Dutch ill prepared for the recolonialisation

The Dutch were so convinced that colonial rule could simply be restored that they did not see any problems employing previous political prisoners at administrative and even military positions that would give them access to confidential information and resources.  As a result, these people knew before the Dutch officials became aware that Indonesia – immediately after the surrender of the Japanese – had proclaimed their independence on August 17th, 1945 from Jalan Pegangsaan Timur No. 56, a house confiscated from its previous Dutch owners and presented to Sukarno by the Japanese.

The message was radioed to Australia where immediately 20,000 pamphlets of the proclamation were printed and handed out to their own as well as their Australian work mates, the trade unions, politicians and so on.

The ignorance of the Dutch was obvious in the fact that while they were in Australia many of their Indonesian personnel received military training – by both Dutch and Australian officers. Once back in Indonesia some of them even became captains and colonels of the Republican Army who fought a guerrilla war against the Dutch.

What, according to military historian Robert Stevens[1], didn’t’ help the recolonialisation effort was the fact that there were four different Dutch channels of intelligence gathering in relation to NEI, often operating under silo mentality[2], with overlap and different channels of communication to different people in the political leadership in the Netherlands. There was a difference of opinion within NEI and Dutch organisations involved in this process about:

  • the future of the NEI;
  • Indonesian independence;
  • the actual strength of the resistance movement and;
  • the threat of communism.

This sometimes led to conflicting information or interpretations. It was not until mid-1948 that a reorganisation took place that resulted in the Central Military Intelligence Service (CMI).

Apart from underestimating the strong independence sentiments among ‘Indonesians’, the Dutch were ill-prepared for the reoccupation of NEI. It took them over a month to get most of the material loaded on the ships to move it to NEI, by that time the ban was already in place and further delays of often many months followed.

These troubles together caused a delay of six precious weeks before Van Mook, Van der Plas and the rest of the NEI government arrived in Batavia. The war supply ship Van Heutz, with most of the colonial administration and archives was not loaded in time before the boycott broke out on September 24th . An even more serious  delay occurred for the ship the Karsik (an old coal loader) which had the money supply for the colony onboard, this ship didn’t arrive in Batavia until March 1946 which made it possible for the ‘Indonesians’ to further strengthen their economy with reissued Japanese occupation and pre-war NEI currency.

[1] R.J.J. Stevens –  Inleiding manipulatie van informatie? De rol van de Nederlandse militaire inlichtingendienst in Indonesië ten tijde van het Nederlands Indonesisch conflict 1945-1949

[2] The silo mentality can be defined as a mind-set present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same organisation.