Klaasen: Nicolaas Jouwe, president in exile for 48 years of the Papuans in The Netherlands. Man from Hollandia, now Jayapura, former government official of The Netherlands, just returned from a very important journey to Irian Jaya, New Guinea. What is your faith?

Jouwe: I am a Christian. My village was the first to be visited by a Protestant minister and therefore I accepted the Protestant church. In later years, in my meetings and acquaintances I also met Catholic priests and I have practically met every bishop in the whole of New Guinea. First there was Monsignor Cramer, he was the apostolic vicar of Hollandia and later on there was Monsignor Staverman, Doctor Staverman. After Staverman, there was Münninghoff as a bishop. I knew the Catholic clergymen very well and they knew me very well, too. Partly, this is the result of my work as a political advisor for the Dutch government. A large part of my political activities involved the Catholic leaders of The Netherlands. This is the Minister for Foreign Affairs Luns in the first place.

K: ….de Quay…

J: Prime Minister de Quay, one of the best.

K: You are the son of a tribal chief. You were born on a small isle on the coast of New Guinea, is that right?

J: Yes, that is true.

K: You are, so to speak, in a way still, a “King without a Country”.

J: Ha, ha, ha, that was a metaphorical title of the documentary “King without a Country”.

K: broadcasted in 2008 by IKON television.

J: Yes, no, with my last visit to New Guinea the film maker went along with me to tell the world that the “King without a Country” does have a country.

K: The Papuans, if I may summarize, were the victim of a temporarily solution, right? When Indonesia became independent in 1948, a solution was sought after for New Guinea. Then there was 1962, when a mandate came from The United Nations and New Guinea was more or less handed over to Indonesia. The name was immediately changed in West Irian and Papuans had an extremely difficult time. You came to The Netherlands in order to advise the Government but in fact you live in exile for 48 years now.

J: Yes, I am not alone; we are with a group of people. We were only 2 people. The senior of us was Mister Kaisiëpo, who passed away already and I am the only one left, still alive, and will remain so…

K: You are seen as a sort of tribal chief in The Netherlands.

J: Well, tribal chief, that is to say, in my own village, there I am a tribal chief and recently I visited them. I am more to be regarded as a sort of political spokesman, a political leader of the Papuans.

K: Here in The Netherlands there live about a 1000 Papuans, is that right?

J: A little more over a 1000, but yes, Papuans want to live together and they have really strong tribal relations.

K: In Delft, for example, you live with, so to speak, the Hollandia tribe, but the Biak tribe does not want to listen to you.

J: Yes, one listens to the leader of Serui, The Biak people listen to the leader of Biak, The Hollandia people, yes, it depends…, not yet well educated people, some of them traditionally rooted. Then they regard their own tribal chief as their leader. Yes, every Papuan thinks freely.

K: Nicolaas Jouwe, you live in Delft, and the house where you live in, the one in which we now speak, is soon to be demolished. You are considering, after so many years, to return to New Guinea, to Irian Jaya. How is this possible, because for years on end you are at state of war with the Indonesian Government?

J: That is the point. The Indonesians discovered that they cannot keep on going harassing the Papuans. Papuans do not understand that their country has been an integrated part of Indonesia for more than 40 years. Indonesia got a hold of New Guinea because of the United Nations. Former New Guinea was handed over to Indonesia with an extreme majority of nations. Democrats, communists, non-communists, Arabs, everyone declared New Guinea Indonesian territory. And thus it was handed over.

K: In March you visited Irian Jaya, and you also held conversations with Indonesian president Yudhoyono, and now it seems that you may do so again.

J: Certainly, the Indonesian government is looking for Papuans, who are able to convince their own people and tell them that, as far as administration is concerned, New Guinea is no longer the Papuan’s country, but was handed over to Indonesia by the United Nations.

K: May I say then, that you see now, that the ideal of independence, which you propagated for many years, does no longer work?

J: We have waited and worked for 40 years, and no one wants to cooperate with the Papuans. Everyone advises us to quietly make piece with the Indonesians in order to cooperate and rebuild the country.

K: It is also a very rich country, right? In fact, Nicolaas Jouwe, it is the largest gold mine in the world.

J: That is true. New Guinea has enormous wealth.

K: Is it not sad then, that you have to abandon your ideal in public?

J: The majority of the Papuans still live in their own country. There they work together with Indonesia and rebuild the country in a magnificent way. When I arrived there I was surprised about the enormous progress that was made in Western New Guinea.

K: You couldn’t believe your own eyes when you were there in March?

J: For sure, there is enormous progress there, 2 or 3 universities were opened in New Guinea and the Indonesian Government needs me to inform the Papuan people that we, and the entire world wants us to, work together with Indonesia; both geographically and geopolitically. We depend on Indonesia, so the world tells us.

K: Do you think you can get accustomed in Irian Jaya after 46 years in exile?

J: Yes, sure, I would have thought that I could not, but after being there for some days I noticed that I can get accustomed there, yes, indeed.

K: You live in Delft, your wife lives in a service flat, you live alone in your own home, is it possible to return with your entire family?

J: Well, I am not sure about that, we haven’t yet discussed this.

K: Nicolaas Jouwe, you are a leader of the Papuan people, certainly in The Netherlands. For 46 years, you have suffered the tragedies of your people.

J: The tragedy took place because of the ignorance of the Papuan people. Do not forget that decisions were made by others, by the United Nations without consulting the Papuan people. Over their heads it was decided, that Papua was to be handed over, because it is an integrated part of Indonesia. And therefore Papua was handed over to Indonesia. Papuans did not have enough time to get used to this situation. This has been the difficulty in these 40 years that I now have to tell the Papuans that we only have a population of 1.100.000. Therefore, if this continues, we will disappear from the face of the earth.

K: Nevertheless, there are still a number of young Papuans in prison because they refused to remove the “pins” and because they showed the Papuan symbols of independence.

J: That is up to them. But I have asked the President.......because of their ignorance, these Papuans still insist en think they are right. But they are fully wrong. But give them time. Let them experience for themselves, that they are wrong.

K: In reverse, you are reproached for being misused more or less, as a member of an older generation by the Indonesian government.

J: That has been. Every people…, The Indonesians themselves were at war with the Dutch. And every people, according to…to save ones life one always fights for his country and for his identity. But changes are coming. Hatred has to make way for love and affection in order to live together. Therefore we are Christians, we must not forget this.

K: If you would return, would you aspire to a political position such as Prime Minister?

J: Well, sir, I do not aspire to such things. I’m 85 years old; I do not know how much longer I may live. The only thing I see it as my duty to make Papuans understand that they should not fight for a lost cause in a foolish way. We have to try to share in our own country all the natural resources it now has in a peaceful way and to collaborate and live together with the Indonesians.

K: I remember 1962, Nicolaas Jouwe, when18 Dutch soldiers were killed in a battle, a military battle. At the Indonesian side many more were killed. That is what once was?

J: That was then, yes. With such disputes many…there are always many victims. We have learned. We highly regret this.

K: You have learned.

J: I have learned too, and…yes….it’s no use trying to change what has happened. The World changes at a fast pace. We should stop complaining but rather improve ourselves and carry on so that we enable younger generations to train themselves in order to live as dignified citizens in their own country.

K: And you, Nicolaas Jouwe, you will know, and it will take a long time, that some day you will die underneath the sun of Hollandia, which is now called Jayapura.

J: Well, underneath the sun of Papuan country. That rather then anywhere else.

K: Nicolaas Jouwe, thank you very much, lots of success and good luck with your return home. It might be this year.

J: Thank you very much.

Gerard Klaasen, in conversation with Nicolaas Jouwe, on life, New Guinea and faith.