DR (h.c.) JOHAN B. P. MARAMIS :
GLIMPSES OF MY DIPLOMATIC CAREER
1. THE ROAD TO THE UNITED NATIONS
Early School years
Travelling down memory lane, I could still recall vividly some events during my early school years.
Starting with Elementary School (Dutch Eerste Europese Lagere School) in Manado I had to repeat the 5th grade since I was not allowed to attend school for several times because of my frequent fights with my school mates which included the late Sujatmoko who later became Rector of the U.N. University in Tokyo and Ambassador to United States and the late Henk Ngantung who became a painter and Governor of Great Jakarta.
I had also problems at Dutch Senior High School, K.W.III, when I received six red marks in the 4th grade. The Director Dr. Esbach even suggested to go to a Government high school (AMS)
But I refused and studied thoroughly to erase those red marks and I succeeded and graduated without any red marks.
I was never a bright student and was already satisfied to make the grades.
I was fortunate to receive a scholarship from the Government of East Indonesia to study in Netherlands to strengthen the ranks of the civil servants. I was already married - when my wife Nini and I left for Netherlands in November 1946. I started my studies in Leyden university in January 1947 and was able to graduate in 14 March 1951. Nearly a year earlier, the Minister of Interior had yet no plans for us and we were allowed to apply to other Ministries.
I applied for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since I had already a taste for diplomacy when I assisted the Information section headed by Wim Latumeten of the Republican Delegation during the Round Table Conference held in December 1949 in the Hague.
It was a decision that proved to fulfil my true calling as a diplomat.
I joined the Ministry on June 1, 1951. I was fortunate to start my career by attending several regional conferences and global United Nations forums which gave me the opportunity to learn how to manage such conferences and to participate effectively in such forums.
Gradually I also learned the art of systematic lobbying and to obtain the support and trust of several important countries including the co-operation of U.N. Secretariat. Along the way I had to gain experiences in chairing important conferences, mastering the rules of procedures and to become a valuable and trusted partner in seeking compromise solutions to pending problems. Ultimately I was able to manage important U.N. bodies such as U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
When Indonesia offered to host the next annual Session of ECAFE (Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East) in Bandung in 1953 I was appointed conference officer responsible for the smooth running of the conference. Apparently I succeeded and received letters of commendation from the Executive Secretary of ECAFE Dr. Lokonathan, the Foreign Minister Mr. Moekarto Notowidigdo and the Finance Minister Dr. Sumitro Djojohadikusumo who was also the Chairman of the Conference.
Mr. Moekarto even promised a reward that was extended to me by Dr. Sunarjo who was Mr. Moekarto successor. Mr. Sunarjo appointed me as a member of the Indonesian Delegation to the regular session of the UN general assembly to be held in New York in 1953.
This was my first acquaintance with the United Nations. One could imagine my feeling of pride and great anticipation that a very junior official having served for less than three years I had been appointed as a member of the Indonesian Delegation to the regular session of the United Nations.
When I arrived in New York I was given the task to represent Indonesia at the Special Political Committee of the General Assembly. I had to make my first statement on the item ďSouth West AfricaĒ which much later became independent Namibia. I had to study thoroughly the history and the present developments of the territory.
In my maiden speech I strongly supported the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in 1950 that South Africa the administrator of South West Africa should do the utmost to promote social progress of the inhabitants as a sacred trust of civilization and that the United Nations should exercise the supervisory functions of the League of Nations. I strongly condemned the oppression and exploitation of the people and demanded the early independence of the territory.
South Africa however refused to accept the Courtís opinion and over the ensuing 15 years opposed any form of UN supervision. Before my maiden speech I was naturally very nervous and could hardly sleep the night before. I was somehow able to mobilize my courage to deliver my first speech in a world forum, which helped to boost my self-confidence tremendously.
I decided without consulting the government to run for one of the vacant Asian seat on the Governing Council of the Special Fund
The first thing I set out to do was to mobilize enough votes to be elected since India was also running for re-election. I knew I had to receive the affirmative votes of the big powers and influential members of different geographical groupings like Latin America, Africa and Europe. I laid my plans to lobby those countries carefully. Fortunately I had the advantage that India was seeking re-election and was so confident that it completely ignored my efforts. I carefully pointed out how frequently India had served in the past but how especially a large country such as Indonesia had never previously occupied a seat on the Council. The result of the vote was indeed in favour of Indonesia. I was delighted and also proud that my intensive lobbying had paid off.
Another example of effective lobbing was done when I proposed Foreign Minister Adam Malik for the post of President of the General Assembly in 1971. I persuaded successfully Adam Malik with the help of his late advisor Mr. Elkana Tobing to run for the Presidency. That was the year for an Asian President that rotated every 5 years among the 5 geographical regions. I succeeded in convincing the Asian group to support Adam Malik. Indonesia was fortunate already to be known internationally for its role in the Asian African Conference, the Non-Alignment Movement, the establishment of the IGGI and the ASEAN regional grouping.
In the beginning I had faced some difficulties since the Saudi Arabian Ambassador sponsored Princess Asraf the twin sister of the Shah of Iran. Fortunately Iran had already occupied the Presidency in 1950 by Foreign Minister Entezam.
I made fully use of that event and ultimately succeeded to have Adam Malik to become the sole candidate of Asia and was subsequently elected as President of the 26th regular session of the General Assembly in 1971.
Effective and systematic lobbying is one of the important tools of diplomacy. My first lesson taught me that choosing the right timing to act, good planning and perseverance will ultimately prevail.
During my first assignment at the United Nations (1960-1965) I was already elected to chair several important conferences such as UN Capital Development Fund, AD-Hoc Committee on the co-ordination of technical assistance programmes which led to the establishment of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Group of 77 developing countries.
With those experiences behind me, I was elected Vice President (1969) and subsequently President of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (1970) during my second assignment as Deputy Permanent Representative to UN with the rank of Ambassador (1969-1972)
Those position I believed were mainly due to my ability to establish close and friendly relations with a number of important countries and members of the Secretariat and my efforts to seek compromises on important issues.
When I was President of ECOSOC for example under my guidance the Council adopted a resolution on the Second United Nations Development Decade despite the existence of divergent views on international development strategies. I did it by persuasion and calling for informal meetings to iron out difficulties. The Council also adopted other important resolutions such as calling for the establishment of an United Nations Volunteers Program. The program provided an opportunity for younger professionals in international and national development programs to gain experience in international and national development programs and to share their experience.
In my early years while attending several international conferences I discovered that the Secretariat played an important role in conference implementation. During my first annual session of ECAFE in 1974, I had not only proposed to change the name into ESCAP to give greater importance to geographical/political balance and the social dimension of development but I also proposed to establish an Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives to ESCAP (ACPR). Both proposals were unanimously approved.
I was determined to have regular and intensive dialogues with the member countries through the Advisory Committee to give me advice on important activities I would initiate. Several important changes were indeed made as the result of this co-operation.
Innovative changes were made in the conference structure and ESCAPís work program, the establishment of the Asian and Pacific Development Centre designed to serve as a think tank for the region which was the brain child of Mr. Sudjakmoko whom I recruited as special consultant, the establishment of a Sub-regional office of ESCAP in the Pacific to encourage greater sense of involvement of the Pacific islands countries and other important initiatives were easily adopted thanks to those dialogues
As a by-product I was able to raise considerable extra budgetary resources in the form of voluntary contribution from the member countries to finance other ESCAPís expanded programs because of their trust in me. It is indeed vital to have regular and constructive dialogues with your constituents.
Two difficult assignments
The first one related to encourage China to play a more active role in ESCAP. China was re-admitted as a member of the United Nations during Mr Adam Malikís Presidency in 1971 but in ESCAPís forum China was acting as an observer only and rarely raising its voice.
I was determined to have China actively participate in ESCAPís activities. This was indeed one of my commitments to change the name into ESCAP to bring the Pacific countries and countries bordering the Pacific in particular China and Vietnam into the mainstream of ESCAPís activities. ECAFEís activities were more Asia oriented like the Asian Highways, an Asian Railroad projects.
I visited China three times and included several of my divisionís chiefs to give extensive briefings of ESCAPís work programs and activities. I even offered China an important post as division chief. Our efforts ultimately paid off and China chose the position of Chief of the Natural Resources division for one of their experts and promised to hold several workshops and seminars in their country that they did. They also discussed with me their bilateral relations with Indonesia, They were eager to normalize their relation with Indonesia. I conveyed their messages to my government and indeed several years later Indonesia normalized its relation with China.
ESCAP requested me to revive the Mekong river basin project which was disbanded by Vietnam during the Viertnamese war. The project involving 4 riparian countries Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam had as its objective building of dams to increase electricity supply, increase rice and fish cultivation and improving its waterways. The Thai government in particular was eager to revive the project and normalize their relation with their one time enemy.
I had to engage in shuttle diplomacy to remove their respective suspicions and encouraged both sides to build a river of peace and pave the way for peace, tranquillity and trust in the region for the well being of the whole region.
Ultimately Vietnam agreed to establish an interim tripartite agreement involving three riparian countries Laos, Thailand and Vietnam as a start. The other riparian countries could join at a later stage.
I achieved the art of compromise, which helped me in my future endeavours.
As I approach my sunset years, it is my fervent hope that my experiences would be useful to all who wish to journey on the same road to diplomacy as I have embarked upon
As I mentioned before the essential elements of a successful UN diplomat:
intensive knowledge of the issues under consideration
a good sense of timing to act
familiarity with the rules of procedures of UN
close rapport with important UN members as well as members of the UN Secretariat to gain their trust.
efforts to seek compromises on important issues
a good command of English or other official language of UN
an abiding and deep sense of self-confidence.
Indeed those qualities seemed a tall task. But I believe with perseverance and will to succeed will help in obtaining these ideals.