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Jakarta Post Jakarta, Indonesia June 3, 2001





Edited by Pim School Translated by R.G. Soekadijo Published by KITLV and Garba Budaya, Jakarta 2001 656 pp

By Thayeb Ibnu Sabil

The title and subtitle of this book tell of the efforts made by the Dutch colonial officials to develop a civil administration in Irian Jaya -- then called Netherlands New Guinea -- in the years of turmoil between 1945 and 1962.

They also tell us from the outset that the authorities in the Netherlands decided to step up their crusade to nullify the Indonesian claim that Irian was an integral part of Indonesia because according to The Hague the people of New Guinea belonged anthropologically to the Melanesian group. And the colonial authorities told that to the local people ever since.

Meanwhile in Jakarta in 1945, Indonesia proclaimed its independence as a nation, which had lived under the former Dutch colonial power. As a reaction to the move the Dutch, under the noses of the British, slowly sneaked into Indonesia and staged a bloody campaign to crush the nationalist struggle.

But in 1949 the Dutch agreed to transfer the sovereignty of the colony to Indonesia with the exception of Irian. In the agreement reached at the Round Table Conference in The Hague that year which ended the war and ordered the transfer of the authority to Indonesia both nations agreed that the status of Irian would be discussed after a year.

However, back home in Hollandia, the capital city of Irian, which was called Nederlands Nieuw Guinea, the Dutch colonial authorities announced that the status of Irian was not resolved in the Round Table Conference and they would allow the local people to decide its fate.

Yet in the years that followed the Dutch were reluctant to discuss it seriously until in 1961 when Indonesia lost its patience and announced its plan to thwart all Dutch schemes to establish a Papuan puppet-state there. The declaration was followed by a campaign to take the area by force.

It took many world nations to finally convince the Netherlands that Jakarta really meant business this time. In 1962 The Hague accepted a U.N.-sponsored settlement of Irian. To save face the Dutch only agreed to hand over the area through the United Nations which would set up an interim administration there which would last until May 1963.

So, what did the Dutch do following the Indonesian independence proclamation in 1945? As this book relates, they started to set up a civil administration in Irian, which they called Netherlands New Guinea. The development involved well-trained and experienced colonial officials, some of whom had a Ph.D. degree or experience in public administration in Indonesian rural areas outside Irian. In this engagement they successfully combined civil administration wisdom and anthropology. In the early 1960s they also introduced democratic ethics within the scheme of a free (or puppet) state.

At this stage of development only a small number of Irianese considered the possibility of integration with Indonesia because their knowledge about it had been very limited. Their knowledge about Indonesia increased after the presence of a few Indonesian officials attached to the Indonesian Representative Office in Hollandia, which the local people also called as Kota Baru.

Some of the locals then staged pro-Indonesia demonstrations, which according to one of the writers of this book, the UN authorities turned a blind eye to. The writer, an official reassigned in the UN administration from the Dutch colonial administration, complains of the one-sidedness of the UN administration that ignored such aspirations of the people.

Although the Dutch had failed to bring the people living in the stone age in the Central Highlands of Irian into the 20th century they seem to have had some measure of success in indoctrinating those living in more developed coastal areas of what they called the right for a separate state.

The anti-Indonesian sentiment was still a best-selling commodity years after Irian became a province of Indonesia. In 1964 the first armed rebellion broke out in Manokwari, the second largest town in Irian but it was soon crushed by the military. Yet small separatist gangs still operate in the jungle areas until now along with the ambition to build a separate state.

The Dutch failure to develop the Central Highlands shocked many visitors to Baliem Valley after the Dutch authority ended in 1962. President of the KLM Dutch airlines when visiting the valley then could not believe what he saw there. The people were wearing koteka (penis gourd) while tribal wars were the sport of the day. His reaction then was quoted by international news papers: "Hoe is het mogelijk. (How is it possible?)."

The Indonesian officials who took over the area from the UN administration in 1963 did not find any government post there because the Dutch seemingly left the task of civilizing the people to the missionaries who had been exceptionally active there for decades.

One has to admit though that developing Irian Jaya is a fight against nature because of the difficult topographical terrain. Many people also believe that there are still uncivilized tribes who have never been discovered by outsiders deep in the jungles.

Anyway this thick book is good reading for Indonesian officials working in the rural areas not only on how to combine the system of civil administration and anthropology but also to inspire them to write articles on their work.

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Paul Barber TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 01420 80153 Email:  Internet: 

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