The Dutch ambassador to Indonesia attended today’s memorial service for those that died in the 1947 massacre of Rawagede on West Java, in which almost every man in the village was wiped out.
It was the first time a representative of the Dutch government has attended the annual event, and comes at a time when pressure is mounting for an official apology for the killing.
The massacre took place during the five years of guerilla war which preceded Indonesian independence when Dutch soldiers executed some 431 men and boys from the village.
In his speech, which was in Indonesian, Nikolaos van Dam referred to earlier ‘sincere apologies from the Dutch government.’ Until now, the official Dutch line has been to say ‘sorry’ for the massacre.
But in the Dutch version of the speech, the word apology or excuses do not appear. Instead, the word ‘regret’ was used.
After his speech, the ambassador said he words could be taken as an apology. ‘For me, [apologies and saying sorry] are the same,’ he said.
Batara Hutagalung, who is behind efforts to get the Dutch government to aplogies properly, said the ambassador sent out a mixed message. ‘Was he speaking about apologies or about regret?’ Hutagalung said. ‘He says they are the same thing, but they are not.’
In 2005m when the then foreign minister Ben Bot spoke about the massacre, he too used the word ‘regret’
Last month, the Dutch government ruled out compensating the survivors and relatives of those killed because the case is too old.
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