The Japanese occupied all of the Dutch East Indies from 1942 to 1945. Unlike the collaborationists found in the Western Indonesian islands, the Moluccans retreated to the mountains to maintain guerrilla war against the Japanese, eventually forming a South Moluccan brigade. And, at war’s end, they saw in the approaching independence of the 3,500 once-Dutch islands, the realization of the dream of South Moluccan statehood.
Indonesia became a semi-autonomous nation under the Linggadjati Agreement of 1947 which made The Netherlands East Indies a federation of “autonomous states” as part of the greater Dutch Commonwealth under Dutch military authority. Java and Sumatra were the principal states. The South Moluccas technically became part of the State of east Indonesia, which also included Celebes and the predominantly Moslem North Moluccas.
(The South Moluccan brigade was incorporatecd into the Dutch forces of Eastern Indonesia and helped repulse a Jvanese invasion in violation of the Linggadjati Agreement.)
Representatives of the Netherlands, together with those of Java, the South Moluccas and all the other autonomous states of the East Indies, gathered in 1948 at the Round Table Conference in The Hague. Here the ‘United States of Indonesia” was formed. Parties present agreed as follow:
· That the new federation would be composed of self-governing states
· That the people of each state would have an opportunity to agree or disagree with the“definitive”
· That where one of the autonomous states refused to agree to the conditions, the state would have the right to negotiate a special relationship to both The Netherlands and the United States of Indonesia; and
· That pending the completion of a constitutional structure, each stae would posses equal rights.
However, as soon as the Javanese assumed control in Jakarta, they violated the Round Table agreement. Java’s President Sukarno sought unified nationhood dominated by the principal island.
Failing in its attempts to negotiate with Sukarno, the
democratically elected Daerah (Assembly) of the South Moluccas declared its independence as a republic on April 25,1950.
This meant war. In addition to the forces which had fought the Japanese, new recruits prepared to meet invasion from the western islands. And outside of the islands, some 4000 soldiers of the Moluccan brigade of the Dutch army thwarted in their efforts to join their countrymen. Instead of being discharged, they and their families - 12.000 in all – were transported without their consent to the Netherlands.
The preliminary Javanese invasion occurred at Buru on July 13, 1950 with more than 1,000 soldiers killed. On July 25, the South Moluccans petitioned the United Nation to intercede. Mediation efforts were spurned. The principal invasion was a landing at Ambon on September 25, 1950; and more than 15,000 Javanese-led troops fell before the city was taken on November 5th. On December 5th, the South Moluccan army withdrew to the mother island of Ceram.
South Moluccans trace their ancestry back to the Alifoeroes branch of the Melanesian people who occupied the islands as early as 1000 B.C.
Arab traders began sending South Moluccan cloves and nutmeg to Europe by 300 B.C., while the first Europeans to reach Ambon by sea were the Portugese in 1513 A.D., also engaging in the spice trade. (Cloves obtained by the ships of Ferdinand Magellan in the Moluccas repaid the cost of the first circumnavigation of the globe.)
The Netherlands was the colonial power for 350 years, beginning with the seizure of Ambon in 1605. Like most colonial powers, the Dutch were mainly interested in short term, large profits, but their administration was marked by particularly poor management. (For example, nutmeg trees were cut down everywhere except in Banda, and they tried to force the more knowledgeable Moluccan agricultural leaders to plant cloves in the areas, etc.) In the enforcement process, the Dutch faced revolts in 1636, 1646 and 1816 which were crushed unmercifully. Due to Dutch maladministration, according to historian Willard Hanna, the Moluccas lost their onccommanding position in the world spice trade to Zanzibar, Madagascar and Grenada.
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