Historiography blunder at Pelita

THE HAGUE (December 15, 2021) – The Pelita Foundation (Stichting Pelita) is under fire in The Netherlands due to historiography blunders surrounding the history of the Indo-Dutch. It is a striking low point for the foundation, which says it is committed to Indo-Dutch, but has increasingly alienated itself from its target audience in recent years.

In a podcast series by Pelita, which is part of their so-called “culture chest” (“cultuurkist”), the organization states that “between 1946 and 1966 (…) many tens of thousands of (Indo-)Dutch from Indonesia arrived in our country”, because “they were no longer welcome in the new Indonesia because of their Dutch disposition” (italics, ed.). In reality, the (Indo-)Dutch were persecuted by the Japanese and Indonesians during the Second World War and the Bersiap because of their Dutch/European descent, and even after Indonesian independence Indonesia remained hostile towards the Dutch for a long time. This was the primary reason for the (Indo-)Dutch to forcibly repatriate to The Netherlands. A painful history, which must apparently be kept quiet by Pelita. Incidentally, it is not the first time that Pelita has upset her target audience. Earlier, the organization called the apologies for “excessive violence” from the Netherlands to Indonesia “courageous”.

Pelita’s recent blunder did not come entirely out of nowhere, but appears to be the result of a broader trend in which – often under the guise of ‘inclusivity’ – the term ‘(Indo-)Dutch’ is incorrectly stretched to include other population groups from the former Dutch East Indies. These originally non-Dutch/European population groups have however a fundamentally different history and identity than those traditionally referred to as (Indo-)Dutch people. A deviating stretched definition of this term therefore leads to embarrassing situations such as is the case with Pelita. Pelita’s error is not an isolated incident. The Indies Remembrance Center (Indisch Herinneringscentrum, IHC) also appears to redefine crucial concepts, which leads to an increasingly and more predominantly Indonesian rather than (Indo-)Dutch perspective. Something that surfaced earlier in a bizarre exhibition, in which – to the great dismay of visitors – the horrific violence perpetrated by Indonesians during the Bersiap was avowedly described as ‘resistance’ and was even compared with the resistance against Nazi-Germany and Japan.

Bersiap (1945-1946) is Malay for “Be ready” or “Pay attention!”. It is the battle cry of Indonesian (para)military organizations and gangs, which almost immediately after the capitulation of Japan sowed death and destruction among initially mainly non-Indonesians in the Dutch East Indies. During this extremely violent period, thousands of (Indo-)Dutch were brutally tortured, raped and murdered by Indonesians, because of their Dutch or European ethnicity. The exact number of Dutch victims is still unclear. Estimates vary between 5,000 and 30,000 dead and 15,000 missing. Chinese, Moluccans and other groups were also victims, although it is unclear how many. The violence did not cease after 1946. It was against this background that the government decided in 1947 to deploy the military on a large scale in the Dutch East Indies.

* Pelita did not want to respond (yet) at the moment this article was published.Peter van Riel

Tags: Tags: Bersiap-denial Pelita.

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