Dr (h.c.) Johan B P Maramis


Testimony of an Indonesian diplomat






At the urging of my family and friends I am writing this addition to my first book “A Journey into Diplomacy” and 15 articles on “Glimpses of my diplomatic career” The personal side of my career was lacking in my first writings. I have chosen the title “Empowering presence of the Lord” since I honestly believed that He has guided and blessed my career and I had felt His empowering presence throughout my career all along the way. This article described those events as a testimony of the Lord’s blessings.




I was brought up by religious Protestant parents who implanted in their children a religious life in the service of the Lord. My father had not pursued a formal education. He ran away at the age of 10 years from his village to seek a better future abroad. He strongly believed in own self-determination and with the blessings of the Lord he would overcome all the obstacles in life.

I remember when he was assigned in Banjarmasin, East Kalimantan, he was determined to pass the so-called ”Dutch Junior Civil servant exam” which would have enabled him to get higher position. He had many problems to overcome the most important was his command of the Dutch language that he could hardly speak. With his sheer determination, strong will and prayers to the Lord days and nights, he barely succeeded in his exam. His giant efforts turned out to be a passport for higher position which benefited his family as well. He always imprinted upon the children to be themselves coupled with a firm determination to succeed and prayers  to the Lord for His guidance.



We were enrolled in Dutch elementary school. I failed in my 5th grade because of regular absence from school due to the detentions I was punished with due my frequent fights at school. Fortunately we moved to Java because my brother had to attend senior high school which did not exist in the outer islands during the colonial period. My father retired as Dutch civil servant having last served at the taxation section of the Ministry of Finance. It was with the Lord’s blessings that he was able to get us enrolled in prestigious Dutch schools which were quite an achievement during those times. Graduates of those schools were practically assured of higher positions. One thing I learned from him which had guided my future career is to cultivate one’s sense of self confidence. What is more important are one’s own performance, own will power and constant prayers for His blessings. One event I vividly remembered when I nearly failed to pass the 4th grade at the senior  high school. My first report card showed 6 red marks. The Principal even suggested that I  changed to another school which would give me one more year to pass. My own school needed only 5 years to pass whereas other schools had 3 years for juniors and another 3 years for the seniors so one needed 6 years to pass the senior high school. I refused and set myself to study hard to erase those red marks. Fortunately I succeeded with the Lord’s guidance and graduated on 20 May 1941 before the war. 





After I graduated from high school I applied to the Military Academy since it was the ardent wish of my father to have one of his sons joining the army. The academy was relocated in Bandung after the Netherlands was occupied by the Germans. I had to attend first a preparatory course of 2 month. I failed however. During one of the weekends when I was in Bandung I visited my parents in Jakarta. When my father saw me in military uniform there were tears in his eyes. He thought that one of his dreams had come true. That was the last time I saw him alive since after Bandung. I applied for a reserve officer’s course in the naval academy in Surabaya. We were however dismissed when the war broke out and my ambition to pursue a military career was thus thwarted. Fortunately my brother had enrolled in a reserve officer course in Bandung but became  prisoner of war when Japan invaded Java. He was forced to work as slave labor and was send to Rabaul in the Pacific. The Australian army liberated him and he was transported to West Irian where the Dutch advised him to continue with his military training and he became a lieutenant. At least one of his sons joined  the army. He later joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but quitted when I joined the Ministry since he wanted to become a businessman.




My mother insisted to go back to Minahasa since my father meanwhile had died and there was no news of my brother’s where-about. Later, we learned he was in Rabaul. My father had left some lands and paddy fields, the proceeds of which in my mother’s opinion could keep the three of us alive including my younger sister. My elder sister had already passed away.

I found work as one of the editors of a newspaper in Tomohon. Meanwhile there was an advertisement in the newspaper offering scholarships to study in Netherlands for graduates of high schools. Upon pressures from the elderly who also wrote my application I had to further my study abroad since there was a short supply of civil servants in the administration. Since married people could also apply, I was indeed accepted for a scholarship.

Strange indeed are the ways of the Lord. After high school I believed it was not his plan for me to find a career in the armed forces. I did not also expect to return to Minahasa. At that time, I was already engaged and had plans to get married, eager to build a family and to work in the newspaper business. We were married by proxy on 15 July 1946 in a religious ceremony on 3rd October 1946. I never have dreamed to receive a scholarship in the Netherlands. I strongly believed that He had other plans for me. At the end of November, we sailed to the Netherlands where we arrived exactly on Christmas day 25 December. I believed that was a sign that our stay in Netherlands would have His blessings. He wanted us to live a religious life and be successful in my study. I prayed indeed regularly for His guidance and blessings.





When we arrived in Netherlands we were quartered in an old castle “Warmond” surrounded by icy waters where I learned how to skate. We had to find a pla     ce for rent and found one in a little town of Oegstgeest close to the University by a friendly Dutch widow with six children. There were other Indonesians too in the three story building. We occupied a room in the top floor where I learned how to put bricks in the stove to keep us warm. We really liked the family who taught us the Dutch way of life. I started my study the first week of January 1947. I had to use a tram to take me to the University. Since I was already married I decided to study hard to shorten my university years and did not engage in extra curriculum activities except attending weekly bible lessons given by a Reverend who was preparing himself to be sent abroad. He later married a Manadonese girl. I even managed to become chairman of a branch of the Indonesian Christian Student Association (PERKI) and ultimately became General Chairman of the country-wide association. At one Christmas celebration, Nini and I were invited in a stage performance acting as Maria and Joseph.

In 1949 I had, as General Chairman, to lead Christmas celebration of the association held  in a small town called “Woudschoten”. It happened to be a year when the Round Table Conference was held and some prominent Indonesian Christians members of the Indonesian Delegation were present. One could imagine how nervous I was to lead the ceremony. I read several books about Christmas and prayed to the Lord to guide me and give me strength to talk about the message of the Lord. Thank God I succeeded in performing my task. 

One sad event however, occurred when we lost our first born daughter Ineke. She suffered an ear infection with high fever which developed into encephalitis from which she could not survive. We buried her at a Christian cemetery in The Hague. With the Lord’s blessings I graduated in a little over 4 years  on 14 March 1951. Normally it took 5 years to complete. We were rather consoled when our first boy Barry was born on 20 March 1949. Since the Ministry of Interior had yet no plans for us with the agreement of Indonesian High Commissioner Mr. Moh. Roem  I applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which readily accepted my application. Three of us Nini, me and our son Barry left by ship for Indonesia where we arrived in Jakarta the third week of May 1951.





When I was a student I became the General Chairman of the Christian Students Association (PERKI) which no doubt had enriched my religious life I prayed for His help and guidance when I started my career at the Foreign Office from 1st of June 1951. I was fortunate in my early years to have been appointed to attend United Nations ECAFE (Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East) conferences and became familiar with the Organization’s work which had greatly helped me in my future career at the United Nations. I had two assignments in the United Nations. First as Counselor in charge of Economic and Social matters at the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the United Nations from 1960-1965 and because of my familiarity with the UN.

I was several times elected as officer of the Board of various UN committees and conferences serving as Chairman and Secretary which had also increased my popularity at the United Nations. I was fortunately present during the debate on the question of West Irian which resulted in an agreement on the Act of free Choice and I was also present when Indonesia ceased co-operation with United Nations and when the following year Indonesia resumed co-operation with UN on September 1966, I had described those two historic events and others in separate chapters. In my second assignment as Deputy Permanent Representative with the rank of Ambassador from 1969-1972 I was elected Vice-President in 1969 and President of UN Economic and Social Council ECOSOC one of the six principal organs of the United Nations which under my stewardship adopted a number of important resolutions among which the Second UN Development Decade resolution, the establishment of UN volunteers  program and to combat the use of narcotic drugs and other important resolutions, I had promoted and assisted Adam Malik for his Presidency of the 26th General Assembly in 1971. I had the feeling that the Lord had guided me in the performance of my tasks.




In my first year in ESCAP I proposed with the Lord’s blessings the change of name of ECAFE (Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East) into ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. By substituting Far East with Pacific aimed at bringing the Pacific island countries and countries bordering the Pacific into the mainstream of ASCAP’s activities and also of equal importance was that greater attention be given to the social dimensions of development (Asia in particular was facing enormous social problems) by initiating an integrated approach for development. To my surprise my proposal was unanimous adopted and from then on I was named Mr. ESCAP.

Likewise adopted was my proposal to establish a regular forum between the Permanent

Representatives of ESCAP and the Secretariat (ACPR) to conduct regular consultations to improve the work of the Secretariat. A Regional framework for development setting out the priorities was also adopted in the Colombo Declaration which was further refined the following year in the New Delhi Declaration. A number of other initiatives were adopted in subsequent years such as the establishment of a Committee on Inter-Agency co-operation on rural development in which several UN agencies and ESCAP Secretariat were joining fund and forces in the implementation of a joint project. I had also successfully mobilized extra-budgetary resources to finance increasing number of projects and experts from US $ 800.000 when I assumed office to US$ 30 million at the time of my retirement. The establishment of an Liaison office in Nauru in the Pacific was another example of ESCAP’s attention to the Pacific island countries. The establishment of an Asian Pacific Development Center in Kuala Lumpur which  would serve as a think tank for further economic and social development in the vast region. 

             Finally I was awarded an Honorary Doctor’s Degree in Political Science from an South Korean University on 9 May 1978 for my stewardship of ESCAP in successfully forging an Asian-Pacific identity.  All those important initiatives I could have carried out with the Lord’s blessings After my retirement from ESCAP I was again offered the post of the first Secretary General of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO) for three years from 1990 to 1993. Looking back at all those years of service to my country, I must confess that I had been blessed and guided by the empowering presence of the Lord, who had stood beside me and guided me to achieve the summit of my three and a half decades of service to my country.






Posted June 28, 2004    -  

Admin: rudyct                                        https://tumoutou.com