The Dutch government has agreed to finance a major investigation into the structural use of violence during the end of Dutch rule in its former colonies in Indonesia.
Ministers agreed on Friday to fund the project after new research indicated that extreme violence, including torture and executions, were normal during the colonial wars, which ran from 1945 to 1949.
In a statement, the cabinet said it realises that the research could ‘cause pain to soldiers who served in Indonesia’.
However, it is important that the research takes into account the ‘difficult circumstances most veterans operated in, the violence on the Indonesia side…. and the responsibilities of the political, administrative and military leadership.’
During the battle for independence, some 100,000 Indonesians and almost 5,000 Dutch nationals died. According to the Telegraaf, the ruling VVD only agreed to back the research if violence by both the Dutch and the Indonesians came under the spotlight.
‘Dutch soldiers left a trail of burning kampongs and piles of bodies throughout the Indonesian archipelago,’ Swiss-Dutch historian Rémy Limpach said in his report, which was published in September.
Until now, the official line had been that there were only isolated incidents of excessive violence.
‘The Netherlands has always had difficulty with this dark side of its own history,’ Socialist MP Harry van Bommel told the Volkskrant on Friday. ‘But I think this research is the start of a road towards recognition. It is primarily about political responsibility.’
The Dutch military interventions in Indonesia, or Dutch Indies as it was known then, followed the proclamation of the independent Republic of Indonesia in 1945 and lasted until the country formally gained independence in 1949 after a bloody struggle.
At the end of 2011, the Netherlands finally formally apologised for the massacre of hundreds of men and boys in the Javanese village of Rawagede in 1947.
The Netherlands has also been ordered in court to pay compensation in connection with a bloodbath in southern Sulawesi.
The research will be carried out by three Dutch institutes who submitted a specific research proposal in 2012, but failed to secure funding, the Telegraaf said.