Gülden IImaz interview with Nico Jouwe for MTNL Television The Netherlands
Nico Jouwe recently returned to his native country Papua, the former Dutch New Guinea, for the first time. There he acted as a spokesman for his father, Papuan leader Nicolaas Jouwe, on his much discussed journey to Indonesia and Papua. Jouwe Senior held conversations with President Yudhoyono and with several senior ministers concerning the situation in Papua. Since his exile in 1962 Nicholas Jouwe has struggled for the independence of his country. His visit and discussions with the Indonesian Cabinet raised significant interest in Indonesia where he was closely followed by local and visiting Dutch media.
The transcription below is from the second-half of the TV talk show 'De Tafel van Babel', Week 14 2009 broadcast on Multiculturele Televisie Nederland
In 1962 the Dutch left Papua. You are the son of the Papuan leader, Nicolaas Jouwe. He has lived in exile here for almost 50 years after The Netherlands gave up on Papua in 1962. At the time he was elected there as a Papuan leader through a counsel instituted by the Dutch government. After all these years you returned with your father to Papua; let’s have a look what happened there.
Gülden IImaz: Can you tell us what we just witnessed?
Nico Jouwe: Yes, it did look a bit like the pope, he indeed kissed the soil when he came back for the first time. He mentioned it beforehand, when I return I will first call upon my ancestors in my own native language to ask them for protection and then I will kiss the soil, and so he did.
Gülden IImaz: Can you, briefly, for those viewers who do not know, explain who your father is and what he meant for the struggle in Papua?
Nico Jouwe: Actually, he is one of the founders of Papuan nationalism and the oldest living fighter for independence. In Papua he is of great significance and people look up to him and see him as a figurehead abroad, keeping the dream alive. In the Dutch era, when The Netherlands were in control, he designed the national flag for a new nation, which would have to become an independent nation with him in a leading position.
Gülden IImaz: This was not to be, Papua became a province and now has autonomy, but a lot of people strive for a 100% independency; why does Papua have to become independent?
Nico Jouwe: Well, people have a right to determine for themselves what their political fate should be. As a nation, on your own territory, you have to be able to decide,…
Gülden IImaz: But what are their problems, are they being suppressed?
Nico Jouwe: Yes, ever since Indonesia took over in 1963 they have not done very well in transforming the Papuan people into lawful Indonesian citizens.
Gülden IImaz: Can you give an example?
Nico Jouwe: Well, the Papuans are being marginalized. If you look at social-economic activity the Papuans find themselves at the outskirts; they are the poorest people in the country. They are the worst educated people and they are the most HIV-infected people. In very many ways positions and jobs are being held by others then the original inhabitants of this country.
Gülden IImaz: But the Papuans themselves, they are not into politics or the like?
Nico Jouwe: Well, lately there has been some change and Indonesia instituted some administrators on higher levels, but, let us say, the public service and major companies are still being staffed by others.
Gülden IImaz: You also did not travel to Papua for a long time because of security reasons, but this time you did go, on an invitation by the Indonesian government. Some people will say, why do you speak with the enemy, you are collaborating.
Nico Jouwe: Yes, my father was criticized for that. You have to look at it in this way: my father sees that the Papuan people have a lot of trouble and he said to himself, I can go on shouting for independence towards Indonesia…
Gülden IImaz: But why talk to the enemy?
Nico Jouwe: You can have better,…Indonesia is in charge, so to speak, there are no countries worldwide to support Papua’s struggle, everyone respects Indonesia’s integrity as a nation, so you have a feeble cause. Things are very bad at this moment. If you do not try to have an open discussion with the people who are in charge, it is impossible to accomplish anything for the Papuans. That was his main goal. The people have a lot of trouble. The implementation of the special autonomy , instituted by the Indonesians, does not function. The Papuans are willing to discuss this matter, they want more participation and my father wants…
Gülden IImaz: If he starts a dialogue he may be able to achieve more then by fighting on the barricades?
Nico Jouwe: Yes, you can keep on claiming independency (merdeka), but you may have to put your principles…to be pragmatic. Put your principles temporarily on the parking spot, do not throw them away and do not resign them. People said that if he would do so, he gives in to his ideal of independence. That is not the case and he did not do so. Guest I could imagine, that if they would gain immediate autonomy, things would even get worse then they are now, that the situation would deteriorate…
Nico Jouwe: It is all about giving good education to the people, to make political administration for Papuans available, to facilitate proper training, that you have an infrastructure. And all these matters are not available at this moment.
Gülden IImaz: You accompanied your father. Obviously, for him this is a special occasion. He spent his childhood there and he returns. You left Papua at the age of three. You set foot ashore. A country you heard your father speak about many times and then there you are.
Nico Jouwe: Yes, actually I was shaking as a leaf. In short; you are surrounded by a lot of family with aunts who looked after you when you were three years old. They came, funny enough, in flowery dresses and barefooted with their arms wide open…pressing you tight…
Gülden IImaz: It was a homecoming?
Nico Jouwe: Yes, it was definitely a homecoming. They begin to cry, saying I knew you, did you forget me? It was a very warm, emotional feeling.
Gülden IImaz: Allright then. You did indeed speak to the government. Let’s have a look at some footage. (Videofragment at the Ministry of Welfare with Aburizal Bakrie)
Gülden IImaz: As mentioned before, you were there on an invitation of the Indonesian government to enter into a dialogue. What did you discuss there, what was the direct outcome?
Nico Jouwe: Well, first of all you have to see it as a symbolic first step to show that we have to speak to each other. There were no negotiations.
Gülden IImaz: But were there any direct results?
Nico Jouwe: Well, effectively, we did agree on a future meeting. You mentioned the word “enemy” in a strong way. This is the idea my father wants to let go of a little, for if you keep on considering one another as the enemy you cannot discuss matters with each other. So first of all let us see if we can abandon this animosity a little bit in order to find each other…
Gülden IImaz: And did you succeed?
Nico Jouwe: We succeeded. The conversations with the president and with minister Bakrie, who is responsible for Papua, went quite well, and that is often a first…
Gülden IImaz: Maybe that is not surprising, because the elections are at hand. Next week the elections for the Parliament and in July the presidential elections, so in a way it is not surprising that you were invited in order to draw votes from the Papuan people. Don’t you feel used by them?
Nico Jouwe: Well, this is something we knew beforehand. We took this into consideration and maybe we can use this to our own advantage. We then decided we could go as long as we are able to bring our message to the people.
Gülden IImaz: What was the message?
Nico Jouwe: Our message was that we have to enter into a dialogue and that we should not abandon the ideal of independency.
Gülden IImaz: Did you really make this statement over there?
Nico Jouwe: Yes, this is what we have said.
Gülden IImaz: And what was the reaction?
Nico Jouwe: Well, uneasiness. We noticed that Indonesia, in the media, tried to make their own story of our arrival. Soon newspaper reports stated that my father would give up on his ideal of independency. They also tried this at the press conference you just witnessed, by putting a pin on his jacket with the Indonesian flag in front of all the Indonesian media. He refused at that moment. And then there was panic..
Gülden IImaz: So you did not feel used by them
Nico Jouwe: No, no, especially not my father, who just straightened his back. It was a pandemonium afterwards. The Minister panicked a little and then the press conference was cancelled quickly.
Gülden IImaz: There is a Papuan community in The Netherlands, do you represent them also?
Nico Jouwe: Well, represent, the Papuan community in The Netherlands is divided into several groups, a. bit like the situation in other former colonies, and yes…
Gülden IImaz: Can you describe these groups?
Nico Jouwe: Well, there a people who think, also in The Netherlands, that you should not talk to Indonesia and that my father should not also……..
Gülden IImaz: Did you receive many reactions?
Nico Jouwe: Yes, very many, very many.
Gülden IImaz: And what is their nature?
Nico Jouwe: Well, it differs, there are people congratulating you, who thought of it as a well prepared diplomatic mission, what it was actually. And, well, there were others congratulating, but stating that if we were to proceed, this would be the end of it. And there were people bluntly denouncing us. That happens. These are the kind of reactions you receive in Papua also. There are people who are enthusiastic en people who have a different view.
Gülden IImaz: All right, let’s have a look a little bit back in history; let’s start with Prime Minister De Quay and then we’ll have a look at a veteran who served in Papua. (Video fragment from 1962, veteran on Veteran’s day 2008)
Gülden IImaz: Yes, what this veteran says, is that The Netherlands let down Papua. Do you feel the same way?
Nico Jouwe: Yes, we cannot deny this. You can easily say this. Papua is still being ignored by The Netherlands. It is a chapter in a history book that Holland closed once and for all.
Gülden IImaz: What is your role in this, because you accompanied your father. Are you taking over from him?
Nico Jouwe: A part of it; my father was a genuine political fighter.
Gülden IImaz: And what kind of fighter are you then?
Nico Jouwe: I am more in a position to help rebuilding the country. In what way we’ll have to see just yet. I have been there now and I see a lot of possibilities.
Gülden IImaz: We have already seen that your father was welcomed by a lot of people. What does he mean for the people over there?
Nico Jouwe: Well, he is a strong symbolic figure.
Gülden IImaz: And him being there, what was the effect?
Nico Jouwe: He always gives hope to people, people who think alike, who are advocates of dialogue. To them he certainly gave hope. And he is back and still is very important in this matter.
Gülden IImaz: When will the next diplomatic meeting take place with the Indonesians?
Nico Jouwe: That depends, but it might be rather soon.
Gülden IImaz: Yes, and will you go?
Nico Jouwe: Well yes, if my father will go. If he returns I will join him, yes.
Gülden IImaz: Do you think that Papua will ever become independent or will this be utopia (dream)?
Nico Jouwe: It is no utopia, no
Gülden IImaz: And how long will it take, do you think?
Nico Jouwe: That is hard to say. But I also look to other countries, the Soviet Union fell apart. Indonesia in itself is a nation consisting of different isles and kingdoms and it is very difficult to predict how fast things may change. It could happen within 20, 10 to 20 years. Yes, why not!
Gülden IImaz: All right. A documentary has already been made; we just watched some footage and a continuation will be made. Babette Niemel produced it so we will be seeing it in a few months.
Nico Jouwe: Yes, I understood... One and a half month to two months ago she informed me that she is about to finish it.
Gülden IImaz: Thank you very much for coming and for this interview