Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Netherlands and Indonesia 60 years on

According to the Dutch, sixty years ago today was Indonesian Independence day.
According to Indonesian, sixty years ago today was the day that Dutch government acknowledged our independence.

Some Dutch authors wrote an essay asking for the Dutch government to formally acknowledged that Indonesia's independent day was on August 17th 1945.

That's the thing about Dutch. When it comes to people's wrong doing, I get this feeling of Dutch government being 'holier than thou'. But when it comes to their own mistake, they swept it under the carpet.

Take the VOC. Yes, it's the first multinational company ever. The Dutch should be proud of that fact. But they also need to know the atrocities that VOC did all over the world. When I went to the VOC exhibition at the Maritiem Museum in Rotterdam ages ago, there was no single mentioned about the down side of VOC. What about the slavery? What about the genocide? What about the opium trade? Those were part of the VOC. Then prime minister Balkenende added an insult by telling his people to embrace the spirit of VOC.

If you look at the history books that students in lowland use, there is limited mentioned about Indonesia. In one book it touched the subject in 2 parts, in total of 4 paragraphs. How could you explain the common history of Dutch & Indonesia in 4 short paragraphs? Of course there's no mention of Indonesia paying the Dutch 4 billion guilders for the war expenses, nor some of those Dutch fighters were ex-Nazi who were given the choice between going to jail in lowland or fight in Netherlands India during what Dutch called "politionele actie".

I bet their book only mentioned South African apartheid, and not the one in Indonesia between Dutch and other European decent; Arab, Chinese and other foreigner; pribumi.

It's been sixty long years, just deal with it, will you?


colson said...

Okay, this post switches on my defensive mode (lol).

Of course I quite agree with Adriaan van Dis, Nelleke Noordervliet, Geert Mak, Rudy Kousbroek etc. It is about time the Dutch, we, get real on this issue. And yes indeed we often swallow in hypocrisy.

The flipside is that a national bias is a widespread phenomenom. Not exclusively Dutch. In national history the bright side usually prevails - the dark pages most of the time are kept out of sight as much as possible. There is no reason why The Netherlands would be different.

And, well, this part of the essay is true also: "(er) is (...) een ander verhaal: dat van de tegenstanders van het regeringsbeleid, het verhaal van de bevolkingsgroepen die door de gebeurtenissen tussen wal en schip vielen, het verhaal van discriminatie en uitsluiting, het verhaal van gruwelijkheden aan beide kanten, het verhaal van het zoeken naar de waarheid". It definitely has been told ever since the sixties also. Not at all elementary schools, but at Universities ( vide the two Schulte Nordholds), in books (vide Rudy Kousbroek) and TV documentaries (vide van Liempt). It's a pity though it obviously has been enough.

I hope this time it will be different.

triesti said...

I knew you would do that:)

The thing is, people of your generation knows more about it then my generation or the younger one. Not everyone going to the Uni learning about dutch-indonesia common history.And that book I was saying was a book for HAVO which is similar to high school level. I remember having to 'lecture' my Dutch flatmates and at one point, my IT professor in NL because they never learn about it at school. All they knew the Dutch was treating everyone well & equally in Nederlands Indie.

And yes, it is not monopoly of Dutch. Indonesia does it too. I find the whole 1965 saga still unclear. Growing up I learned at school that the commie did the massacre. But I also heard about people getting killed or jailed without trial just because someone accused them as part of the commie. I heard the gov. changed that part of history textbook for school since the fall of Suharto. At least they start somewhere.

Let's hope there's good news by the time of SBY visit to NL next year

johnorford said...

while i think being open about the past is in general a good thing, it's often just useless navel gazing... sometimes it's best not to be too caught up in the past -- like how ppl go on and on about ww2, or how the irish go on and on about british occupation...

moving on is important also.

thing is i wonder where u draw the line...

triesti said...

There's learning from the past, and there's burying the (ugly) past. You can learn from the good and the bad, then move on.

I am not sure burying the past means you are moving on. Karma has a habit of bitch slapping you, you know.

calvin said...

not to mention, the history of dutch-indonesian eurasian virtually removed from both curriculum. this resulting most of third generation oblivious of their long heritage.

but let's be fair: Indonesia itself never acknowledged that they invaded Timor Leste, even in current history books, using "integration" instead of "invasion".