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Speech Joty ter Kulve, Den Haag 23-08-2007

Schermerhorn, Sutan Sjahrir and Linggarjati

Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very honoured to be here with Drs. M. Habib Chirzin president of the Islamic Forum for Peace, Human Rights and Development Millennium. Mr Habib Chirzin is a world citicen and is highly respected in Indonesia and far beyond the Indonesian borders.

I would like to take you to a period during World War II in Indonesia, at that time still known as the Dutch East Indies. I was 14, the age my grandson Diederick is now, when I and my whole family, including grand parents, disappeared behind the barbed wire fence of a Japanese concentration camp. One of the many concentration camps in the archipelago. That’s where I learned about hunger; where my soul despaired in black nights. Still – and that is what I would like to pass on to my grandkids – in that camp I learned to discover the stars in those black nights and I have always tried to apply that the rest of my life.

When we were liberated from the camps, we expected to be able to pick up our previous kind of life again. Far from it; you are all aware of the history. We got involved in a colonial war with the Indonesians. Forced by the international community, The Netherlands in the end had to return to the negotiation table. Several negotiation sessions were held, but in the end, the most decisive one was the Linggarjati Agreement.
The house where the Linggarjati negotiations took place happened to be my parent’s house, build by my father Koos van Os, the home where I and my two siblings spent a magnificent youth.

This house, surrounded by lush gardens and the local population at the foot of the 3000 meter high volcano Mount Tjeremai, has been designated by the Indonesian Government as a museum, a symbol of their national war heritage. This museum is cherished and maintained under the auspices of the local government – the Bupati – and the central national authorities in Jakarta. In this context, it is noteworthy that this initiative by the Indonesian authorities of guarding and maintaining this war heritage object is remarkable. It is quite surprising that Indonesia maintains and cherishes a monument that until recently was not even part of Dutch colonial history, nor ever considered as part of the Dutch Colonial Heritage. Would it not be a manifestation of remarkable vision if a war heritage object be cherished and maintained by both countries…

What happened at Linggarjati? In November of 1946, negotiations between the Dutch delegation led by Professor Dr. Schermerhorn, a solid Protestant and the Indonesian delegation led by Sutan Sjahrir, the Premier of the recently proclaimed Republic of Indonesia and a devout Muslim, resulted in the Linggajati Agreement. Thus, Linggajati became the definite beginning of the formal process of decolonization. Prof. Schermerhorn and Sutan Sjahrir were ahead of the times. They were world citizens. They were democrats, because they were convinced that a nation should be in the hands of many and not individuals; that laws should give the same rights to all and that honor should be accorded to anybody that distinguished themselves in public life and not because of the class or the race of an individual but because of the individual’s worthiness. They were advocates of tolerance in personal interaction and adherence to the law in public life, in particular those laws that protect the oppressed and the unwritten laws that if broken, bring shame in the eyes of the public.

As true world citizens, Schermerhorn and Sjahrir realized that a definite blueprint of democracy does not exist. Democracy in the Republic of Korea for instance, is not the same as the one in Norway; the one in the United Kingdom differs from the one in the Netherlands and the United States has a form of democracy that is different from the one in the Philippines. Everyone seeks the best form.
Sutan Sjahrir was a man that has a place among the great freedom fighters in the world such as Gandhy from India, Senghor of Senegal, Mandela of South Africa. These leaders all represented the highest level of anti colonial leadership. They succeeded in keeping nationalism free from foreign influence. Prof. Schermerhorn too, was a special person and statesman who from the beginning worked towards full independence for Indonesia. During World War II he was held captive by the Germans and subsequently was a member of the resistance. Both these statesmen were champions of human rights.
Liberty, they taught us, is not bound to space or borders. Liberty begins in the mind. You can be free even when you are locked up in a concentration camp, on the other hand you can live in freedom and still be a prisoner.
World War II is far behind us, but the interest in The Netherlands as well as in Indonesia in our own history, is blossoming.

In November last year, the commemoration of the Dutch-Indonesian negotiations at Linggarjati sixty years ago was celebrated. On this occasion, in the presence of the Dutch Ambassador and representatives from the Stichting Vrienden van Linggarjati, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, Hasan Wirayuda, held an inspiring speech. He reiterated that the Linggarjati Museum had a deep meaning for Indonesia, would like to revitalize the museum and invited The Netherlands to participate.

The SVL has taken the initiative in this matter and has discussed it in general terms with the Dutch authorities, whom have shown a positive attitude. In this context, it is therefore with much pleasure that I can inform you that also from the side of “Het Gebaar” our foundation has been granted a substantial amount of money which will help efforts from our side to make this museum a unique project. Indeed, Linggarjati is a symbol for the next generations as well, not only as the actual place where two nations met, but also as a place where GLOBAL HISTORY – from a global historical perspective – offered new horizons and not just a look at history from a pure Dutch or pure Indonesian side only. A meeting that now, sixty years after the war, can teach our children that East and West, Christians and Muslims, people from all cultures, race and believes can indeed communicate and learn from one another. Learn to tolerate one another. We “Indische” people have a definite say in this. After the war, 300.000 of us, by choice or by force, had to repatriate to the Netherlands. You could say that we were the first “aliens” in Holland. In those days things did not always go smoothly either. I remember an aunt of mine who hung fish to dry on the cloth lines, grilled satéh on charcoal in the living room much to the irk of all the neighbors. Still, we too became respectable Dutchmen, didn’t we? Recently, a decision was made to create a Memorial in Arnhem, where all our memories shall find a lasting place. Also Linggarjati will be allocated its historical spot there.

The meaning of human rights is nothing but the right of every person to a humane existence. Our country has produced one of the great champions of tolerance, indispensable in the struggle for human rights: Erasmus, born in Rotterdam in 1469, died in Basel in 1563. What concerned Erasmus was the importance of teaching, learning, the exchange of thoughts based on humane sense. It brought about a gradual moral improvement, tolerance, forbearance. Never was he temped by bloody crusades; he always disapproved of violence and fanatism. He too, was a world citizen, seeing how he lived in different places and his wide contacts in Europe. He gave a strong impetus in Europe to the realization that all people should in fact be world citizens of equal standing. That everyone should contribute to the development of the community, but in such a way that reason would guide actions.

Should Erasmus be alive today, he would say: “People, let’s stop hitting each other on the head with all those dogmas. Our Holy Books were not intended to wage war. The majority of Christians, Hindus, Muslims and non-believers don’t want that. What we urgently need one another for are the huge challenges that are faced by humanity: poverty, environmental problems and etcetera.

Tolerance does not mean not caring, libertinism or opportunism. Tolerance is the deep, deep conviction that every person has the right to their own opinion, indeed, their own religion, but such opinions or religion should not, under any circumstances, be forced on others.
Linggarjati: Symbol of Human Rights.

Joty ter Kulve
August 23, 2007
The Hague

Speech Joty ter Kulve, Den Haag 7-12-2005

Linggajati. Many people ask me why did the Indonesians make a museum of the house where, in 1946, a conference was held between representatives of the Dutch and Indonesian governments who were seeking the next step in the decolonisation process then underway. This conference led to the ‘Accord of Linggajati’ which proposed a framework and set forth a context creating the basis for a new era of cooperation between the two nations. People ask why did President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visit the museum last August with so many of his Cabinet Ministers?

For Indonesia, the importance of turning the House into a museum – named Gedung Naskah – was the ‘de facto’ recognition of the Indonesian Republic for the first time in their fight for Independence. The Indonesians consider the Linggarjati agreement as a political landmark in the process to Independence. A political landmark reached through negotiations and not through violence. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono shares that conviction. That is why he decided to visit the Gedung Naskah (House were the agreement was signed). Unfortunately, the agreement was not accepted, and the result was the second ‘poliionele actie’ (police action) in 1947. With the museum, the Indonesians want to express the respect for the history of their country, and to remind the coming generations of their struggle for Freedom and Independence.

What is the importance for the Dutch? The museum is a symbol for the relationship between Indonesia and the Netherlands during 400 years of colonisation. It may also be a place to memorialise all those Euro-Asians who were born out of the assimilation of many nations during our colonial history. Arabs, Dutch, Africans, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Belgians…

During the whole process of decolonisation, Linggajati was a moment of enlightenment. A moment in which two very opposite sides, with totally different interests and perceptions about the future for Indonesia, had to make a decision. And we should not think too lightly about the human feelings, which certainly played a part. Just think of the young student Hatta in Rotterdam, who was jailed because he possessed a pamphlet about Independence. Sjahrir, who studied in Holland and was married to a Dutch girl who never received permission from the Dutch to join her husband in Indonesia. And we should not forget the long internment of Sukarno in Flores and bangkahulu, Hatta and Sjahrir in Boven Digoel, Banda Neira and at last in Sukabumi. For the Indonesians, those men are their ‘Mandelas’. For the Dutch, they were ‘rebels’.

And then there was the Dutch delegation that came to Indonesia just after World War II. They had missed much of what had been happening in the world during the war, such as the awakening of the Asian countries. The Netherlands were impoverished during the war. And they thought they would go bankrupt without Indonesia. “Indonesiie verloren, rampspoed geboren.” The economic factor. Before World War II, thirty percent of the budget of the Netherlands came from the Dutch East Indies.

For the Indonesians, Linggarjati significantly enhanced their psychological self-image. It strengthened the moral stature, as well as the sense of freedom and independence of Indonesia. It was the first time in their history with the Dutch people that they received acknowledgement as a nation. Perhaps one factor in the negations was the human rapport between Schermerhorn, who was heading the Dutch delegation, and Soekarno. The two men hit it off very well.
It is a coincidence of history that the agreement of Linggarjati took place in our home, built by my father. Linggajati is a little village at the slope of the gunung Tjeremee, the highest volcano of Java Barat.

My brother, who visited Indonesia many times for his work at the United Nations Fund for Population, often visited Linggarjati out of sentimental reasons. He was not the only one. Since 1981, first many Dutch veterans, and later many tourists visited the Gedung Naskah. Now, nearly every week a busload of Dutch tourists visits Linggarjati.
One day my brother phoned me and asked if I would help him start a foundation called ‘Friends of Linggajati’ that could raise funds to help the Indonesians manage the Gedung Naskah and preserve it in good condition. Well, that is how it began. Then some historians joined us, and an architect Cor Passchier who had experience in restoring colonial buildings. He is now chairman of the ‘Friends of Linggajati’.

Like all new projects there have been many challenges in both Indonesia and Holland.
The willingness of the Indonesian government to support our project was there almost from the beginning. Indonesian politicians acknowledge the great importance of a modern museum in Linggajati. That is also the reason for the moral support of the Minister of Culture and Foreign Affairs. The existing museum is in a bad condition. In the opinion of the Indonesians, what is needed is a modern set-up, capable of giving adequate information to the Indonesian people, especially the youth.

My brother told me the reaction of the former Minister of State, Mr. Frans Seda, when my brother first shared his vision for Linggarjati with him: “Dr van Os, this is the right time. Our youth knows nothing anymore of the past”. This joint project can contribute a little to the arduous process of creating better cooperation and understanding between our two nations. We think that they deserve our technical and financial support.

In the Netherlands, support for Linggajati was, and is, more complicated. Perhaps people first wanted to know who we were, and what our mission was. Were we an NGO, or what? However, through some people such as Professor Sanders, who is nearly 100 years old and is the only survivor who attended the Linggarjati conference, and former Ambassador Jonkman, we were able to discuss Linggarjati with officials in the Foreign Affairs office.

Now we are sixty years later. For at least a million Dutch, Indonesia is not just like any other country. It is their birth ground (tanah air). Their ancestors have worked there and are buried there. For over seventy years, my brother and I have managed to keep my father’s grave in one piece. His grave is the only Dutch grave to be found in Cirebon. A million Dutchmen like my brother and me have their own story to tell. Thousands of small projects by Dutch citizens show that. Some people have been building small water tanks in Flores, as in the mountains no water is available. Others have small educational and health projects. They all want to express their bonds and love for their motherland.

In a strange way Linggajati is a vital part of the globalization process that is making the world one entity. Globalization is far more than just economic and financial integration. It is also understanding and valuing other people and cultures. It is the shrinking of the world through technology. Certainly we learned that on December 26, 2004 when masses of people suddenly became our neighbours as the Asian Tsunami swept over twelve nations. And now we have the unprecedented catastrophe of Pakistan where Relief Agencies say there simply aren’t enough tents to take care of the refugees who need them.

With 220 million inhabitants, Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. So I think Indonesia could be a bridge between East and West. During my recent visit to Indonesia, I was struck by two items I read in the newspapers. First, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who said Indonesia is like a rainbow. All cultures and religions in harmony with each other. The second was the initiative of the Nahdatul Ulama van Gus Dur and Muhamadyah van Amien Rais (leaders of a great majority of the moderate Muslims in Indonesia) to invite people of other faiths, such as Christians and Buddhists, to join them in a united federation against terrorism.

Globalization has many advantages. But it presents challenges as well. For it is bringing cultures and religions that, for centuries developed in relative isolation, into immediate and close contact with each other. Certainly we see this challenge in Europe. Muslims who have settled in Europe desperately need jobs, social services, and integration into the larger society.

But we must find a way to resolve the deeper spiritual and philosophical differences as well. I am thinking particularly of the clash between the postmodern European culture and the Muslim faith. The essence of cultural postmodernism is doubt, sensual experience, cynicism and irony. This is at the heart of European secularism. And it’s not only Europe. Despite what we see in the media about religious fundamentalism in America, there is increasing evidence that postmodernism is at the core of the American cultural ethos. Just look at the movies Hollywood produces.

Yet the heart of Islam is faith in the Divine, in some power beyond oneself. And this underlying cultural/spiritual difference is at the very core of the upheaval taking place not only in France and Holland, but throughout Europe.
That is why countries like Indonesia, Morocco and Jordan stand at the frontline of what is happening in the Muslim world. As the King of Jordan recently said, the entire Muslim community faces a struggle between those who seek a moderate way forward, and those who would choose a more militant way. Throughout the Muslim world, a discussion is taking place. Yes they want to be part of the advances of the 21 st century. But, yes, they want to keep their faith. They do not want to become a copy of the alienated Western personality.

This is why Linggajati can be so relevant. Linggajati can be a training centre for young Indonesians to (1) learn about their history, (2) meet people from other cultures and nations, and (3) learn what is required to live in a global age.

My generation had to cope with wars between Europeans, as well as with wars in other parts of the world. Now this generation has to find ways to live together, to match your lives and characters so you will be able to solve the problems of the 21 st century. And it may be as you learn to solve the great problems of this age – poverty, water, health, and more – you will learn that you can only do this tremendous job working together with all people from all cultures and faiths who will head in the same direction together. Humankind till now has always matched the challenge of the hour. Sometimes only at the last moment. But I am an optimist, and when I look at my children and grandchildren I think they – and you – will do it.

Bankers: ABN-AMRO Bank, Leusden, account nr.


Written by Habib Chirzin

November 24, 2008 at 9:46 am

Posted in 1

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