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Jakarta Post

Editorial: Meneer, we have moved on

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Sat, September 14, 2013   /  11:44 am

The official apology from the Netherlands, for the massacres committed by its soldiers during the bloody wars with Indonesia'€™s independence fighters between 1945 and 1949, is a nice gesture.

It comes more than six decades after the fact, but every good intention must still be welcomed wholeheartedly.

Of course, Indonesia has moved on. We forgave the Dutch long before this apology came. But we have not forgotten the massacres, as every child learns about them in school.

Looking at how Indonesia deals with its former colonial masters, we hold no grudge. Holland today is defined more by its great soccer players and not by history.

Nor are we insisting that Holland recognizes Indonesia'€™s independence when it was declared on Aug. 17, 1945 and not when Holland surrendered sovereignty in 1949 after four years of wars and atrocities.

For Indonesia, those episodes belong in the history books. The Dutch can keep their version of history,
as they should because 5,000 of their soldiers died for country and king.

We keep our version of history to respect the hundreds of thousands who died fighting for our freedom.

When Dutch Ambassador to Indonesia Tjeerd de Zwaan apologized for the Dutch military '€œexcesses'€ during those years, in Jakarta on Thursday, it served the Dutch'€™s purpose more than ours.

If this helps them to finally confront their past and clear their conscience, then by all means go ahead. We gracefully accept it.

However, we cannot help but notice that the apology only came after a Dutch court ordered it. And this is because a brave Dutch lawyer fought on behalf of a survivor and a handful of widows from one particular massacre in South Sulawesi. She also secured ¤20,000 (US$26,500) in compensation for each of them. Nice.

Now that the Dutch have also promised more compensation for others, be prepared for more Dutch lawyers descending on Indonesia hunting for survivors, widows or descendants of the massacre victims. Indonesian lawyers will only be too happy to assist.

Yes, Indonesia has its own ugly past it needs to confront. The nation remains in denial about some of the atrocities of genocidal proportions committed by the state.

But at least now we can pin the blame for the culture of impunity that seems to pervade in this country on someone else. Yes, we took it from the Dutch.

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