Dag Hammarskjöld, West Papua, and the United Nations

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The West Papua Office in Docklands has adapted quickly to COVID-19 restrictions, and our first Open Day in 2020, on Sunday 19 April, was a ‘webinar’ (online forum) featuring well-informed speakers presenting perspectives on the life of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, and how his death on 17 September 1961 (in still-suspicious circumstances) effected the illegal switch of West Papua from a UN Non-Self-Governing Territory to an Indonesian colony.

Below for video recording of webinar

SUMMARY Since the publication of Greg Poulgrain’s ground-breaking The Incubus of Intervention: conflicting Indonesia strategies of John F. Kennedy and Allen Dulles in 2015 we have known that Secretary-General Hammarskjöld was about to introduce a Decolonisation Program in Netherlands New Guinea whereby the West Papuan people would be recognised as the sovereign owners of their land, and that UN officers would assist an independent West Papuan government for five years.

Hammarskjöld had developed the program with the Netherlands Government, and had consulted with President Kennedy and the Economic Council of New York. He’d also discussed it with General MacArthur who in 1944, with Dutch resident Jan van Eechoud, laid the infrastructural foundations of what both believed would become an independent state.

Hammarskjöld intended to present the decolonisation program to the 1961 General Assembly, but his death just days before the opening of the Assembly meant the motion was raised by the Netherlands UN Representative. Without Hammarskjöld’s authoritative and influential presence, debate in the General Assembly was confused, and confusing, and the motion didn’t garner the necessary two-thirds majority support.

The UN’s failure to adopt a policy of self-determination for West Papua opened the way for an American diplomat—appointed by Acting Secretary-General U Thant—to mediate an agreement that facilitated Indonesia’s incorporation of West Papua and over-rode the Dutch and West Papuans’ well-organised well-funded self-determination project.

VIDEO RECORDING OF FRWP WEBINAR ON 19 APRIL 2020 (This recording is in six segments. ‘Full screen view’ recommended. PDFs of speeches can be viewed/downloaded).

1. Welcome (5′) Jacob Rumbiak, ULMWP Spokesperson, FRWP Minister of Foreign Affairs. Includes an account, and historical photos, of the Spanish Flu in West Papua after World War One, which killed one in five of the Marind tribe from Merauke on the south coast of West Papua near the PNG border. This segment also includes the Acknowledgement of Country by Mrs Babuan Mirino, President, West Papua Womens (FRWP) Office in Docklands.


[Click to view/download speech] Jacob Rumbiak, FRWP Webinar, 19 April 2020, Welcome

2. Introduction (5′) Louise Byrne, FRWP West Papua Womens Office, Docklands
Overview of the development and the demise of Secretary-General Hammarskjöld’s decolonisation program for West Papua. Includes a rare recording of Akai Bipa Mare by Arnold Ap and his 1980s cultural performance group Mambesak.


[Click to view/download speech] Louise Byrne, FRWP Webinar, 19 April 2020, Introduction

3. Mr Clovis Mwamba from Democratic Republic of Congo The ill-fated voyage of Secretary-General Hammarskjöld’s voyage to The Congo in 1961 (11′)


[Click to view/download speech] Clovis Mwamba, The ill-fated voyage of Secretary-General Hammarskjöld’s voyage to The Congo in 1961, West Papua Webinar, 19 April 2020

For Clovis Mwamba My Story, 2020, a 6′ video produced by the Western Digital Storytelling Project Team in Melbourne, click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYOVJwgIaEw

4. Dr Roger Kalla from Sweden Dag Hammarskjöld: Poet & Photographer(17′)


[Click to view/download speech] Introduction to Dr Roger Kalla, West Papua (FRWP) Webinar, 19 April 2020

5. Dr Joe Toscano What is the West Papua Rent Collective? (11′)


[Click to view/download] What is the West Papua Rent Collective_ 19 April 2020

6. Jacob Rumbiak What’s happening behind COVID-19 in West Papua? (7′)


[Click to view/download speech] Jacob Rumbiak, Behind COVID-19 in West Papua, 19 April 2020

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