The origins of Indos date back more than 350 years to the Spice Islands of the Indonesian archipelago.
During and after the Indonesian National Revolution, which followed World War II, approximately 300,000 people, predominantly Indos, were forced to leave independent Indonesia to be “repatriated” to the Netherlands. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, roughly 60,000 of them continued their diaspora mainly to the United States, where they have smoothly assimilated and integrated into mainstream American society. Many ended up settling in warmer, more inviting locations in the west such as Hawaii, California, parts of the Pacific Northwest and Southwest. They can now be found in almost all 50 states. This group of refugee-immigrants has been one of the most successful in assimilating in their adoptive countries.
The rich history of the Indos has been well documented in the Dutch language, but unfortunately not much so in English. Therefore, few people in the English-speaking world, specifically in the USA, are aware of what an Indo is. Even in the rest of the world, the Indo culture and history are still a “cold case”—waiting to be discovered or rediscovered.
Farewell Dutch East Indies
The following is written by Enrico Koks from Dutch-Indonesian Community. This is used by permission and constantly updated.
Before the current Republic Indonesia there was already plan for an autonomous state. Even before World War II, there were plans to declare the Dutch-Indies an autonomous state. It would be a state with a separate administration but still be part of the Dutch Kingdom (like how Australia and New Zealand belongs to the British Kingdom).
During the World War, Japanese introduced Indonesian nationalists with the idea of Asian’s ruling over European colonies in the region. Therefore, Indonesian nationalists were trained by the Japanese Army and divided in civil militia.
After the War, these nationalists kept the idea of an independent Republic rather as a state in the Dutch Kingdom. On August 17, 1945, the nationalist party of Indonesia declared an independent republic.
The Dutch did not accept the declaration. Dutch-Indos found themselves in an adverse position by this declaration of independence from Indonesian side and the abnegation of the Dutch.
Initially British troops, especially on the Island of Java, were active in protecting and guiding Dutch and Dutch-Indo to refugee-camps. During 1945 and the beginning of 1946 Dutch troops were not allowed to enter their former colony for the benefit of peace.
The peace turned into anarchy in March of 1946 when Dutch troops set foot on their former colony and British troops left their positions to restore peace in their own former colonies. The arrival of Dutch troops brought tensions to the islands.
On November 15, 1946, Dutch and Indonesian Nationalists came together in the village of Linggadjati on the Island of Java. The representatives were the Dutch Lieutenant-Governor-General mister van Mook and front man of the Indonesian Socialist Party mister Sjahrir. In this agreement (Agreement of Linggadjati) the Dutch promised to admit the declaration of the Republic of Indonesia, which, at that time, contained the island of Java, the island of Madura and the island of Sumatra.
Both parties agreed that this Republic should be a federal state of the United States of Indonesia (Republic Indonesia Serikat). They agreed that on January 1, 1949, the United States of Indonesia would be part of Dutch-Indonesian Union (Netherlands, Suriname, Dutch Antilles). Head of this Union would be the Dutch Royal Dynasty.
The Dutch Indies would be divided in 16 other independent states. Some would be Negara Indonesia Timur (Land of East-Indonesia), Dayak Besar (Greater Dajak), Negara Madoera (Land of Madura), and so on. Most borders were based on Kingdoms and inner states that existed before the arrival of the Dutch. The Dutch-Indies was a colony formed step by step by the Dutch during 300 years of occupation.
Unfortunately, some Dutch parties within the Dutch Government changed parts of the agreement—conditions that the Indonesian Politicians did not accept. The changes included taking over the public debt, guaranteeing of the existence of Dutch industry, and leaving the island of Dutch-Papua under Dutch government.
The Dutch started a military campaign to restore colonial power: Political Acts (in Dutch: Politionele Acties). They would talk about independence when colonial infrastructure was restored. Of course, Indonesian politicians did not agree. This led to the militias become more active again. During this time, it was not safe for Dutch-Indos and other groups like Peranakans (Chinese-Indonesians).
During this year, the Dutch Army brought even more troops from the Netherlands to Java and Sumatra—turning both into war zones where invisible borders could change in days. It was a confusing time. The sides were not just classified as “Dutch” and “Indonesians”. For example, besides the Dutch Army you have had the KNIL (Royal Dutch-Indies Army) which consisted of:
7 European battalions (Dutch, German, British, Portuguese)
11 Moluccan battalions (people from East-Indonesian islands)
11 Manadonese battalions (people from East-Sulawesi island)
4 Timorese battalions (people from Timor Islands)
5 Soendanese battalions (people from east-Java)
35 Mid-Javanese battalions
1 Madoerese battalion (people of island of Madura)
1 Batakese battalion
1 Atjehese and Malay battalion (people of west-Sumatra island enforced with people from Malaysia)
On August 23, 1949, the Dutch and the representatives of the Republic of Indonesia and the Federal Consultative Assembly (FCA: Other States in the former Dutch-Indies), came together in the Netherlands in the political capital of the Hague at the Round Table Conference.
This was a result of a referendum on January 17, 1948, on the American warship Renville. Dutch officials and Indonesian Republicans agreed to determined borders for the island of Java. During the Conference, the Dutch Government under international pressure, acknowledged the independence of the United States of Indonesia (Republik Indonesia Serikat) excluding Dutch-Papua (to be kept under Dutch government).
On December 27, 1949, the handover took place.
The Dutch ended their campaign because of UN and USA pressure. If the Dutch were to continue with colonial rule, the UN and the USA would withdraw the Marshall Act (reconstruction of Dutch infrastructure after German occupation). This pressure was made because Indonesian politicians were receiving some support of Russia and China.
In the second world war, the UN and USA had experience fighting on two fronts (Europe and Asia) and wanted to prevent this situation from repeating itself during The Cold War against communism. Eventually, the Dutch accepted the independence of Indonesia. They started to withdraw their troops, officials, but initially wanted to leave Dutch-Indos behind.
The UN and USA forced the Dutch government to give the Dutch-Indos the choice to immigrate to the Netherlands. This was because of the fear a civil war would start again after the Dutch left. So, the Dutch agreed. But because they were afraid too many people would come to the Netherlands. They established some conditions: this was a “repatriation”.
However, most of the Dutch-Indos had never been in the Netherlands. The Dutch government named it this way because only Dutch citizens had the opportunity to use this arrangement. All residents of the former colony were Dutch subjects, but only those who were recognized and registered were Dutch citizens. Therefore, you had to show your paperwork. However, many population registrations, paperwork, passports, and so forth were burned or lost during Japanese occupation and Bersiap-riots.
Also, Dutch-Indos with an Indonesian wife, children or with relatives who had lost their paperwork could not simply leave their loved ones. In the coming years, the Dutch government pressured these Dutch-Indos to became Indonesian citizens. They even arranged an act with Indonesian officials: Warga Negara (new citizens). Many of the Warga Negara became second class citizens during the coming years; harassed, no jobs, living in slums. Luckily, between 1957-1958 the Dutch government put an exception on their strict admission policy because of the emergency situation of Warga Negara in Indonesian society.
Many of them took advantage of this act called: “Spijtoptant” (“Regret-act”). But still there is a minority of Warga Negara present these days without the help of the Netherlands. Some Dutch-Indos started several years ago to help these people with HALIN Society. HALIN (Hulp Aan Landgenoten in Indonesië / Help for fellow countrymen in Indonesia) helps Warga Negara in cities of Java to support their well-being. http://www.stichtinghalin.nl/
After the transfer of sovereignty, the United States of Indonesia was abandoned rapidly by politicians under Sukarno. In March, 1950, the states of Sumatra, Java, Madoere, Bank, Biliton and the Riouw archipelago were repealed and included within the Republic of Indonesia. On March 16, the Federal District of Jakarta was added.
On April 7, the State of Bandjar, State of Dajak Besar (Greater Dayak), Kalimantan Tengara (Western Kalimantan State), and the State of Kotawaringin disappeared from the map. The large state of Eastern-Indonesia started to collapse at the end of April, when two outlying areas separated by the Republic of Indonesia. On May 19, 1950, the Republik Indonesia Serikat (United States of Indonesia) and the Republik Indonesia decided, on that moment there was no difference between their borders, to be a united State. On August 15, 1950, the country of Indonesia was declared.
Earlier, on April 25 of that year, former minister of Eastern-Indonesia declared independence of the Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS)/ Republic of Southern Maluku Islands. Former District Deputy-Governor of South Maluku’s, mister Manahutu was made President of the new Republik Maluku Selatan. This Republic was not acknowledged by Sukarno and on his order Indonesian military invaded the Mollucan island of Buru and a part of the island of Ceram. The main island of Ambon was blocked by the Indonesian Marine. On September 28, 1950, the island of Ambon was taken after battles with former Moluccan resistance.
Soon after, Indonesia violated the agreement of 1950.
Some 3,000 Moluccan KNIL soldiers were still on the island of Java (involved as Dutch special forces during the battle for Java). While KNIL soldiers were depending on Dutch officials to ship them to their homes, Indonesia was afraid they would start riots on the island of Java.
Therefore, under international pressure, the Dutch government shipped the soldiers to the Netherlands. They scammed the soldiers by saying their stay in the Netherlands was temporarily. While on their way to the Netherlands they all were discharged from the military by surprise. They ended up stuck in the Netherlands, where they and their offspring still live in separate neighborhoods.
On December 2, 1963, Mr. Soumokil, then President in exile, was captured on the island of Ceram. He refused to speak Indonesian and answered only in Dutch. On April 12, 1966, he was executed on the island of Obi by a firing squad. The idea of an independent Republic of South Moluccans is still alive and is mostly supported by Dutch-Moluccans in the Netherlands. It is still forbidden on the Moluccans to even show the flag of independence by Indonesian officials. These images are from several years ago when the Indonesian president visited the area and some Moluccans were waving their flag.
In 1962, Indonesia decided that Dutch-Papua also had to join the Republic of Indonesia. The Dutch government did not want to hand over this region. They were supported by the Australians (eastern Papua belongs to Australia). Indonesian officials started to harass Dutch and Dutch-Indos that were on Java. After some conflicts between Indonesian and Dutch forces at the borders, the Dutch were forced, once again under international pressure, to hand over the last remains of the Dutch-Indies to Indonesia in 1963.
In March 1965, the Papua resistance was formed. Since then thousands of Papua have been killed and hundreds fled to the Australian side of Papua. Dutch-Papua was called a possible home country of Dutch-Indos after the war. Although this plan never manifested, some 200,000 Dutch-Indos had lived in Papua.