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Dutch king sorry for past 'excessive' violence' in Indonesia

Apology for abuses committed during independence struggle came at start of state visit to former Netherlands colony

Dutch king sorry for past 'excessive' violence' in Indonesia

President Joko Widodo and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands inspect a guard of honor at the Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java province, on March 10. (Photo courtesy of Agung/Cabinet Secretariat)

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has issued an apology over “excessive violence” committed by his country during Indonesia’s struggle for independence during the 1940s.

The apology came on the first day of a four-day state visit by the Dutch king and queen to the Netherlands’ former colony.

“Mr. President, on August 17, it will be 75 years since Indonesia issued its Proklamasi, claiming its place among independent and free states. … In the years immediately after the Proklamasi, a painful separation followed that cost many lives,” the king told Indonesian President Joko Widodo at a welcome ceremony at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java.

“I would like to express my regret and apologize for excessive violence on the part of the Dutch in those years. I do so in the full realization that the pain and sorrow of the families affected continue to be felt today.” 

Indonesia proclaimed its independence from the Dutch on Aug. 17, 1945. However, the Netherlands refused to acknowledge it, kicking off violence that ended when Indonesia was finally recognized as an independent nation on Dec. 27, 1949.

About 40,000 people were killed during that period.

The Dutch government has apologized several times for their aggression. In 2013, the Dutch ambassador to Indonesia, Tjeerd de Zwaan, apologized to 10 widows of men who were summarily executed in a series of mass killings in South Sulawesi between December 1946 and February 1947.

Responding to the Dutch king’s apology, Widodo said history cannot be erased. “But we can learn from the past. The history lesson should strengthen our commitment to building an equal, respectful and mutual relationship,” he said.

Jesuit Father Fransiskus Xaverius Baskara Tulus Wardaya, a historian and lecturer at the Catholic University of Sanata Dharma in Yogyakarta, welcomed King Willem-Alexander’s apology.

“They have acknowledged their wrongdoing. This is very important [regarding the healing process],” he told UCA News on March 11.

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He said the government should take note of the apology when looking at bloody events that occurred after independence  

“As a nation, we must also learn from other nations, including the Dutch, on how to uncover our own dark history," he said.

"As a nation, we committed violence in the past, such as the purge after the attempted coup in 1965. We must have the courage to face up to what happened.” 

It is believed at least 500,000 communist party members and supporters were massacred across Indonesia after they were blamed for the attempted coup to overthrow the country’s first leader, president Sukarno.

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