The Forgotten Facts of Nicolaas Jouwe: The King of Nowhere Land

Looking back to the early 60’s when a middle-aged Melanesian man from Papua, Raja Nicolaas Jouwe, was still in the middle of his struggles in reaching one of his biggest dreams: i.e. to get West Papua independent from Indonesia. He was trying to get international attention, especially from the United Nations (UN) to succeed realizing this dream.

However, in 1963, with the support of the US, it was decided on The New York Agreement that West Papua was integrated to Indonesia. As a result, he decided to seclude himself to the Netherlands and made a vow that he would never go back to his homeland until it obtains its sovereignty. Jouwe and his family moved to and lived in Delft, The Netherlands since then, but he returned to Jakarta, Indonesia in 2010 until the end of his life.

What had caused Jouwe make such decision after living in the Netherlands for almost half a century? There were probably forgotten facts about the creator of the Morning Star flag that we all need to reveal. Some of them are as follows:

  • Having been born in Jayapura (used to be called Hollandia), Papua, on 24 November 1923 as a native Papuan, Raja Nicolaas Jouwe confessed that as a child, he was almost never taught the history of Papua at school.

What he and his schoolmates learned back then was mostly about the history and geography of the Netherlands such as how many mountains and rivers there were in the colonial country. The students were also taught the national anthem of the Netherlands and West Papua, i.e. “Hai Tanahku, Papua” (English: “Oh My Land Papua”) instead of “Indonesia Raya“, the Indonesian anthem.


  • Nicolaas Jouwe was a tribal leader’s son, and when he grew up (as a Christian), he got to know a lot of religious leaders there (both Protestant and Catholic ministers), especially when he was assigned as a Dutch government’s political advisor in West Papua.

This was probably his journey to earn credibility to be in a high position in the New Guinea Council and be the main political spokesman for Free Papua Movement / Organisation in West Papua. Later, he was also promised by the Dutch government to become the president of the independent Papua (New Guinea).

  • Jouwe was a native Papuan who had the highest position in the New Guinea Council that officially started up its office on 5 April 1961.

His responsibility was mostly preparing for the Netherlands New Guinesa’s (West Papua) independence. The Dutch government fully supported this preparation, including the independence date which was 1 December 1961, national anthem, and the Morning Star flag (Indonesian: Bendera Bintang Kejora). This then led the Trikora Operation by the Indonesian military on 19 December 1961 – 15 August 1962.


  • As mentioned above, Jouwe’s father was a tribal chief/leader in Papua which led his journey to become a trusted political spokesman for the Dutch government.

That went on until he and his family resided in Delft, near the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. He also obtained credibility to be a leader in the Papuan community there. This is probably why he was metaphorically entitled as “Koning Zonder Land“(translated as a king without a land/country) by Dutch television on its documentary film “King without a Country” broadcasted in 2008.


  • On a documentary film about Jouwe’s life broadcasted by Dutch television in October 2008 (as mentioned previously), he said that back in 1962 when he arrived in the Netherlands, he got a terraced house in Delft with his family.

However, the Dutch government apparently only assigned him the house for a certain period and later the house was demolished.

Despite the unfortunate fact, he said he would remain firm with his decision not to return to his homeland, but a year later, he was invited by the Indonesian government through the Indonesian Ambassador to the Netherlands, J.E (Fanny) Habibie then, to visit his ancestral land and he responded positively to that. That event was probably one of the triggers of his decision to permanently return to Indonesia. His visit to his homeland was recorded again by the director of the documentary film.

  • Nicolaas Jouwe spent the remaining years of his life in Indonesia and wrote an autobiography of himself “Kembali ke Indonesia: Langkah, Pemikiran, dan Keinginan” (English: My Return to Indonesia: The Steps, Thoughts, and Desires). Through his book, he expressed his regret to have opposed Indonesia to obtain sovereignty for West Papua back then.


He believed that the Dutch government did not support the independence of West Papua for nothing, as they had once admitted that the Netherlands needed raw materials from Papua alone. He also saw much progress on the political and economic situations in Indonesia and especially Papua. Therefore, he suggested that we should focus more on the cooperation to reach welfare for all the people in every part of Indonesia, including Papua.

The King of Nowhere Land finally passed away on 16 September 2017 at the age of 93 in his homeland, Indonesia, but remains a legend and inspiration in every Indonesian’s heart.