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In: Excursies in Celebes
In late 1997 Indonesia's economy went into a tail-spin, culminating in social and political upheavals that saw Soeharto's resignation in May 1998, and resulting in a succession of presidents as Indonesia entered a period of democratization. These events are well known, even to casual observers, but Kees van Dijk has penned a magnificent account of Indonesia between 1997 and 2000 that fleshes out the story in rich detail and analysis. The volume itself closes as the soon to be ousted President Abdurrahman Wahid is facing two major corruption, collusion, and nepotism (korupsi, kolusi, and nepotisme or KKN) scandals and the political forces are arraying against him. The author has clearly sifted through a mountain of materials, principally Indonesian language newspaper sources, to bring about an excellent chronicle. At 621 pages, this is quite a large book—and one can only marvel at the way in which a vast array of sources have been combined. Despite its size and detail it is a thoroughly absorbing read—especially if one is already familiar with the events and characters that set the stage for a political and social transformation. The main substantive chapters of the book are supplemented by a large number of helpful appendices (showing political parties, cabinet line-ups, military leaders, a glossary, and so on).
World War I had just broken out, but colonial authorities in the Netherlands Indies heaved a sigh of relief: The colonial export sector had not collapsed and war offered new economic prospects; representatives from the Islamic nationalist movement had prayed for God to bless the Netherlands but had not seized upon the occasion to incite unrest. Furthermore, the colonial government, impressed by such shows of loyalty, embarked upon a campaign to create a ‘native militia’, an army of Javanese to assist in repulsing a possible Japanese invasion.
Yet there were other problems: pilgrims stranded in Mecca, the pro-German disposition of most Indonesian Muslims because of the involvement of Turkey in the war, and above all the status of the Netherlands Indies as a smuggling station used by Indian revolutionaries and German agents to subvert British rule in Asia.
By 1917 the optimism of the first war years had disappeared. Trade restrictions, the war at sea, and a worldwide lack of tonnage caused export opportunities to dwindle. Communist propaganda had radicalized the nationalist movement. In 1918 it seemed that the colony might cave in. Exports had ceased. Famine was a very real danger. There was increasing unrest within the colonial population and the army and navy. Colonial authorities turned to the nationalist movement for help, offering them drastic political concessions, forgotten as soon as the war ended. The political and economic independence gained by the Netherlands Indies, a result of problems in communications with the mother country, was also lost with the end of the war.
Kees van Dijk examines how in 1917 the atmosphere of optimism in the Netherlands Indies changed to one of unrest and dissatisfaction, and how after World War I the situation stabilized to resemble pre-war political and economic circumstances.
The Darul Islam in Indonesia
The Darul Islam rebellion, striving for the establishment of an Islamic State of Indonesia, broke out in several areas since 1949. The author describes each of these Darul Islam rebellions and identifies some of the factors which may help to explain their outbreak and persistence. Ch. 1 sketches life and background of the most important Darul Islam leader: S.M. Kartosuwirjo. In the next five chapters the political history of the relevant regions (West Java, Central Java, South Sulawesi, South Kalimantan and Aceh) and their respective Darul Islam risings are outlined. Ch. 7 discusses the question of why people joined the Darul Islam.
In: The Netherlands Indies and the Great War, 1914-1918
In: The Netherlands Indies and the Great War, 1914-1918