«Its Causes, Course and Consequences A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in History in the ...»
In the case of the South Moluccas, the present author would argue that the South Moluccas ultimately owe their sense of independence, their strong sense of personal rights and their sense of loyalty to the pledged word, to the centuries-old influence of protestant Christianity, which was initiated by the East India Company with rapidly lessening zeal. The shades of the first seventeenth Century ministers of religion rise behind the present South Moluccans from the remote past.
The claim of the Dutch and the South l101uccans of Moluccan IlLoyalty through the Ages" has been denied by
Kaam argues that during the colonial period the Dutch robbed the Moluccan people of their history and, consequently, of the means of expressing their own identity.
It might well be suggested that he, in this instance, allows himself to get carried away by the same preoccupation with the more distant past that influenced some of the Orientalists of well over a century ago. One cannot brush aside 350 years of history, and the replacement of a relatively unsophisticated animistic society by a Christian westernised economy, as a mere interference ina people's history, as if it had no part in the shaping of their identity. Van Kaam also argues that the Dutch have a desire to represent their relationship with the Moluccans as being much more harmonious than it, in fact, was. "Thisll, he concludes, "is not difficult to explain, but is bad economic history "24. J.A.Manusama, President in Exile of the tlSouth Moluccan Republic" disagrees with him and makes this clear when he states in his book Om Recht en Vrijheid (For Justice
and Freedom) 25:
UDutch rule over the islands, which lasted more than 350 years, was never really seen as colonial oppression or colonial domination. But it did reduce these once so prosperous and rich spiceislands to the economically poor South Moluccas of today. There is no point in reproaching the Dutch for this and it would be completely futile to do so, because as well as the impoverishment and economic neglect of the country, they gave its inhabitants the Christian religion and western culture and civilisation ll • In other words, the Moluccans identified with the Dutch even though not blirid to their faults and shortcomings, and
"Liberal" historians of the nineteenth century, saw much of the history of the Moluccas from the sixteenth century onward as a fight of brave champions for free trade against the cruel East India Company out for profits only.
Of course this opposition was present, but there were much deeper causes. It was not only a matter of trade in spices;
it was much more a struggle between two religious ideologies, between Muslim and Christian, which can be taken much further back to old disagreements preceding the arrival of Europeans in the Far East. In addition there were the Portuguese who had to be driven out, and the Spaniards who had to be watched. There was the Sultan of Ternate who claimed sovereignty over the South Moluccas and the rivalry between the Uli-Lima and the Uli-Siwa. There were the British co~petitors and their suppliers, the spice smuggling Macassarese, who further complicated the situation. Add to this the many local tribal battles, and some idea of the Moluccan chaos in those days becomes clear.
It is not easy to pronounce positively on particular aspects, but the general picture that seems to emerge is that the Dutch East India Company, with the aid of their Moluccan allies, created a degree of peace and even a measure of welfare, the result of which is still evident today. At the very least the Moluccans would appear to have been resigned to the situation. It is true that litt research in depth has been done on the eighteenth century history of the Moluccas. But printed literature on Java and the V.O.C. as a whole would certainly have made mention of any serious uprising in the all important Spice Islands, had any occurred in that time.
It is equally difficult to pronounce on the causes of the Pattimura Revolt which disturbed this apparent peace.
As might be expected, differences arise between the Dutch and Indonesian views of this event. All the documents relating to this revolt, with the exception of the "Porto Report", are Dutch in origin, as are the personal and ship's Journals and the written accounts of eye witnesses. The reason for this, of course, is the fact that few documents, reports or journals of Moluccan origin have survived, if indeed they ever existed.
During a visit to Indonesia the author had the pleasure of meeting a number of Indonesian historians who have specialized in aspects of Ambonese history and who brought him up to date with recent Indonesian literature on the subject of Pattimura. As a matter of fact very little was written in independent Indonesia on this subject and until 1969, when Pattimura was proclaimed an official "National Hero of Indonesia", he was virtually unknown outside Moluccan circles. In the Moluccas, however, his story and that of his co-fighters, remained popular and became part of Ambonese folklore.
Since all the source material used for recent Indonesian accounts of the Pattimura Revolt has been included in the material used by the present author, any difference in opinions and conclusions must be a matter of interpretation. How widely this interpretation can vary is perhaps most clearly indicated by the fact that both the Republik Maluku Selatan and the Republic of Indonesia put forward Pattimura as "their" Freedom Hero.
F.Hitipeuw starts his little booklet on National
Hero pattimural with these stirring sentences:
ticly. Dutch imperialism was to last another hundred and thirty four years, and, at the end of that period, the people of the independent Republic of the South Moluccas (R.M.S.) found themselves engaged in a freedom war against what many of them saw as an imperialistic Republic of Indonesia.
By any western standards of today the Moluccans in the early nineteenth century were poor. But poverty is relative and, like the Russian peasants of almost a century later, they had to be made aware of the fact. This is not a rationalisation. The point has been made earlier that it required little effort of the Moluccans to satisfy their basic needs. Sago and fish were easily obtained and such payments as they received for their spices were, if required, made in the form of the cotton piecegoods they needed. There was evidence of a certain welfare which expressed itself in 1 F • Hitipeuw. Keunikan Perjuangan Pahlawan Nasional Pattilnura da'lam Menen'tang Pehjajahan di I1alu~3:!.' p. 5.
the building of beautiful churches which also served as The Ambonese, especially the Burgers, identified schools.
with the Europeans through their common Christianity.
Disillusionment came when the British twice took over the government without, as far as the Moluccans could see, much resistance by the Dutch. The brutal period of Daendels'rule, between the two British interregnums, brought this disappointment to a head, at least as far as the schoolmaster/pastors were concerned. Their influence and independence suffered badly because of the abolition of financial aid to school and church.
When, during the second British interregnum, the prestige of the Regents was diminished by stricter control and accountability, a second important elite group was alienated from the government. Although the schoolmasters' influence was strengthened for a while - when Resident Martin reinstated financial assistance to school and church
- they again became apprehensive when the return of the Dutch became imminent.
The general picture that comes through from this is that an atmosphere was created in which general discontent would thrive. Although the underlying causes did not really affect the villagers to any great extent, what did affect them were the immediate grievances, real or fabricated, which were used by the disgruntled Regents, schoolmasters and ex-members of the disbanded Ambon Corps, to - as Buyskes put it - fan the smouldering fires of revolt.
The leaders who inspired the revolt and the groups that supported them acted in response to these grievances and in accordance with a belief system that the Europeans did not understand or refused to accept. The adherents of the movement believed their causes to be righteous, their means to be potent and their leaders' solutions effective. Their perception of events that gave rise to the revolt and the factors that determined their mode of expression provided very different explanations of the rebellion than those offered by the European co1onisers. We have argued that these grievances were rooted in discontent that arose from the participants' personal experiences affecting the conditions under which they lived their everyday lives, and not from conscious perceptions of culture clashes and socio-cu1tura1 transformation.
In the Moluccas the re-introduction of Dutch rule was seen as a threat to the position of the established groups who felt that a gap was created between what they felt they deserved in terms of status and material reward and what they possessed or had the capacity to obtain. This perception of a discrepancy between expectations and capacities led to a sense of deprivation. Individuals and groups compared their status and abilities to those of others -for example, the inhabitants of Ceram - or those that existed, or were thought to have existed, in earlier times. In this type of process, the element of change is critical, for "change itself creates discrepancies between legitimate expectations and actualities, either by worsening the conditions of the group, or by exposing a group to new standards". Because the stress and frustration 2 For a discussion of these concepts see P.Curtin "Nationalism in Africa" Review of PoTitics Vol. 28 (1966) pp. 143-153.
that accompanied these feelings of relative deprivation were sufficiently intense and shared, they produced a protest movement in the Moluccas designed to close the gap between the participants' expectations and their capacities.
The lack of success of the revolt, after the first brief flash of victory, was due, in large measure, to the fact that participation by the population was neither total nor, in many cases, full-hearted. Because of their "ha1f European" status, the bulk of the Burgers remained loyal to the Dutch government in 1817, while, as we saw, the entire population of Nusa Laut was coerced into participation by directthreats.
Although the revolution was led by Burgers, these were, without exception, people with personal grievances, such as the schoolmasters who feared for their position, or the newly created Burgers, the ex-members of the Ambon Corps, who resented the fact that the new government had not re-engaged them on acceptable terms. The average villager did not stand to gain or lose all that much either way, which is probably the reason why, ln most instances, in the face of a determined attack by the Dutch, his resistance crumbled rapidly.
The result of the revolt, paradoxically, was a strengthening of the bond between Ambonese and Dutch. It was probably the realization that little advance would be possible in Ambon's agriculture, that determined Ambon's role hereafter. In ever increasing numbers the Ambonese
entered into Dutch military service, becoming, as it were, the Gurkhas of the Dutch colonial armYi they also joined the Dutch civil service in large numbers, becoming what
even Sukarno called them, in several of his speeches:
Be1anda Hitam - Black Dutchmen.
existence of the hundred and fifty years before the revolt, from which it was an aberration, had been restored. But for one abortive attempt at change in 1829, that peaceful co-existence was to continue for almost another one hundred and fifty years.
could often have been quoted: !lIn the past lies the present, in the now that which shall be". Each nation is determined to a great extent by its past.
The Dutch cannot be separated from their fight for freedom from the Spanish, when their Royal family and their national anthem were born; similarly the Indonesian Nationalists refer with greater or lesser justification to the great Javanese state of Madjapahit that thrived in the fifteenth century. So too, the history of the Ambonese people has its own character, an unmistakeab1e stamp that is hard to erase, namely a centuries-old alliance with the Dutch, which found strong expression in their high regard for the Royal House of Orange. Their.co-operation with the co10nisers even precedes the arrival of the Dutch in the East. It goes back to the Portuguese.
The Ambonese felt called to a special task, a feeling in which their acceptance of the Christian faith has played, and still plays, a very special role. Local protests, grumbling and the exceptional armed resistance are easily understood, given the strong self-assertiveness of the Ambonese but these were not typical of Ambonese/Dutch relationship. The Indonesian authorities who forcibly incorporated the Republic of the South Moluccas in 1951 were well aware of this bond and tried to create, beside this tradition of loyalty to the Dutch, a legend of fierce opposition to the colonial rulers. For this purpose the figure of Matulesia, now by preference called Pattimura, has been pushed to the fore. Previously unknown outside the Moluccas, he was now given the image of a Nationalist Freedom Fighter and in the seventies proclaimed an tlOfficial Hero of Indonesia". No other ethnic group in Indonesia has been subjected to such a strong attempt to bend their past in a historical sense. This prompts the question: If there was such a strong pro-Indonesian movement in Ambon prior to 1940, why should such an attempt be necessary? The other question that can also be asked is: Is this Ambonese loyalty still alive or did it disappear after the bloody demise of the Republik Ivlaluku Selatan? This latter question is hard to answer. The Ambonese who can protest vociferously can also be extremely tight-lipped about certain things.
But the fact that the Indonesian authorities found necessary to create their "counter myth", complete with statues and commemorative postage stamps, gives food for thought.
Netherlands, rather than become "Indonesians", must still have been imbued with that age old bond of loyalty, or they would not have gone. Successive Dutch governments have, we would argue, failed to perceive this and limited themselves to accommodating them socially, while completely ignoring their political aspirations. The breach of the Sovereignty Transfer Agreement, signed by the Indonesian Repub1ic,hard1y raised any official Dutch protest at all.
This Dutch attitude must have been a bitter disappointment to the Ambonese who, considering their past, would have at least expected sympathy and understanding for their political ideals.
The more the Moluccans clung to the ideal of their independent Repub1ik, the deeper became the gulf that separated the erstwhile allies. They did not want to be assimilated into a Dutch society they did not fully understand, nor did they want to become "Indonesians of Moluccan descent". And so a situation developed - surprisingly, especially among the younger generation, those who had left the Moluccas as small children or were born in Holland that led to the terrorist actions in the Netherlands in the late seventies.
How little understanding the Dutch had for this "Ambonese Problem" was evident by the debates in the House of Parliament after the train hi-jacking in Drente Province, when discussion focussed on the question: "How do we keep the brutes at bay?" Only one voice was heard urging a look
Department van Kolonien Archief No. 1058.
Schneither Archief Inv. Nr. 57 No. 128.
b. India Office Library and Records (LOndon) Bengal Board Collection P.168 Vol. 5 No. 10, July 1814.
Bengal Civil/Colonial No. 167/57, August l8l3/June 1814.
Bengal Proceedings, Colonial, E/4/376, May 1811.
Bengal Proceedings, Governor General in Council, P. 167/40, February l8l2i P. 174/29, March/May 1816.
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IV. ARTICLES Berg van Saparoea, !IDe Tragedie op het Eiland Saparoea in