Java massacre relatives in talks with government on compensation
Wednesday 23 November 2011
The Dutch government is discussing
possible compensation for relatives of men killed in a massacre during
Indonesia’s battle for independence, the foreign ministry confirmed on
In September, a Dutch court the state is responsible for the massacre
in the village of Rawagedeh on Java in which up to 430 men died. The
court ordered the state to pay compensation.
The government has held preliminary talks with the relatives’ lawyer
‘about the possibility of reaching a settlement,’ a ministry spokesman
The spokesman could not say if this meant the government had decided not to appeal against the landmark court ruling.
On 17 August 1945, just as the brutal war in the Pacific was coming to
an end, Sukarno, the nationalist leader of what was then the Dutch East
Indies, declared his country's independence and severed the connections
of four centuries of Dutch rule.
The Dutch had ruled Indonesia since the 16th century when the powerful
East India Company controlled almost all trade in the region.
Generations of Dutch planter and mining families lived lives of luxury
and oversaw the transfer of a wealth of natural resources to the
Tea, coffee, spices, textiles, petroleum and minerals were just some of
the bounty that the Netherlands drew off from its Asian colony. With the
Japanese surrender, Sukarno seized his chance and declared the days of
Dutch dominance over.
The Dutch government responded by sending troops to the Indies in what
would become known as "the Police Actions". The words "colonial war"
were avoided because the Dutch refused to acknowledge that it was a
conflict between two states, regarding it as an internal problem. There
were two major Police Actions spread over a three year period during
which 120,000 young Dutch men were sent on a mission to bring "order and
peace" to the Indies. What actually happened under that mandate would
come out only decades later, and would haunt the conscience of the
Netherlands for years to come.
Gus Blok was conscripted into the army and shipped off to a land unlike
anything he'd ever seen before. He's a big man, with a handshake that
can pulverise those of less hearty individuals: "We were there, admiring
the beautiful nature, the beautiful women, but we were not thinking
about morality ... that happened when we were back."
And then this big man dissolves in floods of tears. It soon becomes
clear that any discussion of his time in Indonesia pulls him out to an
emotional ledge. He sips water with trembling hands, his voice breaking
often or slipping into a horrified whisper as he talks of the things he
saw and did while he was there.
"I didn't shoot them, but I tortured them and I beat them up. I put them
in the sun till they fell down. I was never told to do it - you just
grow into it. Isn't it terrible? They didn't tell me to torture people,
that was my own doing. I wanted to do my job well."
Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, was granted sovereignty in 1949
after an armed struggle. In 1947, Dutch soldiers executed a group of
around 431 men and boys in the West Java village of Rawagede. Official
papers estimate the number of men killed at Rawagede (now called
Balongsari) at 150.
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