Date: Fri, 4 Apr 1997 15:16:44 +0100
From: Waruno Mahdi 

Withdrawal of Moluccan Former Dutch Mercenaries to the Netherlands (2)

On Thu, 3 Apr 97 11:31 WET, Chaumont Devin wrote:

> Also, if the Dutch were intending to hang onto Irian Jaya for one more year,
> then all the more reason why they should have taken their troups there instead
> of to the other side of the world.

I don't think the Dutch saw any necessity to defend their one year's stay by military means. Indonesia was quite obviously neither contemplating to shorten that one year term forcibly, nor was it in posession of the military means to do so if it secretly did. The retreat of the Ambonese troops was seen as a long-term thing (they were moved together with families, etc.), and it was obviously simpler, and more merciful towards the involved people, to transport them in one move to a permanent destination, rather than first to a temporary intermediate base for a few months.

> You mean "voluntary" in the KGB sense of the word, I presume?  Something like
> the way the East Germans might want to "voluntarily" remain part of the Soviet
> Union for two generations after WW2?

Actually, this was one time in Indonesian history, where one couldn't really imply anything of the sort. We had the most liberal and democratic conditions imaginable, causing the government to be toppled by the parliament with an average regularity of one per year (seven cabinets in seven years 1950 till 1957).During elections, there was a profusion of political parties, large and small, or even downright miniscule. Everybody got a chance to speak out. The press was free to criticise the government (though not always the military, they had the guns, and could get rather spiteful, the government was too weak to control the army). The courts were independent. There was no law about "insulting the president". In fact, in the one instance when the government would have liked such a law, i.e. when the Vice President took deep offence to an accusation made by the communists, they had to use the old "laise majeste" law from the colonial period. But the defendents pleaded that Indonesia was no longer ruled by a king or queen, and the court acquitted them, much to the understandable (even if democratically inevitable) chagrin of the government.

> You certainly couldn't tell this by the way the Indonesians have treated
> American citizens after gaining independence, could you?  Would you call

Well that depends of course on what you mean by "the Indonesians". As for this one, for example, my best pals were Americans, you know, genuine pure-bred white Anglosaxon protestant Yanks from New England (sorry folks, Afro and other US Americans were not so widely represented in the diplomatic corps and among missionaries and foreign correspendents in those days, otherwise they would have been among my pals as well).

But you are probably referring to the military and a certain part of the police force. I'm afraid, what you write about the way they treated you was, I'm sad to say, experienced by a lot of people. Not only Americans, but also Indonesians (Moluccans as well as Javanese and others) have an endless list of stories of maltreatment to tell. But during the period of so-called "confrontation" in the late 1950s and the 1960s, Americans must indeed have suffered particularly.

> Conflict?  That's surely a joke!  The only "conflict" I ever heard about was
> once when the Indonesians sent across two pitiful boats.  One of them was sunk
> by the Dutch navy on the spot, and the other turned tail and ran.  I also

The situation actually started getting critical when Indonesia started dropping a steady flow of jungle-guerilla trained elite troops by parachute into the West Irian/Irian Jaya hinterland. I can't judge what the military significance of these troops was, but they at least impressed the others enough for the diplomats to immediately shunt into high gear.

> gain in the end, doesn't it?  Also, it's much more convenient to deal only
> with Jakarta instead of having to deal with Ambon, Irian Jaya, Menado, Timtim,
> etc., isn't it?  You bet.  Makes good bureaucratic sense!

It has also been a longstanding and very sensible policy of the UN, to leave borders of former colonies in whatever way the former colonisers had set them. Reorganizing these borders inevitably brings much more suffering to the people, than that which it helps alleviate. Apart from that, replacing a system of government of one establishment which, whether for the better or the worse, already has experience in government, by a new system of a yet totally inexperienced other national establishment, is inviting trouble. All newly independent states face this problem. As much as one may decry the atrocities of the present government, what makes you think that a Moluccan government would not be worse? If you think it is unjust for Ambonese to be ruled by Javanese (which is not quite exactly what is happening), why would it not be unjust for Buruese, Tanimbarese, Tidorese, etc., etc., to be ruled by Ambonese? The real situation in Indonesia as the result of many centuries of history is, that Ambonese are living all over Indonesia, their lives are tied up in countless ways with all the other peoples of the country. We have had Ambonese in the cabinet, in the military command, some of the most outstanding pilots in the Indonesian Airforce were Ambonese, Ambonese doctors, engineers, university lecturers, etc., etc, are working all over Indonesia, profitting from the size of the country. And Ambon can export to the whole archipelago without facing tarif barriers.

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