Misleading Image of Sukarno

A Misleading Image

of Sukarno

In view of a possible state-visit by Queen Beatrix to Indonesia to commemorate the Fiftieth Anniversary of Indonesia's Independence, I suggested the idea that the Queen lay a wreath on the grave of Indonesia's founder, Sukarno, in Blitar-East Java. It was my hope that such a gesture would strengthen relations between Indonesia and the Netherlands, and would once and forever put an end to the old prevailing hostilities. The Dutch public was divided in its reaction to this suggestion. Some people heartily approved the strengthening of relations between the two countries, but many objected to laying a wreath on the grave of Sukarno. Rudy Kousbroek for instance summed up his objections as follows : Sukarno was a bigger disaster for Indonesia than the military Suharto. Sukarno was a megalomaniac, who during his time, brought the famous belt of emeralds at the equator to the brink of political and economic catastrophe. The people were living in desperate poverty, the Constitution was torpedoed to introduce Guided Democracy, and the democratic opposition to Sukarno was imprisoned.
     There were also other reactions, some of which seemed to maintain that Sukarno should be considered as solely responsible for the romusha, those forced labourers who were exploited as slaves by the Japanese. In my article in the Nieuw Rotterdamsche Courant (28-9-'94), I limited myself to the state-visit and purposely avoided dragging up old issues. But I have noticed, that among the Dutch public there still existed opinions - in particular in relation to Sukarno - which according to my viewpoint were based not only on ignorance, but even more so on prejudice and an oversimplification of historical matters. With this essay, I will attempt to inform your readers of certain often overlooked facts, so that they might form a more considered opinion about Sukarno and his period of administration. I believe that this is still a relevant issue if we are to seriously revive relations of solid friendship between the Netherlands and Indonesia.
     With or without Sukarno and Hatta's collaboration with Japan during the war, the employment of romusha was structurally a part of Japanese fascism. Not only in Indonesia, but throughout the entire Southeast Asian region, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma, Japan launched the horrific romusha campaign with its occupied Southeast Asians as slaves labourers. The best known case, the infamous bridge across the Kwai-river, for instance, was constructed by allied forces p.o.w.'s, who were treated as common romusha, irrespective of their rank. For Japan it was a given that the population of all occupied countries would work for their war plans, including those war prisoners. Should the British and Australian commanders involved in the construction of the notorious bridge be then called Japanese collaborators?
President Sukarno
Sukarno has always been held responsible. Hatta was purposely not mentioned in relation to romusha, whereas together with Mr. Wilopo he was actually the head of the Romusha-Kyoku, Office for Romusha Affairs. Further, Syahrir was always praised as "the rational non-collaborator". All of this has everything to do with what we have for centuries experienced of the old colonial devide et impera politics in connection with our leaders and ethnic groups in Indonesia.
     The romusha issue was for the colonial rulers at that time a useful pretext to blacken Sukarno and to push him aside. In fact, the Dutch politicians at that time were not honestly concerned about the romusha. The colonialists faced the gloomy prospect of loosing their beloved Indies that rich belt of emeralds on the equator, taken away just like that, from the lap of the motherland, and at such an unfortunate moment in history. After all, The Netherlands greatly needed "de Indische Baten" (the Indies benefits) for the reconstruction of their country after the war. The slogan "the Indies gone, disaster born" clearly demonstrates Dutch fear of losing the Indies. The fact that the Indies after the second world war might not return back into Dutch property was unthinkable. There lies the very essence of the romusha argument.
     Therefore, a sly political game to divide Indonesian leaders was launched, a game whereby Syahrir had to be played off against Sukarno. It was impossible to speak with Sukarno - actually with Hatta, too - not because they were "collaborators", but because they had already proclaimed Indonesia as fully independent, without any political affiliation whatsoever with The Netherlands. The proclamation of Indonesia's independence and the constitution of the new Republic, were quite definite about that.
1963 Joesoef Isak bertemu Presiden Sukarno
     So, for any possible negotiation another figure had to be found. In Syahrir, the Dutch politicians at that time saw a man kindly disposed to Holland - the good compromise figure - but Syahrir himself in the end was victimized by the slyness of the Dutch colonial small trader mentality. Even a beneficial compromise for the Dutch like the Linggajati-Agreement, which was accepted by the Indonesian Republicans, was difficult for Dutch politicians to accept. The version of the Linggajati-Agreement adopted by the Dutch Parliament, was not in conformity with the original text. The fact that Syahrir - the architect of Linggajati - was a "romusha-free" politician, suddenly seemed completely irrelevant. There we have the real face of the colonials! The proclamation of independence by Sukarno had to be abrogated at all costs. The question of collaboration with Japan and the accompanying romusha issue was nothing but a puff up of a futile political issue.
     During the tense situation of 1945-'50, the romusha issue was probably still relevant for The Netherlands at least as a political manoeuvre, but to speak about this issue now, after half a century, and on the eve of Queen Beatrix's state-visit, was shameful. They should have been more tactful, and expressed themselves more discreetly on such matters, especially as Dutchmen, our former colonizers. Didn't the Dutch, since the infamous Cultuurstelsel ** , exploit, misuse, and oppress our people by making them forced labourers or romusha in sugar, tobacco and other plantations, and weren't we sold by them like cows and buffaloes? Wasn't it the Dutch rulers, who launched an enormous scale romusha campaign during the construction across Java of the 1000 km Great Post-highway of governor-general Daendles, and this on behalf of so-called European civilization, too; while all this occurred outside the framework of war. And didn't the "firm boys and robust lads of Jan de Wit" in 1942 easily transfer we the Indonesian people, just like that, to the Japanese rulers?
     So, ever since that time, the Dutch have not had any moral right to question how far and in which manner, we should deal with the Japanese occupants. We did not know, what the British commanders could have accomplished with the construction of the notorious bridge across the Kwai-river. However we knew very well, that during the Japanese occupation, Sukarno succeeded in carrying out an essential task, to which tirelessly had dedicated his efforts since his youth. He was a freedom fighter, one who succeeded in political mass-education, and who brought about national consciousness, not just among the intelligentsia, but throughout various strata across the entire nation, thereby preparing the people for a free fatherland! But, in The Netherlands they still are writing about Sukarno, as if during the occupation he was doing nothing but organizing romushas.
     Indonesian freedom fighters, in November 1945 , had been able to launch a very courageous struggle against the powerful allied troops in Surabaya which is still commemorated as the "November Tenth Day of Heroes". This heroic event was in part due to the "collaboration" of the Indonesian pemuda's (youth) with the Japanese communists in the Japanese army. Thousands of carbines, mitralleurs and grenades were taken over from the Japanese army by the pemuda's in bloody fights, but in other cases also in staged battles, which was the fruit of collaboration between our pemuda's and the Japanese communist soldiers. Admiral Maeda, who lent his house in Jakarta for a meeting of our leaders one day before the proclamation of independence, was just a sympathizer of the communists, while the leader of the Japanese communists in Surabaya was none other then a sergeant. The communist from the Indonesian side, Amir Syarifuddin, was the illegal leader who worked together with Sukarno. So one can see that our people and leaders during the years of Japanese occupation launched a plethora of activities, all of were necessary to further the national interest. It is evident that these activities were diametrically opposed to Dutch interests, because our energies were most decidedly directed to the independence of our homeland! I write about this to clarify once more, that the conduct of our leaders in connection with the occupying forces, was completely our problem. I urge the Sukarno-haters, to seriously try to discover the real historical facts.
     We don't accept any insult to injure Sukarno, and certainly not from the Dutch side, either from the conservative, or the so called ethical viewpoint. It seems that there exists, even today, a latent colonial mentality, which appears from time to time under the guise of pseudo progressiveness. We see this in particular among the older generation, who "worry about Indonesia, the good old Indies, purely out of love". All of this sentimentality is always expressed in a paternalistic manner, as if they know everything, even what's right for Indonesia, and of course with the tried-and-true technique to sow dissension among our people and or leaders. Tan Malaka, Amir Syarifuddin, Hatta and Syahrir were our freedom-fighters, republicans, who contributed respectively, each in his own way, to our independence. But Sukarno was the embodiment of free Indonesia to the entire Indonesian people, the nationalists, Moslems, socialists and communists, the intellectuals, the common people, all of whom had joined the struggle for a free Indonesia.
     "... But it does not eliminated the fact, that Sukarno has been a bigger catastrophe for Indonesia than General Suharto", wrote Rudy Kousbroek. "Everything was in pieces, the population lived in the deepest poverty", he added. Yes, I vividly remember that sometimes we had to stand in line for rice and gasoline. But for us Indonesians, we didn't feel shabby at all. It was precisely during the time of Sukarno, when Indonesia was still our property, when land and soil, air and water, oil sources and mines, forest and plantations, seas and rivers, all of those, exactly all, were still our own, when we could say very proudly of ourselves: we are the masters of our own house.
     Many Dutch people didn't respond further to the question: who in fact had the power in their hands, when Sukarno was branded as a dictator by politicians like MacCarthy, Foster Dulles and Joseph Luns? In this regard, a small hint: by whom was Syahrir actually arrested during the period of guided democracy? Was it really Sukarno who imposed silence upon the opposition? A serious investigation could answer who actually held power in their hands during the "dictator's period" of Sukarno.
     One of Syahrir's right-hand men for instance, who still goes around in Jakarta, healthy and well, could say something noteworthy about it. Further, it would also be interesting to know, who in fact was responsible for the arrests of Mochtar Lubis, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Subadio Sastrosatomo, Poncke Princen and others, during the 60's. The inclusion of Pramoedya's name on the same list as Mochtar Lubis challenges the uninitiated and unprejudiced observer to contemplate who indeed had the power during the guided democracy of Sukarno. Guided Democracy?! Sukarno didn't even have sufficient time to put the concept into practice. With sixty political parties, a fallout from Syahrir's views impressing the West of our democratic Indonesia, we experienced at one time the changing of cabinets every month. Indeed, Sukarno was not able to actualize his guided democracy as fully as it should have been.
     The military Suharto, on the contrary, has been completely successful to practice his brand of guided democracy in all aspects of our political existence. He has given his version a special name, the "Pancasila Democracy", but of course, minus the communists. Now "Guided Democracy" has become nothing other than a collective label to malign Sukarno's policies, for as a political concept Sukarno's Guided Democracy could not have come into full fruition. Time was too short for that. An accurate investigation of the said period led us only to the source of the present New Order power machinations, power which the military actually had in their hands since 1957, when the State of Emergency was launched in connection with the West Irian campaign. This occurred of course during Sukarno's administration.
     For those who are seriously interested, it should be beneficial to notice, that since Sukarno as a young student started to fully commit himself to the independent national movement - in hundreds of his well known deliberations, and even in the years after he became President -, he never raised the idea of "Guided Democracy". Even in his most important Pancasila Speech on June 1st, 1945, which was directly adopted as the official ideology of the new republic, not a single word ever occured which can be indicated that he was in favour of guided democracy ideas. It was never in the mainstream of Sukarno's political ideals or theoretical framework. Rather than just easily label him as a "dictator" or "totalitarian", one might inquire as to why Sukarno was not able to keep on his preferred course. The birth of Sukarno's Guided Democracy was clearly a deed born out of political necessity to respond to the severe political instability of the time. A tumultuousness which was caused, in large part, by the legacy of our "good liberal democratic era" in which sixty political parties arbitrarily dominated the country, not to mention, of course, the covert manoeuvres of the cold war superpowers.
     Sukarno was responsible for playing people and groups off against each others, wrote Rudy Kousbroek, who with his reaction to my article actually was explicitly busy himself in playing Indonesian leaders off against each other. He fully agreed to lay a wreath, he said, not on the grave of Sukarno, but on the graves of Syahrir and Hatta. In Indonesia we have an expression for such behaviour: "maling teriak maling", the pot calling the kettle black (literally: a thief calling someone else thief); blaming somebody else while he himself clearly is hard at work of playing off our leaders. This is typical with prejudiced scholars and journalists, becoming instant paltry writers whenever they start writing about Sukarno.
     Playing off people? For Sukarno, it meant nothing else then doing the utmost to attain a harmonious social balance. It was for Sukarno a political necessity, but surely not his goal. He had to face powers, diverse and conflicting powers, which were ready to beat one another to death: factionalized power groups such as the army, the communist party and the Moslems. Sukarno, the great unificator of Indonesia, had to deal with and solve such pressing problems, and for that he was accused of playing off people! It had become a catastrophe for Sukarno indeed; General Suharto did it much better, more efficiently. He simply eliminated one of the parties, imprisoned its members, and shot them to death. With that, one no longer needed the "playing off people policy", which so deeply offended Rudy Kousbroek
     Everything became stable and quiet and the economic reconstruction about which Rudy Kousbroek worried very much, began. Now we have only to deal with one power, the New Order of General Suharto. Thank God, Sukarno was not without conscience. He remained a consistent democrat, one who strove to give all parties, including the communists, a chance to operate within the political system. To this democratic ideal of inclusion, he finally sacrificed his political career, and his life.
     Sukarno had about six to eight years of effective power (1957-1965), and in the last years as he was a dictator according to people like MacCarthy and Rudy Kousbroek. In 1959, he abrogated the Constituent Assembly and tried to introduce "Guided Democracy". I summarize as follows the tumultuous conditions, in which Sukarno had to work during those 8 years.
1.    the inheritance of "the good democratic period" with sixty political parties, each with its own program and political demands.
2.    the 12 long years of Luns's stubborn, treacherous New Guinea politics, and as a counterbalance the confiscation of the "big five", the five big Dutch Trading Companies in the Indies under management of the Indonesian army. By that, consequently, the army not only dominated political power but the economy of the country as well.
3.    the Republic of South Maluku movement, an inheritance of the colonial dissension policy, which left a time-bomb by preventing the ethnic Ambonnese people from taking the side of their own countrymen, and which settled them in The Netherlands while making "pie-in-the sky" promises.
4.    the Daroel Islam uprisings in West Java, South Sulawesi and Aceh, which aimed to set up an Islamic state of Indonesia.
5.    the PRRI-Permesta uprisings in Sumatra and North Sulawesi, which were supported by the United States, and which had as its stated purpose seccession from the central government of President Sukarno.
6.    at least five assassination attempts against Sukarno's life.
7.    British intervention, which led to the "Malaysian Confrontation". No efforts have been made to investigate the exact historical backgrounds. Both confrontations - Malaysia and West Irian - were in fact just reactive deeds, not by design or precipitated political manoeuvre.
8.    the continuous covert interventions in Indonesian domestic politics by Eisenhower, Foster Dulles, MacCarthy and all succeeding American governments. Declassified CIA documents now, after more than 30 years, are starting to publicly expose what Sukarno was up against. From these documents it is proven to what extent the interests of the Western cold war conspirators had made Sukarno's life a burden. It started directly in 1945 and continued up until 1965!
9.    when the Americans didn't succeed by instigating local uprisings, they chose a more sinister but effective tactic, namely, close cooperation with the Indonesian army. "The Manikebu" (Cultural Manifesto), which Kousbroek naively believe to be a pure aesthetic and cultural movement, was in fact just a small part of the big conspiracy. The banned ideals of "Manikebu" were not revived after the fall of Sukarno. Why? Mission accomplished!
10.    the army, with its "dual function ideology" participated actively in politics and had as its ultimate goal the total destruction of the communists, and the subsequent implementation of their own power base. They used a clever and specifically Indonesian military political concept, called "penguasaan teritorial" (territorial control), an effective means of military surveillance of every aspect of life, right down to the village level.
11.    on the other side of the fence, the well-organized communist party of Indonesia (PKI) clearly articulated their own political goals, and through various strategies wanted to get into power too.
12.    the communist bloc with its KGB, the Intelligence Service of the Soviet Union, did everything to involve Indonesia in its sphere of influence, as part of the cold war between east and west.

And all of this are just the plain facts, which we as a nation easily remember, because what was happening was transparent, and could be followed through the newspapers. What occured beneath the surface, was a swarm of conspiracies of a different calibre. The fact that Sukarno in such a situation was still able to govern, and we Indonesian people could still speak proudly about "our own Indonesia", was a wonder. Shouldn't the question arise, how did Sukarno, in such an intensely conflicting situation, manage to keep Indonesia from starving to death?
     Remember then, we were not supported by a "Marshall-plan" after the second world war, on the contrary, we were still involved in a five year battle against the colonial rulers, who wanted to regain their colony and who stubbornly tried to hold on to Papua, the west part of New Guinea. Most crucial: Indonesia was one of the most stormy political battlefields of the cold war era and Sukarno was at that time the most prime target of both blocs. Was it so difficult to understand, why Sukarno took the initiative to organize the third world countries into an independent force, in order to form a united front of nonaligned power against the conflicting world powers? According to Western cold war ideology of that time, it was immoral and megalomaniacal.
     Then let us bring forth all the various economic experts to tell us how, in such a strained political situation, Sukarno was able to launch an acceptable economic policy and to feed daily eighty million Indonesian people?
     Meanwhile, Hatta had indeed put distance between himself and Sukarno, because as a strong anticommunist he did not succeed in moving Sukarno away from the communists. As the great unificator of Indonesia, Sukarno upheld the principle of the unity and totality of Indonesia. The unification of all revolutionary forces was always consciously his dynamic political motive. Therefore, Soekarno and Hatta were politically estranged from each other, but this was played out in a respectable way, between the two greatest Indonesian leaders.
     The negative image of Sukarno by the Western people in general and by the Dutch people in particular was caused in part by the tendentious comparisons between Sukarno, and Hatta-Syahrir. Sukarno got the title of dictator with all of the attendants negative adjectives, such as agitator, megalomaniac, tyrant, etc. Hatta and Syahrir on the other hand, were praised as unquestionable democrats. It was unthinkable that Sukarno wanted to fight against the powerful West and that he nurtured megalomaniac ideas about a world confrontation between the NEFO (New Emerging Forces) and OLDEFO (Old Established Forces). Further, it was completely incomprehensible, that he had not been able to appreciate the "strings-attached" development aid from America ("go to hell with your aid!") to fill the stomach of those hungry Indonesians and to realize the economic fortification of the country.
     Why didn't he just simply stand in the same ranks with the West? Instead, he walked around with "megalomaniacal" ideas to establish a more just world organization, in addition to the existing United Nations. On the contrary, Hatta and Syahrir were great democrats with a politician's inherent personal characteristics: solid, honest, and rational, and they expressed themselves with a demure persona. These perceptions in regard to Sukarno, Hatta and Syahrir were typical images, and standardized references, which were taken as the truth.
     Certain categories of writers used a criterion, never openly acknowledged, but which was in fact the decisive guide in forming their opinion about Hatta and Syahrir on one side, and Sukarno on the other. The first were anticommunists, therefore it goes without saying that they were sound and full of virtuousness; the other was not anti communist and must therefore be approving of communism, and that was definitely very wrong. Indeed. Hatta and Syahrir were clearly anti communists and had been so since their years of study in Holland. Their political attitude against communism proceeded in various domestic political conflicts immediately after our independence in 1945. They did everything to oppose the communists, and in some cases even to eliminate them.
     Sukarno, a nationalist like Hatta and Syahrir, was on the contrary, not an anti communist. He had already recognized in an early arena of his political career the importance of cooperation with the communists as well as cooperation with all the other myriad forces in the Indonesian social and political constellation. Unity above all! And that was then the biggest sin of Sukarno. Not to be anticommunist meant thus to be a fellow traveller of the communists! In particular, after the fall of communism in the world and also in Indonesia, Sukarno was in every way wrong and bad. Right now, all honours are presented to politicians, who have been against Sukarno or communism; they receive official honorifics such as "Maha Putera" (The Great Sons of the Country). When anti communists make serious offences against the principles of democracy by suppressing people of another opinion, they still are able to be considered great democrats, because the people or political groups which were eliminated were just communists or their sympathizers, something less than fully human. This dividing line as a criterion is the very essence of all analyses on Sukarno, and was in fact the accepted method of dividing the "good" from the "bad" politicians. A real inheritance of Mac Carthyism indeed. This stupid manner of analyzing is up to the present time still valid among many journalists, professionals and amateur politicians. Only a small stratum of university circles is probably not yet infected by these cold war standards of categorizing Indonesian matters and top political figures.
     I am very conscious of the existing differences between Sukarno, Hatta, and Syahrir, but I remain respectful towards those three leaders, who in spite of their different opinions were able to complement each other and dedicate each in their own way their great services for the freedom of our country and people.
     On this very point lies the conflict between myself and all those other writers, who have manipulated very consciously the differences among the three leaders in order to besmirch and belittle Sukarno. The real background of it was nothing else other than the fact that Sukarno had "treacherously" cooperated with the communists and therefore it was justified to knock him down. Such are the facts and it goes as simple as that. It is indeed easy, and shows an acute shortsightedness, to simplify the problems concerning Sukarno, as well as the complicated political situation in Indonesia at that time.
     Sukarno stood at that time in front of the choice to sell Indonesia to the big international capital or to become a satellite of the communistic eastern bloc. Whatever choice you would make, in order to be able to govern properly, the opposition has to be broken. According to Foster Dulles there was no middle-road. But Sukarno's political conscience didn't let him carry out both options. The public seems hardly to be aware, that the NON ALIGNED MOVEMENT, and all subsequent concepts developed on a global scope (like OPEC, and the south-south countries meetings) which today's world has to consider and of which Suharto currently is the chairman, was the work of the same megalomaniacal Sukarno! The deed had passed, but the result is there!
     Visionary ideas are unfortunately no "instant meal". The results have to be awaited a long time, in Sukarno's case in particular, because everything was been broken off by mass-murders which were carried out by the New Order forces of Suharto in 1965/1966. People like Snouck Hurgronje, De Jonge, Beel and Luns said that Indonesia and the Indonesians were not ripe for democracy. Sukarno seemed not to disagree with them completely, as he had become wise by bitter experiences, at least in regard to western concepts, such as the free market and the free expression of opinions. So we were not yet as ripe as that. That's why Sukarno looked for a form of democracy, which could reflect the specifics of an Indonesian identity and character. He called his experiment, in a term suitable to modern concepts on state : Guided Democracy.
     Were Sukarno just half as unscrupulous as Suharto, the situation would have looked different. Sukarno would have made it much easier if he had chosen the West: eliminating the communists (but is that democracy?), and initiating a complete open door policy in relation to foreign investments. Now, for the sake of our annual high economic growth percentage, let us indeed not have any objection whatsoever to the tragic low salaries of the workers! Compliments of the World Bank and I.M.F. were surely guaranteed with that kind of economic policy, and that is what probably was meant by "taking care of the economy", which according Rudy Kousbroek, was greatly neglected by Sukarno. In accordance with the accusation that Sukarno did not pay enough attention to the country's economy, one probably completely forgets that in 1962-1963 (thus immediately after the end of the 12 long years of misery caused by Joseph Luns and his New Guinea politics), Sukarno had decided that political stability was sufficiently ripened for an profound tackling of the economy; he was assisted in his plans by economic experts like Ali Wardhana, and Widjojo Nitisastro, who later also played a decisive role in the economic policies of Suharto. In the background was the decision of the PSI of Syahrir (the Subadio-Sudjatmoko faction), not the PSI-group of Prof. Sumitro, to cooperate with Sukarno to handle the rebuilding of the country, politically and economically.
     Do we still remember the DEKON, or Economic Declaration, the complementary better half of MANIPOL, or Political Manifest? Sudjatmoko, Ir. Sarbini and Ali Wardhana cum su'is were the brains behind those concepts. Why was it not launched earlier, and how was it possible that economic technocrats and the liquidated PSI wanted to cooperate with Sukarno?
     The reason was that the PSI followed a new course in order to thwart the relation between Sukarno and the PKI. According to PSI circles, there were quite a sufficient number of army officers - except General Yani - and also mysterious members among the PKI leadership, who had pretended loyalty towards their own fatherland, their President, and towards their direct superiors. Actually their royalty was directed somewhere else, that is to say toward their own real employers, the "dalang" mastermind, who worked with ingenious remote controls. The army and the PKI competed at that time, to launch on behalf of Sukarno - but without his knowledge - all sorts of manoeuvres for their own political benefit. The cold war forces indeed succeeded in penetrating deeply into the Indonesian army and the PKI, into individuals who let themselves be used as agents, and therewith were able to manipulate Indonesia's internal problems.
     Due to the events leading up to 1965, Guided Democracy did not get the necessary time to develop itself and naturally still time less to realize an economic policy, where results could be expected only after the long term. One could easily and blindly believe that Sukarno was never interested in economic matters. It is really too easy, whenever you just want to slander Sukarno in all possible manners, to fall back on this pet subject of the conservative press and quasi Indonesian experts like Rudy Kousbroek.
     Is it therefore not surprising, the wide spread misleading image in relation to Sukarno in Holland? In fact, The Netherlands had already lost Indonesia by making an inexcusable error when Dutch politicians put their support to Syahrir in order to play him off against Sukarno. It was tragically unlucky for The Netherlands, and also had unfortunate effects for Syahrir himself. This error could actually be repaired in the following years by the existing relations, but the opposite occured: the Dutch government and the conservative press opened a systematic offensive to discredit Sukarno by any means available.
     The Dutch choice fell then on Sutan Syahrir. With his esthetic, impressive and brilliant book "Indonesische Overpeinzingen" (Indonesian Reflections) he had revealed his true character. Syahrir was unquestionably a great freedom fighter. None-the-less he was as intellectual and a politician, and culturally speaking more European, or more accurately, more Dutch, than Indonesian nationalist, and therefore he was not a man of the masses. He was a thinker, a man who was always busy meditating politics. He would be a very suitable man of science, or a worthy dean of a university. The choice of Syahrir meant that The Netherlands drew only a few intellectuals and quasi intellectuals to their circles, in any case, certainly not the Indonesian people.
     Sukarno was surely no less intellectually formed, but he was, in the first place, a man of the people. The choice of Sukarno meant a choice for the heart and sympathy of the Indonesian people. Whether it is considered pleasant or not in The Hague, it was Sukarno and nobody else, who was the spokesman of the people's heart, "the extension of the people's tongue" as he literally liked to call himself. I certainly do not make the allegation that the choice of Sukarno after the second world war would return the Indies safe and well to the lap of the motherland. No, but The Netherlands could have won the heart of the Indonesian people together with Sukarno, which would have been very important for the foundation of a new kind of solid friendship between the two sovereign states, which for centuries had cultural and historical ties behind them. In my article about the then forthcoming state-visit of Queen Beatrix to Indonesia, I wrote that the opportunity in that direction had turned up again. Unfortunately, the heresy on Sukarno is being continued in The Netherlands.
     In closing, a simple wish: try to understand Indonesia of the time before 1965, objectively, without prejudice, and certainly without a Kousbroek pedantic air of knowing everything concerning Indonesian matters, even better than Indonesians themselves. Against such pathological prepossession, we are powerless.

Jakarta, October 1994                                                                      
Joesoef Isak

Joesoef Isak, prior to 1965, was a journalist, chief editor of the Indonesian newspaper Merdeka, and the general secretary of the Association of Afro-Asian Journalists. He was arrested without charge and detained as a political prisoner without trial for about 10 years. He is now publisher (Hasta Mitra) and editor of Pramoedya Ananta Toers's books.
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