Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Validity of the August 17, 1945 Proclamation

A memorandum by Batara R. Hutagalung
Founder and Chairman of the Committee of Dutch Honorary Debts

To this day, the Dutch Government still refuses to recognize August 17, 1945 as the de jure independence of the Republic of Indonesia. According to the Dutch Government, de jure independence of Indonesia was on December 27, 1949, with the "transfer of sovereignty" (soevereiniteitsoverdracht) from the Dutch Government to the United States of Indonesia (RIS) as agreed at the Round Table Conference (RTC). (See the article by Batara R. Hutagalung in the daily Rakyat Merdeka of October 2 and 3, 2005 in Indonesian language. It can also be accessed at:  

Points of agreement at the RTC included among others:
1. The formation of an Indonesia – Netherlands Union, with the Queen of the Netherlands as the head of the Union.
2. RIS was seen as a continuation of the Dutch – East Indies Government and was required to pay a 4.5 billion Dutch Guilders debt of the Dutch East Indies Government to the Dutch Government. This included the costs incurred by the Dutch East Indies Government to finance the First and Second Military Aggressions.
(Note: This debt was repaid in instalments to the extent of 4 billion Dutch Guilders, until the Indonesian Government stopped these payments in 1956).
3. The Indonesian National Army (TNI) was required to accept former soldiers of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (KNIL) who chose to join TNI.
(Note: In the ’70-s, some of the officers had been promoted to the rank of general and held top positions in the TNI).
4. The question of Irian Barat was postponed; at the Transfer of Sovereignty on December 27, 1949, West New Guinea was not included.
(Note: For the Dutch government therefore, legally West Irian (Papua) is not part of the Republic of Indonesia. In 2000, the Dutch Government commissioned and financed historian Prof. Dr. Pieter Drooglever to conduct research on the West Irian People's Referendum (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat, PEPERA). After 5 years of research at great cost, in 2005 Drooglever published his research results in a thick, 740 page book titled: "Act of Free Choice." In a nutshell, Drooglever concluded that PEPERA was a big fraud. This is a blatant disregard of the historical fact that the implementation of the People’s Referendum was conducted under the supervision of the United Nations and was endorsed by the United Nations in 1969. One should question therefore, why, after 30 years, in the midst of a number of issues faced by the Indonesian Government in Irian Barat, the Dutch Government chose to raise this matter again).

In 1956, the Indonesian Government unilaterally cancelled the RTC Agreement. (The complete text of the Act of Cancellation in Indonesian language can be read on:   

The Indonesian Government also decided to stop paying the remaining 500 million Guilders debt. At that point in time, 4 billion Dutch Guilders out of the total of 4.5 billion had already been paid.


On May 20, 2005, an Indonesian NGO called the Committee of Dutch Honorary Debts (KUKB), delivered a petition to the Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende, making the following demands from the Dutch government:

1.To recognize the de jure independence of the Republic of Indonesia on August 17, 1945.
2. To apologize to the Indonesian people for colonization, slavery, human rights violations, crimes against humanity and war crimes, particularly those conducted by the Dutch army during its military aggression in Indonesia between 1945 – 1950.
3. To provide compensation to the families of the victims of the Dutch military aggression.
(About KUKB see: 

On August 16, 2005 in Jakarta, Dutch Foreign Minister Bernhard Bot stated that the Dutch government has now morally and politically accepted the Proclamation of Independence of Indonesia on August 17, 1945 and expressed his regrets on the casualties on both sides.

In a TV interview in Jakarta, Minister Ben Bot said that the recognition of independence had been legally granted at the end of 1949, meaning at the transfer of sovereignty to the United States of Indonesia. He said that recognition can only be given once. He further said that compensation has been given by the Dutch government through various aid programs to Indonesia.
(Parts of the interview transcripts in Indonesian language can be read at:

Recognition and apology!
Prior to his departure to Jakarta on August 15, 2005 in The Hague, during the commemoration day of the release of the Dutch internees at Japanese internment camps in Indonesia, Minister Ben Bot stated that the Dutch government now de facto accepts the August 17, 1945 Indonesian independence proclamation.
(For the full text in Dutch language, see:

This statement was actually very surprising, because it implies that according to the Dutch government, until August 16, 2005, the Republic of Indonesia did not exist at all and its existence was only just accepted on that date, but is still not legally recognised. This means that in the eyes of the Dutch Government, the Republic of Indonesia is like an illegitimate child. It exists, but is not legally recognised.

December 9, 2008, on the occasion of the 61st commemoration of the Rawagede Massacre, Dutch Ambassador Dr. Nikolaos van Dam also expressed regrets.

In response to this expression of regrets, the Chairman of the KUKB however, announced that remorse (regrets) only are not acceptable. The Dutch Government should offer apologies, the same as demanded by the Dutch of the Japanese Government for the suffering endured by the Dutch population interned in Japanese internment camps in Indonesia during the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945.

Dutch Dilemma

History records that the Federation of Indonesian States (RIS) was dissolved on August 16, 1950 and by Presidential Decree, the form of the state was returned to the Unitary State of Indonesia as proclaimed on August 17, 1945.

Thus, the de jure federal form of state recognised by the Dutch government no longer exists; the association is now with the Unitary Republic of Indonesia. For the Dutch this is a dilemma indeed. Were the Dutch Government to recognize de jure the independence of the Republic of Indonesia of August 17, 1945, it would have serious consequences:
1. The Dutch would have to admit that what they called the first and second "Police Actions” launched respectively July 21, 1947 and December 19, 1948, were in fact acts of military aggression against an independent and sovereign nation.
2. The Indonesian government would have the right to demand war reparations from the Netherlands, as demanded by countries that were victims of the Japanese military aggression.
3. Dutch veterans would be considered war criminals.

On the other hand, if the Indonesian government continues to allow this attitude by the Dutch government, Indonesian freedom fighters buried in various War Hero cemetaries in Indonesia would have to be classified as robbers, rioters, security vandals and extremists that were armed by the Japanese, because at the time, the reasoning by the Dutch for the launch of their "Police Actions” was “to restore law and order to eradicate robbers, rioters, security vandals and extremists armed by the Japanese”.

The loss of Dutch historical rights over its colonies
The Second World War began in Europe with the German invasion of Poland on September 3, 1939. On May 10, 1940, the Netherlands was attacked by the German Army and surrendered within three days. The Dutch Government and the Queen fled to England and formed a government in exile in London. Thus, the Dutch government no longer existed.

In East Asia, Japan's military aggression began with the attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941. In South East Asia, Japan launched its aggression by attacking the South East Asia countries which, except Thailand, were all European colonies. One by one these colonies fell into Japanese hands.
USA, Great Britain, The Netherlands and Australia formed a coalition troop command called ABDACOM (American, British, Dutch, Australian Command) under General Sir Archibald P. Wavell. Admiral Karel Doorman was appointed as the Tactical Commander for the Allied fleet.

In fierce fighting on February 27, 1942, known as the “Battle of the Java Sea”, the Allied Fleet was destroyed by the Japanese in one day. Admiral Karel Doorman died in battle and the Allied flagship was sunk.

After destroying the allied sea defences, on March 1, 1942 Japanese troops landed on the island of Java. The landings were conducted simultaneously at three locations: Banten, Eretan Wetan and Kranggan.

In just one week, the Royal Dutch East Indies Army forces were defeated by the Dai Nippon army. On March 8, 1942, Lt. Gen. Hitoshi Imamura of the 16th Japanese Army gave the Dutch an ultimatum to surrender or be destroyed.

On March 9, 1942 at Kalijati, Lieutenant General Hein ter Poorten, Supreme Commander of the Dutch East Indies Army representing Governor-General Tjarda van Starkenborgh-Stachouwer, signed an unconditional surrender document. The Dutch handed over their entire colony to the Japanese. Since that date, the Dutch have lost their rights over the territory of the Dutch East Indies.

Thus, March 9, 1942 is also the official expiration date of the Dutch colonial rule on Indonesian soil.

The loss of the Dutch "historical rights" to Indonesia was described at length by
Lambertus Nicodemus Palar, Chairman of the Indonesian Delegation to the United
Nations at a meeting of the UN Security Council on January 20, 1949, after the 2nd Dutch military aggression that began on December 19, 1948.
Excerpts of his remarkable memorandum read as follows:

"... Blatantly ignoring progress and historical reality, the Dutch still hold on to their conviction that the problem in Indonesia is a Dutch internal affair and that the existence of the Republic is illegal, to be eradicated as soon as possible. In this context, the current Dutch policy is one of obstruction; they try to ignore the Three Country Commission established by the UN Security Council after the first Dutch military aggression was launched on July 21, 1947, four months after the Linggajati Agreement which was an effort to solve the problem of Indonesia. On the contrary, the Government of the Republic of Indonesia maintains that the Indonesian issue must be solved under the auspices of the Security Council with the mediation of the Three Country Commission, because it would provide the only guarantee that the Dutch will not violate any agreement or propose a unilateral solution...”

“...This Dutch opinion, based on dogmatic legalities, will continue to hinder the efforts of reaching an agreement. It is because of this that they maintain that the Republic is illegal and that they still hold sovereign power in the whole of Indonesia...”

“...The is a fact that the Republic of Indonesia was born not as a result of an uprising against the Dutch, but was born after the Dutch unconditionally surrendered to the Japanese without any serious attempt to try to defend the country...”

“...The Dutch did not even try to defend Indonesia; in fact they deliberately obstructed the people of Indonesia to get military training, so the Indonesians were helpless and unable to defend themselves against the Japanese aggression...”

“...Indeed, the Dutch colonial policy never gave an opportunity to the Indonesian people to become a strong nation, as this would jeopardise the position of the Dutch as colonial masters and would have been contrary to their efforts to continue their authority over Indonesia. This was the reason why the Dutch did not have the ability to fulfil their duties and responsibilities of defending Indonesia against foreign aggression...”

“...Thus the Dutch not only handed over Indonesia to the Japanese imperialists and did so without any serious efforts at defending it, but also refused to give the Indonesian people the power to fight the Japanese themselves...”

“...After the Dutch East Indies government unconditionally surrendered to the Japanese, the people of Indonesia decided to pursue their own strategy. Based on this strategy, the Indonesian leaders considered the occupation by the Japanese army as temporary, because no one believed that Japan would be able to defeat the Allies, especially America, Russia and Britain. So the Indonesian people used the Japanese occupation for their own purposes, as a period of preparation to be able to decide their own fate at a later date, including preparations for the possibility that they would have to oppose the Japanese military rule...”

“...No one can deny the historical fact that the Indonesians have paid dearly with thousands of lives in the struggle to seize weapons from the Japanese occupation forces to enable them to achieve independence and proclaim their declaration of Independence on August 17, 1945. We did not receive independence from the hands of the Dutch; we paid for it with our blood...”

“...We reject the Dutch claim that they have historical rights over Indonesia. Their historic rights were destroyed when they demonstrated their inability to take responsibility for the defence of Indonesia...”

“...From any point of view, "historical rights" based on power and oppression is no longer valid in a world that strongly encourages self determination...”

“...Supposedly legally binding agreements, if not based on justice and do not consider recent historic facts, in all fairness cannot be said to represent a reasonable historical course...”

“...At this time the Dutch Government and its representative at the Security Council are trying to justify its recently launched military action, a military action that undeniably is not in accordance with UN principles and the Renville Agreement, by reason of what they call their responsibility towards Indonesia...”

“...The historical facts are still fresh in my memory...”

“...One important matter is whether the Dutch can really defend Indonesia against foreign attacks without the help of the Indonesian people? The Indonesian people were determined from the very beginning that they would not support Dutch colonialism. Therefore, the danger of foreign attacks will increase if the Dutch colonialism in Indonesia continues rampant. Colonialism impedes the development of the sense of nationhood, an important factor in the defence of any country...”

“...All of this is proof that the problem in Indonesia is not a domestic matter of the Government of the Netherlands and the Indonesian people, but is an international problem. The Indonesian problem is related to world peace. The problem is also related to United Nations principles, and therefore the intervention of the Security Council to help solve the problem would is justified. In these Security Council sessions, the Republic of Indonesia has the status as "one of the parties in the dispute", the same as the Dutch and no less. This is like a thorn in the flesh for the Dutch, but cannot be denied. Neither can the Dutch disregard the reality of the Republic. The longer the Republic exists, the more real is its existence, which cannot just be ignored...”

“...If the Netherlands were to try to eradicate the Republic without influencing world politics, they should have done so in 1945. In fact, the Dutch people wanted to do just that at the time. But it cannot be disputed, that at that time the Netherlands did not have the military power to stop the Republic. Only with the help of the British Army and financial and materiel assistance from America were the Dutch able to set foot again on Indonesian territory...”

Three years existence of the Republic of Indonesia
“...So far, the republic has existed for three years and is therefore not easily eradicated like the Dutch want...”

“...During these three years, the Republic has formed diplomatic ties with other countries and with the Security Council and has established friendly relations with several nations...”

“...The Republic has a functioning administration in its territories, established its own identity and fulfils the conditions of any independent and sovereign nation: A national flag, an army and police force, money and a taxation system and its own foreign relations...”

“...The people of the Republic feel a strong sense of identity as sovereign and democratic citizens and as citizens of a democratic nation they have full rights: freedom of movement, freedom to congregate, freedom to express opinions, to speak freely and freedom of the press; also the freedom to choose their own religion. These realities cannot be eradicated without a tremendous reaction…”

The above words are part of the contents of a Memorandum by the Indonesian Delegation to the United Nations Security Council.

The Capitulation of the Japanese to the Allies
After having defeated the Allied Forces on Java, the Japanese Army was in power in all South East Asia countries that previously were European colonies. As long as the war still raged in Europe and Africa, the Allied Forces were still divided and could therefore not muster sufficient strength to face the Japanese in Asia. After the capitulation of the Germans in May of 1945, the Allies were able to divert their forces to fight the Japanese in Asia.
On August 6, 1945, the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and on August 9 on Nagasaki. America then threatened to drop the next atomic bomb on Tokyo, the capital of Japan. On August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced the unconditional surrender of Japan to the Allies.
The Unconditional Surrender document was signed on board the USS Missouri in the Bay of Tokyo on September 2, 1945. This meant that from August 15 until September 2, 1945, there was a vacuum of power in the countries occupied by the Japanese, including Indonesia.

Statehood based on International law

On August 17, 1945, in the period of vacuum of power, the leaders of Indonesia proclaimed the nation’s independence. On August 18, Soekarno was installed as President and Mohammad Hatta as Vice President. On September 5, 1945, the first Indonesian cabinet was formed.

According to the Montevideo Convention signed by 20 nations in the Americas on December 26, 1933, the necessary conditions of statehood were fulfilled:

Article 1
The state as a person of international law should posses the following qualifications: a) A permanent population; b) A defined territory; c) A government; and d) The capacity to enter into relations with other states.

Article 3 of this convention states that independence is not subject to recognition by other nations. In fact, prior to recognition by other nations, the nation in question has the right to protect its integrity and independence. The article reads as follows:

Article 3
The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by other states. Even before recognition, the state has the right to defend its integrity and independence, to provide for its conservation and prosperity, and consequently to organize itself as it sees fit, to legislate upon its interests, administer its services, and to define the jurisdiction and competence of its courts. The exercise of these rights has no other limitation than the exercise of the rights of other states according to International law.

In 1946, the Arab League and on June 10, 1947 Egypt recognized Indonesia’s independence, and later, after its independence from the British, was followed by India. Thus, the four conditions according to the Montevideo Convention were fulfilled.

Moral and Political basis
The political will of colonized countries to be independent emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. Officially, it was first presented by American President Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points for Peace concept, presented to the American Congress on January 8, 1918, 10 months before the end of World War I. In the 5th point of the Concept Wilson says:
“A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the population concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.”
(For the complete text, see: 

At the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the Wilson cabinet. On March 4, 1933, Roosevelt was elected as President of the United States for the first time. Roosevelt was the only American President elected 4 times. He remained as president until his death on April 12, 1945.

On August 14, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt as President of the United States and the British Premier Sir Winston Churchill issued an edict that became known as the Atlantic Charter. Point 3 of this charter says:

“… Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see the sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived from them…”.
(For the complete text, see:

This third point became known as the “…right for self determination of peoples…”
The Atlantic Charter became the basis of the United Nations Charter that was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945. Article 1.2 of the United Nations Charter reinforces the third point of the Atlantic Charter. It reads:

“… To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take appropriate measures to strengthen the universal peace…”
(For the text, see: 

Even The Dutch Queen Wilhelmina agreed with the Atlantic charter. In her radio speech in the London exile on December 7, 1942, she said:
“…A political unity which rests on this foundation moves far towards a realization of the purpose for which the United Nations are fighting, as it has been embodied, for instance, in the Atlantic Charter, and with which we could instantly agree, because it contains our own conception of freedom and justice for which we have sacrified blood and possessions in the course of our history…”

And also, for the first time in history, she said ‘INDONESIA’, instead of ‘Netherlands Indies’, she said further:
“…I visualize, without anticipating the recommendations of the future conference, that they will be directed towards a commonwealth in which the Netherlands. Indonesia, Surinam and Curacao will participate, with complete self-reliance and freedom of conduct for each part regarding its internal affairs, but with the readiness to render mutual assistance…” (See:

Validity of the August 17, 1945 proclamation
Thus, it should be clear from a number of viewpoints that the proclamation of independence of the Republic of Indonesia on August 17, 1945 is legal from the aspect of international law as well as from political, moral and human rights aspects. The so called “Police Action” I (July 21, 1947, which was a transgression on the Linggajati Accord) and “Police Action” II (December 19, 1948, which was a transgression on the Renville Accord) were clearly military acts of aggression towards an independent and sovereign nation.

In his speech at Jakarta on August 16, 2005, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Ben Bot said:

“…In retrospect, it is clear that its large-scale deployment of military forces in 1947 put the Netherlands on the wrong side of history. The fact that military action was taken and that many people on both sides lost their lives or were wounded is a harsh and bitter reality…”

Ben Bot said “military forces”, not “police forces”. Judging from his words, Ben Bot clearly said that the large scale deployment of troops was a military action, not a police action.


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