Extreme Violence: Dutch One-Sided History and Unequal Collaboration
Brikolase.com, October 19, 2019, by: Yongky Gigih Prasisko
Extreme violence is different than normal violence. “Extreme violence is the execution of prisoners or villagers, rape, torture and looting without a clear military goal. While normal violence is when two sides are shooting each other” said Remy Limpach during his book launch Dutch Extreme Violence, which was organized by the History Department of Gadjah Mada University (UGM), 8/10/19.
The Indonesian version of Remy’s book is called Dutch Extreme Violence, it is a translation of his dissertation De Brandende Kampongs van Generaal Spoor (The Burning Kampongs of General Spoor) which was published in Dutch in 2016. In his book, Remy describes several events and places where extreme violence took place, such as the mass murder in South Sulawesi, the slaughter in Balongsari-Rawagede, the serial killing in Cililitan and Malang and the Bondowoso death train. These events are regarded as “the tip of the iceberg” of all the violent event that happened during the Indonesian war of independence 1945-1949. Remy discovered that extreme violence occurred on a structural, systematic basis, and that Dutch military committed these actions on a large scale.
Remy’s research also explains the scale of Dutch violence, the background, the compilation of reports, verdicts, the way violent events have been covered up, controlled, prevented [by the Dutch authorities] and about the struggle and its causes. His book also explains the various types of violence, how Dutch military units got involved in committing extreme violence and how they reacted when violence occurred.
Dutch extreme violence was mostly targeted at civilians who were not taking part [as soldiers] in the war, it is about useless violence without clear urgency or military purpose. Extreme violence also targeted Indonesian freedom fighters who were disarmed and became prisoners and then got brutally tortured. Extreme violence is also about mass violence by burning kampongs and mass executing of villagers. The occurrence of extreme violence was known, approved, and orders came from the highest authority of Dutch military at that time.
In his research Remy Limpach uses mostly Dutch data, archives, books and literature of [non-Indonesian] experts on Indonesia. It was not his intention to include Indonesian archives and literature. His research focuses on Dutch extreme violence in Indonesia but ignores the perspective of the victims, in particular Indonesian victims. In his book the voices of Indonesian victims or survivors of the Independence war are not represented, the perspective of the Indonesian freedom fighters or veterans is not there. When it comes to the framework and focus of his research, Remy actually presents a one-sided historical perspective, based on Dutch colonial views.
“I was just a doctoral student finishing my dissertation. I had to limit the scope, that is why I focused on Dutch extreme violence. But now this is finished, I am broadening the perspective and include Indonesian sources, literature and archives as well. We are collaborating together with Indonesian colleagues to conduct research in the Indonesian archives”, said Remy.
The broader and larger research project that Remy refers to is called Independence, Decolonization, Violence and War in Indonesia, 1945-1950. This research focuses on the Indonesian independence war 1945-1950, involving three Dutch institutions Netherlands Institute for Military History (NIMH), The Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD).
The latter research project was launched in 2017 and will be finished in 2021. The Dutch government funded the project with 4,1 million euros (about 63 billion rupiahs). The History Department of Gadjah Mada University (UGM) takes part in the research as well, the Indonesian team is headed by Prof. Bambang Purwanto and other members such as Dr. Abdul Wahid and Dr. Farabi Fakih. About 12 Indonesian researchers were recruited from various universities and research centers.
The History Department of UGM collaborates in particular with KITLV. The UGM historians, according to Bambang Purwanto, agreed to collaborate in this research project required that: (1) UGM historians have the right to decide about the topics of research; (2) No KITLV-intervention regarding the selection of the other Indonesian historians, outside UGM; (3) the collaboration should support and benefit the position of Indonesian historians, including the collection of Indonesian historical data through setting up postgraduate programs; (4) the collaboration should be a dialogue between Indonesian and Dutch historians, not only from academic perspective but also as a social exchange in order to learn and understand each other. Based on the principle of no intervention.
“If we see KITLV, NIOD and NIMH as the representations of the Dutch perspective, then the collaboration between UGM and KITLV intends to present an acknowledgement of the Indonesian perspective in this mega-research project”, writes Bambang in the preface of Remy’s book.
At the official website of this mega-research, there are no names or pictures of the Indonesian researchers that participate in the project.
The research outline shows several subthemes: Violence, bersiap, berdaulat. 1945-1946 transition, Political and Administrative Processes, International Political Context, Comparing the Wars of Decolonization, Asymmetric warfare, Regional studies, Societal aftermath, Witnesses and contemporaries
The Dutch and Indonesians collaboration is only mentioned in the sub-project Regional Studies. Indonesian and Dutch researchers will shed new light on the decolonization period through archives, publications and witness accounts from Indonesia and the Netherlands (and elsewhere when needed). The rest of the research project, the other 7 sub-projects, will be conducted by Dutch researchers.
It means that Indonesian researchers are definitely involved, however, through the unequal composition of the collaboration they do not have a significant role. Moreover, the research framework was already decided [before Indonesian historians were approached to take part] and the summary/conclusion will be written by one Dutch historian, namely Gert Oostindie. This kind of collaboration is tokenization: some group members are involved but without having the same, equal authority in comparison to the dominant group.
In the appendix of a two-year-old Dutch government-letter, which then Foreign Affairs Minister Koenders sent to the Dutch House of Representatives in February 2017, it is stated that a Dutch senior researcher earns € 68,000 a year while an Indonesian researcher earns only € 16,500 a year.
The Indonesian researchers only got involved after the Dutch already decided about the framework of the study. “The Dutch team should have involved Indonesian voices from the start on an equal footing, not just in the execution stage”, Fia-Hamid Walker writes in The Jakarta Post, 2/2/2018. Furthermore this teamwork is also working separately. The results will be in form of writings collection in which Indonesians have their own works separated to Dutch.
NIMH not independent
Remy Limpach works for NIMH, this is the Dutch Institute for Military History that falls directly under the Dutch Ministry of Defense and is funded by the government. At the end of Remy’s book presentation at UGM, Michael van Zeijl from Majority Perspective stated that Remy’s research and NIMH are not independent. Remy ignores the severe opposition against the research in the Netherlands where critical voices question the mega-research project. (see open letter here). Remy’s research is choosing sides with the Dutch government, his knowledge is used in court to reject legal claims of Indonesian victims of Dutch military aggression. Nevertheless, Remy Limpach says: “Our research is independent. In relation to the court cases, our task is only to verify data. Finally, it is the court that decides.”
Besides conducting research, the NIMH also assists the Dutch government to reject legal claims of Indonesian victims during Dutch military aggression. The spokesperson of the research project confirmed that there is a direct link between the research and the legal claims of Indonesian victims advocated by Komite Utang Kehormatan Belanda (K.U.K.B- Dutch Honorary Debts Committee). The appendix of Ministry Koenders clarifies that part of the budget that the NIMH receives is related to “the verification of the so-called Indië claims.” In short, the mega-research project is also used in court as verification by the Dutch government in their rejection of Indonesian legal claims.
In regard of the Indonesian lawsuits, the task of NIMH is to verify their claims by checking Dutch archives. “The lawsuit about the beheading of Abu Bakar Lambogo was rejected based on the argument that there was no information the Dutch archives. Other lawsuits from children of war victims from Sulawesi were rejected as well, because there are no documents about it in the Dutch archives”, said Jeffry Pondaag, chairman of K.U.K.B. The verdict of the Dutch Court in The Hague (with case number 200.243.525/01) speaks in favor of the victims from Sulawesi and states that the Dutch government had neglected to document the atrocities committed by their soldiers. (see the news here)
“Even though the Court ruling is positive [in favor of the Indonesian victims], the law itself is still very colonial. During the Independence war, Indonesia was regarded by the Dutch as part of their jurisdiction, as part of the Netherlands. Thus, the violence that occurred during the war is interpreted as Dutch military violence against their own citizens. It means that Dutch legalizes colonialism as is reflected in the [outline of the] research project”. Said Jeffry Pondaag.
In court, NIMH is representing the side of the Dutch government assisting in the rejection of Indonesian legal claim. In case of the mega-research project, NIMH conducts research primarily based on Dutch archives, thus, representing the Dutch one-sided historical perspective.