The Jakarta Post
This week’s state visit by King Willem-Alexander, which continues the tradition of having a reigning Dutch monarch return to Indonesia every 25 years or so, is an opportune moment to improve the amicable relationship that Jakarta and The Hague have developed together.
Weeks before the arrival of the king and Queen Maxima on Monday evening, Dutch officials had announced that a high-profile entourage of government ministers and privatesector players would be accompanying the king, seeking to capitalize on the potential for partnership in a wide range of areas from agriculture, health care and education to coastal development and water technology.
When Indonesia pushed the Dutch colonizers out of the country, it was precisely these areas of development that suddenly stopped progressing. The Netherlands still possesses a wealth of knowledge on Indonesia that remains inaccessible to the majority of Indonesians. Surely it is possible that problems of the future can be solved by looking into our past.
Experts have also noted that such an economy-heavy and good governance-focused approach by the Dutch is highly appealing to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who will do all he can to bolster the economy and make good on his development programs and campaign promises.
It is important that neither side squanders such an opportunity to progress what has otherwise been an uneventful — if not stagnant — relationship. Jokowi must be firm in asking how the Netherlands would like to be remembered in regard to Indonesia’s continued development — the Dutch are not even among Indonesia’ top-10 trading partners.
The Dutch must also show that they trust Indonesia as it looks to consummate a relationship of equals. The Hague must show a willingness to close a painful chapter in our shared history. So if a royal apology is required, then an apology Indonesians should expect.
To be fair, a glance at the Dutch king’s activities in the country will show there is a willingness to engage with history, as in the case of the king’s meeting in Yogyakarta with Sultan Hamengkubuwono X — a veritable “meeting of equals” and an acknowledgement of the role the Yogyakarta sultanate played during the Indonesian revolutionary wars of 1945-1949, which the Dutch refer to as a “police action”.
A week ago, the Dutch government also returned a precious artifact belonging to Diponegoro, the Javanese prince who is a national hero for his famous war against the Dutch in the 19th century.
But between engaging in an itinerary rife with callbacks to the past and calling for a relationship that is forwardlooking, both sides should go above and beyond the expectations of their two peoples.
Most importantly, both sides must ensure that the history of Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia is not forgotten by the younger generation of Dutch and Indonesians, so that we may be fortunate enough not to see history repeat itself and that, at the very least, an undistorted version of history can be retained.
In the end, it is the Dutch who must ask themselves: How do you want to be remembered?