Indonesia: yesterday’s winner is tomorrow’s loser

Dr. Leo Klinkers, Federal Alliance of European Federalists (FAEF)
August 2019

In December 1949, Indonesia concluded an agreement with the Netherlands to establish a federal state under the name of the United States of Indonesia. This consisted of seven states. The Moluccas fell under the state of Eastern Indonesia.

The president of the federation, Sukarno, started to dismantle the federation after only a week, in January 1950. His aim was to establish a unitary state, the Republic of Indonesia. The conclusion of the agreement with the Netherlands on the establishment of the federation was only a strategic move towards becoming an UN-sanctioned sovereign state. Sukarno did not intend to lead a federal state but wanted to become the autocratic ruler of all the peoples that were part of the federation in December 1949. The Indonesian signature on the agreement in December 1949 was therefore based on a false motive.

Contrary to what is claimed, it is a characteristic of a federal state that the its member states are sovereign and autonomous. They have the power to regulate their own affairs, whereby interests that the federated states cannot represent on their own are taken care of by a federal body that has the power to take decisions on a limitative range of subjects.

The Moluccas did not want to lose their sovereignty as part of a federal state of the federation and decided in the fourth month of the federation, April 1950, to proclaim their own independence. As Sukarno had done in 1945. The long and bloody struggle for freedom that followed was won by Indonesia with the execution of the leader of the Moluccan resistance in 1966, Dr. Chris Soumokil. In the meantime, Indonesia had already completely dismantled the federation in August 1950 and in the sixties also occupied West Papua.

This is one of the many examples in which violence against oppression and the fight for freedom is sanctioned by the UN for the simple reason that the winner is more powerful than the loser. Followed by sanctioning by other countries because good relations with the winner mean economic advantage.

The peoples of the Moluccas and West Papua have never accepted Indonesia’s violent annexation. This has regularly led to bloody action against rebel movements in the Moluccas and West Papua. Sometimes with the character of a religious war. Around the year 2000, for example, Christian villages in the Moluccas were attacked by Indonesian Muslim army units. This also resulted in profits in the area of divide and rule because part of the Moluccan population is Muslim.

The current rulers of totalitarian Indonesia should not forget that freedom fighters have the time factor on their side. The Netherlands fought against the dominant Spain for eighty years, declared independence during that struggle in 1581 and gained that independence in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. And let’s not forget Vietnam. Suppressing peoples with an occupying power is not a quiet possession.

If Indonesia assumes that in the long run there will be peace in the Moluccas and West Papua, then they are mistaken. There will never be peace as long as injustice and violence are more important to those in power than allowing a people their freedom under the principles of sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law.

Today, 40% of the world’s population lives in 27 federal states. And more are becoming so as the 21st century progresses. Against this background, Indonesia has only two alternatives. Either continue the repression by force or restore the original federation of December 1949. Including West Papua as part of the state of the East Indies.

Presidents come, presidents go, but an oppressed people who want their legitimate freedom will always exist.

Leo Klinkers

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