Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference: a Peaceful Diplomacy Gets Violated

Roem-van Roijen - wikimedia.org
Roem-van Roijen - wikimedia.org

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “Independence” as freedom from being governed or ruled by another country. However, even after Indonesia declared its Independence on 17 August 1945, the country has not fully gained that freedom. As an archipelago country, Indonesia ought to struggle to secure the authority of various islands and areas in this state. There are many attempts to interrupt Indonesia’s independence as a country.

Right after Indonesia’s Independence Day, the dispute between Indonesia and the Dutch developed into an intense war. This conflict got international attention, and in the middle of 1946 both countries were demanded to negotiate. On July 1946, the Dutch initiated a meeting with Indonesians from the eastern area of Indonesia and rulers of local kingdoms. The conference was held in Malino, Sulawesi, and the result was to establish a state in the eastern part of Indonesia.

Looks like positive vibes started to appear, when both parties reach an agreement in November 1946 (Linggadjati Agreement). Resulted in 17 articles, one of the final agreements was the recognition of Sumatra, Java, and Madura as parts of Indonesian Republic and would later become the United States of Indonesia. Linggadjati Agreement was officially signed on 25 March 1947 in Batavia. Unfortunately, this agreement was misinterpreted and eventually created more conflict.

The Dutch agreed on forming a powerful and unlimited Dutch-Indonesian Union, in which the United States of Indonesia and the Republic of Indonesia only played a minor role. On the other hand, Indonesia accepted the Dutch-Indonesian Union more likely just as a symbolic act of peace. United States of Indonesia wanted a full control and the Republic of Indonesia would play a significant role. This disagreement led to another feud between Indonesia and the Netherlands.

To resolve this problem, Security Council of the United Nations tried to mediate by conducting The Renville Agreement—named after USS Renville, the ship on which the negotiation held. Conducted in 1948, the Renville Agreement resulted in recognition of Central Java, Jogjakarta, and Sumatra as the Indonesian Republic. Following that event, Roem-van Roijen Agreement was held in May 1949 in Jakarta. Roem-van Roijen Agreement resulted in several points of settlement, including the returning of Indonesian capital city to Jogjakarta. Negotiator Mohammad Roem also instructed that Indonesia should attend the Round Table Conference in order to step up the handover of authority.

Roem-van Roijen - wikimedia.org
Roem-van Roijen – wikimedia.org

After the Roem-van Roijen Agreement, Indonesia formed a team of representatives to participate in the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference. Indonesia’s Vice President at that time, Mohammad Hatta, was pointed as the team leader. The team members were some of Indonesia’s most prominent figures, such as Prof. Dr. Soepomo, Mr. Djuanda, and also Mohammad Roem. Besides the representatives of Indonesia and the Netherlands, BFO (Bijeenkomst voor Federaal Overleg) also participated in this conference. They were contributing in the conference as the delegates of many states created by the Dutch throughout the Indonesian archipelago.

On 23 August until 2 November 1949, the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference was held in Hague. The negotiation process between delegations of Indonesia, the Netherlands, and BFO was supported by the United Nations Commission for Indonesia. The Round Table Conference resulted numbers of arrangements. Among those agreements were:

  • Dismissal of Dutch army from Indonesia as soon as possible.
  • There shall be no inequity of rights against Dutch companies or nationality.
  • The Dutch-Indonesian Union would only be a a court of arbitration and consultative body to take care of any legal disagreements; with no supremacy power whatsoever.
  • All properties of the Dutch companies in Indonesia should be restored back to the Dutch government.
  • Indonesia agreed to paid the sum unpaid of the Dutch East Indies colonial government during the colonization era from the year 1942.
  • Netherlands agreed to recognize Indonesia’s full
  • The recognition of West Papua province as a part of Indonesia ought to be done within a year after the conference.

Unfortunately, the peaceful diplomacy of Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference was later violated by the Netherlands. They did another self-reinforcement in Papua through various actions of politic, economy, and military. The Netherlands took the territory of West Papua into their own territory, without negotiating or even informing Indonesia’s government. This was a major step back from every negotiation that Indonesia and the Netherlands have had in the past.

The Dutch argued that the West Papua territory did not belong to Indonesia, because the people of West Papua is Melanesians—not Indonesians. While it is true that Melanesian was physically and ethnically different from Indonesian, the fact is Indonesia has always been a large home for Melanesians. Besides West Papua, Melanesians in Indonesia are located in Maluku Island, South Maluku, and East Nusa Tenggara. It was unreasonable for the Dutch to take over West Papua unilaterally without any further negotiations with Indonesia.

After more than 15 years of unsuccessful attempts to gain authority of West Papua, Indonesian government finally decided to be more strategic. President Soekarno and Indonesian government in general have come to a sense that taking over West Papua requires a strategy which combined diplomatic, political, and economic pressure, along with military invasion. On 19 December 1961, Soekarno declare the Tri Komando Rakyat (Trikora) or People’s Triple Command, and formed a special team called Komando Mandala Pembebasan Irian Barat (the Mandala Command) to execute the Trikora Operation for taking over West Papua.