INDONESIA: Recolonialization?

  • Share
  • Read Later

At midnight the Dutch struck. Troops seized the radio, the cable office, and Republican government buildings in Batavia, seat of the Dutch administration in Java. Next day, Dutch planes struck at the Republic's weak air force (about 40 old Japanese planes), which they caught on the ground. With artillery preparation, the Dutch army began an attack on the big north central Java city of Semarang.

"In view of the almost constant Republican violations [of the Dutch-Indonesian truce]," said the Dutch Acting Governor General Hubertus van Mook, "The Netherlands Government cannot further be bound by the truce and agreement, and retake their freedom of action."

This meant that Indonesia would once again be plunged into a war of white men against brown men. The Dutch now had an asset they lacked when the first campaign ended: a well-equipped army of 100,000. On their side the Indonesians had 200,000 soldiers, poorly equipped. Time, and a world opinion that frowns on colonial wars, was also on the Indonesian side. In a radio broadcast, Indonesian President Soekarno asked for United Nations intervention.

When Republican extremists forced moderate Premier Sjahrir to resign last month because of his willingness to cooperate with the Dutch, a break seemed certain. But his successor was another moderate, Amir Sjarifoedden, who has long worked with the Dutch. When he thought he was dying in a Japanese prison camp during the war, Sjarifoedden left a message for his old friend Van Mook, asking him to take care of his wife & children. After the Dutch attack this week, Sjarifoedden was less sure of his friends. "I accuse the Dutch," he said over the radio, "of trying to recolonialize us."