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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

Indonesia gains independence and Dutch colonists come home

In 1948 Indonesia was given full independence from their Dutch rulers. Most of the Dutch people knew that eventually this had to come. The Indonesians should have had their independence right after the war when the Japanese were defeated. But some of the Dutch high officials in the Dutch government didn't agree, and felt that the Indonesians weren't ready yet to govern themselves. Most of these Dutch high government officials were diehard colonialists. I always felt that the Dutch government did a very poor job of preparing the Indonesians for self rule. After all, 300 years of colonial rule under the Dutch was enough for the Indonesian people. But many of the colonialists didn't think so. To keep up the colonies right after the war was a heavy financial burden for the Dutch government. The Dutch industry was totally demolished by the German warfare, and the Dutch government needed the money to rebuild their own country. Some of those diehard Dutch colonialists wanted the Dutch government to hold on to Indonesia. Of course those colonial people lived leisure lives in Indonesia, and didn't want to give that up. Under much pressure of the American government, the Dutch finally gave Indonesia total independence.

Dutch Colonies in Indonesia
The Dutch colonies in the East Indies became Indonesia

Even when the independence was clearly approved and Sukarno became the first President of Indonesia and chose his new cabinet of ministers, there were still elements of colonial troops who disagreed with the Dutch government of Indonesia independence. The Red Brigade under Captain Turk Westerling was one of them. The Red Brigade was a well-known military unit, feared by the Indonesian people. Captain Turk Westerling's mother was Indonesian born. She persuaded her son to put Sukarno and his cabinet in jail and take over Indonesia, and declare himself the King of Indonesia. Captain Turk Westerling and his Red Brigade unit overpowered the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, and put President Sukarno and all of his cabinet in jail. But not for long, as Captain Turk Westerling was arrested by the Dutch government and put in jail. All of this stirred-up quite some embarrassment for the Indonesian government, how a small unit of men under Captain Turk Westerling was able to put the whole Indonesian government in jail. Of course Captain Turk Westerling became a hero in the Dutch people's eyes, and many had a good laugh about it.

To withdraw all the troops and all the colonial Dutch families after independence became a big headache for the Dutch government. Many of the Dutch colonial people had never seen the mainland. Some of them had lived in Indonesia from generation to generation and hated the cold climate in Holland. Many were given a chance to emigrate to the U.S.A. or Australia. Many of them took that opportunity and started a new life in those countries. There were many Dutch Indonesians who immigrated to California. Still many of them stayed in Holland and mingled in with the Dutch society.

Many Ambon people also came to Holland. Ambon is an island in the Maluku area. The Ambonese people never wanted to be ruled under the territorial leadership of the Indonesians. But they had no choice when the Dutch left. The Ambonese had a dislike for Indonesians.

When the Dutch ruled Indonesia most of the Ambonese men were professional soldiers. When in the Ambonese family a boy was born, automatically his birth register was taken to the army administration and he was signed up to be a soldier. The Ambonese were well trained soldiers and known for their loyalty to the Queen Wilhelmina. They adored the Queen more than the Dutch people did. Even today you can still find pictures of Queen Wilhelmina in Ambonese homes. The Dutch government had always promised the Ambonese that they would see to it that the Ambonese would have their own independence when the Dutch would leave Indonesia. But when Indonesia got their independence and the Ambonese colonial soldiers wanted to go back to their island, Ambon, the Indonesian government stopped them. So the Dutch were stuck with all those Ambonese families. The Dutch government promised those Ambonese that they had to go to Holland for a little while and them later they would arrange plans for them to return to Ambon again. But this never happened and the Ambonese people were very unhappy in Holland. There was such a big cultural gap between the Dutch people and Ambonese. This sometimes created frictions between the Dutch people and Ambonese. For many years the Ambonese people protested and did all kinds of things to bring their cause to the open world. They all wanted to go to their beloved island, but somehow they were all stuck in Holland. With a great job shortage in Holland I remember that many of those colonial Indonesian soldiers took jobs in the coal mines, because there was nothing else to find. At that time the coal mines would take all kinds of manpower and the work was paid very highly.

CONTINUED: Working in the Dutch coal mines
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index