Saturday, July 19, 2008

Australia's Role in Indonesia's Independence

[David's published this on his blog, go over there and check it out!]

[I'm republishing a blogging pal's post. Not sure why you deleted it D, but I read it, and thought it should be out there.

By the way, although some ppl probably find it uncomfortable, as far as I am aware it was the US who was THE big backer of Indonesian independence. Without the US things could've go on longer and been much bloodier -- having said that I am no expert.]


Back in 1999 at the height of the troubles in East Timor over its vote for independence, I posted a request on an Indonesian Studies mailing list for information about Australia's role in Indonesia's struggle for independence. I received the following reply from one Waruno Mahdi who was five years old at the time and communicated some of his memories -

there was both an official and an inofficial role of Australia, but I unfortunately do not have the literature sources, mostly fragmentary memmories....

Official: On July 39 1947, Australia and India brought the question of the situation in Indonesia before the UN Security Council. The Australian representative stated, that his country considered that "the hostilities in progress in Java and Sumatra constituted a breach of the peace under Article 39 of the Charter..." and proposed that "the Security Council should call upon the Governments of the Netherlands and the Republic of Indonesia to cease hostilities and to settle their dispute by arbitration in accordance with the Linggadjati Agreement" (UN Department of Public Information Research Section Background Paper No. 58 [ST/DPI/SER.A/58], Lake Success, New York; see there pp. 2-3).

Considering that hostilities had resumed as result of a renewed Dutch "police action", the Australian and Indian initiative in the UN had the effect of profiting the Indonesian side.

I have no concrete knowledge of Australian territory being directly used as base for outward communication from Yogya (provisional capital of the Republic), but seem to vaguely recall having heard something about a Catalina (an amphibean airplane) flying to-and-fro to Darwin (breaking the Dutch blockade). What I do know for sure is only that we had Dakotas (DC-2 cargo-and-passenger planes) flying likewise through the blockade to Manila over an eastern route, and to Bangkok in roundabout route over the Indian Ocean with stop-over in Medan in Sumatra. The pilots of the Dakotas were American volunteers. Those that got shot down (most were shot down, typically over Sumatra, where they were easy prey for Dutch Spitfires based in Palembang) contributed their lives for the cause of Indonesian independence. Who flew the Catalina, and what happenned with him I don't know.

Inofficial: Australian dockers (particularly, if I remember correctly, in Melbourne) boycotted Dutch ships. This must have been around 1948. I remember my father taking me on his lap - I was 5 years old then - and showing me a newspaper with a large photo of a freighter at a pier and telling me that people in many countries were helping us in our fight for independence. Later when I was older I saw that picture again in some publication, and it was a Dutch ship at an Australian pier, being boycotted - at 5 years my grasp of geography had been somewhat hazy...... (hence, when Aussy dockers boycotted Indonesian ships in solidarity with East Timor recently, that was in faithful continuation of a long and laudable tradition).

I gather, however, that your present interest is motivated by recent anti-Australian remonstrations in Jakarta in connection with developments in TimTim. That's very good of course, I mean both in being concerned about sustainment of Indonesian-Australian good relations, and in contributing to enlightening the remonstrators....., but essentially one needn't be too upset or worried about them.

The Army is kicking a tantrum for having been rapped on the knuckles, and in a frantic all-out campaign to save face, it is mobilising every trick it has up its sleeves. This includes spreading disinformation about Australia to impressible youth gangs, and particularly hiring demonstrators for money. But the period of Soeharto-style total censorship is thank goodness behind us for good. Indonesians are now exposed to a free press, and military propaganda lies sooner or later get exposed for what they are.

Indonesian relations to Australia have a much too deep footing, to be so easily disrupted. For people of my father's generation, who experienced World War 2 and took active part in the Perjuangan, our fight for independence, Australia is our back country, the last retreat. Even today still, my mother cannot listen to "Waltzing Matilda" without flutters in the heart. That had been the signal tune of Radio Australia during the period of Japanese occupation, when just listening to it could earn one the death sentence if one were caught.

To be frank, it very much hurt my feelings of propriety, when official Australia solidarised with Soeharto Indonesia's occupation of East Timor. So, you can imagine that I feel particularly gratified by your present engagement in helping keep the peace there. It's indeed more than just keeping the peace in East Timor, it's also contributing to the re-establishment of democracy in Indonesia itself. So we owe you our thanks for that.....


David said...

actually I planned to save it as a draft only while I sought feedback from Mr Mahdi. Accidentally published it and then immediately deleted it, but obviously Google's cache grabbed it pretty quickly :) I guess it'll be alright to publish it.

David said...

as for America's role, I'm sure that's true. I am only concerned with Australia's role at this point in time however.

johnorford said...

Sorry about that David, yep Google is to blame again! :)

Yep, I totally agree the pt of the piece is about Australia's role afterall.

David said...

no worries John. I've just republished it. :)