Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Massacre survivors snubbed by Dutch delegation

Published: 14 October 2008 15:43 | Changed: 14 October 2008 15:46
By Elske Schouten in Jakarta

Dutch members of parliament on an official visit to Indonesia have refused to meet survivors of a massacre by Dutch soldiers in 1947. The leader of the delegation says it would be “inappropriate”.
The Indonesian village of Rawagede was the scene of a massacre perpetrated by Dutch soldiers in 1947, shortly after the colony declared its independence and troops were sent in to restore order.
The village claims 431 men were shot, while a Dutch government investigation into war crimes in Indonesia puts the figure at 150.
Voted down
One man who survived the massacre and nine widows of victims still live in the village, which has been renamed Balongsari. Last week, a letter was sent on their behalf to the Dutch government asking for a formal apology and compensation. Their request is still being looked at.
Socialist Party member of parliament Harry van Bommel says he suggested a meeting with survivors twice but that the proposal was voted down by the rest of the delegation.
The delegation, made up of seven members of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, is in Indonesia to discuss a range of issues until October 19.
Delegation chairman Henk Jan Ormel, member of parliament for the Christian Democrats, says he feels a meeting with the survivors, or their representatives, would be ‘inappropriate” while legal procedures are still ongoing.
False expectations
“A visit from an official Dutch delegation could create false expectations”, Ormel said, adding that he did not want Rawagede to become the focus of the visit to Indonesia. “A lot more has happened in this country,” he said.
Van Bommel, who feels the Netherlands should apologise and pay compensation, had wanted a “reconciliatory meeting”. “It would have been the first Dutch high-level visit,” he says. “For the survivors of Rawagede, this is far from over.”
The members of the delegation did not want to meet Batara Hutagalung, founder of the committee which filed the claim for compensation, either. Hutagalung says he finds it “odd” for parliamentarians to come to Indonesia to talk about human rights and not pay any attention to Rawagede.
“It is almost as if they are blind in one eye: they only see the atrocities perpetrated by others,” he said.



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