On Thursday, January 31, a meeting took place between researchers and programme leaders of Independence, decolonization, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950, and a delegation of the subscribers to an open letter. In this letter, drafted by Jeffry Pondaag and Francisca Pattipilohy, and addressed to the Dutch government in November 2017, objections against the research programme are put forward. The authors challenge the independence of the research, and accuse the three institutes of a one-sided approach. During the two and a half hour meeting at the NIOD, the most important objections against the set-up of the research programme were discussed.
You can watch the video registration of the meeting on Vimeo or on YouTube.
The following subscribers of the open letter were present:
Yance Arizona, Armando Ello, Patty Gomes, Arthur Graaff, Perez Jong Loy, Sasha Mahe, Ethan Mark, Rogier Meijerink, Lara Nuberg, Marjolein van Pagee, Francisca Pattipilohy, Jeffry Pondaag, Hadi Purnama, Michael van Zeijl
The following members of the research programma took part in the conservation:
Esther Captain, KITLV; Ireen Hoogenboom, KITLV; Rémy Limpach, NIMH; Gert Oostindie, KITLV; Peter Romijn, NIOD; Ben Schoenmaker, NIMH; Fridus Steijlen, KITLV; Marjon van der Veen, NIOD; Frank van Vree, NIOD; Mariëtte Wolf, NIOD.
Due to time pressure it was agreed that the research programme will send a written response to a number of pending questions. The concerning questions and answers can be found below.
1. Question Jeffry Pondaag: “What’s the budget for the Indonesian research group?”
The budget is calculated for 4fte postdocs for three years according to Indonesian standards. UGM decided to create and finance a larger research group with more part-time researchers. Expenses like travel costs to the Netherlands, fellowships, workshops etc are covered by the general budget of the research programme.
2. Question Lara Nuberg: “What kind of sources are the Indonesian researchers going to use?”
The sources used by the Indonesian researchers are predominantly Indonesian archives, literature, films and oral history etc. We share and exchange all available sources as much as possible. The Regional Studies group and the Violence, bersiap, berdaulat group are cooperating with the Indonesian research project. By organizing joint workshops the projects can inform each other, exchange sources, perspectives and ideas, discuss about sources, historiography and terminology. The Regional Studies group and the Indonesian project will publish an edited volume together. This volume will be published in Indonesian, English and Dutch. The Indonesian project will separately publish an Indonesian edited volume that we aim to translate too.
3. Questions Annemarie Toebosch:
a. “Where is colonialism in the program?”
The focus of this research program is the period 1945-1949, when the Dutch tried to retake control of Indonesia after the Declaration of Independence on August 17th 1945. The context of colonial rule of the previous centuries will be taken into full account – a context which has been studied extensively by many researchers who take part in the program. The intention is to write a history that does justice to various perspectives and presents the period from 1945 to 1950 within its colonial context.
b. “Is the NIOD signing its name under a study that in its very conception has a cultural relativistic view of human rights violations”?
This program does not take a cultural relativistic stand. There is nobody within this group of researchers that would defend such a position. In case the remark refers to the idea that the program aims to be “multi-perspective” or “multi-vocal”, we would like to stress that such an approach is meant to understand the dynamics of the process – just as Saul Friedlander argues – and not to neutralize issues of responsibility and injustice. The program does not aim for levelling or denying human rights violations.
We consider it not appropriate to invoke here our late colleague Evelien Gans, with whom many researchers have been closely working for a long time.
c. “I ask NIOD … to include all important court documents of the ’45-’49 cases against the Dutch State”
Our researchers will consult all possible relevant archives, including these court cases and, even more important, the underlying archival materials. Therefore we are pleased that the Stichting KUKB is willing to give us permission to consult these documents.
d. "The other question I have for NIOD is that you advocate for an independent write up of the conclusion of this research."
Firstly, there will be a number of monographs and volumes, written by Dutch, Indonesian and international scholars. In addition we have the intention to publish two overarching studies at the end of the project: a compendium and an edited volume. We are still thinking about the precise form.
Secondly, this is an independent research program, guided by the principles of research of the KNAW/Royal Academy, with an international Academic Advisory Board that will read all publications to safeguard quality and independence.
4. Research questions Michael van Zeijl
In the text ‘Indië verloren rampspoed geboren’ , which Michael van Zeijl has expressed during the conversation, he suggested several research questions about the economic aspects of colonialism. During the meeting it was acknowledged that these are important questions and that most of them will be treated in the research program.
Reaction to press release dated 25 March 2019: Report on round-table discussion
It was with interest that we took note of the report, published on 25 March 2019, in which an interpretation was given of the meeting on 31 January, a recording of which can be found above. The fact that we, as researchers, take criticism seriously can be concluded from the answers given verbally during this meeting, or published subsequently on this web page.