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Jakarta Post

Commentary: When the world recognized Indonesia as an equal

  • Meidyatama Suryodiningrat

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, December 27, 2013   /  09:26 am

Indonesia'€™s independence proclamator, the late Muhammad Hatta, was asked regarding events he personally considered most significant in the nation'€™s revolutionary struggle. He named two: Aug. 17, 1945 and Dec. 27, 1949.

No Indonesian would be ignorant of the former. Few Indonesians are mindful of the latter.

If Aug. 17, 1945 was Independence Day, then Dec. 27, 1949, was Indonesia'€™s emancipation from colonialism. The day the Dutch East Indies ceased to exist.

At the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, then prime minister W. Drees and Queen Juliana transferred sovereignty to a federal Indonesian government represented by Hatta.

In a magnanimous speech, Queen Juliana said the Netherlands and Indonesia now stood side by side.

'€œHowever much violated and torn and full of the scars of resentment and regret, incalculable is the satisfaction of a nation that sees its freedom realized,'€ she remarked.

A day later, Sukarno returned to Jakarta from Yogyakarta.

Indonesians were in the midst of rejoicing. Such was the significance that even a local paper in Queensland, Australia '€” the Morning Bulletin '€” carried news from the archipelago on the front page of its Dec. 29, 1949 edition.

It describes a atmosphere of intense enthusiasm in old Batavia.

'€œTwin silver Dakotas bearing the Sukarno family and entourage circled over the city and dropped leaflets, bearing emblems of liberty. Before landing at Kemayoran airport a sea of upraised arms greeted the President,'€ read the report.

The article goes on to describe the mixed emotions: '€œTo young intellectuals and soldiers the effect is an intoxicating sense of power, which their leaders warned in radio broadcasts they must translate into a sense of responsibility and hard work.

'€œTo most Dutch civilians the effect is mental confusion. To the rest of the community the immediate effect is increased commodity prices'€.

Indonesia commemorates many historic national events. In 2014 the country will even declare Labor Day on May 1 a national holiday. Yet there is not a peep about Dec. 27, except from history buffs and indulgent newspaper articles.

A disregard that the guerrilla actions by brave freedom fighters served as the hammer to the diplomatic effort that indelibly nailed our sovereignty.

There are political reasons for this '€œoversight'€.

History glorifies the more '€œromantic'€ physical side of the struggle.

Indonesians rightly emphasize that independence was won through blood and suffering, not a gift from the Dutch who did not acknowledge the 1945 proclamation until 2005.

The fact that modern history was written in the New Order era did not help either. The predominant role of the Army during this era emphasized the military over the political struggle.

Hence history became simplified. The Soeharto-led March 1 attack on Yogyakarta is immortalized, but the myriad of diplomacy that cemented the victories are forgotten.

Such as the May 7, 1949, Roem-Roijen agreement, which ended Dutch aggression, freed political leaders and set the stage for the Round Table Conference that secured sovereignty.

Interlaced was the internal political dynamics where many of the intellectual leaders who led the negotiations were social-democrats who stood as contraries to the authoritarian instinct of Sukarno and Soeharto.

The roster of intellectuals at these negotiations sadly became a catalog of the politically unwanted who were marginalized or jailed without trial during the reign of Indonesia'€™s first two presidents.

A post-revolution tragedy where greed or ideology drove friends to become foes.

Sutan Sjahrir '€” the first prime minister, leader in the Linggarjati talks, and the first Indonesian to address the UN Security Council in August 1947 '€” was jailed by Sukarno and died in neglect.

Amir Sjarifuddin '€” the second prime minister, head of the Renville talks and an Indonesian Communist Party figure '€” was executed by soldiers in 1948.

Sjafruddin Prawiranegara who headed Indonesia'€™s Emergency Government in Padang, West Sumatra, was imprisoned by Sukarno and later barred from public lectures by Soeharto.

Diplomat Mohammad Roem, signatory of the Roem-Roijen agreement and deputy at the Round Table Conference was also imprisoned by Sukarno.

Hatta himself, disillusioned with Sukarno'€™s autocracy, tendered his resignation as vice president in 1956.

This absence of history also deprives the current generation of valuable lessons learned.

Among them, the priceless contribution of friends without whom history would not have been the same.

While the past month has seen a low point in bilateral relations, there was a time when Australia stood as Indonesia'€™s strongest '€œwestern'€ ally.

When the Netherlands launched a military offensive in July 1947, Australia referred the conflict to the UN as a breach of peace, thus prompting the United Kingdom and the United States to take a stance against a European ally.

The unprecedented demonstration of regional solidarity in New Delhi to support Indonesia prompted the UN to again take action in 1949 leading to the negotiations that culminated in the transfer of sovereignty.

Sovereignty put Indonesia on the world map.

Within 24 hours Australia, the United States and many others gave de jure recognition.

Less than a year later Indonesia was a member of the UN, five years after that it hosted the historic Asia-Africa Conference.

But the emotion of this day six-and-a-half decades ago can be best summed up by a young Indonesian journalist who attended the ceremony in Amsterdam.

In an article he wrote for Kompas in 2006, the late Rosihan Anwar recalled his thoughts after saying goodbye to a departing Hatta at Schiphol airport on Dec. 31, 1949: '€œIt'€™s the New Year, and now my country is independent, sovereign, and recognized by the world!'€

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