maandag 15 augustus 2016

Phantoms of a colonial past

On a prominent place in The Hague a monument is placed to commemorate the victims of the Pacific War: Dutch colonial soldiers, officials, Eurasian, Indonesians. The yearly ceremony is today, 15 August. It is not a celebration of Indonesian Independence (17 August), not the end of colonialism. It is still a quite multifaceted memory: for quite a few older Dutch people it is still a commemoration of the end of the war, where 4-5 May is dedicated to the European/German enemy and 15 August to the Japanese enemy. Yasuko Kobayashi qwrote me that she in Japan now remembers the end of a 'crazy period' a period dominated by demons, zaman edan.
Many Dutch still think that the Indonesian were a divided and very diverse people, who followed just a few radical nationalist leaders, Sukarno, Hatta, Sjahrir and some Communists like Tan Malaka. Better informed people realize that the Dutch were wrong in keeping so long to colonial dreams (or was colonialism, even as international trade inevitably wrong?)
The actual celebration, including the speeches by the prime minister Mark Rutte, are all compromises. But Robert Cribb has been accepted by the Dutch government to do research about war crimes committed by the Dutch in the period 1945-1949. This will concentrate on the cruel killings of Westerling in South Sulawesi. But many people in the netherlands still have more interest in the bersiap-killings, Dutch people killed by nationalists in the period September 1945-early 1946. Still much past mistakes are not healed and the way the Dutch celebrate 15 August (with former colonial soldiers wearing their old fashioned costumes) is not really helpful for this.

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