Netherlands East Indies Government-in-Exile (1944-1946)

Letter from the Netherlands’ to the Australian Government confirming the establishment of the NEI Government-in-Exile and the appointment of its Lieutenant-Governor-General van Mook. National Archives of Australia

Apart from policies regarding the direction of a post-war NEI there was tension between the Dutch-government-in-exile and the NEI government-in-exile, in relation to the decision-making process. Soon after the liberation of the southern Netherlands, on 14 September 1944, the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina decreed from London the official formation of a NEI government-in-Exile. This replaced the Netherlands East Indies Commission for Australia and New Zealand (NEICANZ) as it was established in 1942 in essence not much changed structurally and the renamed entity remained led by Van Mook. This time however, he was allowed to return from London to Camp Columbia in Brisbane where the NEI Government-in-Exile had its offices and accommodation facilities.

The main difference was that from now on they would be under the direct control of the Dutch Government who wanted a rapid recolonialisation. The Netherlands Military Administration now kept a tight rein on colonial officials such as Van Mook and Van der Plas, who were as we already discussed more open to a dialogue with the ‘Indonesians’ and were willing to look at different governance structures for the colony after the war. This differed from the official Dutch hardliner on the issue.

The NEI Government-in-Exile consisted of seven departments, whose directors would, along with Van Mook, constitute a legislative council.

  • Van der Plas, as Director of the Department of the Interior and Chairman of the Board of Departmental Heads
  • Dr N.S. Blom as Director of the Justice Department
  • Dr R.E. Smits as Director of the Finance Department
  • A. Kerstens as Director of the Education Department
  • H.W. Sitsen as Director of the Public Works Department
  • Van Oyen as Head of the Department of War
  • Van Hoogstraten as Director of the Economic Affairs Department and the acting General Secretary of the Government

Note that no Indonesians were part of this Government.

Van der Plas, Blom, Sitsen and Van Oyen had escaped with Van Mook in March 1942, while Van Hoogstraten and Smits had served on the NEI Commission at its inception. Kerstens was a former Dutch Minister for Trade, who while in the Netherlands had been appointed temporary Commissioner for NEI Affairs and then sent out in October 1944, to consult with the NEI Administration.

The directors held their first meeting in Melbourne on 23 May 1944. They had nine more meetings before reconvening at Camp Columbia on 23 August.

Because of differences in opinion, there were sometimes conflicting messages send to the Australian Government from the Dutch Ambassador in Canberra, toeing the hard line, and the more liberal thinking NEI-government-in-exile[1].

On 3 November 1944, the Dutch Ambassador in Canberra Van Aerssen Beyeren informed the Commonwealth of the formal closure of NEICANZ.  

In March 1946 most of the officials and their offices left Brisbane for the NEI and as such the NEI-government-in-exile no longer existed.

Camp Columbia at Wacol – Dutch preparing for re-colonialisation

[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