The Dutch Political Conflict with the Republic of Indonesia, 1945-1949
The end of the Second World War in August 1945 sounded the death knell of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia. The proclamation of the Republic of Indonesia by Sukarno and Hatta on 17 August 1945 ushered in a confusing and complicated period of anticolonial struggle, civil war, military action by the Dutch and negotiations between the parties that ultimately led to the transfer of sovereignty to the Republic on 27 December 1949.
These collections form the second part in a new series of micropublications on the end of Dutch colonialism in Asia being planned and carried out in cooperation with the National Archives in The Hague. It can be regarded as the continuation of the now dormant series "War and Decolonization" by MMF Publications, with which it does not overlap. The five parts of that series are also available from Moran Micropublications.
The new series has as theme "the Dutch political conflict with the Republic of Indonesia" not only in the pivotal years 1945-1949, but also extending into the early 1960s in order to cover the process of decolonization of Netherlands New Guinea, over which the Dutch had refused to transfer sovereignty at the end of 1949. It will also reach back into the 1930s and the years of war and occupation (1942-1945) to provide the necessary background to the crisis that ensued on 17 August 1945.
Part 1: Secret Archive
In consultation with archivists at the National Archives the first documents chosen for micropublication are from the Secret Archive of the General Secretariat of the Netherlands Indies Government and the Cabinet of the Governor-General (in Dutch: Geheim archief van de Algemene Secretarie en van het kabinet van de gouverneur-generaal).
The General Secretariat
The General Secretariat was the administrative apparatus that assisted the Governor-general in his task from 1816 until its dissolution in 1950. Its archives, formed in Indonesia, contain a virtually complete account of the
political activities and statecraft of the Netherlands Indies Government. The secret archives of the Algemene Secretarie were brought to the Netherlands after Indonesian independence and are now in the National Archives. The public part of its archive was transferred to the Republic of Indonesia and is housed in the Arsip Nasional in Jakarta.
The documents reproduced in the present collection concern the "Political conflict with the Republic of Indonesia" from the end of the Second World War until the transfer of sovereignty at the end of 1949. They trace the development of events in great detail and allow the study of this conflict in all its aspects. The documents include many secret intelligence reports, captured Republican papers, political memoranda and many others.
The collection has been completely inventoried by archivists of the National Archives and is now available from Moran Micropublications. The inventory is available for consultation free of charge from Moran and is also posted on our website (see right column).
Part 2: Dutch Civil Administrators (bestuursambtenaren)
The backbone of Dutch colonial rule in the East Indies was formed by the
manned by professional civil administrators of various ranks known as
. Often graduates of the special program in “Indology” at the University of Leiden, they were trained in the local cultures and languages as well as in economics, administration and customary law (
) in order to function well in their posts at local and regional levels. In consultation with archivists at the National Archives the papers of five civil administrators who worked in various parts of the Indonesian archipelago in the period 1930s to 1950s have been selected for micropublication. Additional parts are under consideration.
Part 3: Papers of the Members
Commissie-Generaal voor Nederlandsch-Indië
was set up by act of Parliament in September 1946 and charged with the temporary exercise of government power in the Netherlands Indies and more specifically with preparing a new (federal) political structure for the colony. The Commission was chaired by former prime minister Willem Schermerhorn, with P. Sanders as secretary and M. van Poll as member. The highest Dutch official in the Indies, Lieutenant-Governor-General Dr. H.J. van Mook joined the Commission
. The Commission sat in Batavia, capital of the Netherlands Indies.
To achieve its purpose the Commission reopened negotiations with the Republic of Indonesia that had been proclaimed by Sukarno and Hatta on 17 August 1945 but not recognized by the Dutch although it held power in many areas of Java, Madura and Sumatra. These talks soon led to a draft agreement between the parties signed at Linggajati in the mountains near Cirebon on Java’s north coast on 15 November 1946. The agreement recognized the Republic’s authority
, but not yet
in the areas it held and called for the founding of a democratic, sovereign United States of Indonesia, of which the Republic would be one of the states, alongside others such as “East Indonesia” and Borneo (significantly and ominously for the future New Guinea was not mentioned). This federal system would form a union with the Netherlands under the Dutch queen. The agreement would soon prove impossible to implement.
In the Netherlands the Commission’s swift and resolute action in search of a solution to the colonial dilemma aroused a great deal of suspicion and resistance. Schermerhorn and Van Mook were seen as being far too progressive, even anticolonial “wreckers of the kingdom”. Among the Indonesian Republicans as well there were many who believed that Linggajati gave away far too much. They regarded it as at most a way-station on the road to complete independence and refused to accept a federal Indonesia. Moderates under the leadership of Sutan Sjahir were sidetracked. The struggle continued for a unitary republic extending from “Sabang to Merauke”, that is from the western tip of Sumatra all the way through the archipelago to New Guinea. The de facto recognition in Linggajati was used by the Republic to win international sympathy. Differences of interpretation of this accord therefore remained very great and it and the Commission were effectively repudiated by the Dutch government, which turned to military action against the Republic in July 1947 (first “Police action”). Although it had been overtaken by events, the Commission was only officially disbanded and its members honorably discharged on 15 November 1947, a year after Linggajati had been initialled.
Papers of Commission members micropublished
The Commissie-Generaal and the Linggajati agreement represented an important moment in the process of decolonization. The persistent virulence of colonial sentiments in the Netherlands and the strength of the Republican ideal in Indonesia were revealed. The federalist approach and proposed union with the Netherlands were shown to be problematic, although the Dutch continued down that road up to and including the transfer of sovereignty on 27 December 1949 to a federal Republic of the United States of Indonesia, which was swept aside and replaced by the unitary Republic of Indonesia on the fifth anniversary of the Proclamation of Independence on 17 August 1950. It took many years for the Dutch to come to terms with the tumultuous developments of the years 1945-1950. At the 60th anniversary ceremonies of the Proclamation in August 2005, the Dutch foreign minister finally conceded that Indonesian sovereignty in effect should date,
as well as
, from 17 August 1945 and not from December 1949. The present publication in microform of the papers of the Commission’s members will benefit research into this pivotal period in the history of decolonization.
This collection includes the sections:
Part 1. Documents from the Secret Archives of the General Secretariat of the Netherlands Indies Government and the Cabinet of the Governor General
Part 2-1: Papers of A. J. Vleer (1946-1955): Minutes of Federal Conferences/BFO (1948-1949)
Part 2-2: Papers of A. J. Vleer (1946-1955): Documents concerning his tenure as Commissioner of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South-Sumatra, and the economy of Indonesia, 1950-1955
Part 2-3: Papers of L.L.A. Maurenbrecher (1934-1954): Java/Celebes/New Guinea
Part 2-4: Papers of A.J. Piekaar (1933-1955 ): Sumatra
Part 2-5: Papers of J. Zwart (1946-1947): Java/NEFIS (intelligence service)
Part 2-6: Papers of J. van Baal (1934-1964): New Guinea, Lombok/Bali
Part 3-1: The General-Commission for the Netherlands Indies: Papers of W. Schermerhorn (chairman)
Part 3-2: The General-Commission for the Netherlands Indies: Papers of M.J.M. van Poll (member)
Part 3-3: The General-Commission for the Netherlands Indies: Papers of P. Sanders (secretary)