Friday, February 22, 2008

The Committee of Dutch Honorary Debts

On May 5, 2005, the activists of Komite Nasional Pembela Martabat Bangssa Indonesia (KNPMBI) or National Committee for the Defense of the Dignity of the Indonesian Nation, established Komite Utang Kehormatan Belanda (KUKB), Committee of Dutch Honorary Debt; which was inspired by thesis of Dr. Theodor van Deventer – a former Dutch lawyer in Semarang in 1899. The article appeared in ‘de Gids’ magazine in the Netherlands entitled ‘Een Ereschuld’ (One Honorary Debt), which laid criticism against colonial practices in Indonesian Archipelago.

The thesis had successfully implored the Dutch Government to review the policy in its colony, Netherlands Indies. The new policy was named ‘Politik Etis’ (or Ethics Politic, or Ethische Politiek in Dutch), allowed wider education to the indigenous people, which previously privileged only to the society of elites supporting the Dutch Government.

The objective of the Committee of Dutch Honorary Debt is not seeking revenge, but to achieve REKONSILIASI YANG BERMARTABAT (Reconciliation with Dignity) between Indonesia and Holland.

This objective was informed to the Honorary Dutch Ambassador for Indonesia, Baron Schelto van Heemstra during the visit of leaders of the National Committee for the Defense of the Dignity of the Indonesian Nation (KNPMBI) on invitation of the Dutch Embassy, in Jakarta, April 3, 2002. This objective had also been conveyed to Mr. Bert Koenders and Mdm. Angelien Eijsink, both are parliament members from Partij van de Arbeid, during our meeting in the Dutch Parliament Building in The Hague on December 15, 2005. We also established communication with Mdm. Krista van Velzen, the Dutch Parliament member from the Socialist Party, through email.

Whether we like it or not, it has been fact that the relationship between Indonesia and Holland has been going on in the span of more than 400 years. Apart from the negative experiences during the colonization period, which in some parts of Indonesia, had been carried out for more than 300 years; there have also been many Dutch people, who more than 100 years ago, have defended the indigenous people against their own government, such as Dr. Theodor van Deventer, Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli), Hendricus Sneevliet and Prof. Wim Wertheim. There are also other prominent figures such as Dr. Francois Eugene Douwes Dekker (Setia Budi) who politically fought for Indonesia and H. Poncke Princen who involved in physical struggle for Indonesia as well.

On the present day, many Dutch people express their sympathy with Indonesia, They are welcomed to hold honest discussions on the past relationship between Indonesia and Holland, especially the Dutch young generation who do not carry the burden of history.

However, the Dutch Government as institution, so far has refused to recognize the Independence Day of the Republic Indonesia is in August 17, 1945; and only acknowledge December 27, 1949 – the date of the submission of sovereignty (soevereniteitsoverdracht) by Dutch Government to the Government of the United States of Republic of Indonesia (Pemerintah Republik Indonesia Serikat = RIS) as the date of Indonesian Independence. This was highlighted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ben Bot, in an interview with Television of Indonesia, on August 19, 2005; when he stated that “… and recognition is something you can only do once … so the transfer of sovereignty took place in 1949 ... “

On May 20, 2005, the Committee of Dutch Honorary Debt (KUKB) petitioned that:

the Dutch Government to recognize that the Independence Day of the Republic of Indonesia is 17th August 1945,

the Dutch Government to apologize to Indonesia for the colonization , the slavery of Indonesian people and human rights violation, and for the crimes against humanity.

The Committee of Dutch Honorary Debt (KUKB) distinguishes the attitudes of Dutch Government and those of Dutch people who express sympathy towards Indonesia, who not only supports the recognition of August 17, 1945 as Indonesian Independence Day, on but also supports the compensation to be granted to Indonesia.

The claim is made to the Dutch Government, not to Holland as a nation and neither to ex soldiers and executors of the crimes and human right violations in Indonesia between 1945 to 1950. The Committee of Dutch Honorary Debt (KUKB) reserves an opinion that the Indonesian people are not the only victims to the aggression of Dutch Military post World War II, but the Dutch soldiers who were sent to war in Indonesia between 1945-1950 were also victims of the wrong policies implemented by the Dutch Government in the period.

It should be remembered that the Indonesiƫ Weigeraars, equal to the Dutch Youth, between 1946 and 1949 had refused to be involved in the war in Indonesia; and the facts that more than 1,200 of them were sent to prison as the consequences; while thousands of them had possibly fled Holland or forced to live in seclusion for years due to their uncooperative stance to the Dutch colonial war at that time.

What we refer to ‘Reconciliation with Dignity’ is not a mere form of exchanging greeting and forgiving each-other, but also in the form of ‘Dignity Restoration’ in wide sense, which include but not limited to :

1. The Formal Recognition – both de facto and de jure – that the Independence of Republic of Indonesia is as proclaimed on August 17, 1945.

2. The Restoration of Dignity of Indonesiƫ Weigeraars, and those who refused to cooperate with Dutch aggression policies in Indonesia.

The Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ben Bot, in his speech delivered in Jakarta, August 16, 2005, acknowledged that :

“ … In retrospect, it is clear that its large-scale deployment of military forces in 1947 put Netherlands on the wrong side of history ...”

And our interpretation on the statement that ‘the policy placing Holland “on the wrong side of history” is that same policy has also brought about many victims on both sides.

The Committee of Dutch Honorary Debt (KUKB) also agrees with his statement that :
‘ ….. although painful memories never go away, they must not be allowed to stand in the way of honest reconciliation ….”

However, the statement would only serve as lip services if were not followed by resolution and evident actions. Therefore, it is considerably for the Dutch Government, befitting an institution which has recognized it had implemented a wrong policy, to take full responsibility to make amend by recognizing August 17, 1945 as Indonesian Independence Day, to apologize and to distribute compensation to the victims of the wrongly implemented policy.