zondag 25 februari 2018

Genocide: from J.P. Coen to the Turks and the Armenians

During the last months there is quite a hot debate in the Netherlands about Jan Pieterszoon Coen, founder of Batavia/Jakarta in 1619. A primary school in Amsterdam, named after this Dutch-Indonesian 'ancestor' wants to change name, because Coen is also accused of Genocide, because of his order to kill the majority of the population of the island of Banda, some 2000 civilians, in 1621. The only reason was that Coen wanted to have a monoply in the trade of nutmeg, while the population wanted to sell to everybody who gave them a good or better price.
Also in his native town og Hoorn, quite a few civilians want to demolish his statue.

The action against the memory of Coen is part of a large act of confession of the Dutch nation. Most serious are the crimes because of slavery. Professor Piet Emmer, emeritus in colonial history of Leiden University made a claim that slaves in Surinam held by plantation owners got better food, clothes and housing than their family in Africa. True or not? Ewald van Vutg wrote a book Roofstaat or 'Nation of Robbers' accusing Dutch colonialism of all kind of dirty acts. Following this discussion the museum Mauritshuis in The Hague removed the statue of Prince Maurits to the basement.
In a new action of parliament there was a debate about the fate of the Armenians in 1915: they were considered as traitors and enemies by the Turkish government, forced to leave and about 1- million, perhaps many more died in this action to eradicate Armenians from turkey. Dutch parliament accepted the terminology of Genocide for this case, but did not debate the status of Jan Pieterszoon Coen: selective memories and judgments about the past! In fact in Dutch parliament there are now six MPs of Turkish-Dutch offspring. One voted against the label of genocide, five were in favour. In fact it was not only about the past but also about the position towards the present policies of President Recep Tayyib Erdogan.
In my interaction with Indonesians since my first visit to the country, for the pesantren PhD. research in 1970-1 I have often talked about the colonial past, but seldom with judgments about good or bad. We cannot change it any more and strong statements do not remove, remake or soothen the past. It will remain with us.

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