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The Dutch Return, This Time as Friends

Cornelis de Houtman, the first Dutch traveler to arrive in Indonesia and generations of other Dutch officials, traders and investors that came later, knew well how Indonesia could provide a lifeline for the Netherlands for hundreds of years, while making themselves very rich in the process.

And now, with Europe still struggling to cope with an economic downturn, Indonesia’s significance is back on the table, offering massive opportunities for the Dutch economy.

The Netherlands is sending its largest delegation since the independence of its former colony in 1945, a visit that has been dubbed by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as “the most serious effort to synergize the two countries that have deep historical ties for the sake of present and future mutual benefits.”

Dutch PM Mark RutteRutte, who leads 200 businesspeople representing more than 100 companies and research institutes on a three-day visit, will meet today with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as the Netherlands aims to build a new chapter of deeper cooperations with Indonesia, while trying to offset incidents that have damaged relations with its former colony in recent years.

“We have a long and difficult history together. But we must focus on the future, not only on the past, for the mutual benefits of the two countries,” Rutte told the Jakarta Globe in an interview in his office last week.

New era of relations

To show that the visit is historic and crucial, Rutte and Yudhoyono will sign an unprecedented joint declaration on comprehensive partnership between the two countries to take the relations to a new high.

The declaration will become an umbrella agreement for both countries to boost their cooperation further.

“The declaration marks the new era of our relations and cooperation. The partnership will focus on water management, logistics, infrastructure, food security and agriculture and education,” said Rutte, who will be accompanied by several key ministers and officials, including Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen and Minister for Agriculture Sharon Dijksma.

Rutte stressed that what is important for both the Netherlands and Indonesia is how the countries can benefit each other in the future.

Bernard Bot, an influential Dutch senior diplomat and former foreign minister, who declared in 2005 that the Netherlands acknowledged Indonesia’s independence in 1945, agreed that it’s time for both countries to come to terms with past and move ahead. “There’s so much we can do together for the sake of our future,” he said.

“It’s for real now,” Retno LP Marsudi, the Indonesian ambassador to the Netherlands, said in a separate interview.

Concrete offers

On water management, the Netherlands has funded a master plan for a massive sea wall in Jakarta Bay to prevent tidal flooding and to manage the flow of water within the capital.

The area behind the 35-kilometer long, 15-kilometer wide wall will be turned into office complexes, malls and other commercial buildings. There is even a plan to relocate all government offices to the area once it is completed by 2025.

“The master plan will be finished by early next year and groundbreaking will begin later in the year,” Retno said.

The Netherlands, Rutte said, has always had to deal with high water and sea waves in order to survive, considering that the country is partly below sea level. He added that his country would bring state-of-the-art technology for Indonesia to use.

“It’s time for the Netherlands to empower Indonesians by equipping them to fish, not by merely providing the fish,” said Jesse Kuijper, a businessman who will join Rutte to Jakarta and who heads the Netherlands-based Indonesia-Nederland Society.

On logistics, Dutch companies could help Indonesia build world-class seaports across the country while in agriculture several Dutch firms have offered their Indonesian counterparts investment and technology to enable the country’s farmers to produce food with the latest technology at a time when prices are rising and the nation is struggling to feed its people.

“The Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products, and we have many areas we can work together,” said Rutte.

In education, Indonesia has asked the Netherlands to treat Indonesian students as local students, so that they pay lower tuition fees. “It would be an excellent gesture from the Dutch government if the Indonesian students are treated as locals,” said Kuijper.

Difficult time in Europe

Rutte acknowledged that Europe and the Netherlands are facing tough times. “We have a difficult period at the moment. I do believe that we have made good strides but there is still a long way to go,” he said.

He said he admired Indonesia’s high economic growth of 6 percent annually. “We are jealous,” he said, smiling.

The latest figures from the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) show the Netherlands economy grew by just0,1 percent in the last quarter compared to the previous.

The CBS also reported that there were 46,000 fewer jobs in the third quarter.

“Indonesia can offer Dutch businesspeople a place for investment with a huge market of 240 million people and a growing middle class of over 100 million, as well as entry gate to the bigger market of Asean,” said Aleksius Jemadu, dean of Pelita Harapan University’s School of Social and Political Sciences.

He said the Netherlands now sees Indonesia as a successful democracy with long-term stability. “Relations between Indonesia and the Dutch should be more special — more than other ties — because we have a long history together. We can synergize, with Indonesia providing natural resources and markets and the Dutch providing capital, knowledge and technology,” Aleksius said.

He added that the Netherlands can offer Indonesia the opportunity to become a producer and not just a consumer. “It is now depending on Indonesia to realize the goals,” Aleksius said.

The Netherlands already is Indonesia’s second-biggest trading partner in Europe. In 2012, trade between the two countries was worth $4.7 billion.

Blast form the past

Relations between Indonesia and the Netherlands have experienced ups and downs, with two incidents proving particularly embarrassing for leaders of both countries in the last few years.

President Yudhoyono was forced to cancel his trip to the Netherlands in 2010 after a group of Moluccan independence activists filed a motion in the Dutch courts to arrest the president for gross human rights violations in Maluku and Papua.

Relations became tense after the trip was canceled, with many in Indonesia blaming the Dutch for insulting Yudhoyono.

The relations plunged into a new low when the Dutch government had to cancel the sale of Leopard tanks to Indonesia last year after the parliament voted to reject the deal. Indonesia then angrily turned to Germany to buy the same tanks.

Rutte, who loves Indonesian food like nasi goreng and sate and whose parents lived for some time in Indonesia, gave assurances such incidents would not happen again under his administration. “In fact, we are expecting President Yudhoyono to visit us next year,” he said.

About the Moluccan activists, Retno said everybody has the right to keep on dreaming. “But the question is whether or not it is realistic.”

She said relations between the two countries are getting better, with both sides understanding and trusting each other.

Retno also said the close connections between the people of the two countries meant Indonesia and the Netherlands could not afford to let relations cool.

Currently, 10 percent of the Netherlands’ 17 million population has direct or indirect links to Indonesia. And every year, Retno said, thousands of Indonesians travel to the Netherlands as tourists or for business, with the Dutch doing likewise.

Aleksius said fewer and fewer people in Indonesia see the Netherlands as a former colonial power.

“I don’t think it matters much now. People are becoming pragmatic, seeking concrete benefits and looking forward instead of being bothered by the past,” he said.

Source: The Jakarta Globe

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The Netherlands Sends Largest Ever Trade Mission to Indonesia

This week, a group of Dutch politicians and businessmen, led by prime minister Mark Rutte, will pay a four day visit to Indonesia.

The aim of the visit is to smoothen bilateral relations and search for business opportunities between both countries.

This Dutch group, which includes more than one hundred Dutch company delegates, forms the largest Dutch trade delegation that has visited Southeast Asia’s biggest economy in the modern history.

However, relations between the Netherlands and Indonesia are still complex today.

Obviously, the complexity of relations between both countries traces back to the colonial period, which brings along more emotions, in particular on the part of Indonesia.

Last year, commotion emerged after the Dutch parliament refused to sell army tanks to Indonesia because the Indonesian government might use these against its own people. This then became a laughing stock for Indonesians who pointed to the colonial past.

Moreover, in 2010, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cancelled a trip to the Netherlands at the last minute because the Dutch government could not guarantee Yudhoyono’s inviolability regarding a lawsuit filed by the government-in-exile of the Republic of South Maluku (RMS). The RMS issued legal proceedings to have Yudhoyono arrested upon entering the Netherlands.

Indonesia is a highly promising market. The country contains a large population (over 240 million people) with a rapidly expanding middle class.

Per capita GDP has been increasing strongly in recent years, implying that the expanding middle class segment has more and more money to spend.

Regarding commodities, Southeast Asia’s largest economy contains an abundance and variety, including palm oil, coal, nickel, rubber, and cocoa.

Despite the political sensitivities, trade relations between both countries have been growing robustly.

In the last three years, bilateral trade rose 25 percent to approximately €3.5 billion in 2012. As such, Indonesia is the fastest growing export market for the Netherlands in Asia.

However, there is still ample room for further growth and that is why the Dutch trade delegation, which includes Shell, Unilever, Philips and ING, is heading for Indonesia this week.

Source: indonesia-investments

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Dutch apologise for Indonesian executions

Formal apology for colonial era mass killings comes ahead of state visit by the Dutch prime minister to Jakarta.

The Dutch government has formally apologised for the mass killing of Indonesians during colonial occupation which ended in 1949.

The Dutch ambassador in Indonesia, Tjeerd de Zwaan, officially presented the state’s apology at a Jakarta ceremony on Thursday.

“On behalf of the Dutch government I apologise for these excesses,” De Zwaan said,

The Netherlands had already apologised and paid compensation in certain specific cases, but this was the first general apology for atrocities carried out during the colonial era.

“The Dutch government is aware that it bears a special responsibility in respect of Indonesian widows of victims of summary executions comparable to those carried out by Dutch troops in what was then Celebes (Sulawesi) and Rawa Gede (West Java),” De Zwaan added.

Representatives of the victims welcomed the apology.

“We feel grateful and very happy to be here. Before that we never imagined that it would be like this,” said one, Nurhaeni.

Westerling executions

Special forces from the Netherlands carried out a series of summary executions in its former colony between 1945 and 1949, killing thousands.

In total, about 40,000 people were executed during the colonial era, according to the Indonesian government; however, Dutch figures mention only a few thousand.

South Sulawesi was the site of one of the worst atrocities. On January 28, 1947, Dutch special forces executed 208 men on a field in front of a local government office.

It was one of the many mass murders by notorious captain Raymond Westerling who was long considered a hero in the Netherlands.

Westerling and his troops held summary executions in tens of villages for a period of three months in a bid to wipe out resistance against Dutch colonisation. Neither he or his men were ever prosecuted.

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Jakarta, said the Dutch government suddenly seemed in a hurry to apologise for the atrocities that were committed over 60 years ago.

“In a couple of months from now, the Dutch prime minister is visiting Indonesia and many have said it would actually be much more appropriate to issue the apology then. But suddenly they decided it had to happen today at the Dutch embassy and not in the places where these war crimes have taken place,” Vaessen said.

“They chose the embassy because they want to apologies for a lot more than only what happened in South Sulawesi and other places. They are apologising for all the war crimes, which the Dutch merely call excesses,” Vaessen added.

The Hague had previously apologised and paid out to the widows in individual cases but it had never said sorry or offered compensation for the victims of general summary executions.

Legal action

Two high-profile legal actions have resulted in 20,000 euros being awarded to the widows of some victims and a public apology for summary executions that took place on the island of Sulawesi and Rawagadeh, on the island of Java.

“When I received the money from the Netherlands I smelled it, I was so happy. But when I was smelling it I could not forget what happened to my husband. I was so sad,” Nani, a 93-year-old widow told Al Jazeera.

The father of Andi Mondji was one of 208 executed in Sulawesi. He witnessed it when he was still a small child.

“Look what I have lost back then, my grandmother was shot when she was 80 years old and my father was shot and another relative too. All of them shot dead. They should be able to imagine how I as a child have suffered because of this,” Mondji told Al Jazeera.

Source: Al Jazeera

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Papua development program aims to lure the young back to farming

As with many areas in Indonesia and around the world, people in Papua move from rural areas to the city. However, having lived close to their land for thousands of years their competitive streak in setting up small businesses lags behind that of migrants who have for generations had the skills to run businesses, according to Rio Pangemanan, Oxfam program manager on the Papua Enterprise Development Program.

In no corner of the town of Wamena will one see a shop that is owned or run by indigenous Papuans. Indigenous women with their noken (traditional Papuan woven bags) hanging from their heads to their backs sell sweet potatoes or vegetables on a cloth in the street markets. Young strong-limbed Papuan men push rickshaws, some even in bare feet. Others wander around the markets, intoxicated from glue-sniffing.

The UK based international development organization Oxfam is the international NGO that is allowed to operate in the province. Working with local partners, Oxfam has been supporting local farmers in five regencies in Papua in developing their farms and markets.

Oxfam supports the farmers according to the local needs and potential. For example, in Yapen Island, Oxfam has supported the Wamanuam Be Kitabono Yawa (WMY) Cooperative in cultivating vanilla beans. In Jayawijaya regency, the NGO has supported the Independent Business Foundation (Yapum) in cultivating and distributing sweet potatoes. Meanwhile in Paniai and Nabire Oxfam has supported their local partners in helping coffee farmers and in Jayapura, cacao farmers.

Oxfam’s contract ends next year, but Rio hopes that the NGO will get an extension for its programs. Rio said of the vanilla program in Serui that vanilla vines needed three years to produce beans, so new farmers would only have their first harvest in 2014. Rio said that by the end of 2014, he hoped the cooperative would be able to run independently.

Meanwhile in Wamena, Rio estimates that it will take two years for their partners to be independent in terms of management. He said that if the local government could take part in transportation and distribution of the produce, Oxfam’s partners, such as Yapum, would be able to operate independently once their management capacity had been strengthened.

In his office in Serui, Apolos Mora, the head of WMY cooperative said that for years vanilla trees grew in the wild in forests in Yapen. The Dutch brought the seeds when they opened coffee and chocolate farms on the island in the 1950s. “Before they [the Dutch] could teach the local people to cultivate vanilla, there was the transfer of power to Indonesia,” Apolos said.

One day in 2008, Apolos was reading about vanilla in the bookstore and an “Aha!” moment hit him as he realized that these plants were the ones that grew wild in the forest. When Madagascar, the largest vanilla pod producer in the world, had poor harvests, the price of vanilla pods skyrocketed to Rp 3 million (US$309) per kilogram, Apolos said. Apolos then decided to cultivate vanilla vines and trained the farmers joining his cooperative to plant vanilla too. He sells the pods to Manado, where they are exported to Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand. Recently, the price for dried vanilla pods was Rp 115,000 per kilogram.

PEDP manager, Rio Pangemanan, said that Oxfam supported programs according to the characteristics of the area. The island and coastal areas are more developed than the mountain areas due to ease of access to other islands in Indonesia. The mountain areas meanwhile are more isolated. This results in a different variety of crops that can be profitable to produce. While farmers in Serui can sell their crops in Manado, in Wamena farmers can only sell locally.

In Jayawijaya, Oxfam supports farmers revitalizing their sweet potato farms. Partnering with Yapum, they have developed 20 sweet potato collecting points in Jayawijaya that will distribute the crops to the markets in Wamena. Rio said that these collecting points had become a place for farmer’s advocacy and education to motivate the community to return to their farms instead of leaving for the city.

Local NGOs such as Yapum and WMY cooperative say that it is not always easy advocating for farmers to cultivate vanilla beans or sweet potatoes. Farmers’ programs in Papua are often project-based, in which farmers are given money to open rice paddies or fishponds. Once the funds dry up, the projects become neglected.

Eli Tabuni, the secretary of one of the sweet potato collecting points was one of the farmers who questioned the program. “This [sweet potato farming] is our culture, why are you making a project out of this?” he asked Yapum and Oxfam during their visit there. He said that many of the programs were only temporary and were not really helpful.

Kiloner Wenda, Oxfam Sweet Potato project officer in Jayawijaya, answered Eli in the Lani language with another question. “Where are the young people now who will work on the farms?” he said. “If we don’t start now, then our culture will slowly disappear,” he said.

Rio said that the projects aimed to support indigenous Papuan farmers in developing their business sense and opening their access to markets. In Wamena, women carrying their sweet potatoes from their villages to the market have to pay for transportation to the market for their heavy bags.

Yapum encourages them to sell the potatoes for Rp 5,000 per kilogram, and they only need to drop their crops at the collecting points. This way, the women did not have to travel far to the markets and could save on transportation, Rio said.

In Serui, the program has managed to attract young farmers, but in Wamena, whether the program will succeed in bringing the young back to the farms is yet to be seen. For the kids that like to play in the farm, their dreams are to be pilots and teachers, they say. But they will always love eating sweet potatoes.

Source: The Jakarta Post

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OPM attacks Indonesian military chopper in Papua

The separatist group, Free Papua Organization (OPM), shots at an Indonesian military helicopter in the province of Papua on Friday (22/02) as the crew was trying to evacuate the bodies of eight soldiers killed in the OPM’s attacks the day before.

Three crew members were wounded in Friday’s attack on the Super Puma helicopter, which was forced to abort its mission and rush the injured to a hospital, said Lt. Col. Jansen Simanjuntak, an army spokesman.

Eight soldiers and four civilians were killed in two separate attacks in the area on Thursday. The area is a stronghold of separatists who have battled Indonesian rule in the region.

In the deadliest attack Thursday, about 20 assailants armed with guns and machetes attacked a group of soldiers walking to Ilaga Airport in Puncak district to collect communication equipment, killing seven, Simanjuntak said.

Col. Agus Rianto, a national police spokesman said Friday, that four civilians were killed.

About an hour before that attack, OPM gunmen stormed an army post in Tingginambut, a village in neighboring Puncak Jaya district, and fatally shot one soldier and injured another before fleeing into the jungle, Simanjuntak said.

Simanjuntak identified the assailants as members of a local separatist group led by Goliat Tabuni.

Senior Security Minister Djoko Suyanto said the incidents were “very irresponsible acts by the OPM armed groups in Papua,” adding that “the government very strongly condemns such brutal incidents.” He said the perpetrators would be captured and prosecuted.

The former Dutch colony of Papua in the western part of New Guinea was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 following a U.N.-sponsored ballot.

Source: Associated Press

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OPM kills 8 soldiers, 2 civilians in Indonesia

Free Papua Organization (OPM) killed eight soldiers and two civilians Thursday (21/02) in two separate attacks against the Indonesian army in the restive easternmost province of Papua, the military said.

About 20 assailants armed with guns and machetes attacked a group of nine soldiers walking to Ilaga Airport in Puncak district to collect communication equipment, killing seven, provincial army spokesman Lt. Col. Jansen Simanjuntak said.

He said two civilians working in a nearby farm were also killed in the attack.

About an hour earlier, gunmen stormed an army post in Tinggi Nambut, a village in neighboring Puncak Jaya district, and fatally shot one soldier and injured another before fleeing into the jungle, Simanjuntak said.

Indonesian military spokesman Rear Adm. Iskandar Sitompul said the same group was responsible for both attacks in the area, a stronghold of separatists who have battled Indonesian rule.

“They are believed to be old players who always try to disturb the situation there,” Sitompul said in Jakarta, the capital.

Simanjuntak identified the assailants as a local separatist group led by Goliat Tabuni.

The former Dutch colony of Papua in the western part of New Guinea was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 following a U.N.-sponsored ballot.

Source: Associated Press

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3 Indonesian policemen killed, 1 missing after separatist gunmen storm police station

Around 50 armed members of the separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM) stormed a remote police station in Indonesia’s Papua province Tuesday (27/11), killing three policemen, police said.

The assailants — armed with modern weapons and traditional ones such as arrows — attacked the Pirime police station in mountainous district of Lanny Jaya early Tuesday, said Papua police spokesman Gede Sumerta Jaya.

“Four officers stationed there were overwhelmed with so many brutal attackers,” Jaya said. He added more than two dozen members of the police force’s elite mobile brigade (Brimob) were searching for the attackers and for the fourth officer who may have escaped into the jungle.

Jaya said the gunmen grabbed two rifles and a pistol before torching the station and fleeing into the jungle.

Tuesday’s attacks occurred ahead of the anniversary of the separatist group, which declared independence from Dutch rule on Dec. 1, 1961. That was rejected by the Dutch and later by Indonesia.(*wpnn)

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