Claims on Irian

The Claims on Irian

(By a Correspondent in Australia)

[NOTE: This was written and submitted to The Economist some time prior to United Nations decisions on the issue.  In another piece, which I may find soon, advocated the creation of a “United States of Melanesia”, thinking of the islands from Irian to Vanuatu.]

The present deadlock in negotiations concerning the future of Dutch New Guinea focuses attention once again upon the rival claims and the possibility of armed conflict.

The basis of the Indonesian claim on Irian, as Dutch New Guinea is sometimes called, has received very little publicity in Australia. Holland was the first Western Power to establish an effective claim in New Guinea. Readers of Wallace and other early travellers may remember references to the weak and quarrelsome Sultanate of Ternate and Tidore in the Moluccas, the latter of whom claimed suzerainty over the coastline of New Guinea, which was then occasionally visited by traders, partic­ularly for slaves. The Dutch claim to this coastline arose when they established authority over the Sultanate and now, say the Indonesians, since the Sultanate has reverted to Indonesian control, so too should its original dominions

There has also been an ethnic claim, recently abandoned by the Indonesians themselves. There are of course linguistic and cultural affinities between the Indonesians and the peoples of Oceania; but these have become so modified over the centuries that it would take a very glib politician indeed to persuade  scientists of the validity of claims based upon them. Apart from one or two areas of close trading contact and the use of Malay as an official lingua franca they are weakest of all in Irian, where indigenous Malayo-Polynesian elements are hardly traceable.

At first sight, therefore, it would seem easy to rebut Indonesian claims. The Dutch do this principally on moral grounds. In effect they say to the Indonesians, “Your legal claim is no

stronger than ours. We can administer the country better. Therefore we have the moral duty to remain.” The question is, what grounds are there for believing that the Dutch will administer more effectively? To that question we can only give a partial answer. In Borneo and New Guinea Indonesian doctors, police, and other technical personnel have been an indispensable instrument of Dutch administration. Indonesians are now gaining experience in responsibility for indigenous peoples throughout their present territories. Meanwhile, the Dutch cannot be said to have developed New Guinea, which is commercially much more backward than the neighbouring Australian territories. Insecurity, which is likely to be permanent while Dutch and Indonesian claims conflict, prevents the attraction of Dutch capital thus placing them on the same level as the Indonesians, who are also said to lack capital. Apart from an occasional oil tanker and official plane, there is no communication with the territory. The strangest point in favour of Dutch administra­tion is that serious attempts are being planned in the field of native social development but even this owes much of its inspiration to the South Pacific Commission which presumably could inspire the Indonesians as well.

The attitudes of India and Australia to these claims are of some interest. India’s support of Indonesia is widely supposed to be based simply on friendship for a struggling neighbour. Indian writers, however, have long pointed to the huge sparsely-populated island as an outlet for Asian migrants and there is no doubt that Asian peasants, after some adaptation, could grow rice and other crops much more successfully than the present population. One wonders just what weight is given to migration in Indian and Indonesian opinion

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This of course is the great fear of Australians, who see the possibility of Asians infiltrating into their own territories. bringing with them social problems and perhaps Communism. This fear has led to an intransigent attitude and the belief that Australians would take action against Indonesian control has no doubt contributed to recent softenings of Indonesian statements which at one time threatened armed invasion. Australian extremists have even advocated that Australia should administer Dutch New Guinea herself, though critics have pointed out that Australian resources are hardly adequate for the development and defence of  existing territories. The more recent Australian suggestion is that administration should be by Condominium government, with Indonesia, Australia and Holland probably leading to permanent frustration as in the New Hebrides. The Indonesians  themselves, perhaps realising their limitations when possession by Holland is nine points of the law, made the desperate suggestion that Holland should administer under Indonesian sovereignty.

 A review of these claims seems to indicate that none of them are strong enough to sway world opinion, and that the question will be decided rather in the darkness of balance of power, crowd hysteria, and the personal characters of those who sit around conference tables. Certainly the deadlock seems beyond peaceful solution except perhaps through United Nations mediation. In the meantime, despite Dutch allegations that the Papuan inhabitants of  the country would resist invasion by force , it is certain that all but the small elite are blissfully unaware of the issues as involved.  Read the rest

Origins of Canadian University Service Overseas, 1961

Let’s Amend the Peace Corps Idea and Create a Canadian Venture

 


[NOTE: This piece was the result of press opinion that young people in Canada were softies.  I submitted it to the magazine Maclean’s in June 1961, but it was not published because they had already run another piece – with a different message – in a recent edition.]

On June 19th, [1961] the Vancouver Sun carried an editorial commenting upon the views of Dr. John I Ross, Dean of St. Andrew’s Hall at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Ross is reported to have remarked upon the university students of to-day: “Unexcited, pessimistic, unmoved by enthusiasm for anything……committed only to be uncommitted……” For the past few months I have been having a running argument with some of my colleagues who, like Dr. Ross, see “… no hope or rebellion.…..nice people, expertly polite.” This is a distressingly frequent opinion.

As I read it, I thought of some students I have known. Of Thora Hawkey, at this moment emerging, I hope unscathed, from the isolated cloisters of the Tenri University in Japan. She had gone, knowing no sentence of Japanese, to spend two years in this centre of a strong, militant expansionist Buddhist sect, with a fellow-Canadian as the only Westerner within reach, knowing full well that every pressure would be exerted upon her for her conversion And I thought of another student, Michael Ames, carrying out fieldwork in a Ceylon village, writing half—jocularly that he was washing elephants to earn some ready cash. I remembered, too, the way my office door was besieged when I announced to my class that I was off to do research in Fiji. The enthusiasts were prepared not only for the glamour, but for the hardships and disappointments. My colleagues in the University had already shown this when we depended on students to do the basic leg-work of research, living with British Columbia Indian families while we supervisors wrote up their data as a survey of contemporary Indian life.

Don’t sell the young people of Canada short. Don’t admit that they’re a bunch of physical and intellectual softies, without the stamina to face a challenge. Of course living is soft in the present condition of Canadian life, and there are many young men and women who would draw back if presented with any other alternative. But it is we, the adults, who have created such conditions, and let us not forget it. Don’t blame youth for our own ambitions and omissions. And if we want youth to be tough—minded, we should provide the openings for them to show what they can do.

At this moment at the University of Toronto, some dozen students, screened down from a group of fifty volunteers, are preparing for service in India, Sarawak, and possibly Ceylon. They will work abroad for a year, with Government and voluntary agencies, on minimal local rates of subsistence. The most exciting thing about this scheme is that it originated with students and is carried out by students, a whole army of them who worked night and day helping organize a drive for the funds necessary to provide the travel and ancillary expenses ($2,000 for each volunteer). The originator of the group which is known as Canadian Overseas Volunteers Who was Keith Spicer, a graduate student in political science, worked out the idea and received encouragement from Asian officials while he was gathering material in South East Asia for a thesis on Canada’s Colombo Plan. Even with the enthusiasm of his group, however, he found that if he were to make progress (for example, in fund-raising), he needed support from established seniors. His search for such support was one long disappointment, until he found ready recognition and sponsorship from Mr. Fred Stinson, a Toronto Member of Parliament.

Here is the critical question. Can student enthusiasm get the backing it needs from you and me without stifling it? Can we provide the resources, the continuity, and the support, without destroying initiative?

We have failed to recognize the direction of student interest.

In the parochialism of our citizenship, we have not fully recognized that the excitement of University life is largely because it is an international life. Important though the domestic issues of Canada may be, they lack the drama and challenge of the issues which confront the peoples of Asia and Africa. Here the fight for survival is real, not hidden behind the achievement of social security. Here the concept of common humanity is put to the test as technicians of many countries and persuasions work for the benefit of others. Here new societies are in the making, examining,  accepting, and rejecting many of the basic social assumptions that we tend to take for granted. And. here is one of the major challenges (together with those others which evoke a response from youth disarmament and control of nuclear fallout) to the future of mankind.

With characteristic imagination the Americans have seized upon this challenge and have based the Peace Corps movement upon it. “Movement” is indeed the right word, for despite the dampening effects of bureaucratization, the Peace Corps floats upon a ground swell of considerable magnitude. There must be literally scores of organizations in the United States, small and large, and mostly voluntary with funds drawn from the income of interested citizens, which are engaged in the task of sending young Americans abroad. The pity of it is that the Peace Corps phrase was ever coined.

For now the notion is inseparably bound up with the idea of Peace, which is the antithesis of war, and implies that young people going abroad are saving the world from cataclysm. While this hope is by no means irrelevant, in many of the potentially host countries, the notion has political overtones. It is inextricably mixed up with the Cold War, and countries can feel that they are being singled out for treatment because somehow their loyalty to the concepts of the West are in question. The American Peace Corps is now making brave attempts to live this notion down.  Read the rest

Origins of C.U.S.O 1961

Let’s Amend the Peace Corps Idea and Create a Canadian Venture

[NOTE: This piece was the result of press opinion that young people in Canada were softies.  I submitted it to the magazine Maclean’s in June 1961, but it was not published because they had already run another piece – with a different message – in a recent edition.]

On June 19th, [1961] the Vancouver Sun carried an editorial commenting upon the views of Dr. John I Ross, Dean of St. Andrew’s Hall at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Ross is reported to have remarked upon the university students of to-day: “Unexcited, pessimistic, unmoved by enthusiasm for anything……committed only to be uncommitted……” For the past few months I have been having a running argument with some of my colleagues who, like Dr. Ross, see “… no hope or rebellion.…..nice people, expertly polite.” This is a distressingly frequent opinion.

As I read it, I thought of some students I have known. Of Thora Hawkey, at this moment emerging, I hope unscathed, from the isolated cloisters of the Tenri University in Japan. She had gone, knowing no sentence of Japanese, to spend two years in this centre of a strong, militant expansionist Buddhist sect, with a fellow-Canadian as the only Westerner within reach, knowing full well that every pressure would be exerted upon her for her conversion And I thought of another student, Michael Ames, carrying out fieldwork in a Ceylon village, writing half—jocularly that he was washing elephants to earn some ready cash. I remembered, too, the way my office door was besieged when I announced to my class that I was off to do research in Fiji. The enthusiasts were prepared not only for the glamour, but for the hardships and disappointments. My colleagues in the University had already shown this when we depended on students to do the basic leg-work of research, living with British Columbia Indian families while we supervisors wrote up their data as a survey of contemporary Indian life.

Don’t sell the young people of Canada short. Don’t admit that they’re a bunch of physical and intellectual softies, without the stamina to face a challenge. Of course living is soft in the present condition of Canadian life, and there are many young men and women who would draw back if presented with any other alternative. But it is we, the adults, who have created such conditions, and let us not forget it. Don’t blame youth for our own ambitions and omissions. And if we want youth to be tough—minded, we should provide the openings for them to show what they can do.

At this moment at the University of Toronto, some dozen students, screened down from a group of fifty volunteers, are preparing for service in India, Sarawak, and possibly Ceylon. They will work abroad for a year, with Government and voluntary agencies, on minimal local rates of subsistence. The most exciting thing about this scheme is that it originated with students and is carried out by students, a whole army of them who worked night and day helping organize a drive for the funds necessary to provide the travel and ancillary expenses ($2,000 for each volunteer). The originator of the group which is known as Canadian Overseas Volunteers

Who was Keith Spicer, a graduate student in political science, worked out the idea and received encouragement from Asian officials while he was gathering material in South East Asia for a thesis on Canada’s Colombo Plan. Even with the enthusiasm of his group, however, he found that if he were to make progress (for example, in fund-raising), he needed support from established seniors. His search for such support was one long disappointment, until he found ready recognition and sponsorship from Mr. Fred Stinson, a Toronto Member of Parliament.

Here is the critical question. Can student enthusiasm get the backing it needs from you and me without stifling it? Can we provide the resources, the continuity, and the support, without destroying initiative?

We have failed to recognize the direction of student interest. In the parochialism of our citizenship, we have not fully recognized that the excitement of University life is largely because it is an international life. Important though the domestic issues of Canada may be, they lack the drama and challenge of the issues which confront the peoples of Asia and Africa. Here the fight for survival is real, not hidden behind the achievement of social security. Here the concept of common humanity is put to the test as technicians of many countries and persuasions work for the benefit of others. Here new societies are in the making, examining,  accepting, and rejecting many of the basic social assumptions that we tend to take for granted. And. here is one of the major challenges (together with those others which evoke a response from youth disarmament and control of nuclear fallout) to the future of mankind.

With characteristic imagination the Americans have seized upon this challenge and have based the Peace Corps movement upon it. “Movement” is indeed the right word, for despite the dampening effects of bureaucratization, the Peace Corps floats upon a ground swell of considerable magnitude. There must be literally scores of organizations in the United States, small and large, and mostly voluntary with funds drawn from the income of interested citizens, which are engaged in the task of sending young Americans abroad. The pity of it is that the Peace Corps phrase was ever coined.

For now the notion is inseparably bound up with the idea of Peace, which is the antithesis of war, and implies that young people going abroad are saving the world from cataclysm. While this hope is by no means irrelevant, in many of the potentially host countries, the notion has political overtones. It is inextricably mixed up with the Cold War, and countries can feel that they are being singled out for treatment because somehow their loyalty to the concepts of the West are in question. The American Peace Corps is now making brave attempts to live this notion down.  Read the rest

The Burns Commission on the economic future of fiji

[NOTE:  This is the text of a broadcast recorded by the Canadian Broadcasting Commission for airing by the Fiji Broadcasting Commission in August 1961.  Since that time Fiji has become an exporter of many new products, some of which involve small industry. The reform of land is inhibited still by Fijian vested interests.]

The report of the Burns Commission is an outspoken and timely document. It contains a great deal of considerable value to the colony and any intelligent observer must be in general agreement with the main outlines, Of course, any informed person must have his own opinion about policy and direction of policy in Fiji, and the facts and interpretation of the facts upon which policy is based. The report attempts to be very wide in its scope and this is to be welcomed. But any such report, based as it is upon the work of busy people, must be patchy in some matters, and in my opinion, in this case the report does not go nearly far enough in others. It poses some very serious problems concerned with the rapid growth of population in the colony and the limitation of resources in the colony. And after having posed these questions and suggested some technical means of increasing production, and after having considered a number of the institutions of Fijian political life, it seems to me that the report does not answer the questions it has itself posed. 

My commentary is not that of a technician, not that of an agricultural officer, or of a political administrator, but of an informed observer of social behaviour and of social institutions. My work in Fiji ended about a year ago and therefore may be somewhat out of date in certain respects, And it is concerned mainly with the Fijian viewpoint, the viewpoint of the Fijian people, and is based upon fairly widespread contact with village Fijians in a limited area of the colony, namely Nadroga and Navosa. Nevertheless, from this low level viewpoint it is possible to see some of the wider implications of Fijian policy and some of the directions and tendencies that are built into the processes of Fijian society.

I must say that there are a large number of fundamental points and recommendations in the Commission’s report with which I am considerably in agreement. The agricultural section in particular is technologically sound and has been most outstanding in the way that it has concerned itself with the preparation and analysis of highly complex data. Of course, the Burns Commission was heralded well before it arrived and this data has been prepared over a considerable number of years. It is now  available to agricultural officers in the colony itself who, I am sure, will be able to draw the same conclusions in due time.

But it seems to me that this is not the most important section of the report in the long run. It’s something that competent agricultural officers could handle at any time. 

A number of the worth while minor points include the attack on the suggestion that there should be a produce tax for Fijians, the idea that the standards of low-cost housing are perhaps sighted a little too high, the notion that tax concessions should be the main point in supporting industry as it comes to the colony, and the emphasis upon roads as the means of communication, without which any sound economic development cannot take place. These points, of course, are obviously sound and useful, even though they seem to have been d down-played to a certain extent in the colony heretofor. 

The major points are ones which will, without doubt, cause considerable controversy and some difficulty in their application and these are the ones that are of most interest to us, and I am sure which are receiving a great deal of attention in the colony at the moment. The most important of these perhaps is concerned with land and I must say that I felt very refreshed after having read the report, and very encouraged by its head-on tackling of this very, very complex problem. The major innovation suggested in this connection is that Fijian lands should be subjected to a form of taxation which would possibly be extended to cover all the lands of the colony eventually. This taxation should be related to land use and it should be based upon the notion that the mataqali is, in essence, a corporate entity, responsible for the economic administration of the land. Now this I must say, is an important suggestion and one which is bound to cause  considerable heart searching, but to my way of thinking, it is absolutely  fundamental and is bound to have far reaching consequences in the  economic usage of Fijian lands. Now, having said that, I feel that perhaps the report could have gone just a little further in this  direction. It refers to the mataqali as the most practical ownership unit at the present time, for political reasons as much as for any other.  It suggests that the mataqali should be in a position of using its land as sound security for credit of one kind or another, provided it is not lost to the Fijian people. I feel that eventually the mataqali is going to be a kind of incorporated unit, a kind of firm in which the members will be, as it were, shareholders and will be able to deal with their property more or less as any commercial  firm does at the present time, provided that the land is not alienated without certain controls. 

Now, fairly close to Fiji is a country which  has had a good deal of experience with regard to this kind of matter and has developed a number of very interesting innovations to deal with the question of land tenure among indigenous peoples whose society is based upon kinship units, such as the mataqali. I refer, of course, to the situation among the Maori of New Zealand and I feel that it would pay Fijian officials, Fijian leaders, to make a very close study of what has happened in New Zealand in this regard.   Read the rest