Indonesian Independence (1945)
At the end of the Second World War, Sukarno’s Partai Nasional Indonesia (PKI) declares independence. The Dutch government is initially unable to accept the loss of the colony. It launches military campaigns, which are condemned by the United Nations, supported by the US. Four years later, sovereignty is transferred to Indonesia.
The end of the Second World War brought a period of immediate decolonization. On 17 August 1945 Sukarno was a civil engineer who had been active in politics from an early age. In 1927 he had set up a political party – the Partai Nasional Indonesia (PNI) to campaign for independence. Between 1929 and 1932 he was a political prisoner and in 1933 he was again imprisoned by the Dutch authorities until finally liberated by the Japanese, who exploited nationalist feelings in the country for their own ends.
In the Netherlands, there was a general expectation that the pre-war colonial status of Indonesia would be restored following the end of hostilities, despite the fact that Queen Wilhelmina had made a radio broadcast in 1942 promising to organise a post war government conference to arrange Indonesian independence. The Dutch underestimated the strength of Indonesian nationalist feeling and this was one of the factors which eventually prevented a gradual transition. Another was the Dutch view that colonial rule should be restored before talks on Independence could begin. However, Britain was unwilling to cooperate in this aim unless the representatives of the Republic were consulted. This was tantamount to a recognition of the Republic of Indonesia. In 1946, a conference was held in the Netherlands between representatives of the Republic and the Dutch government, but it proved impossible to reach agreement. In the same year, the Dutch parliament approved the Linggadjati Agreement, which provided for the eventual establishment of a Dutch-Indonesian Union consisting of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United States of Indonesia, headed by the Dutch Queen. Public opinion in the Netherlands and virtually all the political parties in the country were fiercely opposed to Indonesian self-rule.
In 1947, under pressure from breaches of the truce and Dutch companies who felt that their interests were under threat, the Netherlands embarked on the military operation known in Dutch history as the ‘first police action’. An indignant United Nations intervened by calling on the Netherlands to desist. A UN ‘Committee on Good Offices’ acted as an intermediary but could not prevent Dutch suspicions of the Republics intentions leading to a second military operation in 1948. Once again the UN intervened and this time a UN Commission for Indonesia (UNCI) was set up with powers to prepare for the transfer of sovereignty.
27 December 1949 in Amsterdam, it was finally took place.