This is part of an input broadcast 22 Jul 1998 on 
Eastnet <> in response to erronous
statements made by a Bernard Nietschmann, allegedly
from University of California (Berkeley), which were
being uncritically repeated on that list.

Bernard Nietschmann and Irian Jaya

<< ... Papua New Guinea, an emerging important power in the Pacific and in Melanesia. Instead of self-determination and independence, the western half of the island was invaded and annexed by expansionist Java as Indonesia's easternmost province. >>

The western half of the island was neither invaded nor annexed by Indonesia, but was handed over by the Dutch administration to a UN interim administration (the UNTEA) which then handed it back to Indonesia (of which it had been part when Indonesia was still Netherlands East Indies, also as it was surrendered to the Japanese, and again when reoccupied by Dutch forces after 1945 who included it into their "East Indonesia" construct).
Even assuming that Bernard Nietschmann wasn't a native speaker of English, then it is not too much to expect that a writer from UCB can discern between invaded and annexed (as e.g. happened to East Timor) and handed over (as stipulated by the New York Agreement).

Speaking about an expansionist Java in the early 1960-s is totally unqualified. Transmigration from Java (and Madura and Bali) and Javanese expansion are totally different things. Javanese were already being transmigrated out of Java by the Dutch in the late 19th century, not only to Sumatra and other islands of the colony, but even to Dutch Guiana (today Surinam) and French New Caledonia. Javanese expansionism was perhaps a reality in the 16th century, but the Dutch later put an end to that. It could be seen to have revived in the second half of the 1970s, much too late to have been reponsible for the re-inclusion of Western half of New Guinea, and even then, Javanese investment in Irian Jaya was not nearly as substantial as foreign investment in the province.

<< Papuan people are Melanesian, not Indonesian. Melanesian is a term of identity of free choice; Indonesian is a word that delimits an area and peoples held together by force. >>

Technically (as a UCB worker with academic qualification should know), Papuans are Non-Austronesians, Melanesians are Austronesians, so Papuans are not Melanesians.

Neither of the two were terms of free choice, but were introduced by Europeans (the former apparently a loan from Malay). Even if the writer is alluding to a knew consciousness of belonging together in Melanesia, he still cannot generalize in that way, and many Papuans, including majorities if not entireties of some ethnicities in Irian Jaya are probably not aware of that concept of "togetherness". The concept of Melanesian togetherness developed in anglophonic Melanesia where various versions of pidginized English are spoken (Bislama, Tok Pisin). It has only recently also inspired activists of separatism from Indonesia in Irian Jaya (for the first time in 1988 by Tom Wanggai) and therefore has not (yet?) acquired full distribution in the whole province.

Indonesia is a word that delimits an area which encompasses the distribution area of local Bazaar Malay dialects (including that of Biak and former Hollandia/now Jayapura/Numbia) and of common colonial history with the common background of a Dutch colonial judicial and economic system, and of Dutch missionary school education, enlistment in indigenous units of the Dutch colonial army and fleet, etc., etc., looking back upon between one and two millennia of common participation in interinsular sea trade and communication, including the better known spice trade, but excludes e.g. contiguous anglophone areas with an extended history of British administration (dito Spanish, Portuguese, French).

Indonesia furthermore delimits peoples of former Dutch East Indies who, insofar as they had already reached a corresponding level of political involvement at that time, voluntarily identified themself with one movement of national independence in defiance of the administrative force of the colonial administration. The circumstance that not all ethnicities of present Irian Jaya were involved is a condition which they shared with a considerable number of ethnicities in other parts of Indonesia (including the Baduis and Tenggerese of Java). But let us not forget those "West Papuans" who fought together with Indonesians from the other parts of former Dutch East Indies for national independence of a unitary Indonesia, including Lukas Rumkorem who raised the red-and-white flag in Biak and set up the Partai Indonesia Merdeka in 1949, or many others who paid for their engagement with internment in Dutch prisons. The situation of national affinity in Irian Jaya is much too complex to be described in the simplistic fashion of this Bernard Nietschmann. I would perhaps accept that from a politically engaged faction in "the heat of the fray", but not from someone who identifies himself as worker of an academic institution, and that of one with the renomee of the UCB. It's an insult to that University.

<< The people of West Papua are different in all respects from their rulers from Java: Language, religions, identity, histories, systems of land ownership and resource use, cultures and allegiance. >>

Well, they also have two arms, two legs, one head,.... But I see now why he insists on this "expansionist Java" and "rulers from Java". He knows only too well he can't say "Indonesia", because this is multi-racial, multi-ethnic country and persons with dark skin colour and curly hair are to be found all over from the Western end to the Eastern end. But what he "forgets": compared with those in the US, they didn't need a Martin Luther King to gain their right to study and even teach in universities, become officers, mayors, governors, ministers, etc. This right had never been denied them during Indonesian independence. It simply always went without saying ...

There are 500 or more languages spoken in Indonesia, so Irian Jaya is no different from the rest in this regard. But he "forgets" to mention that the language of those "rulers from Java", Indonesian Malay, is the only interregional language of communication in Irian Jaya (and it was that already, beside Dutch, in the last decades of the colonial period).

The Christians of Irian Jaya, like those in the rest of Indonesia, were originally missioned by Dutch (in part also by German) missionaries. They therefore have a greater affinity to other Indonesian Christians (including Javanese Christians) than to Christians of neighbouring anglophonic Melanesia. This also refers to the language in which most of them say their prayers.

The indigenous Muslims are unique in all Melanesia (excepting perhaps Javanese of New Caledonia?), though of course not unusual for Indonesia.

The indigenous "tribal" religions are of course unique for each ethnicity ("tribe"), but even here pronounced external affinities are perhaps only to be found among peoples both sides the border with PNG (just like affinities in Dayak religions both sides of the border to Sarawak. Otherwise one will probably find affinities between the North of Irian Jaya with North Maluku. and between the Southwest of Irian Jaya with Southeast Maluku and Nusa Tenggara. The remarkable "boat of the deceased" cult of the Asmat is the easternmost representative of a feature also represented in Nusatenggara, Kalimantan, and Sumatra, but NOT anywhere in Melanesia other then Irian Jaya. Some religious features connected with metallurgy in the North (Cendrawasih Bay) have affinties with Central Maluku (and with nothing in Melanesia further East).

Melanesia has no pre-contact written history, with one exception: The area of Onin (around the town of Fakfak) is mentioned as a vassal region in a mediaeval Javanese source. Thus, for the pre-contact period, the one and only piece of available "history" actually connects a place here with "rulers from Java" in a more litteral sense than the writer himself ever meant! In the post-contact period, the "histories" of "West Papua", having been Dutch ruled (partially also by the Sultanate of Tidore) were one with the rest of Dutch East Indies, but "different in all respects" from German/British/ /Australian-ruled "East Papua". I'm sorry, but is this really just ignorance? or is it a deliberate attempt to deceive?

With their systems of comunal landownership and resources use, the ethnicities which have retained this in Irian Jaya stand together with such of the rest of Indonesia, and historically even with just about all the peoples of the world. However, just as that industrialization has led to the desintegration of the Anglosaxon common, the Russian mir, or the Javanese desa, it is to be feared that present conditions of globalization mean the end of the same in Irian Jaya and everywhere else too. As sad as this may seem, it is their only chance of survival in the modern world. Considering that the writer alleges to be from UCB, the very university that educated the foremost economists and technocrats of "New Order" Indonesia (so-called "Berkley Mafia"), this point in the paper really reaches the peak of hypocrisy! Assuming of course, he really is from UCB.

<< For more than 23 years, the Javanese have tried to take West Papua by force and to incorporate it and its peoples into Indonesia. And the Papuan peoples have continued to resist the takeover and instead wish either to be free to create their own autonomous state or to merge with Papua New Guinea. >>

By "23 years" he apparently means 1949-1963, and this is the most ludicrous distortion of history so far (but he's still capable of better below!). In the 1950s "the Javanese" (read: Indonesians) were busy coping with mostly foreign-inspired and -armed rebellions in several regions of the country with inferiorly armed troops. The only ones who "tried .... to incorporate it and its peoples into Indonesia", were Papuans themselves, like Lukas Rumkorem, Martin Indey, Corinus Krey.

Attempts of the Republic to return the still Dutch-held territory mainly ran along diplomatic lines, and only from around 1960 onwards, when these seemed to be of no avail, did one decide to bolster up the army and risk a military confrontation (at first with setbacks: one torpedoboat was sunk in an unexpected skirmish with a Dutch destroyer, or was it a corvette?).

A so-called "Nieuw Guinea Raad" (New Guinea Council) consisting of representatives of the indigenous population was only set up by the Dutch administration in the very last moment in 1961. It was something like the "Volksraad" (People's Council) set up in Dutch East Indies in 1918 with vague perspectives of one day perhaps becoming an elected parliament (but that didn't become true even when the Indonesians in 1939 offered to mobilize the whole population to defend the colony against Japanese invasion if permitted to have an elected parliament).

Actual own attempts by representatives of the indigenous population "to create their own autonomous state" began after 1963! At first, 1965-1968, the movement mainly consisted of former soldiers of the "Papua Batalion" of the former Dutch administration period. They also formed a large contingent in the movement of 1971 onwards, but from this time, there also were rightfully disillusioned former integrationists, including Seth Jafet Rumkorem, the son of already mentioned Lukas Rumkorem, and once lieutenant in the Indonesian Army. But this was 8 years AFTER the "23 years" our "expert", allegedly from UCB, is talking about.

<< The Javanese occupation of West Papua has no legitimacy. Java and West Papua are separated by 2300 miles of ocean waters and numerous island nations. >>

Now we know a further reason, why it was so important for the writer to speak of "Javanese" rather than "Indonesians": those 2300 miles! This is of course also a way to say the "truth". But it is a way of handling "truth" that the writer seems to favour a lot.

And here comes the howler:

<< The Dutch ruled the two colonies with separate administrations, similar to the former British colonies of Jamaica and Trinidad, each of which became an independent state in 1962. >>

I really feel embarrassed here. It isn't civil to call someone a "blatant liar". You sort of try to avoid such strong language and say that he is "mistaken", "in error", perhaps "got his facts wrong", or something like that. But, even supposing this is a freshman, he really didn't have to dig up some history books on Indonesia, just a glance into any lousy encyclopaedia in any university library (let alone that of UCB!) should have sufficed? I can't imagine any source of this sort which would have given him any grounds for assuming that the Western half of New Guinea was administered as separate territory during Dutch rule over Indonesia. so this must be the fruit of purest fantasy on his part.

Anyway, the facts which anybody is welcome to check in the existing sources are like this:

In Dutch East Indies at least after WW1, the Dutch-ruled half of New Guinea was not administered as an own separate geopolitical unit, but was divided into three "resorts", of which

  1. the Northern centered in Manokwari was subordinated to the "residency" centered in Ternate (North Maluku);
  2. the Central resort centered at Fakfak, and
  3. the Southern one centered at Merauke, were both subordinated to the "residency" centered in Ambon (Central Maluku)

Correction July 26, 1998:

That division into three resorts refers to the situation around 1919. I meanwile found out this was changed later. According to the Atlas van Tropisch Nederland of 1938 of the Royal Netherlands Geographical Society:

  • a southern section bound in the North by the main watershed, in the East by the border to present PNG, and in the West by the river Mimika, was part of the "Afdeeling Toeal" with capital in Tual on Kaidulah (one of the Kei Islands), which also included the Aru, Tanimbar, and Damar Islands, as well as Leti and Wetar.
  • The rest of Western New Guinea together with the islands of Gebe and Yu (immediately East of Halmahera) formed the "Afdeeling West en Noord Nieuw Guinea".
So it was still two divisions, one of which was grouped with islands composing Southeast Maluku.

All this was of course, like the numerous other "residencies" of the entire colony, under administration of the colonial government in Batavia (today: Jakarta). Although there were several so-called "self-administrating" territories within the colony, they were all nevertheless subordinated to Batavia, and Western New Guinea was not even one of those.

The Western half of New Guinea was part and parcel of Dutch East Indies as was surrenderred to the Japanese when these overran the colony.

On the eve of Indonesian proclamation of independence in August 1945, two concepts of independent Indonesia were discussed.

Sukarno's concept was accepted, and this was the Indonesia whose independence (from Japanese occupation) was proclaimed jointly by Sukarno and Hatta in 1945.

After Dutch forces began reoccupying large parts of the territory in 1946, the colonial administration re-installed in the occupied zones set up a multiplicity of puppet states in competition to the Republic. One of these was the "State of East Indonesia", the territory of which encompassed practically all of East Indonesia including Western New Guinea and even parts of Central Indonesia.

The Round Table Conference of 1949 resulted in the handing over of sovereignty to a "United States of Indonesia", in which the Republic was one federal state, and the former puppet states were the other ones (including the "State of East Indonesia"). But whereas the "secretary of state" in all these puppet states had been a Dutch official, this was no longer so when they became federal states. To retain some leverage on what was happening here, The Netherlands made an exception for Western New Guinea, which was not entered into the United States of Indonesia together with the "State of East Indonesia", but the decision of its further status was postponed for one year.

Problems began when that year was over, and the Dutch government of that time declined negotiations on the final status of the territory which had up till then been part of Dutch East Indies/Indonesia....

Incidentally, among the puppet states becoming federal states in 1949 were the "State of East Java", and the "State of Pasundan" (West Java), which just goes to further underline the brilliant erudition of our alleged "UCB" man when he writes:

<< After the Dutch military forces were driven from Java in December, 1949, .... >>

Oh boy! who drove them out? when, where, how come our history books say nothing of this glorious feat .....
(Between us, nobody drove them anywhere, except in trucks to the harbour where they boarded ship).

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