Tuesday, January 10, 2012


First published by The Jakarta Post, May 2 2011
Alpha Amirrachman, Contributor, Amsterdam | People | Mon, May 02 2011, 9:57 PM

Wim Manuhutu (Photo by Alpha Amirrachman/JP)
 When Wim Manuhutu was appointed as one of the two directors of the Moluccan Historical Museum (currently Museum Maluku) in 1987, he vowed to run the museum professionally and without any political bias.

Hence, during the first exhibition the museum displayed pictures of four most important Malukan figures: Mr. Dr. Chr. Soumokil (second president of the of the South Moluccas or RMS), Dr. J. A. Manusama (third president of the RMS in the Netherlands), A. J. Patty, a journalist and Indonesian nationalist figure who was a member of Sarekat Ambon) and Dr. Johannes Leimena (also an Indonesian nationalist, and the minister of health in Sukarno’s government).

RMS campaigned for an independent state of Maluku and is outlawed in Indonesia while Sarekat Ambon is a pro-Indonesia organization.

Wim recalled how members of the RMS in the Netherlands were angry that the picture of their respected figures were put up side by side with the Malukans who were on the Indonesian side.

“But we have to treat both RMS and pro-Indonesia Malukans as historical facts, after all history never has a single interpretation,” he told The Jakarta Post during a recent interview.

As a result, Museum Maluku has become a neutral venue for Malukans in the Netherlands to meet and discuss Maluku’s future regardless of their political differences.

Also during the sectarian conflict, which started in 1999, the museum was the place for both Christians and Muslim Malukans in the Netherlands to meet and elaborate on an action plan to help their brothers and sisters in the conflict-torn province in Indonesia.

Wim was born on May 14, 1959, in the Malukan camp Lunetten in Vught in the province of Brabant.

His father was a Malukan teacher when he was shipped with other KNIL soldiers to the Netherlands in 1951.

His mother was an Indo-Eurasian with Batavian blood who worked as a teacher at the camp.

The Lunetten is one of two Malukan camps in the Netherlands, the other is Westerbork in the province of Drenthe.

During the decolonization of Indonesia, 12,500 Malukans arrived in the Netherlands. They lived isolated from the Dutch since they always thought that they would return to Maluku with the support of the Dutch government, which never materialized.

Hence, distrust and misunderstanding marred relations between the Malukans and the Dutch government because the Dutch did not provide enough support for their aspiration for an independent state.

While people cared for each in the camps, conflicts often erupted too within the Malukan communities due to differing religions, areas of origin or political ideologies.

Later in the ‘60s and the ‘70s the children of the people who arrived in the Netherlands in 1951 came into adulthood. However, many resorted to violence to get attention for their aspiration for an independent state.

They shocked the Dutch and Malukan societies with a series of violent incidents such as the occupation of Wassenar (1970), Amsterdam (1975), Bovensmilde (1977) and Assen (1978) and the hijacking of trains in Wijster (1975) and De Punt (1977).

The ‘80s and ‘90s were times for Malukans to reorient their position in the Netherlands, their culture and traditions as well. Later appeared a third and fourth generation, who were gradually integrated into Dutch society, but did not forget their roots.

“Museum Maluku now has become a place for every Malukan to meet and learn about their history,” said Wim, who studied history at Utrecht University and his MA thesis dealt with the expansion of Dutch rule on the island of Seram in the beginning of the 20th century.

During the large-scale violence in Maluku (1999-2004), Museum Maluku facilitated the Information and Documentation Center, which compiled and distributed news from Indonesia.

He recalled how Malukans here had been shocked with such violence and had difficulties believing that the violence really took place in their home villages, which had peaceful traditional alliances between villages.

Wim also recalled how Indonesian former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, known for his tolerant and pluralist attitude, was received warmly by Malukan communities during his visit to the Netherlands in 2000.

In a rare show of support, Malukan communities demonstrated in support of Gus Dur and his presidency, but against the military’s alleged involvement in the conflict, said Wim, who resigned from being a director of Museum Maluku in February 2009.

Asked about his opinion on SBY’s abrupt cancellation of his visit to the Netherlands, he said he regretted the incident because it had served to boost awareness of the RMS, which had launched a suit at the local Dutch court to arrest the Indonesian president over alleged human rights abuses in the province.

“Everybody knew that the court would reject the suit, as happened,” he said, adding that as a regional player and member of the G20 Indonesia should have had the courage to frankly discuss the situation, including the alleged human rights abuses in the province, with Malukan communities here.

He also said that the RMS’s aspiration for an independent state was actually no longer relevant because Indonesia had become a democracy with full-pledged decentralization and that Maluku would be better off being part of a democratic Indonesia despite many shortcomings.

He appealed to all to work together to improve the human rights situation and combat the still-rampant corruption in the province for the betterment of the people of Maluku.

For information about Museum Maluku, visit http://www.museum-maluku.nl/