[Telegraaf article 2/17/2022 by Alexander Bakker – translated by Margaret Maugenest]

Rutte: deep apologies to Indonesians for extreme and systematic violence

BRUSSELS — In response to findings of the investigation into extreme violence being used by the Dutch against the Indonesians during the War for independence in Indonesia (1945-1949), Prime Minister Mark Rutte offered “deep apologies” to the Indonesian people.” Rutte also offered his apologies, on behalf of the Dutch government, to all Dutch residents who also experienced this period in history, including veterans.

The Netherlands (now) distances itself from the old official position that “only in exceptional circumstances was extreme force used” and the conclusion which the De Jong cabinet drew in the 1969 excesses memorandum “that the armed forces as a whole behaved correctly”.

The government endorses the conclusion of the investigation that there was indeed systematic and widespread use of extreme “violence; to the point of torture.”

“For the systematic and widespread extreme violence used by the Dutch in those years, and for the consistent looking away through previous cabinets, I offer, today, on behalf of the Dutch government, deep apologies to the people of Indonesia,” Rutte said in a brief statement in Brussels. “We must also note that apologies are extended to everyone in our country who suffered from the consequences of the colonial war in Indonesia, many of whom are still suffering to this day.

Whether Indonesia is waiting for an apology is highly questionable. In the past there was an impression that it is the Netherlands that is in the process of trying to come to terms with its own history.

According to Rutte, responsibility (for the extreme violence) should not lie with individual conscripts or other military personnel. “No, that one responsibility lies first and foremost with the authorities of the time: the Dutch government, parliament, the armed forces as an institution and the judicial authorities.”

BersiapPrime Minister Rutte also believes that the term “police actions” (taken by the Dutch during the conflict) should no longer should be used, instead these should be referred to as actions in a “colonial war.” He also discussed the use of the term Bersiap, the period when Indonesian nationalists committed violence against Dutch and Indo-Dutch who had been liberated from the Japanese camps. The cabinet now wants to deal with this term differently.

“I use the term in quotes because I realize that that term is under discussion,” says Rutte. “But I also want to establish that the term Bersiap has a place in the Dutch collective memory and, in particular, has great value and significance for the Indo- Dutch community in the Netherlands for the great suffering that they went through. The cabinet wants to respect that by using the term in quotes, not to shelve it never to be used again.


There is criticism from veterans’ organizations that many of the researchers may have looked at this period of our history through colored glasses. “To anyone who criticizes the investigation, and I fully respect that, I want to say that we must establish that it took place independently, without interference from the cabinet,” Prime Minister Rutte responded. He has received the objections about the lack of attention to the violence on the Indonesian side: “This aspect is discussed in this study and there is there will also be a separate study.”

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