On may 30th I was in Deurne at the Reunion of the 41e Nieuw-Guinea bataljon Stoottroepen, infantry forces who had to defend Dutch New Guinea from Indonesian infiltrants in 1962, when we fought for and lost our last piece of colony in the East. This subject has interested me since I studied history and wrote my thesis on the subject of Dutch development policy in New Guinea. In 2012 it will be 50 years since the handover to the UN, and finally to Indonesia. After a fraudulent referendum in 1969 New Guinea became officially part of the Republic of Indonesia. Sadly the Papua’s have gotten a very bad deal, the Indonesian government has never really put much effort in developing the region or sharing the wealth of the natural resources. Not that the Dutch really had any legitimate claims to any of their colonies, but they did promise the Papua’s democracy and independence just before they left. I am preparing my work for a composition with historic audio and film material from Dutch New Guinea, which will premiere october 1st at Bronbeek in Arnhem.
I am interested in the image that the Dutch had of themselves, how they justified their colonial status and how the people that were involved look back on that. It was great talking to the old soldiers. All of them feel very bad for leaving the Papua’s after they have just been promised a concrete path to Independence. The mood at the reunion was warm, a bit melancholic. More than 300 people showed up, old soldiers, some with their wives. After the group photo there was a great performance of the Papuan Dance group Cendrawasih Papua.