from the UN Report on Netherlands New Guinea for the Year 1961
Presented to the Secretary General of the United Nations
pursuant to Article 73(e) of the Charter
Note: Netherlands New Guinea is now known as West Papua
Prior to 1900 practically nothing was known about the prehistory of Netherlands New Guinea. Only in the last decades has some idea been obtained of the ancient history of the country. Recent archaeological investigations, finds of bronze axes, discoveries of rock drawings and of remains of old fortifications have given indications of migrations in former times. However, we are very far from being able to obtain a well-rounded comprehensive picture of prehistoric era.
From the beginning of the 16th century representatives of Western European countries often had contact with the country, but they found it as it remained until modern means came to the aid: barren, inaccessible, producing nothing for the markets outside the island.
A Portuguese, Antonio d’Abreu is believed to have been the first to sight the coasts, without going ashore, in 1511. Don Jorge de Menezes, who sailed in 1526-1527 from the Malayan Penninsula to the Spice Islands, drifted off course and was the first to set foot on the soil of New Guinea. The name Papua was already known then.
in 1545 the Spaniard Ynigo Ortiz de Retez sailed along the north coast. He gave the island the name “Nueva Guinea” because of the similarity between the inhabitants and the negroes of Guinea, in the west coast of Africa.
Various explorers, whose names slave on in this part of the world in some geographical name or the other, called at the island. Luiz Vaez de Torres in 1606, Le Maire and Schouten in 1616, Jan Carstensz in 1623, Abel Jansz. Tasman in 1643, William Dampier in 1700, Captain Cook – who recorded the fact that he was received by the inhabitants in a particularly unfriendly fashion – in 1770, Shortland in 1788, and Hunter and MacCluer in 1791, on which occasion MacCluer charted part of the west coast.
The United East India Company was never immediately interested in New Guinea. It was only concerned that the island would not be used as a base for British or Spanish penetration, a danger to which its position – so close to the vulnerable Spice Islands – might give rise.
However, when 1826 rumors went the rounds about a possible British settlement on the south coast, the State of the Netherlands proceeded officially to take possession of the island by proclamation in 1828. For the first time the 141st degree of longitude was now stated as furthest eastern frontier in the south and in the north the Cape of Good Hope.
This proclamation was the beginning of an attempt to establish active Dutch rule over New Guinea, an attempt which was doomed to failure, since in those days man was still powerless against the tropical diseases raging on the island, the causes of which were not understood. In 1836 the high mortality rate made it necessary to abandon the settlement established in 1828 at Merkusoord (on Triton Bay). From then on attempts at administration were confined for many years to keeping the peace on the seas around and on the fringes of the island.
In 1835 the Protestant Mission established itself in New Guinea for the first time, on the island of Mansinam, opposite Manokwari.
On the eastern half of the island increasing activity on the part of Europeans began to be noticeable, particular after 1860. And yet, partly owing to the inhospitable nature of the country, it was not until 1883 and 1884 that the island came under German and British rule.
This led to the decision to establish actual Dutch administration. This came into being in 1898 at Manokwari on the north coast and Fak-Fak on the west coast, followed in 1902 by establishment at Merauke on the south coast, whilst the first Catholic Mission station was founded there in 1905. From then on administration was regularly extended.
In general it may be said that an effective exercise of administration did not become feasible until after the beginning of the century, when progress in the medical and technical fields made it possible to cope with malaria and other common tropical diseases, and to tackle successfully the inaccessible terrain.
Besides the work of numerous scientific expeditions, separate reference should be made to the work of military exploration, which lasted 1907 to 1915. As a result of this, the knowledge of the country and its people was greatly extend in a short time and a basis was laid for further investigations.
During the war the greater part of the Territory was occupied by the Japanese; only part of the south remained free. In 1944, after the advance of the American armies, headquarters were established at Hollandia, and this circumstance led to Hollandia being made the centre of Netherlands administration.
In July 1946 the area again became administratively a separate residence, after which the institution of the Government of Netherlands New Guinea took place on 27 December, 1949.
In the years which have elapsed since then, the development of the country and its people has been systematically tackled. This has been made possible by a substantial annual financial contribution from the Netherlands Government.
Scientific research has been carried out so as to obtain an idea of the possibilities in the fields of agriculture, forestry, stock-breeding, fishing and mining.
Basic facilities required for economic and administrative development have been created or improved. For instance, airfield and port accommodation has been considerably improved, the result being better communications and greater possibilities of transport, and a great many houses, offices, hospitals and schools have been built.
The cultivation of new crops, both food and commercial crops, has been introduced, and new methods of tilling the soil have found acceptance.
Education has been considerably extended and improved, not only general, but also technical and vocational education.
The missionary societies have extended their activities. An independent Protestant Church, the Evangelical Church in Netherlands New Guinea, was constituted.
Administration has been extended and intensified, for instance by the introduction of six administrative divisions and creation of a number of new subdivisions, coupled with the founding of a large number of new administrative posts.
The policy has always been to bring the Papuan population themselves, both men and women, into this development, not only at an official level, but also by the institution of representative bodies in which they can promote their own interests.
On 5 April, 1961, a central representative body, the New Guinea Council, was set up. This body has 28 members, of which 23 are Papuans, including one woman. Its creation gives the population, through their representatives, a say in the legislation and the administration of the country and in deciding on the policy with regard to further development which is intended to lead to self-government and self-determination.