DEAR MS Femke Halsema and Mr. Mark Rutte,
MALUKU – On Thursday, July 1, 2021, the Mayor of the city of Amsterdam, Ms Femke Halsema, officially apologized for Amsterdam’s involvement in the global slave trade during the Dutch colonial era. Ms Halsema apology made Amsterdam the first city in the Netherlands who apologies for their role in the global slave trade. In her speech Ms Halsema stated that: “Research shows that from the late 16th century to the 19th century, Amsterdam was worldwide and on a large scale directly involved into the slavery business.’ And, according to Ms Halsema, also in Indonesia.
In essence Ms Halsema apology for slavery is a good and very noble deed. But Ms Halsema apology became awkward when she also apologized to Indonesia for this enslavement period. Awkward because the nation of Indonesia did not exist in the ‘East-India or Dutch-Indies’ region from the late 16th century to the 19th century. (from Aceh in the West to Papua in the East, and from Miangas in the North to Rote in the South).
And because the nation Indonesia did not exist in the ‘East India or Dutch-Indies’ region in the late 16th century to 19th century, Ms Halsema apology to Indonesia for Dutch slavery is a historic mistake. Because Ms Halsema apology was not conveyed to any of the nations who was actually a victim of enslavement during that period. On the contrary, Ms Halsema apology was delivered to a nation who did not exist during this period. And that’s why Ms Halsema apology lost its value of kindness and nobility.
Indonesia as a nation did not exist at the end of the 16th to 19th centuries, so the nation of Indonesia was actually not a victim of slavery in the East-Indies/Dutch-Indies era. Because during that era 300 nations were victims of enslavement in the East-Indies/ Dutch-Indies region. And of those 300 nations East-Indies/ Dutch-Indies region at the end of the 16th to the 19th century, not a single nation was named Indonesia.
These 300 nations are the ones who experienced the injuries, pain and suffering of the enslavement that occurred at the end of the 16th to 19th century in the East-Indies/Dutch-Indies region. The names of some of the 300 nations are Aceh, Batak, Minang, Sundanese, Dayak, Madurese, Bugis, Makassar, Buton, Minahasa, Flores, Mandar, Bali, Alifuru (Maluku), and Papua. These are the nations Ms Halsema should apologize to. And not to Indonesia.
It was this “anthropological body” of 300 nations in the East-Indies/Dutch-Indies region that felt the pain of enslavement in the late 16th to 19th century, namely the “anthropological body” of the Acehnese, Batak, Nias, Minang, Rejang, Mandar, Mentawai, Malay, Jambi, Lampung, Palembang, Sundanese, Betawi, Madura, Dayak, Bone, Bugis, Makasar, Goa, Tallo, Buton, Toraja, Minahasa, Sumbawa, Flores, Sasak, Bali, Alifuru (Maluku), Papua and others.
The nation of Indonesia does not have an “anthropological body”. Indonesia only has a “political body”. And Indonesia’s “political body” itself has not yet been completely formed. Indonesia’s “political body” is still in the process of turning it from potential to actual. Indonesia’s “political body” was even born “prematurely” with a “congenital disability” that has a tendency to be a “permanent disability”.
When delivering an apology regarding slavery on Thursday, July 1, 2021, Ms Halsema should not have replaced the “anthropological body” of the 300 nations, as mentioned above, with the “political body” of Indonesia. Because “anthropological body” and “political body” are 2 (two) different entities born from 2 (two) substantially different thinking concepts. And because of that, “anthropological bodies” and “political bodies” cannot be exchanged or equated, let alone united. Thus, Ms Halsema made a historic mistake by apologizing for slavery to Indonesia on Thursday, July 1, 2021. Ms Halsema apology to Indonesia for the enslavement period is an apology without a legal status.
The historic mistake made by Ms Halsema on Thursday, 1 July 2021, will hopefully not be repeated by Mr Mark Rutte (Prime Minister of the Netherlands) who has made plans to – mid-December 2022 – apologize for the history of the Netherlands as a country who practiced slavery in colonial countries in the past. One of the countries where Mr Rutte will apologize to is Indonesia. In relation to Mr Rutte intention to apology to Indonesia, Mr Rutte must consider the saying: “As stupid as donkey is, a donkey will never stumble twice on the same rock”.
Hopefully Mr Rutte doesn’t become the second person to make the same historic mistake as Ms Halsema made on Thursday, July 1, 2021. Because wasn’t it that Thursday, July 1, 2021, Mr Rutte himself stated that he disagreed with the apology for slavery that was stated by Ms Halsema (?). And isn’t it that Thursday, July 1, 2021, Mr Rutte strongly and decisively rejects the planned call for the Kingdom of the Netherlands to officially apologize for slavery (?). Why is it that now Mr Rutte has taken the opposite action, by becoming the front person who will apologize for slavery on behalf of the people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (?)
Ms Halsema apology – and perhaps later also Mr Rutte apology – should not be a pragmatic and ceremonial political tradition in the modern Netherlands history, but that apology must be stated honestly and in the right way to fulfil a sense of justice to every nation who were the real victims of this ‘evil deed’ (slavery).
Even though the government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands has allocated a “slavery awareness fund” in the amount of 200 million euro or as much as 3.000 billion Indonesian rupiah (exchange rate: €. 1 = Rp. 15,000), the “fund” will lose value, meaning, benefits and usefulness, if Mr Rutte apology is conveyed to Indonesia and not delivered to the 300 nations who are the real victims of the enslavement period slavery that took place in the East-Indies/Dutch-Indies region at the end of the 16th century to the 19th century.
The people and government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands should not become like the priests and elders of the Jews who killed Jesus of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) by paying 30 pieces of silver to Judas of Kerioth (Judas Iskarioth) for the murder of Jesus Christ. Remember that, if the people and government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands became like the priests and elders of the Jews, then the money amounted to 200 million euro or 3.000 billion Indonesian rupiah will be “blood money”.
Judas Iskarioth, who felt guilty for having received the 30 pieces of silver, gave back the 30 pieces of silver to the priests and elders of the Jews. Vice versa, if 200 million euro was given by the people and government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Indonesia, Indonesia will never give back that amount of money to the people and government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, even if the 200 million euro clearly and evidently belongs to 300 nations that existed in the East-Indies/Dutch-Indies region. In reality those 300 nations are the real victims of enslavement that took place in the late 16th to 19th centuries, and not the nation of Indonesia.
The author is a Citizenship Education Lecturer at the Ambon State Polytechnic