Nicolaas Jouwe, the Long-Lost Hero of Indonesia from West Papua

Nicolass Jouwe -
Nicolass Jouwe -

As early as the independence of Indonesia, parts of Papua have been struggling with rebels. In 1965, the efforts of the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka) had been started. Indonesian military posts were being attacked by some groups of people who were demanding the freedom of Papua from Indonesia.

One of its phenomenal figures is Nicolaas Jouwe. Born in Jayapura, 24 November 1923, Nicolaas Jouwe was one of the most influential persons on the Free Papua Movement organization. He was elected by the Dutch government as the vice president of Netherlands New Guinea Council. The council was formed under the effort of continuing Dutch colony in Papua. It is planned that the council would establish Papua independence within a year after its formation.

However, the dispute between Indonesia and Netherlands about Papua independence has drawn international attention. The president of United States at the time, John F. Kennedy, is negotiating the integration of Papua to Indonesia. As a result, the New York Agreement was signed by Indonesia and Netherlands, approved by the United Nations.

At the transition, the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) was formed. In six month, Papua was integrated to Indonesia. Disappointed by the result, Nicolaas Jouwe left Papua to the Netherlands. He lived in Delft, Netherlands, from 1963 to 2008. Upon his departure, he vowed to never return to Indonesia before Papua reach its own independence.

Nicolaas Jouwe and the Independence of Indonesia in Papua

Nicolass Jouwe -
Nicolass Jouwe –

Long before he was involved in the Free Papua Movement, Nicolaas Jouwe was one of the first people to raise Indonesian flag on the land of Papua. Together with Frans Kaisiepo and Marcus Kaisiepo, Nicolaas Jouwe sang Indonesia’s national anthem and saluted to Indonesia’s national flag.

It is after that he learned Indonesia intended to bring Papua as one unity with Indonesia, he changed direction and started the fight for Papua freedom.

Netherlands’ Intervention in Free Papua Movement and Organization

Morning star flag -
Morning star flag –

The fact that the setting up of The Morning Star flag was sponsored by the Dutch government has made it clear that the colonial country was trying to separate Papua from Indonesia. The Morning Star flag was designed and made by the Dutch in Papua. It’s not only the flag that was raised, but the colonial government has also made merchandises of The Morning Star flag which were promoted to the people of Papua.

The Netherlands New Guinea Council was indeed formed by the Dutch colonial to declare Papua’s independence. The council is a politic strategy from the Netherlands to keep Papua under its colonization.

To support the council, the National Committee is founded. Together, the Netherlands New Guinea Council and the National Committee established a political manifesto which consists of the new country’s name, planned to be “West Papua”. They also set the national flag of The Morning Star, their national anthem “Hai Tanahku Papua”, and planned its declaration.

Initially, the Papua independence was intended to be held on 1 November 1961. To the delay of the Netherlands’ approval, the ceremony was held back until 1 December 1961 in Jayapura. However, since Papua is already a part of Indonesia, the approval of another country such as the Netherlands would not mean sovereignty for the land. Moreover, the number between the Free Papua Movement and the total number of Papuan population does not match in any level.

Through all the struggling years, the Free Papua Movement has been building its power outside of Indonesia. Having lived in the Netherlands, Nicolaas Jouwe has witnessed the intervention of the Dutch people in the Free Papua Movement organization.

He then realized that a big part of the Free Papua Movement was set up by the Netherlands to continue its colonization upon Papua. More than forty years later, he started to fix the relationship with his homeland, Indonesia.

Returning to Indonesia

Nicolass Jouwe -
Nicolass Jouwe –

In an occasion, a month later after the New York Agreement, Nicolaas Jouwe had a brief conversation with John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States. In it, Kennedy revealed the fact behind the Papua’s independence plot. Indeed, the Dutch government at that time has been making attempts to keep Papua under its colonization.

The reason behind it was clear: Papua is their only resources for natural mines and supplies. This has made Nicolaas Jouwe understood that indeed, Papua is a part of Indonesia. His decision of leaving Indonesia was a remorse and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life back in the land of Papua, Indonesia.

Before leaving for Indonesia, Nicolaas Jouwe corresponded with Fannie Habibie, Indonesian ambassador for the Netherlands at the time. In that chance, Fannie Habibie delivered President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s invitation for Nicolaas Jouwe to come home to Indonesia.

In March 2009, Nicolaas Jouwe came to Jakarta and headed to Jayapura. It became a dramatic moment when Nicolaas Jouwe first stepped on his homeland for more than 40 years later. In January 2010, he attained his Indonesian nationality back and promised to give his best effort to help Indonesian government establish a great development for Papua.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. On 17 September 2017, Nicolaas Jouwe passed away and buried in Jayapura. The long-lost hero of Papua had finally come home and rested his body right on the land which he had been defending for decades.