Thursday, December 11, 2008

Did the Dutch ambassador apologise in Indonesia?

Published: 9 December 2008 14:50 | Changed: 9 December 2008 20:37
By our correspondent

The Dutch ambassador to Indonesia attended Tuesday's memorial service for those who died in the 1947 massacre at Rawagede on West Java, in which almost every man in the village was killed.

It was the first time a representative of the Dutch government has attended the annual event, and comes at a time when pressure is mounting for an official apology for the killing.

The massacre took place during the five years of guerilla war which preceded Indonesian independence when Dutch soldiers executed some 431 men and boys from the village.

In his speech, which was in Indonesian, Nikolaos van Dam referred to earlier “sincere apologies from the Dutch government.” Until now, the official Dutch line has been to say “sorry” for the massacre.

But in the Dutch version of the speech, the words apology or excuses do not appear. Instead, the word “regret” is used.

After his speech, the ambassador said the words could be taken as an apology. “For me, [apologies and saying sorry] are the same,” he said.

Batara Hutagalung, who is behind efforts to get the Dutch government to apologise properly, said the ambassador sent out a mixed message. “Was he speaking about apologies or about regret?” Hutagalung said. “He says they are the same thing, but they are not.”

In 2005 when the then foreign minister Ben Bot spoke about the massacre, he too used the word “regret”.
The Dutch government acknowledged in 1969 that a mass execution had taken place at Rawagede during Indonesia’s struggle for independence, after revelations by a former Dutch soldier on the scale of the atrocities perpetrated by the Dutch army in its former colony.


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