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Monday, November 29, 2004

Colonial Warfare pt. 7


dutch colonial troops


How did Indonesia become a colony?

By the time of the Renaissance, the islands of Java and Sumatra had already enjoyed a 1,000-year heritage of advanced civilization spanning two major empires. During the 7th-14th centuries, the Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya flourished on Sumatra. At its peak, the Srivijaya Empire reached as far as West Java and the Malay Peninsula. Also by the 14th century, the Hindu Kingdom of Majapahit had risen in eastern Java. Gadjah Mada, the empire's chief minister from 1331 to 1364, succeeded in gaining allegiance from most of what is now modern Indonesia and much of the Malay archipelago as well. Legacies from Gadjah Mada's time include a codification of law and an epic poem. Islam arrived in Indonesia sometime during the 12th century and, through assimilation, supplanted Hinduism by the end of the 16th century in Java and Sumatra. Bali, however, remains overwhelmingly Hindu. In the eastern archipelago, both Christian and Islamic proselytizing took place in the 16th and 17th centuries, and, currently, there are large communities of both religions on these islands.

Beginning in 1602, the Dutch slowly established themselves as rulers of present-day Indonesia, exploiting the weakness of the small kingdoms that had replaced that of Majapahit. The only exception was East Timor, which remained under Portugal until 1975. During 300 years of Dutch rule, the Dutch developed the Netherlands East Indies into one of the world's richest colonial possessions.


Why were the Dutch in Indonesia?

Although palm oil, sugar, cinchona (the source of quinine, used in treating malaria), cocoa, tea, coffee, and tobacco were major revenue earners, they were eclipsed during the early twentieth century by rubber and, especially, petroleum. Sumatra and the eastern archipelago surpassed Java as a source of tropical exports, although sugarcane remained important in East Java.

Rubber plantations were established on a large scale in the early twentieth century, particularly around Medan, Palembang, and Jambi on Sumatra, with British, American, French, and other foreign investment playing a major role. A high-yield variety of rubber tree, discovered in Brazil and proven very profitable in Malaya, was utilized. It was during this period that the emergence of small-holder rubber cultivation, which was to play a major role in the Indonesian economy, took place.

Tin had long been a major mineral product of the archipelago, especially on the islands of Bangka and Billiton, off the southeast coast of Sumatra. But petroleum was, and remained, Indonesia's most important mineral resource. Oil, extracted from Sumatra after 1884, was first used to light lamps. In 1890, the Royal Dutch Company for Exploration of Petroleum Sources in the Netherlands Indies (Koninklijke Nederlandsche Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Petroleum-bronnen in Nederlandsche-Indië) was established, and in 1907 it merged with Shell Transport and Trading Company, a British concern, to become Royal Dutch Shell, which controlled around 85 percent of oil production in the islands before World War II. Oil was pumped from wells in Sumatra, Java, and eastern Kalimantan.

Rapid economic development during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries profoundly changed the lives of both European residents and indigenous peoples. By 1930 Batavia had a population of more than 500,000 people. Surabaya had nearly 300,000 people and other large cities--Semarang, Bandung, Yogyakarta, and Surakarta-- had populations between 100,000 and 300,000.

Always conscious of its ethnic and cultural diversity, Indonesian society grew more so as the number of Dutch and other Western residents--especially white women--increased and chose to live European-style lives in special urban areas with wide streets or on plantations. There also were increasing numbers of Indonesians who lived in these Western-style urban areas. Nevertheless, the European trekkers, as they were known in Dutch, were often not much different from their British counterparts described by George Orwell in Burmese Days, longing for the home country and looking on the native world around them with suspicion and hostility. An early twentieth century work described Batavia's European quarter as "well planned, it is kept scrupulously clean, and while the natives in their bright colored clothes, quietly making their way hither and thither, give the required picturesque touch to the life in the streets, the absence of the crowded native dwelling houses prevents the occurrence of those objectionable features which so often destroy the charm of the towns in the Orient."


How did the liberal and tolerant Dutch treat their Indonesian subjects?

In 1918, an advisory council or Volksraad (Peoples Council) was established. It was partially elected, partially appointed. Half of the seats went to Indonesians, of which several were appointed by the government. Although the government did appoint members of several nationalist parties, the recipients were often discredited by being appointed.40a

Instead of lessening agitation, the Volksraad actually stiffened nationalist sentiments because any effort to achieve genuine progress through it was frustrated. Either the European and Indo-European elements, who together formed a majority voted against bills advocating improvements, or the colonial administration ignored the advice given.

Regardless of the Volksraad, the colonial Government remained oppressive. There was a separation between "Herrenvolk" and natives, based on confusing race theories, while at the same time the government did recognise Eurasians as being legally equal to Europeans.4l But as the economy was concentrated in the hands of a few and the government closely tied-in, the result was a type of of "corporate state" based on a capitalist system of exploitation. The Governor-General ruled through "Governor-in-Council" acts. There was no real internal policy making and the principle of trias politica was never recognised.42 Instead, the Colonial Government employed another trinity: the General Prosecutor, the Perintah Alus (Secret Police), and Boven-Digul, a political concentration camp in the swamps of New Guinea. Fascism was popular among the Dutch in Indonesia and in the thirties the Nationaal Socialistische Beweging (National Socialist Movement), the Dutch branch of the Nazi organisation, had many supporters in the colony.

Education catered to the élite only. Indonesians could attend High School if they could speak Dutch and if they could afford the high fees.The result was that only the sons and daughters of wealthy Indonesians received any education beyond elementary school. The Dutch schools ignored, or down-played, the importance of the Indonesian culture. As 1ate as 1940, ninety-three percent of the population was illiterate and in that same year 240 Indonesians, out of a population of seventy million, graduated from High School. Only 630 Indonesians were enrolled in universities.43

Indonesia under Dutch rule was a police state. Terror was kept in check because ultimately there was always the Parliament in Holland, which although it failed to carry out its democratic responsibilities toward the Indonesian, people, at least did not tolerate a terror regime. It failed, however, dismally in democratising the Colonial Government. Until World War II, there were no local ministers, only directors of departments, appointed or dismissed by the Governor-General at will. The Governor-General was appointed by the Colonial Minister in the mother country, and the Colonial Minister was most of the time a member of the conservative alliance in the Dutch Parliament.44

The relationships between the Europeans and the Indonesians worsened after World War I. Before, Dutchmen and other Europeans came to Indonesia for relatively long periods of time. Many Europeans in Indonesia before World War I, were born and educated in Indonesia. They understood the local population to a certain degree and often spoke the local tongue. As the ties with the mother country weakened, these people began to identity more and more with the Indonesian society. As a result they were interested in such.things as an Indonesian rather than a Dutch citizenship.

Between 1920 and 1930, however, there was a great influx of Dutchmen who did not settle for long periods but who only came to the colony to serve their term, make money, get their pensions, and return home. These ''trekkers" as they were called, were not interested in colonial politics, but simply demanded from the government that it keep Indonesia safe for them and their jobs and suppress all political activity that might endanger European enterprises.45 They understood little of the aspirations of the local population. As entrepreneurs they wanted the Colonial Government to expand the infrastructure and raise taxes to pay for it, and nationalist or other agitation was not to interfere with that. They claimed that the infrastructure benefited the local population as well and that the Indonesian radicals were therefore working against the interests of their own people.46 The "trekkers" were blatantly racist and followed a strict colour-line, which in turn stiffened Indonesian opposition.47


This paradise in the sun would be upended by the Japanese, who had their own plans for the oil and the region.

The Japanese occupied the archipelago in order, like their Portuguese and Dutch predecessors, to secure its rich natural resources. Japan's invasion of North China, which had begun in July 1937, by the end of the decade had become bogged down in the face of stubborn Chinese resistance. To feed Japan's war machine, large amounts of petroleum, scrap iron, and other raw materials had to be imported from foreign sources. Most oil--about 55 percent--came from the United States, but Indonesia supplied a critical 25 percent.

............

Although their motives were largely acquisitive, the Japanese justified their occupation in terms of Japan's role as, in the words of a 1942 slogan, "The leader of Asia, the protector of Asia, the light of Asia." Tokyo's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, encompassing both Northeast and Southeast Asia, with Japan as the focal point, was to be a nonexploitative economic and cultural community of Asians. Given Indonesian resentment of Dutch rule, this approach was appealing and harmonized remarkably well with local legends that a two-century-long non-Javanese rule would be followed by era of peace and prosperity.

....................

The occupation was not gentle. Japanese troops often acted harshly against local populations. The Japanese military police were especially feared. Food and other vital necessities were confiscated by the occupiers, causing widespread misery and starvation by the end of the war. The worst abuse, however, was the forced mobilization of some 4 million--although some estimates are as high as 10 million--romusha (manual laborers), most of whom were put to work on economic development and defense construction projects in Java. About 270,000 romusha were sent to the Outer Islands and Japanese-held territories in Southeast Asia, where they joined other Asians in performing wartime construction projects. At the end of the war, only 52,000 were repatriated to Java.

The Japanese occupation was a watershed in Indonesian history. It shattered the myth of Dutch superiority, as Batavia gave up its empire without a fight. There was little resistance as Japanese forces fanned out through the islands to occupy former centers of Dutch power. The relatively tolerant policies of the Sixteenth Army on Java also confirmed the island's leading role in Indonesian national life after 1945: Java was far more developed politically and militarily than the other islands. In addition, there were profound cultural implications from the Japanese invasion of Java. In administration, business, and cultural life, the Dutch language was discarded in favor of Malay and Japanese. Committees were organized to standardize Bahasa Indonesia and make it a truly national language. Modern Indonesian literature, which got its start with language unification efforts in 1928 and underwent considerable development before the war, received further impetus under Japanese auspices. Revolutionary (or traditional) Indonesian themes were employed in drama, films, and art, and hated symbols of Dutch imperial control were swept away. For example, the Japanese allowed a huge rally in Batavia (renamed Jakarta) to celebrate by tearing down a statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the seventeenthcentury governor general. Although the occupiers propagated the message of Japanese leadership of Asia, they did not attempt, as they did in their Korean colony, to coercively promote Japanese culture on a large scale. According to historian Anthony Reid, the occupiers believed that Indonesians, as fellow Asians, were essentially like themselves but had been corrupted by three centuries of Western colonialism. What was needed was a dose of Japanese-style seishin (spirit; semangat in Indonesian). Many members of the elite responded positively to an inculcation of samurai values.

The most significant legacy of the occupation, however, was the opportunities it gave for Javanese and other Indonesians to participate in politics, administration, and the military. Soon after the Dutch surrender, European officials, businessmen, military personnel, and others, totaling around 170,000, were interned (the harsh conditions of their confinement caused a high death rate, at least in camps for male military prisoners, which embittered Dutch-Japanese relations even in the early 1990s). While Japanese military officers occupied the highest posts, the personnel vacuum on the lower levels was filled with Indonesians. Like the Dutch, however, the Japanese relied on local indigenous elites, such as the priyayi on Java and the Acehnese uleebalang, to administer the countryside. Because of the harshly exploitative Japanese policies in the closing years of the war, after the Japanese surrender collaborators in some areas were killed in a wave of local resentment.

Sukarno and Hatta agreed in 1942 to cooperate with the Japanese, as this seemed to be the best opportunity to secure independence. The occupiers were particularly impressed by Sukarno's mass following, and he became increasingly valuable to them as the need to mobilize the population for the war effort grew between 1943 and 1945. His reputation, however, was tarnished by his role in recruiting romusha.

Japanese attempts to coopt Muslims met with limited success. Muslim leaders opposed the practice of bowing toward the emperor (a divine ruler in Japanese official mythology) in Tokyo as a form of idolatry and refused to declare Japan's war against the Allies a "holy war" because both sides were nonbelievers. In October 1943, however, the Japanese organized the Consultative Council of Indonesian Muslims (Masyumi), designed to create a united front of orthodox and modernist believers. Nahdatul Ulama was given a prominent role in Masyumi, as were a large number of kyai (religious leaders), whom the Dutch had largely ignored, who were brought to Jakarta for training and indoctrination.

As the fortunes of war turned, the occupiers began organizing Indonesians into military and paramilitary units whose numbers were added by the Japanese to romusha statistics. These included the heiho (auxiliaries), paramilitary units recruited by the Japanese in mid-1943, and the Defenders of the Fatherland (Peta) in 1943. Peta was a military force designed to assist the Japanese forces by forestalling the initial Allied invasion. By the end of the war, it had 37,000 men in Java and 20,000 in Sumatra (where it was commonly known by the Japanese name Giyugun). In December 1944, a Muslim armed force, the Army of God, or Barisan Hizbullah, was attached to Masyumi

posted by Steve @ 4:18:00 PM

4:18:00 PM

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