Why the Indische Kwestie Won’t Go Away: Meet Peggy Stein

by Inez Hollander

The Eurovision Song Contest can be a blessing and a curse… For the Netherlands, this has always been a mixed bag: Some years we’re required to sing in Dutch (which means we have a (much) bigger chance of losing as Dutch doesn’t sound as romantic or sexy as French) and when we are in fact allowed to sing in English, the Netherlands just may have an odd song choice. So singing at Eurovision involves huge career risks and especially so when you come from the Netherlands.

Enter Sandra Reemer, everyone’s favorite Dutch Indo who didn’t compete once but no less than three times. I have mixed feelings just writing this sentence down, because it plays into colonial stereotypes that bother me, as in the Dutch using Indos to clean up their messes in the Dutch East Indies. Also, Sandra’s courage to represent the Netherlands, in spite of what this might do to her career, shows a courage and love of country that may also be typical of Indos, yet doesn’t get recognized by her fellow Dutchmen.

The story gets worse. When Sandra died recently, and much too young, obituaries in Dutch newspapers were all too keen on mentioning the fact that TV celebrity Jos Brink used the “endearing” term “kroepoekje” when referring to his assistant, Reemer, who didn’t take offense, even though many TV-viewers wrote angry letters. For Dutch newspapers to commemorate this particular fact about Sandra, her impressive career and her fight for Indo rights… well, what can I say? The Netherlands has a lot of catching up to do. And when people don’t do their job on this front, who will?

Enter Peggy Stein. No… meet Peggy Stein and when you meet her, you can’t help but be mesmerized because on her shoulders rests a heavy burden of a debt and story so large that it will make your head spin.

Some of you may remember our editorial series on the Indische Kwestie, a long drawn-out affair of how the Dutch government hasn’t come clean with regard to war reparations/damages and recognition when it comes to the Indo-Dutch community. The Backpay arrangement of 2015 was a beginning, but as Peggy noted: “we demand continuation”, even though the Dutch government may have thought that this closed the door on a 70-year-old debt once and for all.

What’s so utterly refreshing about Peggy is the fire in her belly, her experience in business and government, and a new vision, which is a departure of the Indisch Platform and business as usual.

The Indische Kwestie is the proverbial can that got kicked down the road by successive Dutch Cabinets, but Peggy, once part of the Indisch Platform, has become the figurehead of what still needs to be done. As a matter of fact, she reminds me of the defiant girl statue weathering the storm (i.e. The Wall Street Bull: business as usual?) in front of the New York stock exchange, and it is no coincidence, as Peggy observed herself, that women like herself (and our very own Priscilla) have stood up to carry on the flame where many (read: a majority of men) have dropped the ball.

We truly are entering a post-colonial, post-patriarchal era with a major “reset” as in an Indisch Platform/Indische Kwestie 2.0 which should be a synergy of interests and groups, embracing a wide (and world) vision that doesn’t emphasize the totok side of things, or merely an Indo perspective: The essential injustices and experiences (the war, decolonization and forced migration to the Netherlands) were the same for many families, whether you were Chinese, Indo or Dutch, The goal (recognition, apology, backpay and the compensation for war damages) is the same, too, across the board. Yet the striving after that goal and the way to get there have been messy, political, obstructionist and frustrating, which makes this a herculean task as it spills over into the 21st century.

Peggy’s journey began with that of her parents, and her mother in particular: her mother brought the Indo-Dutch community together through parties and events to soften the blow of the trauma this community had been through. When Peggy’s mom died, the attendance at her funeral was so overwhelming that it became clear that Peggy’s mom had also been fighting behind the scenes, supporting people who were dealing with Pelita and other organizations.

Peggy herself burst upon the scene when, in 2011, the Indische Kwestie was declared dead by the government. This triggered not only an emergency meeting in de Tweede Kamer (Parliament) but also a “stille tocht” (silent protest march), as well as an action/work group within the Indisch Platform (which, until then, had accomplished very little).

Out of this came the Backpay Arrangement of 2015 (see earlier articles on the Indische Kwestie).

But the case is not closed, for Peggy has started an archive, talks to the first generation and families and went on a quest for more information and revelation. She has developed mandates as well as suggestions as to how the Dutch government and (former) shareholders can come together to resolve this matter in a graceful, just and appropriate way.

We talked for more than four hours and there’s much too much to go into here, but I will say this, as a creative, networker and Influential, Peggy endows the Indische Kwestie with a new flair and vision that has been missing for most of the twentieth century every time the Indische Kwestie was brought up by the different stakeholders. I encourage all of you to join her mission and Facebook group, the Indische Kwestie: https://www.facebook.com/groups/684839725027229/

6 Comments on “Why the Indische Kwestie Won’t Go Away: Meet Peggy Stein

  1. Indeed, Thea, the more, the merrier. The Dutch government needs to hear it from different people, parties, angles, many times over.

  2. Kudos for the article, but you should be aware of the fact that the treacherous ‘deadline’ of August 15, 2015 – for rightful claimants, both military and civil, to be alive in order to receive their backpay – was suggested by the Indisch Platform.

    There is a slew of financial claims to be addressed, a task TFIR.nl has embraced. The first one on the table is the ‘Burma Thailand claim’, the compensation that many ex-POW’s on the infamous railway never received.

    Let’s be specific: the ‘Indische Kwestie’ is about money. About the biggest fraud in the Dutch history of the 20th century by which the Dutch Indies community (including all ethnicities) was cheated out of foreign compensation money, their bank credits and savings; insurance policies and pensions.

    ‘The Dutch-Indonesian people were sacrificed for a bigger goal’ – Former minister of Social Welfare Marga Klompé; 1959.

  3. Reading about the Indische Kwestie, makes me very angry. Mainly because we were treated by the Dutch government as 2nd rank citizens. The Dutch government is now welcoming refugees with open arms, everything they are receiving is free. When we came to Nederland we were Dutch citizens, but we were not treated as such. After having oppressed the Indonesian people, you would think, that they would feel a sense of guilt for doing that, and that they would treat us better. There was no warm welcome for us, many of us with a darker skin had to deal with racism, I live in California and there are many of us here, and most of them are so grateful they could escape to this country after having lived trough all the scrutiny and racism, and now more than 70 yrs. later this issue is still not taken care of, and we are still treated like 2nd rank citizens. My father in law died in Nagasaki in 1944, his mom had to take care of 3 kids, on a very small pension. it would have been so nice, if she had received some money for raising 3 kids on her own. And I know many other widows with the same fate.Families who lost their dad in Burma. I searched on the internet and found my father in law listed as a P.O.W. in Nagasaki, and how he died from pneuma, because he did not receive any medical treatment, I also read that he was punished because he stole some leftover food. Well how hungry must he have been to steal some leftovers. But what bothers me the most that the German P.O.W. received their back-pay a longtime ago, how come the different treatment for us, could it be, because we are not pure Dutch. I think it was last year that I read in the Telegraaf, that paying out those salaries, it just too costly for the government, but there is enough money to take in refugees. The only thing that I demand, is fair treatment, and we have never received that. this is so disgusting to me. and by the way to me this is racism in the purest form.

    • Wow, you said it all. The truth will set you free. I love your honesty and integrity.
      Stawny H

    • With your write up you hit the nail on the head. I mean the way we were treated by the Dutch Government. It was pure racism.

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