JAVA: Trouble in the Indies

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The white man had reoccupied Java, richest and most densely populated of the East Indies, with such weak forces that he had been forced to call on armed Japs for police help. Now Dutchmen, Eurasians and Japs were being killed in skirmishes all over the island. Hardly any of it except Batavia, where the natives called a work stoppage, and Bandung, was under white control. The native leader, Soekarno, admitted that he got his arms from the Japs, with whom he collaborated during the war, but pointed to his prewar anti-Jap utterances as proof of good faith. A Mohammedan, he called on the Mohammedan majority in Java for a holy war against "Dutch infidels."

The native faction which calls itself the Indonesian Republic declared war on the Dutch, Eurasians and Amboinese (warlike Amboina Islanders, many of whom have joined the Netherlands Army). Weapons (according to Indonesian People's Army headquarters): "All kinds of firearms, also poison, poisoned darts and arrows, all methods of arson and . . . wild animals, as for instance snakes."

The Dutch stood by their 1942 pledge of self-government for the Indies in a new Netherlands Commonwealth, but they boggled at dealing with Soekarno, began shipping troops from Holland to the island battlefield. British troops, holding the imperial fort until sufficient Dutch forces arrived, were caught in the middle. They were criticized by the natives for helping the Dutch, by the Dutch for haggling over the conditions of help. At week's end the Allied commander in Java, British Major General D. C. Hawthorn, proclaimed that looting, sabotage, possessing or refusing to surrender arms by natives would be punished by death.