Six decades after the Dutch massacred hundreds of men and boys in Indonesia, the nation has finally received an apology for the bloodbath from the Dutch government.
In a ceremony in the village of Balongsari, the Dutch ambassador to Indonesia, Tjeerd de Zwan, apologized in both English and Indonesian for the tragic deaths that took place on the Indonesian island of Java.
“On behalf of the Dutch government, I apologize for the tragedy that took place in Rawagede on the 9th of December, 1947,” he said.
One widow, who lost her husband at 20, expressed her gratitude for the apology, which had been sideswiped by the Dutch for years.
“It makes me feel my struggle for justice was not useless,” Cawi binti Baisa said.
Dutch soldiers massacred up to 430 men and boys during Indonesia’s battle for independence during the breakdown of the global colonial system.
Although the Western European country previously expressed its regret over the massacre, Friday marks the first formal apology offered to Indonesia by the Dutch government.
The apology follows a milestone court ruling in which a Dutch court said that the Dutch were responsible for the slaughter on Java.
Indonesia proclaimed independence in August of 1945 and a four and a half year struggle between the Dutch and Indonesians ensued. After years of fighting, the Dutch finally recognized Indonesia as a sovereign independent state in 1949.
The move on behalf of the Netherlands is prompting some activists to question the past human rights record of Indonesia and it’s own officials.
In the 1960s, an estimated 500,000 communists were killed in the country and were purged from political, social and military life. The Indonesian government has yet to face a trial for the killings and the subject is rarely addressed in Indonesian politics, society and academic circles.