Foreign Correspondents in Indonesia

Jul 1st, 2013, in News, by

DC Guy piece today was going to be a trashing of foreign journalists. Instead, upon thinking, DC Guy thought to ask a relevant question about hiring trends of expats across Asia.

Should foreign correspondents – and ex pats in general – speak the local language?

I’m asking because my original piece was going to be called, “Why Foreign Correspondents Suck and What they’re Not Telling You about Indonesia”.

In my wide-eyed thirties sometime last decade I rocked up to a cocktail-gathering of foreign correspondents in Indonesia, somewhere behind the Mandarin Hotel at the Hotel Indonesia Roundabout. I was all excited, imagining a smoky room full of spies and Year of Living Dangerously reporters. I mingled. I exchanged business cards. I chit-chatted about politics.

At first it seemed cool. One Bule reporter guy in his 60s ranted about Bangkok in the ’80s and how pathetic and lazy young journalists were. Cool. Another 40-something guy had just been laid off and was drinking away his severance package in bars in Asia. Cool. Some angry BBC chick was broadcasting her opinions (not so cool, but interesting). But then it struck me.

Most of them are tourists. Almost none of them spoke Indonesian.

“I’ve got a translator to do that”

said an Australian newspaperman.

“We’ve got fixers [slaves who set up appointments, get coffee, interns] for that”

said another Australian TV reporter. (A lot of Australians for some reason.) One English wire service reporter was even more blunt: they hire us [ex pats] for our skills – the locals do the language work. (In fairness, he was of Indian origin, not a bule.)

Guy Hamilton, The Year of Living DangerouslyAs the evening went on, I realized how little any of these supposed Guy Hamilton (Year of Living Dangerously) types actually cared about their stories. I paid attention and over the next few cocktail nights I realized that the Big Name correspondents rely on the Jakarta Post, Jakarta Globe and wire services to get their views. Maybe a few phone calls here and there to a diplomat, but in general they know much less than you, if you live in Indonesia, or me.

Let’s get this straight. They can’t understand the TV. They can’t understand the radio. They can’t read local blogs, websites, or newspapers. All they have is the English language sources. Granted, there’s a lot in English. Some email listserve called ‘Joyo’ apparently collates all the English language reporting and sends it out. One drunk American freelancer told me all he reads is Joyo and that’s enough.

Would you trust a White House reporter who didn’t speak English?

And why should I listen to a tourist? Why should the rest of the world? I don’t think they should. I think the foreign correspondents are generally a week or two behind the local press. I think they miss most of the most important stories. And I think the snootiness and arrogance hides an uncomfortable truth: they don’t know what they’re talking about.

That’s why the Aussie press writes about cheap drug dealers like Schapelle Corby getting busted. It’s why the Western wires were obsessed with Bird Flu whilst ignoring current epidemics such as Malaria or Dengue Fever. (Who cares, they’re just local brown people?) It’s why they sucked up to Indonesia’s lame duck President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when everyone in Jakarta knew he was an armchair general. It’s also why they’re obsessed with terrorism when traffic jams and bad hospitals are more of a threat to most of the population.

The fixers’ version was even more telling. Some of them were kinda hot and came to the cocktail nights. They didn’t have much respect at all for their bosses. Sure, they kissed their asses, as we all do. But when it came down to it, it turns out the fixers do the work. They read the local newspapers, watch TV, make the phone calls, set up the appointments. And then bossman or woman walks off with all the credit. Why not just give the job to the local?

In fact companies across Asia are waking up to it. In an NYT piece For Westerners in Asia, the Job Market Grows Tougher, the writer talks about a tightening job market for ex pats; strangely, employers in Hong Kong wanted people who could speak Chinese.

I want more than anything to get back out there – preferably Jakarta so I can get up to my old tricks. But I know I’ve gotta pick up my game. I can’t just turn up like I did a decade ago, hang out a shingle and say

“unemployed white guy – hire me”

DC Guy’s message: the Western media is failing you. Ignore them. Read the Jakarta Post, the Jakarta Globe, get an RSS feed to blogs you’re interested in.

159 Comments on “Foreign Correspondents in Indonesia”

  1. Arie Brand says:

    Oigal in addition to what Madrotter wreote already this:some of the books we referred to can be found in English. The University of Massachussets Press published a translation of Du Perron’s “Land van Herkomst” under the title “Country of Origin” (1989).

    The same press published a translation of one of the books by P.A. (Paatje) Daum who was editor of the Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad in the late 19thC. Its title is: “Ups and Downs of Life in the Indies”. Daum wrote quite a few books (many of which appeared originally as “feuilletons” in his newspaper) but I don’t know of any other translation.

    Szekely-Lulofs has been widely translated. The books we referred to were “Rubber” and “Coolie”. I don’t think there is an English translation of “De Hongertocht” (the Hunger Patrol) which is based on the patrol reports of a Dutch lieutenant who, during the Dutch Aceh War, lost, together with his group of mainly Indonesian soldiers, the way in the Acehnese jungle. They had provisions for one week and a half but it took almost six weeks before they were found – by then quite a few of his men had died.

    CCSpyguy – you asked what I did in Papua. I arrived there in late 1954 and was trained in Hollandia (Jayapura) for the Inland Civil Service (BB). I worked, after an academic interlude in Holland, in the same position during the UNTEA government and departed early 1963. I must correct here a statement I made in my previous post. The documents I “salvaged” were picked up during the early not the late UNTEA period when the Resident’s Office was deserted and his replacements (in quick succession two Britishers, a Jamaican and an Indonesian) had not yet arrived.

    Madrotter, this is bad news indeed and clearly a result of Holland’s bad financial situation at present. The government is supposed to hold on to all pre-1950 books in accordance with its archival duties. But that seems to be only about 10 % of this library of almost one million books. The rest has to be given to other institutions (probably mainly the KITLV in Leiden) or “recycled” (read: dumped). If it were sold it would probably fetch a tidy sum but that would require quite a number of staff and the government is dismissing 32 of the 33 persons strong library personnel.

    Thanks for the link.

  2. Oigal says:

    Gentlemen, thank you very much.. It may be a lost cause but who knows you may succeed in raising the knowledge of at least one wandering expat.

  3. DCGuy says:

    So Mr. Arie,

    In your youth, you were, quite literally, a colonialist. You worked for a colonial government, (in the interest of the darkies, who couldn’t govern themselves no doubt).

    What would have a 25-year old Mr. Arie said about the morality of his job?

    Do you even have the moral right to talk about human rights abuses in Papua when you were aprt of a 350-year project to strip Indonesia of its natural resources and even condone slave labor? Shouldn’t your efforts be better turned to bringing the Dutch government – and people – to account for what they’ve done?

    You could say the same about me as an American, but I just say, do business, get paid and get laid. Everybody wins.

    It’s just liberal hypocrisy that makes me wanna puke. What would the Dutch police in Papua have done to dissenters back then? Fact is Soeharto borrowed most of his playbook from the Dutch.

  4. madrotter says:

    well, you can find loads and loads of good e-books here:

    i checked but no e. du perron and szekely-lulofs only in dutch (and 1 in spanish)

  5. Arie Brand says:

    DCGuy you just haven’t got a clue and are parroting cheap propaganda probably picked up from Indonesian newspapers.

    I worked for a benign and scrupulous government (not for the 17th and 18th century VOC) that was in my time headed by a distinguished anthropologist ( Dr.Jan van Baal) not some general. It was replaced by a set of murderous thugs – and they had the hide to call that “pembebasan”.

  6. Arie Brand says:


    Since I cannot assume ANY knowledge of these things on your part I should add that the government I worked for was preparing Papua for independence. This was ultimately planned for 1970.

  7. Arie Brand says:

    Thanks for the address Madrotter. Have you also tried the Gutenperg project? It has over 40,000 free e-books in various languages.

  8. Arie Brand says:

    I spoke in an earlier post about the reception of the movie “Max Havelaar” in Indonesia. Only a few of those who came to judge it had read the novel. Others only knew it by its reputation as an “anti imperialist”, “anti Dutch colonialism” novel. Therefore the fact that Raden Adipati Karta Natanegara, the Indonesian “regent” (bupati) of Lebak, is the main baddie in the story was hard to accept.

    In November 1988 Rudy Kousbroek, the Indonesian born Dutch essayist I referred to earlier, attended in Jakarta the Multatuli congress where these matters were discussed. Those who jump to the conclusion that “Indonesian born” means in this case “colonial diehard” don’t know his work. “Colonial diehards” might dream of him after they have dined a bit too copiously.

    Since the relevant essay is not available online in English I would like to quote him here at some length:

    Kousbroek remarks that the movie does indeed picture this bupati and his regime as more cruel than is the case in the book where he is not exactly depicted as your favourite uncle either. He then goes on to say:

    “ It is indubitable that in many cases Indonesians were oppressed and exploited equally or even more cruelly by their local “indigenous” potentates than by the Dutch regime that took its place but just like us Indonesians find the idea of being oppressed by their own less credible, and, at the same time, less difficult to digest than that of oppression by foreigners.

    The consequence is that people judge consciously or otherwise by double standards; this often becomes apparent in the tendency to judge Multatuli’s ideas by anachronistic criteria. The tragic thing is that the messing about with the story in the film scenario promotes this tendency. Thus Sanusi Suryapermana concluded in the Pikiran Rakyat: “Whatever is the case in the eyes of the Indonesian people Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli) is no hero who deserves to be glorified. He has never rejected the system of foreign oppression that has greatly damaged the basis of Indonesian life.” Soebiago quoted from the Indonesian producer of the film, Hiswara Darmaputra, the statement: “Thus far we always thought that Douwes Dekker was the defender of the Indonesian people … he did not have the ideal in his mind to make an end to foreign oppression.”
    Now there are letters from Multatuli that show the opposite, but even if that weren’t true these statements remain anachronistic, as for instance Pramoedya Ananta Toer immediately remarked. One can hardly reproach Multatuli for not arriving at the idea to proclaim the Republic Indonesia. But his point of view was courageous and extreme in his time and went much further than that of any contemporary in any other colonial power.
    How now is all this in this case? Are some Indonesians whose judgment is not based on the film but on the book in spite of that of the opinion that Multatuli should not have accused the bupati?”

    See next post for the answer.

  9. DCGuy says:

    Mr. Arie,

    You’re apologizing for colonization, pure and simple. Simple question:

    What the hell were the Dutch doing in the Indies? Wasn’t building windmills, that’s for sure. What were they ever doing here? Did Royal Dutch Shell ever pay back the profits it ripped out? And you were poking around in Papua out of the goodness of your hearts.

    What about the Dutch ‘police action’ of 1945-1950…? Nice scruples. That was only a few years before you landed. Westerling – benign and scrupulous, c’mon mate, we screwed up in Iraq and Afghanistan, but you’re really tying yourself in knots. Then you go on and say the Indonesians (Potentates) were worse than the Dutch. Spin me another one.

  10. Arie Brand says:

    I was not referring to “the Dutch in the Indies”, to Royal Dutch Shell, to the “police actions ” in Java and Sumatrra, to Westerling – I was talking about Papua 1950-1962, which had a BENIGN AND SCRUPULOUS GOVERNMENT – a concept, I grant you, that a denizen of the land of the free and the home of the brave might not be altogether familiar with. In history, as in jurisprudence, guilt by association is a mere product of gossip and hearsay.

    The trouble with you DCguy is that you are an obvious ignoramus. Anyone who knows anything about Southeast Asian history would not be surprised by the view that indigenous potentates were often worse than the colonial powers that took their place.
    In fact one doesn’t even have to go back in history. Some recent potentates there are worse than the colonial powers they succeeded. Read up on the history of Burma and Sri Lanka, for instance, if you are determined that the history of Indonesia should remain a closed book to you.

    As far as the latter place is considered: you could start with the proposition that in all likelihood more Indonesians have been killed by Indonesians in the sixty five years or so of independence than by the Dutch in the last few centuries.

  11. Arie Brand says:

    So should Multatuli not have accused the bupati?

    One of those who held this opinion was Soebagio who was quoted earlier by Kousbroek. He remarked, for instance, that Multatuli used fictitious names for all those involved except this bupati. Soebagio, as quoted by Kousbroek, wrote

    “For the descendants of the bupati, Max Havelaar is a book that has stained the name of the family forever. These blots can never be erased from the memory of mankind

    Well, Kousbroek doesn’t say the obvious thing here, namely that this author is somewhat over the top. He writes as if he were the inhabitant of a squeaky clean nation where such things as oppression and theft by higher authority are entirely unheard of. When it comes to Indonesia there are quite different things for “mankind” to remember than the confiscation of buffaloes and the forcing of people to perform unpaid labour – the main transgressions of Raden Adipati Karta Natanegara.

    Kousbroek remarks dryly:

    “The modern western answer to this is that there are more people who have a name that is historically tainted. That is perhaps not pleasant, but in a western society people are in principle not deemed to be guilty of the crimes of their ancestors. It is in Indonesia without doubt more unpleasant than in Europe, because kinship is much more important in this society.

    But what can be done. To advise the descendants of the regent to change their name? They don’t want that. What they do want is that the accusations against their ancestor will be revoked. But how? By changing the past? It is a fact that later research … has confirmed Multatuli’s charge. Van Sandick says that he was definitely a scoundrel.

    But then it comes: “not according to Indonesian notions” “We have to look at Indonesian history through Indonesian eyes” thus Rob Nieuwenhuys. Hans van den Berg … responded to this in the only correct way: “But why?”

    All societies produce myths or ideologies that function to present the power and privileges of the top layer as part of nature – as part of a “sacred” order of things, as a natural “harmony” or whatever name it is given. But a stranger who appears on the scene can look through this, whatever his own motives might be. He doesn’t see a sacred order but reality, that is to say extortion and injustice.”

    This is a direct reaction to the view of Rob Nieuwenhuys (the historian of Dutch colonial literature) regarding the “perkara” Lebak. Nieuwenhuys argued that Multatuli had spent most of his years of service in Indonesia in places like Sumatra, Ambon and Sulawesi and that he was therefore not sufficiently familiar with the Javanese “adat”. Otherwise he would have understood that to the indigenous people under his care the actions of the bupati were not as offensive as they were to him.

    Kousbroek continues:

    “It is no doubt nonsense as well to think that the Javanese population meekly submitted itself to extortion, as Nieuwenhuys continuously tries to present things (the population would have said “Nasib or “takdiran”- it is fate, God’s decision). Something extraordinary happened on this point that night in Taman Ismnail Marzuki where the debate meandered along the same themes. The erstwhile rector of the United Nations University in Tokyo, Soedjatmoko, who was sitting in the hall, asked to be heard and radically sank this myth. …

    What I have especially retained is the argument that in the 18th and 19th century there was one peasant revolt after the other against the indigenous chiefs, in spite of all adat and deep-Javanese respect for the sacred.”

    Thus Kousbroek.

    (Soedjatmoko was a distinguished diplomat and academic and the author of, inter alia, “An approach to Indonesian history …”)

  12. DCGuy says:

    Mr. Arie,

    I’ll think on these points, read up and get back to you. For now, though, I will say, whatever the Indonesians have done to themselves, they’re not exactly calling out for the Dutch to come back. I’ll also leave you with a questionL: what would the young Mr. Arie have said about the Dutch government in Java and the rest of Indonesia? Of Westerling, of the police action?

  13. Arie Brand says:

    Well you can find out what the old Mr.Arie has said about these matters on the Dutch war crimes thread of this blog (from page 14 onwards).

    Last year the Dutch Royal Institute for Linguistics and Anthropology (KITLV) in Leiden came with a proposal for a joint research project with Indonesian academics concerning the events of 1945-1949.

    The main difficulty was that it required a governmental subsidy of about two million euros – this is not likely to be forthcoming now the government doesn’t know where to cut to get its budget in order.

    I haven’t heard anything more about the project. Pity.

  14. DCGuy says:

    Yessir! Have to respect work where it’s been put in.

  15. DCGuy says:

    Ok, Mr. Arie, others, have done some homework, this is where I’m at now:

    * All the historiography and evidence points to the ‘Act of Free’ choice being a sham and a scam. What’s the rebuttal from Indonesian nationalist historians and commentators?

    * I still say the quality of Mr. Arie’s mercy is strained. He’s obviously committed to the Papuan cause, after having worked on it in his youth. And sure, the sins of the father should not be visited upon the son and all that. But he’s being selective about the human rights issues he chooses to care about.

    * As a former colonial official, why not put efforts into chronicling and documenting all of the wealth stripped out (or not) of Indonesia by Holland and lobbying for a commitment to:

    Pay it the fuck back.

    As an econometric exercise, calculate the net present value of all of the mineral, oil, gas, and plantations deals signed with Bupatis and Rajas and shit. Tally up the contribution of those revenues to Dutch economic growth and current GDP. Then pay it all back. Granted, I need to do more homework here and may be talking out of my burger-fed American ass.

    (No dude, we’re not talking foreign aid. I’ve worked in that industry and it’s all about keeping the world safe for capitalism – propping up post war Bretton Woods economic order.)

    Workout a ‘reparations for colonialism’ tax, levvy it on all Dutch citizens, transfer it over to Indonesia if you’re so concerned about human rights.

    * An independent Papua would quickly turn into PNG. Just look across the border for a snapshot of the future. If they get it, a ruthless Papuan elite, probably driven by ethnic rivalries, will start quarrelling over the natural resource revenue. Within 10 years, crime, poverty, and violence to women will equalize with levels across the border. But hey – not your problem, right? And not Jen Robinson’s either.

  16. Arie Brand says:

    At your favourite exercise again DCGuy? Telling people who have some concern or other what they should do and worry about instead?

    As far as PNG is concerned: over the years Papuans have shown what situation they prefer by voting with their feet. The direction is from West to East – not the reverse. Who are you to tell them what they should choose?

    Now if you can’t come up with other stuff I will leave you to it.

  17. DCGuy says:

    Mr. Arie,

    * I’m challenging the moral foundation of your intellectual position and interest in Indonesia and this area — I’m not telling you what to do or think. I’m just saying you’re selective in the human rights issues you choose to care about. I’m saying what we leave out is as important as what we put in.

    * I’m recommending to Dutch people they focus on how their society has benefited from its relationship with Indonesia, what went wrong, what went right and importantly, what actually happened. Let’s do that econometric exercise and work out was stripped out and how much it contributed to Holland’s ‘first world’ status. Let’s look at the balance sheet.

    Once we’ve got the balance sheet, we’ll know, how in hell a war-shocked European country in the 1950s could even afford a ‘government’ in West Papua on – the other side of the planet.

    How much did Holland benefit from colonizing Indonesia? Was it a net gain or a net loss?

    * I’m not telling the Papuans what to choose. We’d have to look at why they’re moving and who is moving and what they’re being told. I bet it adds up to preferring to be oppressed by a black frizzy-haired person than a Javanese. So be it. But a free West Papua would turn into PNG but worse because of the copper and gold this side of the border.

  18. Arie Brand says:

    Ah what a brilliant idea DCGuy. But as is the case with many a brilliant idea somebody else thought of it before. In this case quite a while before. In 1899 appeared in the authoritative cultural-literary journal “De Gids” an article entitled “Een Eereschuld” – in English “A Debt of Honour”. The author, the private lawyer and later parliamentarian Van Deventer, who knew the Indies from his own experience of working and living there. proposed that the financial gains from the Indies should be invested back in it to promote the welfare of the population. This article was quite influential and contributed to the formulation of the so-called “ethical policy”- a policy purely directed to the material welfare of the population, not a “mission civilisatrice” in the French style. Its three pillars were irrigation, education and transmigration. Whether with the first of these the Javanese population was really well served is an open question. The famous American anthropologist Clifford Geertz has argued that it led to a form of “agricultural involution” in which the symbiosis between sugar and rice (they both needed water) prevented the use of capital for other purposes, such as getting to a form of industrialisation. Incidentally, Van Deventer’s computation came out at a fairly modest sum, far below what comes out of the heated imagination of some amateur economic historians. In one of my letters on the “Dutch warcrimes thread” you can find the results of the computation given by a professional.

    O.K. you want the computation again. Well when it comes to figuring out who should return what to whom why not involve the present Indonesian elite in the exercise? What, are they exempt because they have an Indonesian passport and can claim a fake identity with the population they have exploited ever since independence gave them the chance to do so.? Come on, you are misled by the term “Indonesia” – a term that falsely suggests that we are dealing with a monolithic group here, a group with a common interest. Think again.

  19. DCGuy says:

    Thank you Mr. Arie, once again, will think uponst it and get back to you, sometime soon, but the weekend’s just starting, so it might be next week. Trust you understand. Best to all readers as well.

  20. madrotter says:

    Thanks for the gutenberg link pak Arie!

    And also thanks for your writings here, I love reading them!

  21. DCGuy says:

    Mr. Arie,

    Dear Readers,

    I’m going to have to bow out of this discussion and refer readers to the excellent Dutch War Crimes thread. Congratulations to those who contributed, especially Mr. Arie.

    My intellectual position now is that he’s apologizing for Holland’s past by using the murkiness of history to blur the case against colonialism. That said, it’s easy for us younger folk to judge events we didn’t live through because, well, we didn’t live through them. Facing the uncertainty of the future in real time is very different to looking back at fixed events.

    So I’ll have to defer this debate. Mr. Arie thanks for indulging me. I’d have to do more reading and homework I just don’t have time to do. For now, I’ll just sit back, read that War Crimes thread, and think.

  22. Arie Brand says:

    If there is a formerly colonised nation that has given in its popular writings a more malignant account of its colonial past than Indonesia I would like to hear about it. There are. I think, various reasons for this. The decolonisation process was painful and swept away the old elite that had cooperated with the Dutch. The ‘new men” targeted them as well as their coloniser in the account they gave of what Indonesia had allegedly gone through. Also, the first half century of independence was not exactly a time of moonshine and roses for ordinary Indonesians. Blackening the past made the present seem somewhat less dreadful.

    Indonesia could get away with this partly because Dutch is not a very accessible language and few people were able to read the writings or study the documents “from the other side”. There is another thing coming into this which has to do with the historical Anglo-Dutch rivalry in the archipelago. Timdog has remarked on this. Raffles’ malignancy toward the Dutch has put its stamp on English language accounts of their “res gestae” here. The American historian Clive Day, author of The Policy and Administration of the Dutch in Java, remarks in the introduction to his now more than one century old work:

    When I was first drawn intro a study of some of the features of Dutch policy in Java, I was surprised by the wide divergence between the descriptions of this policy current in English and the facts as they appear in the writings of Dutch historians and in the original documents.

    I was for ever inoculated against Indonesian accounts of colonialism when I saw how a nation that had, with Sukarno as chorus master, for a dozen years spoken and sung about its burning ambition to liberate its Papuan brethren from their colonial yoke, started instead, when its “year of triumph” came, on its career of plunder, murder and enslavement.

    All the same one has to acknowledge that the country has been extraordinarily successful in presenting its version of the past to people who are not willing or able to study things for themselves. DCGuy is a case in point. He has taken over the whole thing, lock, stock and barrel – including the for PNG unfavorable comparison of the Western and Eastern half of that island.

    Colonialism was a blind alley. Who would want to glorify it? But I, for one, feel compelled to protest when I am confronted with the propaganda version of it. Some of us remwember a contributor here, who called himself Purba Negoro, who either impersonated an Indonesian or was an authentic one (the question still seems to be open), who told the most blatant lies about the colonial period. If his intention was to provide a caricature of Indonesian propaganda about it he succeeded admirably. But I am afraid that wasn’t the case. I have tackled some of his lies in the Dutch war crimes thread. So this too makes me an “apologist” for colonialism in DCGuy’s eyes. Well DCGuy you have announced your intention to do more reading and homework and sit back and think. I hope we will hear more about this.

  23. pattimahal says:

    I certainly realise that I’m a lightweight here with respect to in-depth knowledge of Indonesian history over the last century, but let me say:

    My time living in Indonesia (7 yrs altogether, 5 yrs in Bali/Java and 2 in Ambon) has really made it clear to me that different parts of Indonesia have very different attitudes to the Dutch.

    Java- hate the orang belanda. Exploitation colony, Tuan Guntur Besar, Diponegoro a hero.

    Bali- if you catch many a Balinese alone, they’ll say they still appreciate the dutch ” preservation” of the culture and the discouragement of christian missionaries. Easy if you weren’t in the regency of Klungkung or Denpasar around 1904.

    Ambon- just check out all of the orange jerseys at world cup time. KNIL- traitors or realists? Even the Bandanese seem to prefer the idea of dutch overlords rather than muslims of whatever origin, be it java, sulawesi or even morth maluku.

    But of course in modern Indonesia it’s only the Javanese muslim opinion that counts.

    Just my two cents.

  24. DCGuy says:

    Mr. Arie,

    Ok, did some reading. Here’s where I’m at:

    * The boundaries of Indonesia were supposed to be the old Dutch East Indies – “from Sabang to Merauke.” I don’t think the Dutch government back then was ethical and human *at all*. The peace deal, according to histories, left the burden of paying for the war – including the Dutch police action – on the new Republic. The Indonesians were desperate to sign a peace deal, so they agreed to all sorts of outrageous demands by the embittered Dutch – including stewardship of Papua. Why not an act of Free Choice in Aceh? Why not the Malukus? Why not Java and Bali? Truth is, ethics and the welfare of the Papuans had nothing to do with it. The Dutch wanted to punish the new Republic. You got spun, my friend.

    * Independence and a ‘Free Papua’, would make Papuans worse off. Firstly, at least half the population is not ethnically Papuan any more – they’re Malay, Bugis, Ambonese, and Javanese, living in the cities. The ethnic Papuans have known tribal wars for thousands of years. If somehow West Papua (Papua, actually) was magically given independence, the territory would be torn apart by ethnic violence. And what would happen to the non ethnic Papuans? We can assume they’d want to stay in Indonesia.

    Gotta sign out after this post to get back to my next piece on ‘Down and out in D.C.: Memories of Indonesia II’.

  25. madrotter says:

    Well…. no Malay, Bugis, Ambonese, and Javanese are being tortured, raped and murdered in Papua…. The number of Papuans murdered by the Indonesian army is now estimated at around 400.000 from what I understand…. Would a free Papua become a mess? Who knows, but at least it would be THEIR mess….

  26. DCGuy says:

    Aren’t most of the abuses directed towards the ethnic Papuans?

  27. madrotter says:

    jep, that’s what i’m saying

  28. Arie Brand says:

    Hey DCGuy, you again? I thought you had bowed out to give yourself some time for reflection. Well that didn’t last very long. As soon as you got hold of another sheet with misinformation you had to rush to this forum to convey its contents.

    The peace deal, according to histories, left the burden of paying for the war – including the Dutch police action – on the new Republic. The Indonesians were desperate to sign a peace deal, so they agreed to all sorts of outrageous demands by the embittered Dutch

    I love that “according to histories”.

    The facts are these. Netherlands India was a separate legal entity from the Netherlands – also in financial matters. Indonesia entered upon the estate of Netherlands India subject to benefit of the inventory, that is all government property (buildings, airports, the governmental navy etc.etc) became its own but also all government debt. At the Round Table Conference this was calculated to be 6,5 billion guilders. According to Sukarno biographer Lambert Giebels it was Merle Cochran, later the first American ambassador to Indonesia but then the head of UNCI that participated in the talks, who persuaded the Dutch negotiators to drop two billion guilders of this amount – the estimated costs of the “police actions”. Your “histories” apparently forgot to mention this. So 4,5 billion guilders remained.

    Indonesia paid this of until 1956 and then stopped paying. Six hundred and fifty million guilders remained unpaid.

    The year after, end 1957, Indonesia confiscated all Dutch property in Indonesia (companies, plantations, the shipping company KPM etc.).

    Did your “histories” tell you that?

    Why not an act of Free Choice in Aceh? Why not the Malukus? Why not Java and Bali?

    Why indeed? Tomorrow I will go into that question. Bedtime here.

    One last remark. Your introductory article was very critical of foreign correspondents in Indonesia. Would you make a good one? Don’t you think fact checking belongs to the job?

  29. DCGuy says:

    Mr. Arie,

    That’s not what Indonesia’s historians say.

    What do you mean by this sentence?:

    “Indonesia entered upon the estate of Netherlands India”

    I can’t believe you think the deal was a fair one. What about the wealth drained from Indonesia in the VOC years and 19th and first half of the 20th century?

    Personally, I think the Dutch companies operating in Indonesia had it coming to them.

  30. Arie Brand says:

    DCGuy, who are your “Indonesian historians”?

    If somebody leaves you a house in his will you are not obliged to accept it – but if you do you will be saddled with the mortgage as well. That is what “entering upon an estate subject to benefit of the inventory” means. It is legalese.

    Talking about Indonesian historians: remember that I talked about that proposal for Dutch and Indonesian historians to research together the war crimes committed in the period 1945 – 1949? For the first time there would not only be a more thorough inquiry in the happenings on the Dutch side but also the Indonesian side. I surmised that it wouldn’t come off the ground because of its cost to the Dutch taxpayer – two million euros. Well that is indeed one of the reasons why the proposal has been sunk. But it is not the only one. The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Timmermans, has revealed that Indonesia has made it clear to him that it doesn’t want this inquiry. I leave it to you, DCGuy, to speculate upon the possible reasons for this.

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