Speech Dr. Nikolaos van Dam on presenting the Linggadjati Award 2013 to Dr. Hassan Wirajuda and Dr. Bernard Bot

10 Dec 2013

The ‘Linggadjati Conference’ between Indonesian and Dutch delegations (now more then 67 years ago, in November 1946) constitute an important moment in the bilateral history of the Republic of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. These negotiations were to regulate the independence of the Republic of Indonesia, and the future relationship between our two countries under international law. The historical importance of these negotiations and subsequent agreement is also reflected in the name of the Linggadjati Award, which I have the honor to convey today on behalf of the Board of the Indonesia Nederland Society to both our former Ministers of Foreign Affairs, His Excellencies Dr. Hassan Wirajuda and Dr. Bernard Bot.

On 17th August 2005 Dr. Bernard Bot attended the Indonesian Independence Day celebrations in Jakarta as Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was the first member of a Dutch government to do so. His presence in Jakarta on that historic day was intended as an important symbol of respect for the Indonesian people and their history as a modern nation state.

In a landmark speech Dr. Bot, on behalf of the Dutch Government, expressed his profound regret for all the suffering that in the times of transition from colonial rule to Indonesian independence had been part of the lives of the Indonesian people. Minister Bot stated that, in retrospect, the Netherlands had been put on the wrong side of history, and he declared that: “only when someone is standing on the summit of the mountain can he see what would have been the simplest and shortest way up. This applies equally to the people on the Dutch side who were involved in the decisions taken from 1945 onwards … Although painful memories never go away, they must not be allowed to stand in the way of honest reconciliation.”

Minister Bernard Bot’s speech was warmly received and much appreciated by the Indonesian government. Together, Dr. Hassan Wirajuda and Dr. Bernard Bot agreed that the time had come for Indonesia and the Netherlands to draw a line under the past and to take the relationship between the two countries forward into the future.

Having arrived in Jakarta as Ambassador just after the speeches of Dr. Bot and Dr. Wirajuda were delivered, I experienced the softest diplomatic landing any new ambassador to Indonesia can imagine. The bilateral climate had become excellent, the diplomatic sky was perfectly clear, and I was received everywhere, throughout Indonesia in all its 33 provinces, in the most positive way.

In his introduction to the book published in 2006 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the ‘Linggadjati Conference’, Dr. Wirajuda underlined the importance of the complementary role of diplomacy to armed struggle for the same goal of sovereign nationhood. Without peaceful diplomatic initiatives, armed struggle, more often than not, has turned out to be futile. We, unfortunately, still witness new examples of that today. Trying to solve conflicts by only military means usually does not really work.

I had the privilege to get acquainted with the thoughts of Minister Wirajuda much more closely, when he kindly invited me to accompany him during the three-and- a-half hour train journey from Jakarta to Cirebon and Linggarjati in 2006.

More recently, Dr. Hassan Wirajuda founded the Bali Democracy Forum, which our minister of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans attended this year. It is a remarkable project and the successful transition process to democracy in Myanmar exemplifies its international political potential among others.

From ‘Linggadjati’ in 1946 onwards, the relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia has grown to maturity. Maturity with all its occasional ups and downs. Last month, in November 2013, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta launched a joint declaration on a comprehensive Indonesian-Dutch partnership, thereby officially opening up a broad field of bilateral cooperation. This new partnership marks an important milestone in the relationship between our two countries. The comprehensive partnership had been planned already for a long time, and both minister Bot and Wirajuda already initialed an earlier text in 2006 in Jogyakarta, thereby already putting in action various aspects of it.

The Linggadjati Award 2013 serves as homage to the foresight of two men and as an important symbol of how relationships between countries are built. In doing so, Dr Bernard Bot and Dr. Hassan Wirajuda have set an example to us all.

The Board of Indonesia Nederland Society is proud therefore, to present the Linggajati Award 2013 to Dr. Hassan Wirajuda and Dr. Bernard Bot, and is hoping that they can continue being active for our bilateral relations in the future.