Finally, Dutch apologise for Indonesian massacre

9th December 2011, Comments 1 comment

The Dutch ambassador to Indonesia has formally apologised on behalf of the Netherlands’ government for a 1947 massacre in a village on Java island, in an emotional ceremony on the anniversary of the executions.

"In this context and on behalf of the Dutch government, I apologise for the tragedy that took place in Rawagede on the 9th of December, 1947," the Netherlands ambassador to Indonesia, Tjeerd de Zwaan, said.

He then repeated the apology in the Indonesian language, to the applause of hundreds of people attending the ceremony, some of whom broke down in tears as they listened in front of a marble monument commemorating the dead.

The number of victims has always a point of dispute between the Dutch and the Indonesians. Dutch officials claim some 150 people were killed, but a support group and the local community allege the death toll was 431.

Men and boys executed During Indonesia’s fight for independence between 1945 and 1949 - in what became known as the Indonesian National Revolution - Dutch troops swooped into the village of Rawagede and executed its men and boys as their families and neighbours looked on.

In a landmark ruling last September, a civil court in The Hague found the Dutch state responsible for the executions and ruled in favour of eight widows and a survivor of the massacre who lodged the case. Two of the widows have since died, and so has the survivor, Saih Bin Sakam, who passed away in May at the age of 88.

The Netherlands agreed to pay 850,000 euros to the community before the court's decision, and will now pay an additional 180,000 euros in compensation to the plaintiffs or their families.

Although the Dutch government in the past expressed "deep regret" over the conduct of some of its troops in pre-independence Indonesia, it had never formally apologised for any excesses including the massacre at Rawagede.

The Hague court rejected the Dutch argument that no claim could be lodged because of a five-year expiry in the statute of limitations, saying it was "unacceptable".

“We will never forget that day” Some 60 schoolgirls in white Islamic headscarves opened the ceremony with the Indonesian national anthem. They then presented a spoken word performance describing the pain the community has felt since the killings.

"We will never forget that day in Rawagede," the lead performer screamed. "We will remember forever in an independent Indonesia."

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa praised the Dutch government for making the apology. Dutch embassy officials presented the widows with a wooden plaque with a windmill carved on the left and a palm tree on the right, with the words "Finally justice for the people of Rawagede" and the date of the court ruling inscribed on the plague.  

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

1 Comment To This Article

  • Kobe Oser posted:

    on 9th December 2011, 15:47:14 - Reply

    As this development shows Dutch willingness to face the past, according to West Papua Melanesia, the Netherlands are now ready to face RI on the rightfull implementation of the 1962 New York Agreement which needs to be re-implemented to its merites and purpose (the Referendum obligation). As a result the process of the 1969 Act of NO CHOICE can be questioned again to come clean with the past.

    See link:

    See link:

    With this error set straight, (placing West Papua back on the UN C-24 List of Non-Self Governing Territories), true bridges can be build in the West Papua territory, and the Netherlands can maintain their structural development of West Papua Melanesia, which has been neglected ever since 1962.

    The Netherlands already showed their willingness on 1 December 2011 to correct errors made in the past, as on this National West Papua Independence Day, the Morning Star Flag was hoisted on a Dutch Governement building and was fully waving that day in the Free World. This marks an Unicum, after 50 years of officially Dutch denyal of this flag since 1961. for moving pictures of this historic action see link:

    The US now should urge the Netherlands to act accordingly to hold RI accountable for 40 years of mismanagement of the Papuan territory and the breach of contract in the case of the 1962 New York Agreement.

    To make this possible, the US has to withdraw its carte blanche to the brutal RI Generals regime, inorder to stop the devastation of the Papua territory and its Peoplewith impunity for those responsible. With a functioning UN why can’t this issue be addressed?

    RI's denyal of this historical injustice and its active repression by deplying even more security-forces to West Papua is simply not from this time anymore. To what extend has West Papua to be part of this? One can simply conclude that based on result and willingness to face historical errors, Indonesia's time in West Papua is over.

    Setia Djudjur Mesra!