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Dutch government now accepts Indonesia’s independence date
Policy change meets little opposition
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
THE HAGUE - The Netherlands ’morally and politically’ accepts August 17 as the anniversary date of Indonesia's independence in 1945. The policy change surfaced in the days leading up to the 60th anniversary of Japanese capitulation and the end of the Japanese occupation of then Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia.
Foreign Affairs Minister B. Bot admits that the Netherlands has put an end to a dispute that has cast a shadow over Dutch-Indonesian relations for almost 60 years. The minister, who was born in the Dutch East Indies in 1937 and who for several years was interned in a Japanese camp while his father worked as a slave-labourer on the infamous Birma-railroad, attended the August 15 commemoration at the The Hague memorial before traveling to Indonesia to be the first Dutch cabinet member present at the independence celebrations in Indonesia on August 17.
Bot told a crowd of thousands in The Hague he would explain to the Indonesian people that his presence in Jakarta should be seen as a moral and political acceptance of Indonesia’s independence date.
"What is important is that we speak openly with the Indonesians. With the support of the Dutch government I will impress upon the Indonesian people that the Netherlands understands that de-facto independence started on August 17, 1945 and that we - 60 years after the fact - accept this fact generously in a moral and political sense," he added.
Bot also admitted that the handover of the sovereignty to Indonesia had taken longer than necessary.
"Only after the fact it is clear that the separation of Indonesia and the Netherlands has taken longer, with more military violence than was necessary," he said.
Bot’s announcement received cautious endorsements from various groups, including the veterans and former residents of the Dutch East Indies. Political parties generally welcomed the policy change, which does not include an apology.
Dutch veterans who for decades had grievances over a range of issues involving their service in the Dutch East Indies and the return home, recently received an apology from the government for its neglect of them in years past. The birth date of Prince Bernhard, the veterans’ patron, now officially is Veterans Day. Following the Liberation of the Netherlands in 1945, the government sent over 100,000 soldiers to its South East Asian colony to restore its rule. Under international pressure, the Dutch government relinquished its claim on the Dutch East Indies in December 1949, until now the Dutch version of Indonesia’s independence date. Instead of a federation of republics, Indonesia soon turned into a centrally governed country.