Dutch Mayors Demand Recognition for Moluccan Suffering

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  • Moluccas in the Netherlands. Image credit: Youtube/vpro world stores

    Moluccas in the Netherlands. Image credit: Youtube/vpro world stores

    TEMPO.CO, Amsterdam - Mayors of 11 Dutch municipalities and cities this weekend called on their government to recognize the suffering of tens of thousands of Moluccans since their arrival to the Netherlands 70 years ago.

    In a joint letter, the mayors underlined that the government must “admit to the Dutch public that the Netherlands received and sheltered them (the Moluccans) in an undignified way, and that has left deep traces until today.”

    Thousands of Moluccans, who served in the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (KNIL) and fought for the colonizers during Indonesia’s independence war in the 1940s, left for the Netherlands in the 1950s, with the understanding that they would be able to return to their homeland. The first ship carrying the Moluccans docked in the Netherlands on March 21, 1951. “They were not refugees, asylum seekers, or migrants, but loyal soldiers who served the Dutch army. They came with their families. These soldiers not only served, but also fought in the name of our Queen,”  the mayors said.

    These Moluccans, the letter said, “were led off to camps that had been used by German occupiers. These combatants for the Dutch were even fired from the army. There was no more mention of a swift return (to Maluku). There was a lot of suffering, incomprehension, and anger. These scars are still felt until today within the Moluccan community.”

    Recognizing this situation would be of great importance, “because the dissatisfaction within the Moluccan community, which we see still see as mayors, makes it difficult for them to look to the future. Especially for the younger generation, such recognition would take away a lot of their pain.”

    In addition to the recognition, the mayors also called for a strengthening of the Moluccan identity and history, and socio-economic support.

    Some of the Moluccans in the Netherlands maintained their right for an independent Moluccan, the Republik Maluku Selatan RMS. In the 1970s, radicalized RMS activists committed deadly hijacks on trains, a school, and the Indonesian consulate.

    The mayors who signed the letter head municipalities and cities with considerable number of residents of Moluccan heritage. The 11 places  are Vijfheerenlanden, Woerden, Assen, Breda, Culemborg, Epe, Helmond, Huizen, Krimpen aan den Ijssel, Vught, and Zuidplas.

    Read: The Legacy of Colonialism and Future Economic Development of Indonesia

    LINAWATI SIDARTO (CONTRIBUTOR)