IO, Jakarta – 17 August 1945. This important date marks Indonesia’s proclamation of its freedom from foreign occupation. Our history notes how the Netherlands colonized Indonesia for 350 years, and after that, Japan invaded and did the same for 3.5 years. Such a long series of occupations inevitably stained the mentality of Indonesians for generations afterwards: we were imbued with the mentality of the despised inlander (oppressed native).
However, historian Batara R. Hutagalung now attempts to correct this historic record. In his book Indonesia Tidak Pernah Dijajah (“Indonesia Was Never Occupied”), Batara reviews the process of independence that Indonesians have recognized for the past 74 years. According to him, many facts point out that Indonesia was never really occupied. One of these is that the Netherlands still to this day refuses to make a de jure acknowledgment of the Republic of Indonesia’s independence according to the 17 August 1945 Proclamation. It only approved of a “transfer of power” through the Round Table Conference, held at the end of 1949.
Even though the Montevideo Convention of 1933 states that formal acknowledgment of a proclamation of independence is unnecessary, the issue contains grave implications. The Netherlands followed up their refusal to acknowledge our Proclamation of Independence by engaging in military aggression in 1947 and 1948, actions that were merely seen by them as an act of policing. Our fighters for freedom were called “criminals” who revolted, and the resolution of this issue was considered to be an “an internal matter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands that occurred in its Netherland Indies colony.”
Batara explained the formal definition of a nation as an interesting fact that we must learn as we learn our nation’s history. He stated that the Unitary Republic of Indonesia has never been occupied. Instead, it was the old local kingdoms, both large and small, that existed before Indonesia, which were occupied. “We have never been occupied since our existence in 1945,” he said during the Indonesia Tidak Pernah Dijajah book review, which was held at Kura-kura I Room, Parliamentary Complex, Senayan, Central Jakarta, on Monday (19/08/2019).
House of Representative (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) RI Vice Chairman Fadli Zon expressed his appreciation of Batara’s book. He believes that a study of this book is necessary when critiquing what actually happened during the years of Occupation. He further questioned whether Indonesia was really occupied for 350 years. He believes that many regions were not occupied during this period: “Were we really occupied for 350 years? Or was it only Batavia and surrounding regions? Aceh was occupied for about 40 years, and West Sumatra for about 80. We need to think about re-writing Indonesia’s history as our history is influenced by the Dutch perspective – including the fact that Indonesia was technically never occupied. It was the old kingdoms and sultanates that were occupied, as Indonesia had not yet come into existence.”
In addition to Fadli Zon, senior historian Taufik Abdullah; Diplomat Prof. Makarim Wibisono; and Professor of Hasanuddin University Makassar Prof. Marthen Napang, also attended the book review.
Batara further stated that it is impossible for a tiny nation with a small population like the Netherlands to really occupy Indonesia. In fact, it succeeded not by occupying all of Indonesia at the same time, but by defeating one kingdom after another, one region after another, using the highly effective divide et impera (“divide and conquer”) strategy. “How can Indonesia, with its large population of 67 million people at the time, become conquered by the Netherlands, which only had 100,000 citizens? This is why I say that we need to correct the old historic view that Indonesia was occupied for 350 years, while there is no valid data for that. In fact, authentic documents show that Indonesia has never been occupied. We are a nation of winners, not inlander serfs like the stigma repeatedly affixed to this nation,” he said.
Batara further stated that after the regions were controlled by the Dutch for quite some time, youths from throughout the Archipelago became aware of their shared fate and began to unite. They expressed this sense of unity and integrity with the Youth Pledge. “This oath is the very origin of the Indonesian nation: ‘We, the sons and daughters of Indonesia, admit to have one homeland, our land of Indonesia. We the sons and daughters of Indonesia, admit to have one nation, the Indonesian nation. We, the sons and daughters of Indonesia, respect the common tongue, the Indonesian language’” he said.
When the youths of our nation have united, even with the help of its allies the Netherlands did not succeed in subduing the Indonesian National Army. This forced them to eventually agree to sit down and negotiate at the Round Table Conference. “Therefore, the only way Indonesia could be conquered was by dividing it. Beware! We are now being divided and provoked against each other. In the past, our people were divided using tribal sentiments, then communism. Now we are being divided using inter-religious conflicts,” he said. “I am expressly warning everyone that this current religious divide is yet another attempt at divide et impera. That is the only way Indonesia falls: it must first be divided, no matter how. If we wish to leave Indonesia for the next generation, we need to unite and become a winning nation.”
Responding to the many repetitions of the term “correcting history”, senior historian Taufik Abdullah stated that there is no such thing. The study of history is of interpretation and comparison – historians record series of occurrences in the past and analyze them. We cannot exactly watch as things unfold, but we can still try to write it down and make sense of it. Therefore, knowledge of national and international history is extremely important. Proper knowledge would strengthen and solidify one’s nationalism and sense of caring for one’s country. However, Indonesia’s history has been muddled with hundreds of years of colonist recording. This is why Batara dared to say that “Indonesia was never occupied”.
“Batara critically expressed the history of Indonesia and revived the spirit of nationalism that has faded from the hearts of our current generation. He also exposed facts about Dutch colonial history in Indonesia that have been neglected. I hope that these ‘historical correction’ seminars are held regularly in order to allow us all to understand history in full,” Taufik said. (Dan)