Thursday, July 15, 2010


Nico Schulte Nordholt
(Photo: Alpha Amirrachman/JP)
First published in The Jakarta Post, July 8, 2010

Nico Schulte Nordholt: Dutch scholar demands ‘genuine’ recognition of 1945 independence

Alpha Amirrachman, Contributor, Leiden | Thu, 07/08/2010 9:18 AM | People

When Nico Schulte Nordholt and other prominent Dutch intellectuals signed and launched a petition demanding that the Dutch government should genuinely, in a political and moral sense, recognize Aug. 17, 1945, instead of Dec. 27, 1949, as the birth of Indonesia’s independence, they were shrugged off by many quarters of Dutch society.

This is because the then Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister, Ben Bot, when attending the national flag ceremony at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta in 2005, had already stated the Dutch government accepted Aug. 17, 1945 as the historical start point of Indonesian independence.

“However, for the signatories of the petition this official stance of the Dutch government is not sufficient.”

The signatories are convinced, he said, “that the acceptance of Aug. 17, 1945 as a historical fact is significantly different from our plea to a genuine recognition, in a political and a moral sense, of Aug. 17, 1945 as the birth of Indonesia’s independence,” Nordholt said during a recent discussion. It was on “pluralization of narratives on the history of Indonesian independence,” recently held at Leiden University.

So why is “acceptance” not enough?

“By using ‘acceptance’, indeed a historical event, namely the proclamation, is no longer denied, but with ‘acceptance’ one does not acknowledge the deeper meaning of this proclamation, namely the fact that the Indonesian people have the right to proclaim their independence on the moment their leaders choose to act.

‘Recognition’ also implies the acknowledgment of the strong nationalist movement that had led to this proclamation, with all its political implications, also for the present,” said Nordholt.

Born on Oct. 1, 1940, in Kefamenanoe, the capital of Timor Tengah Utara in West Timor province, Nordholt has long ties with Indonesia.

His father, Herman Gerrit Nordholt, was a local official within the colonial administration. From 1936 to 1947 the family spent their time in Indonesia, including during the turbulent period of Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945.
He recalled how the Japanese imprisoned all the members of his family without trial for three years.

He also remembered how his mother, Oetje Zielhuis, taught his two elder sisters, Johanna Gezina and Neeltje, school lessons at home.

After the Japanese surrender, many Dutch people returned home. However, his father was again posted in Kefamenanoe. He often accompanied his father on his duties when touring his district.

This experience gave Nordholt a sense of the pulse of the society he later lived in for many years again. In 1947, just two years after Sukarno and Hatta declared Indonesia’s independence, his family returned to the Netherlands.

Asked if the petition would also do any good to Dutch society, he said there were four groups of “victims of history” residing in the Netherlands.

First, these were veteran soldiers who had served the Dutch East Indies; second, the “Eurasians” with Dutch and Indonesian backgrounds — many of whom had severely suffered atrocities during the independence movement.

The third group were the Moluccans, the ex-Dutch East Indies Army soldiers, shipped to the Netherlands with their families under the false argument of a “temporary arrangement”; and fourth, the Papuans, who arrived in the Netherlands after 1969.

“Recognition also implies the acknowledgment of the strong nationalist movement that had led to this proclamation.”

He said if the Dutch eventually and genuinely recognize Aug. 17 1945 as Indonesia’s day of independence, they should first settle the remaining problems that beset these groups of victims of history, including any family members currently living in the Netherlands.

Later, Nordholt’s father became a history teacher, and in the 1960s he became professor in anthropology at the Free University in Amsterdam.

Nordholt finally decided to take up anthropology too. However, in 1961, when starting his studies,, Indonesia was closed to the Dutch, due to the dispute between the Netherlands and Indonesia over West Papua. Hence, his studies shifted among others to North Africa and Morocco.

In 1966, bilateral relations improved. He then followed lectures with Wim F. Wertheim at the University of Amsterdam.

A renown professor, Wertheim was regarded as the expert on modern Indonesia and was known for his strong support for Indonesia’s independence revolution.

Nordholt completed his masters thesis in 1968 on the Pamong Praja, members of the nobility recruited into the colonial administration, who became the embrio of the nation’s future bureaucracy.

His PhD research was on the role of the district head under the New Order from 1969 to 1979.

On the invitation of prominent scholar Selo Sumardjan, he lectured at the Faculty of Political and Social Science, at the University of Indonesia in 1981.

Nordholt also joined the Commission of Dialogue formed by the Dutch NGO, Novib, to support the then newly established Institute for Legal Assistance (LBH). The Institute rapidly became a thorn in the government’s side for its critical voice on issues related to justice.

He recalled when he once sat with future president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid at Lake Toba, while sharing durian, after a conference in August 1983, Gus Dur told him about his determination to democratize Indonesia using NU (Nahdlatul Ulama, the biggest Muslim organization in Indonesia) as his platform when he was elected as NU Chairman.

In December 1984 when the late Gus Dur chaired the NU, Nordholt was also at the center of Indonesia’s pro-democracy movement in the 1990s.

Until 2008 Nordholt, who last taught at the Twente University in the Netherlands, still travels frequently to Indonesia for research, his persistent passion.

Photo: Alpha Amirrachman/JP


Mintardjo (Photo by Alpha Amirrachman/JP)
First published in The Jakarta Post, March 30, 2010

Mintardjo: Indonesian at heart

Alpha Amirrachman, Contributor, Oegstgeest, the Netherlands | Tue, 03/30/2010 8:51 AM | Life

When young Mintardjo was sent to Helsinki, Finland, to attend the 1962 communist World Youth Festival and later to communist Romania to study, little did he know he would not return to Indonesia for many years because of unexpected political developments.

Just three years after he left his homeland, the then popular Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) collapsed and carnage among its followers ensued.

“I was not allowed to return to my homeland,” he told The Jakarta Post during a recent interview at his modest house.

Now living in exile in the Netherlands, Mintardjo shows his love for Indonesia by earnestly helping Indonesian students studying in the country regardless of their ideology or religion — providing them with accommodation, transport and a place to gather for social activities.

Born in Bagelan, Purworejo, June 6, 1936, Mintardjo attended several schools, including the Holland Indische School in Purwokerto, where he stayed with his grandfather, and a Catholic-oriented Kanisius school in his hometown of Purworejo.

Just two months before Indonesia proclaimed its independence in August 1945, the Japanese arrested his father, accusing him of organizing two revolts against the Japanese.

In 1948, his father was shot dead, some say by the Indonesian military at the time (TNI), while others claim it was by the Dutch colonial army (KNIL). So Mintardjo was forced yet again to hop from one school to another.

Although Mintardjo always made time to attend various political gatherings regardless of their political orientation, he was never a member of any association. He preferred to be involved in organizing sports events such as soccer and volleyball matches for local youth. He became a member of a soccer player association alongside members of Young Indonesia, an organization created by the Youth Congress during the 1928 Youth Pledge.

So when Young Indonesia asked Mintardjo to attend the 8th World Youth Festival in 1962 in Helsinki, it was to help organize its soccer team.

Many national youth organizations joined the Helsinki youth summit, such as the People Youth, affiliated to the PKI, Indonesia’s Muslim Youth (PII), the Association of Christian Students of Republic of Indonesia (PMKRI), the National Movement of Indonesian Students and the Concentration of Indonesian Student Movement (CGMI), which is affiliated with the PKI.

Then in a twist of fate, he received two callings from the small Eastern European country of Romania.

During the festival, Mintardjo first received an invitation from Romania Youth, affiliated with the Romanian Communist Party, to attend its independence day celebrations. Then Indonesian ambassador Sukrisno also offered him a chance to study in Romania.

Mintardjo’s life changed from that moment on.

After 1965, where the PKI’s power was removed and millions of its members executed, Indonesian ambassadors explained to Indonesian citizens living overseas at that time that they did not know what exactly had happened and “their position was to leave all matters to president Sukarno, the great leader of the revolution”.

Mintardjo and students initially agreed but were then asked to change their stand to support General Soeharto’s government.

When he and many of his friends steadfastly refused, their citizenship was scrapped against their own will in April 1967.

Mintardjo finally graduated from Vladimir University in 1969 in political economy. Later he worked as a civil servant at the Romanian tourism ministry and married Romanian Liliana Gabirella. They have three children — Heru Tjahjo, Ratnawati and Nurkasih.

When Romania’s dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was executed and his communist regime collapsed during the 1989 bloody revolution, Mintardjo sought political asylum in the Netherlands.

But Mintardjo still longed for the warmness of his home country.

Staying in Oegstgeest, very close to Leiden, Mintardjo welcomed to his house many Indonesian students who were studying in Leiden, a university known for its excellent Indonesian and Islamic study center.

In fact, it has almost become a tradition for students to use his modest house as a venue for activities, from the election Indonesian Student Association (PPI) executives to monthly discussions where students or guests present their scientific papers.

“I remember Pak Min and his wife cooked for about 50 people who performed at the Indonesian Cultural Night in Rotterdam,” recalled Michael Putrawenas, former secretary-general of the PPI in the Netherlands.

His bicycle also became the “official” vehicle for PPI executives, said current PPI Leiden vice president Hilman Latief.

Mintardjo was also actively involved in every student discussion.

“I am happy if students remain critical and have a balanced perspective about issues,” said Mintardjo, who also initiated the establishment of the Inter-Generation Dialogue association and later Sapulidi Foundation, which strengthens Indonesian younger and older generations residing in the Netherlands.