII, p600).
This idea that evolution should be slow and solid was, by and large, also the view of the home government. It should be said, however, that the then largest parliamentary party, the Catholic People’s Party, showed on a few occasions that it did not share this view. So said the parliamentarian De Graaf, speaking about the West Papuan population. in behalf of this party on 16th December 1952 in parliament inter alia:
Though political maturity might not be achieved for decades, yet the rights linked to this will be demanded at an early stage, even in a sphere of conflict unless we conduct a policy based on a great breadth of view.
Exactly two years later, and in the same month in which Governor Van Baal spoke the words I have quoted above, he came back to this theme and stressed that it was a universal phenomenon for not self-administered territories to demand independence at an early stage and that if one wanted to prepare the population of West Papua for self-determination ‘this had to be done in all possible respects at great speed’ (Graaf ThMJ de (1960), Tegen wil en dank - Whether we want it or not - in Van't Veer, P. (op cit) pp100-101).
It is remarkable that, in neither his words nor in those of Van Baal, there was any reference to Indonesia’s claim to the region. However, it was this that really speeded up the development in the way De Graaf had deemed necessary. In the second half of the fifties and especially from 1960 onward the Netherlands made great haste with the preparations for independence.
Indonesia's increasingly more threatening tone was the main factor here, even though Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Luns kept assuring the cabinet that he had assurances from the US that it would come to its faithful NATO-partner's assistance in case of an armed conflict with Indonesia. To what extent the US was really committed to this is still a matter of discussion. Luns's opponents, who have multiplied with the benefit of hindsight, have argued that American 'assurances' only consisted of a fairly vaguely worded written note by the then American Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, that Luns managed to get out of him during a dinner party on the first of October 1958 at the residence of the Dutch Ambassador in the U.S., JH van Roijen. The impression is created that it was written on a napkin or even Luns's cuff. This document is popularly called 'Dulles's scrap of paper'.
The Professor of diplomatic history at the University of Leiden, Albert Kersten, has in his valedictory lecture on the 14th of October last year forcefully argued against this notion. According to him 'Dulles's scrap of paper', written on paper with the letterhead of Ambassador Van Roijen, did indeed exist but that was not more than a motherhood statement concerning Washington's support for principles of international law and the maintenance of peace. Dulles' statement on which Luns based his assurances dated from the 7th of October and was written on paper with the letterhead of the State Department. Kersten said:
Dulles summoned Ambassador Van Roijen on the seventh of October to hand him the statement concerning the American rejection of violence in the solution of territorial conflicts and its conviction that Indonesia would not use violence in the dispute concerning New Guinea. Van Roijen's first question was what the American government would do if Jakarta would use violence anyway. Dulles could not and did not wish to give a direct answer to this and certainly did not want to enter into any commitment. The approval of Congress would be necessary for any military action. He referred to comparable situations, such as Taiwan and the recent American interference in Libanon, as the pattern to be expected (Kersten A. 2005, Het vodje van Dulles 1958 - 1962 - Dulles's scrap of paper 1958 - 1962, Valedictory lecture, Univ. of Leiden, my translation AB).
Van Roijen said later that he interpreted the statement as evidence of America's interest in and concern about the conflict but for the rest he saw no more in it than testimony that the powerful ally 'was against sin'. Luns, however, saw in Dulles's (oral) reference to Taiwan an implicit promise of American military support in case the Indonesians attacked. Dulles's statement was published with the US Secretary of State's approval, and it was taken note of in Dutch cabinet and in the parliamentary dealings with the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 1958. For Kersten this statement was thus far from a scrap of paper as the 'myth makers' (his word) had made of it since 1960. Well, yes, perhaps it wasn't in 1958 but the question is to which extent it became so after the inauguration of the Kennedy administration.
But at any case the idea that the Papuans could be prepared for independence over the course of a few generations had definitely gone - the target date now became the year 1970. In 1959 the Dutch New Guinea government started setting up elected regional councils. In February 1961 elections were held for the New Guinea Council, which was inaugurated in April 1961. This inauguration was attended by representatives from Britain and Australia. A representative from the US was notably lacking.
To be continued.