Lairedion on the Dutch state being sued over war crimes at Rawagede, West Java.
On Monday 8 September 2008 10 Indonesian survivors of Dutch post WWII violence have sued the Dutch State for the assassination of their family members during the First Police Action (Agresi Militer Belanda I) after WW II. They want financial compensation, explanations and recognition for their suffering, as announced by their lawyer Mr. Gerrit Jan Pulles.
According to Pulles it is for the first time Indonesian victims of the fighting of 1945-1949 hold the Dutch State responsible. Mr. Pulles acts on behalf of ten villagers from Rawagede, West Java. They survived the bloody attack of the Dutch Army on 9 December 1947. According to the Dutch Honorary Debts Foundation, 431 (almost all the male) villagers were slaughtered. According to the Dutch Indulgence Note from 1969 150 people were killed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced they will study the matter.
Well into 2008, 63 years after Indonesian independence, the Dutch, due to their stubbornness, ignorance and patronizing behaviour, are being haunted again by their crimes in the aftermath of Soekarno's declaration of 17-8-45 and they rightfully should. Only just being liberated themselves from the Germans the Dutch wanted to continue the situation as it was before WWII and re-occupy their former territories now being declared independent and bearing the name Republik Indonesia.
Rawagede is one of the most notorious events in the history of Indonesian struggle for independence against the Dutch. On 9 December 1947 Dutch forces raided the West Javanese village to look for weapons and Indonesian freedom fighter Lukas Kustario who often spent time in Rawagede. They didn't find any weapons neither did they find Lukas.
Survivors of Rawagede remember (full version of documentary linked in footnotes).
Apparently dissatisfied by their lack of success the Dutch commander directed all males to be separated from the rest in order to execute all of them, despite the fact there were some young males of 11-12 years old among them. Indonesian leaders reported the mass killing to local UN officials. The UN made an inquiry and concluded the killings were "deliberate" and "ruthless" but failed to prosecute and to have the Dutch punished and sentenced for these obvious crimes against humanity and this is still the situation today!
Last month Pulles (of mixed Indo-Dutch blood like yours truly) visited Rawagede together with people from the "Yayasan Komite Utang Kehormatan Belanda (KUKB)", including its chairman Jeffry Pondaag, to collect witness accounts and endorsements from survivors in order to hold the Dutch State responsible.
A protest outside Dutch embassy in Jakarta.
While financial compensation is sought after it must be noted that most survivors only want the Dutch State to take moral responsibility and offer official apologies to the Indonesian people. Furthermore they do not seek punishments for the people directly involved in the killings. One survivor just wants the Dutch not to forget what has happened.
At the same time more and more Dutch veterans, haunted by the crimes and horror they experienced, are supportive of the Rawagede survivors' claim. It is very disappointing to see that of all the Dutch political parties only the left-wing Socialist Party support the claim while the conservative-liberal VVD on behalf of MP spokesman Hans van Baalen even denied Dutch crimes against humanity in Indonesia! 63 years of ignorance and subtle racism have been persistent obviously, a disease many Western nations still suffer from.
It is because of this the KUKB has been founded by Netherlands-based Indonesian Jeffy Pondaag in 2005. They demand the Dutch government:
The foundation is a non-subsidized independent foundation with branches in the Netherlands and Indonesia and would be happy to accept any donations. They look after the interests of civilian victims who suffered from violence and war crimes committed by Dutch military. Their website have more information on the Rawagede story and on the infamous Raymond Westerling who murdered thousands of innocent people in South Sulawesi.
Back in 2005 Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda, obviously speaking on behalf of the Indonesian people, made it clear Indonesia is not seeking apologies or compensation from the Dutch. This reaction came after then Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot (who is Jakarta-born) expressed regrets and morally accepted the de-facto independence of Indonesia on 17-8-45 while he was representing the Dutch government during the festivities of Independence Day on 17-8-2005. Bot's remarks were widely criticized in the Dutch media for being insufficient and way too short of a full apology and recognition of 17-8-45.
Of course it is irrelevant if Indonesia is demanding apologies or compensation or not. It should come from the Dutch themselves but their stubbornness and ignorance are still hindering them anno 2008. The Netherlands have constantly refused to express a full apology and recognition but were always quick to raise their finger and lecture its former colony on alleged human rights violations during the Soeharto reign.
I'm fully supportive of the Rawagede villagers and any future similar cases, seeking for Dutch responsibility, recognition and financial compensation. Evidence is clear, witnesses and next of kin are still alive, we're dealing with war crimes, gross violation of human rights and crimes against humanity and here lies an opportunity for the Dutch to finally deal with its own past by recognizing and helping those poor villagers.
Sources and links:
News article from Dutch daily "Parool" (Dutch) : Indonesiërs klagen Nederlandse staat aan
Website of KUKB (Dutch and Indonesian): Yayasan Komite Utang Kehormatan Belanda
1948 (English) Word document approx. 7.8 MB: Report of the Rawahgedeh observation team
Broadcast of Dutch news show Netwerk with topic on this story: Netwerk 8 September 2008 (witness accounts from survivors (Dutch-Indonesian-Sundanese). Streaming media, requires broadband internet access.