The Dutch Political Conflict with the Republic of Indonesia, 1945-1949 Part 2-1: Papers of A. J. Vleer (1946-1955): Minutes of Federal Conferences/BFO (1948-1949)
Short biography Auke Johannes Vleer was born in Friesland in 1911. After finishing his secondary education he left for the Netherlands Indies in 1930 to follow with success a two-year training course in colonial administration (
bestuursschool). His first assignments were in the residencies of Aceh and Riau from 1932 to 1936. In October 1936 he returned to the Netherlands and studied Indology at the University of Leiden, specializing in Indonesian law (
Indisch recht), obtaining his degree in 1940 (he would later also earn a degree in Dutch law). The outbreak of war in Europe and the German occupation of the Netherlands prevented him from resuming his career in the colony. During the war he worked for the Dutch Red Cross. At war’s end he was among the first group of colonial civil servants to be dispatched to the Indies under the authority of the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration (NICA) to restore order. Posted to Medan on Sumatra’s East Coast he served as liaison officer with the British troops stationed there to supervise the Japanese surrender. In 1946 he was appointed head of the local administration in Banka and Billiton where he first became involved in Dutch attempts to set up a federal United States of Indonesia (see below). In 1948-1949 Vleer assumed the role of secretary at the Federal Conferences (FC) held at Bandung and then that of secretary-general of the Assembly for Federal Consultation (
Bijeenkomst voor federale overleg, BFO). In this capacity he took part in the Round Table Conference held in The Hague from August to November 1949 that finally resulted in the transfer of sovereignty on 27 December 1949.
In 1950 Vleer accepted a position as Commissioner for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South-Sumatra with Palembang as base until growing political tensions led him to return to the Netherlands in 1956. While in Indonesia he had also taught law and sociology at universities in Jakarta and Palembang. Back in the Netherlands he played a role in setting up a new technical college (now university) in Eindhoven and ended his public career as mayor of Enschede from 1965 to 1977. He died in 1981.
Federalism in the process of decolonization A persistent Dutch response to the Indonesian revolution that broke out after the Proclamation of Independence by the Republic in August 1945 was to promote the idea of a federal Indonesia, with or without the Republic as one of the states, that would enter a union with the Netherlands under the Dutch queen. On the Dutch side this approach was favored by among others the Lieutenant-Governor-General H. J. van Mook, the highest Dutch official in the Indies since no governor-general had been appointed after the War. In a conference held at Malino in South Celebes in July 1946 the Dutch brought together local rulers from among other places Borneo and eastern Indonesia, as well as representatives of Christian and ethnic groups to make a start on this project. On the Indonesian Republican side, Sutan Sjahrir was willing to cooperate with the Dutch on this plan, which was enshrined in the agreement of Linggajati of November 1946 (see part 3 of this micropublication). When Linggajati proved difficult to implement because of mutual distrust, Van Mook proceeded on his own to set up new states, the first of which was East Indonesia in December 1946. After the first “police action” of July 1947 in which the Dutch regained much territory from the Republic, the move in this direction was accelerated until there were some 15 federal states or regions by late 1948. Representatives of these entities met in a series of Federal Conferences held in Bandung from May 1948 to June 1949. In July 1948 the Dutch further created an Assembly for Federal Consultation (Bijeenkomst voor Federale Overleg, BFO) in which the leaders of these states sat. The BFO sent its own delegation to the Round Table Conference as mentioned above. Federalism was greatly resented by Indonesian Republicans who saw it as no more than a stratagem of the Dutch for holding on to resource-rich parts of the country. Although the Republic accepted a federal structure for the transfer of sovereignty, it was soon dispatched and replaced by a unitary Indonesian state by August 1950.
The papers Vleer was an excellent and painstaking administrator who left a thorough and well-organized archive behind. Two series from his papers have been selected here for micropublication as part 2.1 and 2.2 of our series:
Part 2.1 Vleer’s archive contains a complete collection, often supplemented by tables of contents he drew up himself, of the minutes and other documents of
• the Federal Conferences at Bandung, May 1948-June 1949, in stencil in Dutch and Indonesian
• the proceedings and appendices of the meetings in Indonesia and The Hague of the
Bijeenkomst voor Federale overleg (BFO), July 1948-August 1949 in stencil in Dutch and Indonesian
• the proceedings and appendices of meetings of the BFO delegation with the Netherlands government (“Haags overleg”), September-October 1948
The fact that these series of documents were very incomplete in the archive of the General Secretariat of the Netherlands Indies Government (
Algemene Secretarie), and therefore not included in the inventory of that body, makes Vleer’s collection indispensable for research into this aspect of the decolonization process.
Sources Robert Cribb,
Historical Atlas of Indonesia (Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 2000).
A History of Modern Indonesia (1st edition, London, 1981; 3rd edition, Stanford, 2001).