Exhibition in the Netherlands on ‘Linggadjati Agreement’

01 Feb 2010

Linggarjati is a small mountain village at the foot of the highest volcano in West-Java. A Dutch entrepreneur, who in the 1920’s migrated to Indonesia, built there a house, never imagining that this house would make world news. Sadly he died too young, at the age of thirty-seven, leaving behind his Indonesian wife and three children. His house would play a vital part in changing the Dutch-Indonesian relationship forever, as at this house one of the conferences negotiating the independence of Indonesia took place.

The Indonesian de-colonization process, which accelerated with the declaration of independence by Indonesian freedom fighters Ir. Sukarno and Dr. Mohammad Hatta on August 17 1945, came as a result of negotiations sponsored by England, America, Australia and the United Nations. Amongst the delegates who participated in the de-colonization negotiations in Linggarjati were former Dutch Prime Minister Prof. dr. Willem Schermerhorn, Lt. Governor-General dr. Hubertus van Mook, Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir, President Soekarno and Vice-President Dr. Mohammad Hatta. Also present were Miles W. Lampson and Lord Killearn.

Further de-colonization negotiations were held at the Hoge Veluwe, Malino, on board of the US Navy vessel Renville and finally during the Round Table Conference, held in The Hague 1949 (August 23-November 2).The Dutch East-Indies had experienced significant change after the Japanese occupation during World War II. For the thousands of Dutch and Dutch-Indonesian citizens who returned from the Japanese labor and internment camps and wanted to resume their lives, this post-war period was extremely difficult. Nonetheless, the Indonesian population was clear about waging their fight for independence. But as long as the Dutch government delayed making a decision about the de-colonization process, a period of insecurity existed for the Dutch and Dutch-Indonesians who remained in Indonesia. The ‘Linggadjati negotiations’ in November 1946 were established in order to address such problems. Eventually, the Linggadjati Agreement became the basis for the Netherlands’ recognition of Indonesia’s Independence, which was eventually signed on December 27, 1949.

What made the Linggadjati conference so special? It was because the negotiations between the Indonesians and Dutch were conducted at the highest level, and this could then have been the basis for peace and new relations. The house in which the negotiations took place became a symbol of the Indonesian quest for Independence and diplomacy.

And so in 1970 the Indonesian government designated the house in which the negotiations had taken place, to be a national monument. With this, the Indonesian people honored the diplomatic efforts of their founding fathers, Soekarno, Hatta and Sjahrir and, as well, the efforts of Dutch diplomats.

In the Netherlands, appreciation for the Dutch and Indonesian delegations came later. At the opening of the Linggadjati exhibition in The Hague in February 2010, Mayor Van Aartsen described the Linggadjati negotiations as ‘a turnaround in the relations between The Netherlands and Indonesia: for the first time in history diplomacy took place on the basis of equality.’

As do most countries, the Netherlands values its history. A few years ago, government funds were made available to record the stories about World War II. This included major developments in the former Dutch East Indies. The organization, ‘Het Gebaar’ was formed especially to grant funds to individuals and organizations that wanted to record their account of events.

As part of ‘Het Gebaar’ the foundation ‘Friends of Linggadjati’ was awarded 100.000 euros to record the story of Linggadjati. It was decided to do this in the form of a transportable exhibition. ‘Friends of Linggadjati’ then asked ‘Indisch Erfgoed Apeldoorn’ to manage the exhibition. This was successfully done with the help of dedicated volunteers.

The exhibition has already appeared in Apeldoorn, Eindhoven and, at the invitation of Mayor Van Aartsen and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in The Hague. On the invitation of ‘Stichting Committee 4 and 5 May’ and in close collaboration with the ‘Stichting Oud Soest’ the next exhibition will open on August 6, 2010 at the Museum Oud-Soest, Steenhoffstraat 46, 3764 BM Soest.

The exhibition offers a view of the shared past of the first generation of Dutch-East Indies/Indonesia. It also indirectly offers an understanding of the second and third generation Dutch-Indonesians and Indonesians who have lived there for shorter or longer periods. An added feature is a perspective on the historic developments of Indonesia and the government of that period.

The colonial past and the forced departure of many Dutch from their beloved country are somewhat vague for the current younger generation in The Netherlands. Possibly that period of history is also vague for second and third generation Indonesians. Many Indonesians studied in Japan, America, Australia and other countries. What they know about Holland, they probably heard from their grandparents. So it is important that, as the history of Indonesia is recorded, the Indonesian historians present Indonesian history independently of the Dutch interpretation.

It is encouraging that many Indonesian youngsters visit the museum in Linggarjati. As an Indonesian teacher expressed it: “We want them to feel and know the spirit of Linggadjati.”

Since the era represented by the exhibit, Indonesia has experienced enormous development. Some of Indonesia’s accomplishments include a stable democratic country, increasing influence as the largest muslim country in the world (population 250 million) with mostly moderate Muslims, plus the inclusion of other world religions.

Indonesia is now a major exporter of coal and palm oil and it is self-sufficient in its rice production. Albeit Indonesia is now a net importer of crude oil for its domestic fuel production needs, it is still a major exporter of Liquefied Petroleum Gas. The stable situation in the country has boosted foreign investments.

Economically, Indonesia is frequently mentioned in the media along with Brazil, China, India, and is a member of the G20. Among other reasons, this includes the amazing efforts of their founding fathers, which managed to inspire Indonesians to create one population, one language, and one country. Long before a concept of a united Europe emerged, Indonesians had begun to form a united Indonesia. This was difficult for a country with 17,500 islands, three hundred ethnical groups and 700 languages.

As members of the Foundation ‘Friends of Linggadjati’, we want to express our appreciation and pride for the enormous development that took place in Indonesia, and continues today. Indonesia, the ‘Sash of Emeralds on the Equator’ with which the Netherlands has been connected economically and culturally, and with which thousands of Dutch families remain connected, has arrived on the world scene as a significant Asian leader.

Indonesia has every right to be proud of what it has achieved, and the direction in which it is heading. Indonesia has become a beacon of hope in a troubled world.

Monica Bouman and Joty ter Kulve