The Jakarta Post
The Dutch government has officially apologized for summary executions carried out by its colonial troops in Indonesia between 1945 and 1949.
Dutch Ambassador to Indonesia Tjeerd de Zwaan said on Thursday the apology was primarily addressed to the 10 widows of men who were summarily executed in South Sulawesi during the Westerling tragedy, and was also meant more generally to encompass other tragedies of a similar magnitude.
The Westerling tragedy was a series of mass killings in South Sulawesi between December 1946 and February 1947 during military operations by Dutch troops under Raymond Pierre Paul Westerling while Indonesia was under Dutch occupation.
No data is available on how many people died in the massacre, but most Dutch media outlets have reported that between 3,000 and 5,000 perished.
Amsterdam-based lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said probably more than 40,000 people were killed during the operation.
Zegveld is the lawyer of the 10 widows.
'The Dutch government is aware it bears a special responsibility in respect of Indonesian widows of victims of summary executions ['¦]. On behalf of the Dutch government, I apologize for these excesses,' Zwaan said during the apology ceremony at the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta.
Zwaan said next week, he would visit all of the 10 widows in Makassar, South Sulawesi, who are now aged between 80 and 100-years-old. The 10 widows were invited to the event but none were able to be present.
Five people, said to be the sons and daughters of three out of the 10 widows, attended, but none were willing or allowed to talk to the press after the ceremony.
According to Dutch Embassy spokesman Nicolaas Schermers, nobody from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry attended the event.
'We've not seen the Indonesian government present ['¦]. We have informed the Foreign Ministry and we expected them to inform other relevant authorities ['¦],' he said.
Just a day before the ceremony, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters the ministry warmly welcomed the Dutch government's decision to apologize and pay compensation to the families of the victims.
'We hope this will become a precedent for similar cases in the future without affecting bilateral relations between Indonesia and the Netherlands,' he added.
In 2011, the Dutch government apologized for the Rawagede tragedy, which caused the deaths of no fewer than 430 Indonesians in 1947.
The Dutch government paid Â¤20,000 (US$26,560) to each of the nine victims' widows who sued the Netherlands at a court in The Hague over the Rawagede tragedy.
Similar to the widows of Rawagede, the 10 victims' widows of the Westerling tragedy sued the Dutch government in a court in The Hague last year and demanded a public apology.
The court accepted the widows' demands and requested the Netherlands pay Â¤20,000 as compensation to each of them.
'The court decided the Netherlands must apologize to them, but the government has also decided to apologize for similar cases of the same magnitude as cases in Rawagede and South Sulawesi,' said Schermers.
In an attempt to deal with similar cases in the future, the Dutch government is now developing a system, which will be available online, through which victims of mass killings carried out by Dutch troops between 1945 and 1949 can ask for similar compensation without going to court.
Zegveld told The Jakarta Post that the move taken by the Dutch government was a good step in its effort to deal with its past.
She said that between 1945 and 1949, relations between the two countries had hit their nadir.
'This is the period when the Dutch government should take responsibility, because this was the worst period,' she said. (koi)
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