Dutch-based Papuan leader Nicolaas Jouwe travels to Indonesia and Papua

Dutch-based Papuan leader Nicolaas Jouwe travels to Indonesia and Papua

Nicolaas Jouwe (85), Papuan leader of old, will fly to Indonesia on Tuesday the 17th of March. There he will meet Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and also visit his home country Papua, the former Dutch colony. It is the first time Jouwe returns to his birthplace since the country was handed over to Indonesia in 1963.

Nicolaas Jouwe will undertake this special trip because the Indonesian government

invited him. With his visit Nicolaas Jouwe hopes to strengthen the dialogue between

Jakarta and the Papuans. Jouwe, who has been living in the Dutch town of Delft, will be accompanied on this journey by two of his children: Nancy and Nico Jouwe, who also live in the Netherlands. During his stay in Jakarta, Jouwe hopes to have a constructive talk with president Yudhoyono and by doing this give the dialogue between Papua and its leaders and Jakarta a boost.

Jouwe remains in favour of independence, but in the light of the dire economic and social circumstances modern Papuans find themselves in, he is willing to contribute to an open dialogue. The 2001 Law on Special Autonomy which was supposed to uplift the Papuans and improve their circumstances has not worked out very well up until now. Therefore many have called out for a constructive dialogue between Papuan leaders and Jakarta.

"However you look at it, Indonesia remains our big neighbour", Jouwe says. "We have to try and discuss our issues and problems openly." According to Jouwe, the fact that he has been invited over for talks on the status of Papua, is a clear sign that the Indonesian government is taking things seriously and is willing to listen to the Papuans. Says Jouwe: "I believe a better future for the Papuans can only be reached by means of a peaceful dialogue, based on mutual respect." Jouwe sees the upcoming meeting as an important first symbolic step. In his meetings Jouwe will propose an agenda that will frame and guide further dialiogue. To Jouwe it is important that this dialogue will eventually lead to a prosperous and sustainable future for the Papuan people.

Jouwe will not only meet with president Yudhoyono and members of his cabinet, he will also have discussions with Papual leaders in Papua.