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Proof: the Dutch research project is neither independent nor equitable

Proof: the Dutch research project into violence in Indonesia (1945-1950) is neither independent nor equitable

[Press release]

Histori Bersama, July 24, 2019

On July 15, the spokesperson for the 4-year research project “Independence, Decolonization, Violence and War in Indonesia, 1945-1950” confirmed that the research is linked to the Indonesian lawsuits against the Dutch State. It turns out that the supporting role of the Netherlands Institute of Military History (NIMH) in the rejection of Indonesian claims serves as an important justification for the budget of the research project. The critics who have been questioning the independence of the research since the kick-off event now have convincing evidence that the study is directly linked to the K.U.K.B. lawsuits.

Previously the spokesperson referred to the appendix of a two-year-old government-letter, which then Foreign Affairs Minister Koenders sent to the House of Representatives in February 2017. The appendix clarifies that part of the budget that the NIMH receives is related to “the verification of the so-called Indië claims.” On July 15th, the spokesperson wrote: “Yes, indeed this is about the verification research for the K.U.K.B. court cases.” It is the first time that the link between the court cases and the study is confirmed directly.

Specifically, the appendix in question contains an explanation of the budget and provides convincing evidence that the research is connected to the successful lawsuits that the K.U.K.B. foundation (Jeffry Pondaag) has been filing against the Dutch State since 2008. What this clearly means is that the research represents the interest of the Dutch government and not of the Indonesian victims of the brutal violence that is now being investigated.

Justifying the budget

Up to this point, the three institutes KITLV, NIOD and NIMH (conducting the research) had stated that they were completely independent of the government. The fact that the NIMH falls directly under the Ministry of Defense was always dismissed as irrelevant. The spokesperson further explains the reason why the verification of claims is mentioned in the budget:

“As you know, already in 2012, the three institutes submitted a research proposal to the Dutch government, which was rejected then. In the second grant application and budget (of 2016), the institutes showed that they worked hard in the past years and had continued to build up knowledge regarding the years 1945-1949 in several (own) projects. The NIMH also registered its activities for the years 2012-2016, which was: 2.5 FTE = 2.5 research years.”

In comparison: the current research program consists of 38 FTEs / research years. This means that the preliminary work of the study was not only used to reject claims, but also that these activities served as important substantiation in determining the research budget.

Moral bankruptcy

This research focuses on brutal violence, not on the victims, and the new revelation makes this abundantly clear: with their involvement, the researchers are standing on the side of the Dutch State, which at the time was not only the perpetrator of the violence, but is currently still doing everything to prevent justice for the victims in the legal system.

Dutch research disrespects Indonesian involvement

The latter issue came to light when Jeffry Pondaag wanted to know which Indonesian universities and researchers are involved in the Dutch project. As the 4.1 million euros concerns tax money, he demanded insight into the payments. The spokesperson for the research project then referred to the appendix of Minister Koenders’ letter.

The particular document does not reveal names, yet it shows that Indonesian researchers earn substantially less than their Dutch colleagues. For example, a Dutch senior researcher earns € 68,000 a year while an Indonesian researcher earns only € 16,500 a year. Previously, the research team announced that they are paying for 4 Indonesian researchers, now the spokesperson says that currently 12 Indonesian researchers are involved, plus the Indonesian project leader Prof. dr. Bambang Purwanto. But how much of the total budget has been transferred to Indonesian universities, still remains unclear. Apart from Universitas Gajah Mada (UGM) it also remains vague which other Indonesian universities are involved. The research team uses the argument that the Indonesian team operates completely independent from the Dutch team, hence it would be up to the Indonesians themselves to answer the questions.

However, the so-called “independence” does not correspond with the “close cooperation” that was announced during the kick-off event of the research in 2017. According to the spokesperson, the close cooperation means that the Indonesian final results will be included in an article bundle. Marjolein van Pagee, historian and founder of Histori Bersama:

That is, of course, not the same as close cooperation. For that you need to have at least regular contact, sit together around the table, consult each other on a regular basis, and the decision about research questions should happen on an equal footing. All this time, the Indonesian involvement has been wrongly presented as being a “close collaboration”, not only during the kick-off event, but also in the media.

Initially, the independent team that Bambang Purwanto requested was not even announced at all. His involvement was framed as close collaboration instead. Only after Jeffry Pondaag wanted to know the names of the Indonesians involved, the research team replied: you should ask the Indonesians themselves; they are independent.

In this way, “close cooperation” versus “independence” is used by the Dutch researchers whenever it suits them, clearly to avoid answering difficult questions. Jeffry Pondaag:

“It is not right that the Dutch researchers refuse to take responsibility by hiding behind the so-called independence of the Indonesians, the Dutch researchers have to be open about the names of the Indonesian researchers and universities that are involved.”