Voorburg, October 9th, 2010
A CONTRIBUTION TO THE NETHERLANDS – JAPAN DIALOGUE FOR RECONCILIATION
Honourable Members of the Directinggroup of this DIALOGUE,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me start my observation, at today's gathering, --- with these words: --- Sincere thanks to Mme Jeanne Ham and Prof Muraoka, who sent me the invitation. I feel honoured to be participant of this important gathering of reconciliation.
Before outlining my views on the theme of the agenda of this meeting, allow me to make a brief introduction of myself, IBRAHIM ISA, of Indonesian origin. Dutch citizen since 1989.
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I have dedicated a greater part of my life for the cause of emancipation of the Indonesian nation. And, it is still so, at 80 today. This explain why, after becoming a Dutch citizen, I have accepted the invitation of dr. Coen Holtzappel, Chairman of the Executive Board of Stichting Wertheim, to become member of the Board, as Secretary. The Wertheim Foundation, established 20 years ago on the occasion of Wertheim's 80th birthday – came into being for the sole purpose of making contribution to the struggle of Indonesia for national emancipation.
Permit me to share with you a remarkable event in my personal life -- in relation to the Netherlands. It is a 'unique' and 'remarkable' experience. Sixty-five years ago, 17th of Augus 1945, Indonesia proclaimed her Independence. A war of independence broke out between Indonesia and Holland, which lasted 5 years, ending in 1949. During the war of independence I joined the struggle. I became an active participant in the struggle against the Dutch in Indonesia, who refused to recognize Indonesian independence. So they started a war of suppression and annihilation against the Republic of Indonesia.
Here come the 'unique' and 'remarkable' part of my story. Yars later, in 1986, I and my family, came to Holland for the second time. A country of a former adversary. For what? This time I came to make a request for asylum in the Netherlands. I and my family can not stay in my beloved country Indonesia, because of the oppressive regime of General Suharto. Is it not remarkable? How events can develop in such a turn? The Dutch government of 1986, followed a different policy towards Indonesia. Netherlands and Indonesia established a normal diplomatic relation. However, abiding by the international and European convention to protect political refugees from an oppressive regime, -- the Dutch government gave political asylum and protection to me and my family. How thankful I am to the Dutch government!
Arriving in Holland at the end of 1986, as political refugee, I made my mind to do my bit for mutual understanding and mutual respect, for co-operation and mutual benefit for the two nations and countries, Indonesia and the Netherlands. It is not easy because Indonesia and Holland have a long 'COMMON HISTORY', full of sufferings and misunderstandings.
That is when formulated in a diplomatic polite wordings. But to 'tell a spade a spade', we Indonesians were for a long-long period, a colonised people and country. While the Dutch were the colonizer. We were the underdog. The Dutch were the masters. We were the one who suffer. The Dutch were the benefectors! This is our past history in relation to |Holland.
The Pacific-War and the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence, by Sukarno and Moh. Hatta on behalf of the Indonesian people, and the compromise and agreement between Indonesia and Holland in 1949, after 4 years of war of independence, has officially solved the problem of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia. It ended the subjugation of Indonesia by the Netherlands. But not completely!
There was still the problem of West Irian. Papua as it is now called. When we proclaimed our independence in 1945, for us Indonesia is from Sabang to Merauké, the former Netherlands-East Indies, which includes Papua. But at the time of the compromise between Indonesia and Holland (1949). When the Dutch left Indonesia, the West Irian problem was not solved yet. The Dutch refused to leave Papua. This unsolved problem of West Irian (Papua), was later settled through the UNO. However, the refusal of the Dutch government to recognize the day of the Proclamation of the Independene of Indonesia August 17, 1945, as the day of INDONESIAN INDEPENDENCE, remains unsolved until today.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the closing-speech of the last meeting, member of the directingroup, Mr Anton Stephan, pointed out that: knowledge of each sides, by telling and listening of each others personal life-history, – is the way to work in finding a way to each others understanding, and for reconciliation.
Another participant of the last meeting, Mr Wim Lindeijer, said in his closing speech: “Without denying the past, a way to the future should be found, free of hate and rancour, resentment and ill-feelings. It begins with each others respect as humanbeings, not as enemies, anymore.”
Following the way as pointed by Mr Anton Stephan and Mr Wim Lindeijer, I think it is proper for me, to tell you here my own story, my personal understnding of the past.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are here to find ways and means to come to a common understanding, on the impact of what has happened with the inmates of the Dutch-internment-camp during the Japanese military occupation of Indonesia. All what happened during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, especially what has happened with the Dutch people in the internment-camp, occured in Indonesia. Thus to come to an undersanding of the problem, it should be viewed in relation with the historial background of the relations between Holland and Indonesia.
In fact it is a triangle-relation problem, between Indonesia, Holland and Japan.
A satisfactory and good solution of this problem to a great extend depend on the correct common-understanding and political will of the authorities, of the government of Japan, Holland and Indonesia.
I think this is the best way to see the problem of past history relating to the specific relation between the people of Holland, Indonesia and Japan.
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This is my own story and understanding of this problem:
On August 07, 1999, I attended a meeting in Amsterdam on the following theme: Reflections on Japanese Occupation of Indonesia. In a written statement I put forward this question: "What is it, that dominates in the reflection on the Japanese Occupation in the three respective countries, Indonesia, the Netherlands and Japan?"
For more than a half century, perhaps until this minute, opinions
and reflections held by not a view circles in Holland, concerning the
Japanese occupation of the Netherlands-Indies (now the Republic of
Indonesia), were mostly if not all, are -- on the sufferings of the Dutch
people, especially women, children and the elderly, in the many
internment-camp put up by the Japanese Army in Indonesia. This is
Their reflections and thoughts, perhaps logically, (because of the
fact that they are protagonists of the colonial administration of the
Netherlands-Indies) were not of the conditions of the Indonesian
people. They seldom touch upon the general conditions and situation of
that time, such as:
"The policy and the responsibility of the administration of the
Netherlands Indies in Batavia, and the Government of the Kingdom of the
Netherlands in The Hague, at that time, vis a vis the problem of the
Japanese plan to conquer the whole of East Asia, including the Dutch
East Indies. Did the Dutch authorities made serious and enough
preparation on this problem?"
Facts and developments show that the Dutch Government pursued an
irresponsible policy towards the people of Indonesia. What really was
in the mind of the Dutch Government was not the wellbeing and
preparedness of the Indonesian people, but the wish to safeguard the
Netherlands-Indies as an appendix of Holland and to maintain Indonesia
as a colony, after the war is over.
For the protagonists of the 'status quo' of the Dutch-Indies,
Indonesians who were not fighting against the Japanese occupationists,
worse, those who cooperated with the Japanese, are 'collaborators'.Especially personalities as Sukarno, the late president of the Republic
of Indonesia, Mohammad Hatta, the late Vice President of the RI, and
others, were simple "collaborators".
They particularly branded Bung Karno for 'collaboratoring' with 'the
enemy'. They desrcibed Sukarno as another 'Quisling'. They maintained
that Sukarno verify and took part in the mobilization of the 'romusha'
(forced labourers) by the Japanese occupation force, who were compelled
to work for the Japanese war machine. Under the Japanese sponsored
'romusha' project hundreds of many thousands of Indonesian men
have met their death. And Sukarno was blamed for this tragedy.
However, this way of seeing things, does not tally with the reality
during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. This kind of argumentation
could be justified 'if' Bung Karno and Bung Hatta were Dutch, serving at
the bureaucracy of the Dutch-Indies Government. If they were Dutch or
serving under the Dutch colonial rule, then it was right to brand them
as 'collaborators'. But, they were not! Moreover, they were against the
Ducth. Together with other freedom fighters of Indonesia, they were
opposing the Dutch colonial authorities and struggle for the independence
So, Bung Karno, Bung Hatta, and other freedom-fighters, did not, and
will never stand on the same side as the Dutch colonial government and
community in Indonesia. The Indonesians were never (from the viewpoint
of the Dutch) "us", so to say. They were 'inlander' (indigenous people),
i.e.second or third rank citizens of their own country. And we,
Indonesians, never regard the Dutch as "us". In essence the Indonesian
freedom fighters were 'enemies' of the Dutch colonialism. Thus, when
another enemy of the Dutch, the Japanese, came to Indonesia and swept
away the entire Dutch colonial army and adminstration, --- was it strange
that the Indonesians did not take side with the Dutch? Instead, the
Indonesians welcomed the Japanese! In the light of the concrete
conditions at the time, it was an illusion and wishful thinking, to
hope that Indonesians would sympathize with the Dutch and oppose the
arrival of the Japanese army.
Consider the following points:
The attitude of wide circles of Indonesian freedom fighters
and of the general public towards the 'arrival' of the Japanese army was
the following: The Japanese army was seen with admiration as a 'mighty
force of an Asian country, which was able to sweep away the 'strong'
British Army, an European army, (in Malaya amd Singapore), and the Dutch KNIL in no time. Until that time, the 'White Men', rulers of the colonies in Asia,
were regarded as 'superior' in comparison with any coloured Asian
I think it is not a mistake to note that the Japanese troops were, more
or less, welcomed by the public, as an Asian power that are superior
than the Westerners. (Intermezo: I have to tell you here, that at that
time I was among the many Indonesians who welcomed the Japanese troops
coming from Banten on their bikes. We believed, wrongly of course, that
the Japanese were better than the Dutch).
The policy of "de-Hollandisation" pursued by the Japanese
in Indonesia. At the one hand, Indonesians were obliged to learn
Japanese, but, on the other hand, in one night the Dutch language, the
official langguage of the Dutch-Indies, spoken only by the rulers, the
highranking bureaucracy and the elites of Indonesia, was replaced by the
Bahasa Indonesia. The names of all roads, boulevards, streets and ways,
shops, offices, schools, buildings, monuments and textbooks down from
the basic school up to the university, that beforehand were in the Dutch
language, were changed - or translated- into the Indonesian language:
the Bahasa. One can not overlook the feelings of joy and pride of the
Indonesians being 'their own'. It was this emotion that dominates the
political atmosphere. Of course that was, before Indonesians later knew
by their own experience that the Japanese were simply new overlords,
who in many cases were even worse than the colonial Hollanders.
In pursuing their Pacific-War efforts, the Japanese trained hundreds of thousands of Indonesian youth in military excercise and discipline. The Japanese were making Indonesians 'cannon fodders' for their war against the Allied. Strange enough, the arrival of the Japanese, to a great extent have sore up the natinalistic and patriotic feelings of most Indonesians. Especially the Japanese military training the Indonesians were going through, resulted in such an atmosphere. Starting from the higher classes of basic schools up to the higher learning, the youth and students were obliged to pass through military training. Apart from this, members of Japanese formed Indonesian youth organizations such as the 'Three A Youth Movement' (AAA), the 'Seinendan' and the 'Keibodan' got military training too. This kind of situation can not even be dreamed about by Indonesian under Dutch rule.The Netherlands-Indies authorities were afraid to arm Indonesians for the purpose of opposing Japanese invasion. The Dutch were afraid that, some time in the future, who knows, the Indonesians will turn their guns (provided by the Dutch) against the Dutch themselves. What the Dutch agreed upon was the rearming of the KNIL (a professional colonial army who were trained to suppress the people) and the training of a handful of 'Stadswacht' soldiers, who were poorly armed to 'defend' the big cities against the Japanese invasion..
The Nationalist leaders such as Bung Karno and Hatta, managed to get concessions from the Japanese authorities, that Indonesian youth who were recruted in a regular army, be organized into two types of armies. One type: the 'Heiho', officially a Japanese-army. They were directly commanded by Japanese officers, and will be sent at any place needed by the Japanese. The second type: called the 'PETA'.(Pembela Tanah Air, meaning Defenders of the Motherland) an Indonesian army, still under the Japanese high command. But, from the batallion level down, commanded by Indonesian officers. The 'Heiho', directly under the Japanese command, were to fight against the Allied. The 'PETA', will be stationed in the home-country, to defend the motherland. This was an important compromise between the Japanese and the Indonesian nationalist leaders. Most important for the Indonesian leaders were the fact that a good number of Indonesian youth receive militry training and armed. This was a very important preparation in anticipation of the coming situation, in which the Pacific-War will end with the defeat of the Japanese.
As developments confirm, the initial Indonesian armed forces at the beginning of the 'August 1945 Revolution', consisted mainly of the youth who during the Japanese occupation received military training by the Japanese, in different youth organization and educational institution, as well as in the regular army of 'Heiho' and 'PETA'.
Eventhough the new Indonesian armed forces were mainly trained by the Japanese , and to a certain extend influenced by militaristic ideas, they were, however, remoulded politically during the 'August National Revolution', and have become the new defender of the Republic of Indonesia. Even during the Japanese occupation they got political education by Bung Karno and Bung Hatta, in preparation for the day of independece which was to come.
Immediately after the arrival of the Japanese army in Indonesia, as told by the late Subadio Sastrosatomo, former leader of the Indonesian Socialist Party and MP, in his booklet "Sukarno is Indonesia, and Indonesia is Sukarno" (1995), Bung Karno, Bung Hatta and Sutan Syahrir had a secret meeting to formulate tactics vis a vis the Japanese. Sutan Syahrir and some of his friends, incl. Subadio, and others were not
ready to cooperate with the Japanese, they prefer to work underground. Bung Karno and Bung Hatta, and others, chose the tactics of 'cooperation' with the Japanese. Bung Karno and Bung Hatta, deligently making use of the opportunity and facilities given by the Japanese, have politically educated the people, especially the youth, by so doing have successfully trained them as freedom fighters. One cannot see a
month pass by without seeing or listening to the political speeches by Bung Karno in public meetings throughout the country.
The political speeches were also made before the young people of the PETA. Through their work in politically educating the people, Bung Karno and Bung Hatta, were recognized as leaders of Indonesia by the people.Thus Subadio.
What Bung Karno and Bung Hatta were doing was the difficult work of
'nation-building' of Indonesia.
The political, mental and physical preparation done by the Indonesian leaders under the Japanese occupation, , were finally to become the fundamental and final conditions, for Indonesia to be able to proclaim their independence in August 1945.
It was also the coordination between the open, legal work with the underground work of our founding-fathers that has made the proclamation of the independence of Indonesia possible.
Our leaders have made a delligent use of the existing contradiction between the occupying Japanese army and the Allied troops, and the contradictions that exist between the Ducth and the Japanese, as well as the contradictions among all those forces: the Dutch, the Japanese, and the British.
It would be wrong, if, at the time of the occupation of the Japanese, the Indonesians were frontally directed against the Japanese occupation force. It would be a mistake if the nationalist leaders, were at the first place to organizse and mobilize the people to cooperate and support the Allied froces, including the Dutch, oppose and fight
against the Japanese occupation.
Without understanding this, it would be very difficult to understand, why the Indonesians never accept the accusation of the Dutch and the West, against Sukarno and Hatta, that they were 'collaborators' of the Japanese.
It would also be difficult to understand the opinion of Indonesians that during the Japanese occupation, the Indonesian fighters for freedom, undergoing the political education of our 'founding fathers', and the physical training, were, so to say, being prepared to finally fight and seize freedom for ourselves.
Now, it is time, it seems, to conclude that, as long as the misundertanding on the Dutch side concerning the period of the Japanese occupation of the Netherlands Indies, especially on the accusations against Bung Karno, Bung Hatta and others, of being 'collaborators', remain unsloved, so long will this issue be a serious obstacle in the good and friendly relations between the two countries.
When this misunderstanding is cleared and the two sides brought to a mutual understanding, the two countries and people, Indonesia and the Netherlands, will hopefully, coexist and cooperate in a new spirit of friendship and harmony.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
I think it is important for you to know the opinion of a Dutch journalist, Mrs Tjitske Lingsma: after she made a study-visit to the Molouccas, Indonesia, at the time of religious conflict between the Christians and the Moslems in the Moloccus. She wrote a.o :
Everything what I saw call for an answer: who ocherstrated the events here : -- who are the victims, and who are the perpetrators. Thus began my search for the roots of the conflict, that took me back to the far past. I discovered how the VOC – the United East-Indies Companies – under the governor-general, Jan Pieter Zoon Coen, murdered entire population of the islands.
I discovered how the VOC committed murder in order to establish their monopolty of the spice-trade. To my bewilderment did I hear prime minister Balkenende plead (in the Dutch Parliament) for a return to the mentality of the VOC.
Tjitske Lingsma again:
Those war atrocities were made in the 17th century. Recent history provide us with other tragic example. For instance during the war of subjugation of Aceh (1873-1912) and the 'pacification' of Lombok. Or, just think about captain Raymond Westerling and his Depot Special Troops ( a unit, with many Indonesias) that during the 1946-1947 counter-terror campaign, burned to the ground scores of villages (in South Sulawesi), tortures and killed (according to Ducth estimates) 3.130 villagers. Indonesian sources claimed over 40.000 people villagers killed.
Dutch war-victims always demand the excuses of Japan for their war-crimes during World War II. The same demand as put forward by the German Nazi vistims who are demanding an excuse for Nazi crimes. It is right to acknowledge victims of the two horrible regimes.
“Therefore it is proper for the Dutch government to ask for forgiveness (to Indonesia) for the deeds, not only during three years, but as long as three centuries. This will perhaps not only remove the hard feelings and sufferings within the Indonesian people”, says Tjitske.
This gesture could create a more realistic view among Indonesians towards the Dutch, during their colonial past.
Tjitske is of the opinion, that the Dutch can learn from Germany. Due to the fact that the Dutch has difficulty to make the same gesture for their past mistakes during the colonial period in Indonesia.
Tjitske: “I think it is time to fully recognize 17 August 1945, as the date of Indonesian independence. To take our responsibility and to apologize and show our regret for the victims of violence, killings, tortures and terror, we have committed in Indonesia”.
As an example, Tjitske mentioned Chanchellor Willy Brandt of the Federal Republic of Germany, who kneel before the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt, or to bow before the Berlin monument for Jewish victims in Europe.
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Ladies and gentlemen,
You may raise this question: Why do I make so many quotations of others. In fact, they are not merely 'others'. Some are members of the directing group of this meeting. Others are historian or journalist who has made serious study of Indonesian past history. But the main reason for me to quote them, is, because they are telling the truth. Also because I share their findings and opinion. And because, to undestand Indonesia and her relation with the past colonial history, people should know this.
Hence I am going to tell you of still another opinion.
A Dutch anthropologist and historian, FRED LANZING, himself an inmate of the internment-camp at Tjideng, Jakarta, during the Japanese occupation, --- wrote a revealing and
He pointedly wrote: “NIET MEER BEDELEN OM EXCUSES”. He meant to say, don't beg anymote for excuses from the Japanese for the disaster and misfortune we suffered during the Japanese occupation of the Netherlands-Indies.
He was commenting on a book of poems, 'Geen Requiem', by a wellknown writer in Holland, MARION BLOEM. Lanzing wrote that the book of Marion Bloem does not contribute to the truth-findings about the war in former Netherlands-Indies. The picture of unbroken sufferings of the inmates of the internment-camp and terror by the Japanese, is not true.
This year, 65 years ago, is the year that Japan surrendered.
I plea, -- the war in the Netherlands-Indies, the Pacific-War, be sent to retirement (pensioen). It is time for my generation, who themselves have suffered the hurricane of war, to drive it away from our hearts and our heads. That we decide for us, to regard the past-war as a historical happening.
Let us renounce the habit and practice of again and again to recall memories of the pain of the past. It is time for healing, forgetting, for the rest of our soul.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have come to the end of my observation.
I completely share the opinion and good-will of all the personalities whom I have quoted in my speech. It fits well in our endeavour and search for mutual understanding and respect as humanbeings.
Let us turn a new leaf --- of healing and RECONCILIATION!
At the same time never forget --- urging the respective government of Holland, Japan and Indonesia, to be true and honest to the facts of history!
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