Category Archives: Indonesia

Along the Sumatra Railroad, August 1945

From Chapter VI, The golden spike, in The Sumatra Railroad: Final Destination Pakan Baroe, 1943-1945, by Henk Hovinga, trans. by Bernard J. Wolters (KITLV Press, 2010), pp. 276-281:

It was 15 August 1945. The previous night telexes had spread the news across the world: ‘Japan surrendered. Armistice on 15 August at 00.00 hrs.’ The Japanese officers there in the godforsaken green heart of Sumatra also knew that. They shouted: ‘Banzai Nippon’ while they knew that they had been defeated. But they kept quiet. They only talked about the railway that was finally completed at the cost of immeasurable human suffering. At the cost of more than eighty thousand dead, the vast majority of which were romushas.

The POWs who were waiting motionlessly between the trees, still had no knowledge of the surrender. With sweat dripping down their chins, they did not dare to move. Ignorant of this historical moment in the world’s history, they looked breathlessly at how the bottle on the table was uncorked, how the glasses went around and the biscuits were presented. A short while later the tense ceremony, that had lasted not even half an hour, was abruptly terminated. Tables and chairs were hastily loaded on to the lorries after the emaciated workers had also been offered a biscuit and a swig from a bottle. Then they were ordered back to the trains. One departed to the north, the other to the south, to the camp in the gorge, where fresh rumours had circulated in the meantime….

That evening, shortly before sundown, the POWs were counted and recounted. All men had returned from the railway. The Japanese commander stepped forward in front of the hundreds of almost naked human wrecks. The ribs could be counted on most of them; many were covered in wounds and tropical ulcers. With their hollow eyes they tensely watched the well-fed, arrogant Japanese. Would he announce what they had all for so long desperately wanted to hear? Lieutenant Visser interpreted:

‘Now that the railway is finished, thanks to the efforts of all of you, I have been given the authority in the name of His Majesty, the Emperor, to inform you that all of you are permitted to rest from this moment on. In a short while you will all be relocated to more pleasant parts of the country. As of today all rations of rice, vegetables and meat will be increased. You will be provided with these new rations as soon as we receive new stock. At this moment we do not have any meat or vegetables and we have only a supply of rice for a few days. Pending your relocation, you are not permitted to leave the camp.’

That was all…. The choking uncertainty lasted for over a week, while the men were hanging around the camp with nothing to do. It was probably 24 August when the first train with a real steam powered locomotive stopped at Camp 11…. On August 27 a second contingent of POWs was transferred in the same manner…. The last group from the south departed on 30 August, taking with them the entire inventory of the camp that was now completely abandoned….

‘We obtained complete certainty a little later during roll call. Lieutenant Visser stepped forward and shouted: “Today is 31 August. It is the birthday of our beloved Queen Wilhelmina. That is why together we are now going to sing our national anthem, the Wilhelmus: one, two, three…” But nobody had the courage. “Then I will do it alone”, Visser said as he began to sing. Fearfully, we looked at the Jap, but when he did not move we all joined in one after the other. At first hesitatingly, but then louder, from the heart. It was a very strange moment. I saw the Jap slowly move his legs; he put down his samurai sword and stood up. When the last words of the anthem sounded, he stood directly across from us and saluted. That was when we knew. At last! We hardly dared to believe it, but this time it was true. We were free. We cheered, shouted and cried. We were free. Finally free…’

Without an official Japanese declaration of surrender lieutenant Visser’s group was the last to find out that the war was over. Two weeks earlier the wildest rumours of a possible surrender had already been going around the first camps near Pakan Baroe ['New Market']. Mid August hope of an impending liberation was also glimmering in Camp 2 when the usually sadistic Koreans suddenly turned friendly, even inviting a group of prisoners from the camp staff to a meal! That had to occur at midnight and without knowledge of the Japanese. Naturally the place that would be least likely to attract undesired visitors and snoopers was the cemetery on the other side of the stream. There, at the graveyards, the Koreans offered the representatives of their victims a conciliatory meal. They told the captives that the war was almost over and that they, the POWs, should not be too hard on them. After all Korea had also been occupied and suppressed by the Japanese for years, so that the prisoners and the guards were actually partners in adversity….

When a few days later the news of liberation seeped through to everyone, the most heart-warming scenes took place everywhere along the railway. On 25 August at eight o’clock in the morning the POWs in Logas (Camp 9) were informed that the war was over. The Japs disarmed the Koreans, while a Korean non-commissioned officer stood to attention before a Japanese soldier third class. The next day all ducks and chickens of the Japanese camp commander had disappeared. They had been consumed by the prisoners.

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Maggot therapy in Sumatra, 1944

From Chapter IV, Maggots with sambal, in The Sumatra Railroad: Final Destination Pakan Baroe, 1943-1945, by Henk Hovinga, trans. by Bernard J. Wolters (KITLV Press, 2010), pp. 184, 186:

A great problem in many camps was the acquisition of an adequate amount of proteins. Even though in Camp 3 little fish were caught in the river with a klamboe [= Malay kelambu 'mosquito net', also borrowed into Tok Pisin], most other camps were not near a river. Again Indonesians knew that the maggots of fire ants and coconut beetles were edible and also palatable when cooked with sambal. Doctor W.J. van Ramshorst, who was fighting a losing battle against disease, came to similar conclusions:

‘The greatest problem was the lack of food. The sick men were totally emaciated and had lost their immunity to all kinds of infectious diseases. I got the idea to use maggots from the chickens that were quickly becoming fat foraging around the latrines, feeding on the fly maggots there. There was always a cloud of flies buzzing over the holes in the ground where people were defaecating. And I thought to myself, what is good for chickens, must also be good for men. It is a filthy story, but we hauled those maggots by the bucketful from the latrines, washed them, cooked them and gave them to the sick men with sambal. On this protein rich diet their condition improved visibly.

I made another discovery in that terrible camp, where those working on the railroad were sent to die. We had no disinfectants to treat the filthy tropical ulcers. But again maggots were the solution. I bound an old rag with larvae around the wound and after a few days it was cleaned beautifully. Many still died from undernourishment, beri-beri, malaria and bacillary dysentery, for which we had no cure. But at least with those maggots we were able to save a good number of our people.’

POW Ben Wolters discovered another remedy for tropical ulcers, when two large ones developed on his left foot instep. One afternoon he was sleeping on his left side on the balé-balé [bamboo stretcher on wooden posts] with his left foot instep toward the boards. He woke up due to an itch in the ulcers, which had turned dark red. When he took a closer look and inspected them he saw tiny ants. They had removed all deleterious material. After [he removed] the tiny ants, he covered the wounds with a cloth patch and glued it with fresh liquid latex from a rubber tree. Soon the wounds were healed. And so ants and maggots made a positive contribution to the POWs’ lives.

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Some Loanwords in Indonesian/Malay: A

From: Loan-Words in Indonesian and Malay, ed. by Russell Jones (KITLV Press, 2007), ignoring the far too numerous loans from Arabic, Dutch, and English.

Chinese

aci (Amoy) elder sister
ahsiu (Amoy) dried, salted duck
a i (Amoy) aunt (addressing younger than speaker’s mother)
akew (Hakka) term of address for boy (‘little dog’)
amah (Amoy) female servant
amho (Amoy) secret sign, password
amoi (Chiangchiu) younger sister; girl
ampai (Amoy) detective
angciu (Amoy) red wine
angco (Amoy) dried Chinese dates (Z. jujuba)
ancoa (Amoy) how can that be?
anghun (Amoy) shredded tobacco
angkak (Amoy) grains of red sticky rice (O. glutinosa)
angki (Amoy) persimmon (D. kaki)
angkin (Amoy) waist belt
angkong (Amoy) grandfather
angkong (Amoy) ricksha
anglo (Amoy) heating stove
anglung (Amoy) pavilion
angpai (Amoy) card game employing 56 cards
angpau (Amoy) present given at Chinese new year
angsio (Amoy) braise in soy sauce
angso (Amoy) red bamboo shoot
apa (Amoy) dad, father
apak (Hakka) old man, ‘uncle’ (lit. father’s elder brother)
apék (Amoy) old man, ‘uncle’ (lit. father’s elder brother)
apiun (Amoy) opium
asuk (Hakka) ‘uncle’, father’s younger brother

Hindi

abaimana anal and urethral orifices (with regard to ablution)
acita fine rice
anggerka gown
antari inner
arwa saw-edged knife
aruda rue (bot.)
ayah Indian nurse

Japanese

anata you
arigato thank you
aza hamlet

Persian

acar pickles
adas fennel
aftab sun
agar in order to
agha nobleman
ahli versed in; member of
aiwan hall
ajaibkhanah museum
akhtaj vassal
almas diamond
anggur grape
anjir fig
arzak beautiful gem
asa mint
asabat nerve
asmani heavenly
atisnyak fiery, glowing
azad faultless

Portuguese

alabangka lever
alketip carpet
alpayaté tailor
alpérés ensign, sublieutenant
andor (obs.) a litter on which images of saints were borne
antero whole
aria lower away (naut.)
arku bow (of a kite)
aria, aris-aris bolt rope, shrouds (naut.)
arkus arches (triumphal, with festoons)
armada armada, squadron, naval fleet
asar roast; barbecue

Sanskrit

acara program, agenda
adi beginning, first, best, superior
adibusana haute couture
adicita ideology
adidaya superpower
adikarya masterpiece
adimarga boulevard
adipati governor
adipura cleanest (etc.) city (chosen annually)
adiraja royal by descent
adiratna jewel, beautiful woman
adisiswa best student
adiwangsa of high nobility
adiwarna glowing with colour
agama religion
agamiwan religious person
ahimsa non-violence
aksara letter
amerta immortal
amerta nectar
amra mango
ancala mountain
anda musk gland
Andoman Hanuman
anduwan foot chain
anéka all kinds of
anékawarna multi-coloured
anggota member
angka number, figure
angkara insolence, cruel
angkasa sky
angkasawan astronaut; broadcaster
angkasawati astronaut; broadcaster (fem.)
angkus elephant-goad
angsa goose
aniaya violation
anjangkarya working visit
antakusuma cloth made from several pieces
antar- inter-
antara (in) between
antarabangsa international
antariksa sky
antariksawan astronaut
antariksawati astronaut (fem.)
antamuka interface (of computer)
antarnegara international
anugerah (royal) favour
anumerta posthumous
apsari nymph
arca image; computer icon
aria a high title
arti meaning
Arya Aryan race
aryaduta ambassador
asmara love
asmaraloka world of love
asrama hostel
asta cubit
asta eight
astagina eightfold
astaka octagonal bench
astakona octagon
astana palace
asusila immoral
atau or
atma(n) soul

Tamil

acaram wedding ring
acu mould, model
andai possibility
anéka various, diverse
anékaragam various kinds
apam rice flour cake
awa- free from
awanama anonymous
awatara incarnation
awawarna blanched, decolorized

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The Financial Ascent of the Dutch VOC

From: The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, by Niall Ferguson (Penguin, 2008), Kindle Loc. 1780-1831:

The campaign for a reform of what would now be called the VOC’s corporate governance duly bore fruit. In December 1622, when the Company’s charter was renewed, it was substantially modified. Directors would no longer be appointed for life but could serve for only three years at a time. The ‘chief participants’ (shareholders with as much equity as directors) were henceforth entitled to nominate ‘Nine Men’ from among themselves, whom the Seventeen Lords were obliged to consult on ‘great and important matters’, and who would be entitled to oversee the annual accounting of the six chambers and to nominate, jointly with the Seventeen Lords, future candidates for directorships. In addition, in March 1623, it was agreed that the Nine Men would be entitled to attend (but not to vote at) the meetings of the Seventeen Lords and to scrutinize the annual purchasing accounts. The chief participants were also empowered to appoint auditors (rekening-opnemers) to check the accounts submitted to the States-General. Shareholders were further mollified by the decision, in 1632, to set a standard 12.5 per cent dividend, twice the rate at which the Company was able to borrow money. The result of this policy was that virtually all of the Company’s net profits thereafter were distributed to the shareholders. Shareholders were also effectively guaranteed against dilution of their equity. Amazingly, the capital base remained essentially unchanged throughout the VOC’s existence. When capital expenditures were called for, the VOC raised money not by issuing new shares but by issuing debt in the form of bonds. Indeed, so good was the Company’s credit by the 1670s that it was able to act as an intermediary for a two-million-guilder loan by the States of Holland and Zeeland.

None of these arrangements would have been sustainable, of course, if the VOC had not become profitable in the mid seventeenth century. This was in substantial measure the achievement of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, a bellicose young man who had no illusions about the relationship between commerce and coercion. As Coen himself put it: ‘We cannot make war without trade, nor trade without war.’ He was ruthless in his treatment of competitors, executing British East India Company officials at Amboyna and effectively wiping out the indigenous Bandanese. A natural-born empire builder, Coen seized control of the small Javanese port of Jakarta in May 1619, renamed it Batavia and, aged just 30, duly became the first governor-general of the Dutch East Indies. He and his successor, Antonie van Diemen, systematically expanded Dutch power in the region, driving the British from the Banda Islands, the Spaniards from Ternate and Tidore, and the Portuguese from Malacca. By 1657 the Dutch controlled most of Ceylon (Sri Lanka); the following decade saw further expansion along the Malabar coast on the subcontinent and into the island of Celebes (Sulawesi). There were also thriving Dutch bases on the Coromandel coast. Fire-power and foreign trade sailed side by side on ships like the Batavia – a splendid replica of which can be seen today at Lelystad on the coast of Holland.

The commercial payoffs of this aggressive strategy were substantial. By the 1650s, the VOC had established an effective and highly lucrative monopoly on the export of cloves, mace and nutmeg (the production of pepper was too widely dispersed for it to be monopolized) and was becoming a major conduit for Indian textile exports from Coromandel. It was also acting as a hub for intra-Asian trade, exchanging Japanese silver and copper for Indian textiles and Chinese gold and silk. In turn, Indian textiles could be traded for pepper and spices from the Pacific islands, which could be used to purchase precious metals from the Middle East. Later, the Company provided financial services to other Europeans in Asia, not least Robert Clive, who transferred a large part of the fortune he had made from conquering Bengal back to London via Batavia and Amsterdam. As the world’s first big corporation, the VOC was able to combine economies of scale with reduced transaction costs and what economists call network externalities, the benefit of pooling information between multiple employees and agents. As was true of the English East India Company, the VOC’s biggest challenge was the principal-agent problem: the tendency of its men on the spot to trade on their own account, bungle transactions or simply defraud the company. This, however, was partially countered by an unusual compensation system, which linked remuneration to investments and sales, putting a priority on turnover rather than net profits. Business boomed. In the 1620s, fifty VOC ships had returned from Asia laden with goods; by the 1690s the number was 156. Between 1700 and 1750 the tonnage of Dutch shipping sailing back around the Cape doubled. As late as 1760 it was still roughly three times the amount of British shipping.

The economic and political ascent of the VOC can be traced in its share price. The Amsterdam stock market was certainly volatile, as investors reacted to rumours of war, peace and shipwrecks in a way vividly described by the Sephardic Jew Joseph Penso de la Vega in his aptly named book Confusión de Confusiones (1688). Yet the long-term trend was clearly upward for more than a century after the Company’s foundation. Between 1602 and 1733, VOC stock rose from par (100) to an all-time peak of 786, this despite the fact that from 1652 until the Glorious Revolution of 1688 the Company was being challenged by bellicose British competition. Such sustained capital appreciation, combined with the regular dividends and stable consumer prices, ensured that major shareholders like Dirck Bas became very wealthy indeed. As early as 1650, total dividend payments were already eight times the original investment, implying an annual rate of return of 27 per cent. The striking point, however, is that there was never such a thing as a Dutch East India Company bubble. Unlike the Dutch tulip futures bubble of 1636-7, the ascent of the VOC stock price was gradual, spread over more than a century, and, though its descent was more rapid, it still took more than sixty years to fall back down to 120 in December 1794. This rise and fall closely tracked the rise and fall of the Dutch Empire. The prices of shares in other monopoly trading companies, outwardly similar to the VOC, would behave very differently, soaring and slumping in the space of just a few months.

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Sumatra, Dec. 1945: The Japanese Army Retaliates

From A Japanese Memoir of Sumatra, 1945-46: Love and Hatred in the Liberation War, by Takao Fusayama (Equinox, 2010), pp. 121-123:

Maj. Gen. Sawamura, the regiment commander, who had been so patient thus far, had at last run out of patience. The compassion and compunction he felt for his soldiers, who had been cruelly killed [by Indonesian nationalist youths] while restraining their fire in accordance with his orders, rested heavily on his heart. He reported the situation and his resolution to the divisional headquarters by wireless and asked the divisional commander for permission to attack the Indonesians. The surprised divisional commander sent a telegram to warn against such a rash act and sent his senior staff officer, Lt. Col. Muromoto, to Tebing in a hurry.

The Communist party in North Sumatra had not joined in the attack on the Japanese. Instead, it maintained connections with the divisional headquarters, expressing its willingness to cooperate. Since the road to Tebing under the control of the Indonesian youths seemed to be too dangerous for a Japanese car, Lt. Col. Muromoto used a Communist party jeep, for the journey.

In general, the behavior of the Indonesian Communist party in Sumatra toward the Japanese was completely different from that of the party in Java. The Communists generally did not like the fact that Indonesian independence was supported by the Asian nationalism of the Japanese, and in Java they sought to cause hatred and trouble between the Japanese and the local people. The Communist party in East Sumatra, however, had never caused any trouble for the Japanese. Instead, it had been cooperative. The head of the party was Abdul Xarim, a famous independence leader who had often been imprisoned by the Dutch. He was released by the Japanese army and became an active cooperator as the head of the Fatherland Defense Association to inspire Indonesians in Sumatra to patriotism and Asian nationalism, mobilizing young people for the defense services. When he became head of the Communist party after the war’s end, all the Japanese were very surprised. But his party did not cause any trouble, unlike the Communists in Java. He was in reality a nationalist, and resisted Dutch colonialism as well as the control of the international Communists. He was, therefore, expelled by Communist headquarters in Java some years later.

Staff Officer Muromoto, arriving in Tebing, found the situation was much more serious than his division headquarters had guessed. It seemed difficult to sway the resolve of Maj. Gen. Sawamura, whose many beloved subordinates had been killed. In addition, it was believed that the Japanese would continue to be killed if no response was made to the massacres. Consequently, Lt. Col. Muromoto finally agreed that Tebing should be attacked. He reported his opinion to the division commander who responded by granting his permission. Maj. Gen. Sawamura immediately announced the order to attack. The soldiers of the 5th Regiment, who were watching this process with bated breath, simultaneously stood up in high spirits.

His Excellency Sawamura has ordered an attack. The regiment commander, who thus far prohibited any attack, has finally given his permission. Comrades, be pleased. We will retaliate for you. His Excellency Sawamura has ordered retaliation at last.

At 3 o’clock on December 13, a battalion commanded by Maj. Takayasu Seno that was well known for its smart operations, left Bahilang. Before departing. Commander Seno warned all his troops: “This is a war against the youth party. Attack them resolutely. The enemy, however, is only the radical youth party. Never injure any other inhabitants. Anyone damaging the name of our glorious Imperial Guard Regiment will be strictly punished.”

After closing off the four exits to the city with small groups of troops, the main force rushed into the town from the south with two tanks at its head. Field cannons were not used in this attack because the soldiers did not want to injure the general public. The youths of Pesindo resisted at the entrance with fierce firing, but the tanks opened the way, crushing the barricades, and soldiers followed behind on foot. The youths were surprised as the Japanese soldiers’ bullets, which had never before been directed against Indonesians, began to hit them. They retreated, gathering in their headquarters in the central square. They shot from all windows with rifles and machine guns, but ran out when the tank guns hit the house. The battalion thus occupied the house in a short period of time. The street fighting continued until late in the day and several Japanese soldiers were killed or wounded. Since the troops closing the road to Medan at the Padang Bridge initially concealed themselves behind the west bank, a large group of the radicals who tried to run out across the bridge became victims of the machine guns from a Japanese ambush.

The next day, with the cooperation of Indonesian policemen and moderate inhabitants, the occupying force searched the entire city and arrested the hidden radical youths and agitators. Those arrested were examined again and anyone proved to be a friend of the Japanese was released. Parapat, the Tebing Branch leader of the Fifth Corps, was one of those released. Some fifty remaining radicals were later killed and buried in a corner of the central square. All the Indonesians in the city were astonished by the unexpectedly severe attitude of the Japanese army who had looked so faint-hearted after losing the war.

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Origins of the Indonesian National Army

From A Japanese Memoir of Sumatra, 1945-46: Love and Hatred in the Liberation War, by Takao Fusayama (Equinox, 2010), pp. 38-42:

The Allied Forces began a full-scale advance on Indonesia by the end of September [1945]. Three British-Indian divisions commanded by Lt. Gen. Sir Phillip Christison advanced to Indonesia, with two divisions allocated to Java and one division to Sumatra. Before leaving Singapore for Indonesia, Christison declared that his army was landing in Indonesia only for the purpose of disarming the Japanese and had no desire to intervene in the domestic affairs of the Dutch East Indies.

The 2nd Southern Expeditionary Fleet of the Japanese navy commanded by Vice Admiral Yaichiro Shibata and the Mixed Defense Brigade of the Japanese army commanded by Major General Shigeo Iwabe were stationed in Surabaya. They were caught in a serious dilemma between their wish to hand over their arms to Indonesians and the prohibition by the Allied Forces. Fortunately, something happened to resolve their dilemma. On September 21, a Dutch advance officer, Captain Huijer, unexpectedly landed in Surabaya accompanied by only a few soldiers. Displaying his authority as the victor, he defiantly ordered the Japanese commanders to surrender to him immediately and to leave their arms under the guard of the Indonesian authorities until the Allied Forces took them over. Because Captain Huijer used to live in Surabaya, he thought that most Indonesians would be obedient to the Dutch when they returned, just like before. He did not know that the attitude of the Indonesian people had completely changed during the Japanese occupation.

When the Indonesians rushed to the Japanese barracks, Vice Admiral Shibata and Major General Iwabe ordered their soldiers to hand over all arms without resisting, explaining that in obeying the orders of Captain Huijer, the Japanese forces were to disarm themselves, leaving their weapons in the care of the Indonesians until the Allied Forces received them. The Indonesians thus obtained 26,000 rifles, 600 machine guns, cannons, anti-aircraft guns, and other weapons in the space of a few days. A large amount of war funds were also secretly given to the Indonesians by a naval paymaster, Lt. Kazuyuki Mike. A great Indonesian military power was thus established for the first time.

On October 5, President Sukarno announced the foundation of his public security force, Tentera Keamanan Rakyat (TKR) and steadily expanded the army by gathering together the former volunteer and auxiliary soldiers trained by the Japanese. Ten divisions in Java and six in Sumatra were organized.

On October 26, the 49th British-Indian Brigade of 5,000 landed in Surabaya. The Indonesian force in Surabaya, who were well-armed with Japanese weapons, resolutely risked a night attack taught by the Japanese and completely destroyed the brigade, killing the commander. In early November, the British forces made an all-out counterattack on Surabaya, with one complete division of 24,000 and the support of shelling from warships and bombing from airplanes. Indonesian anti-aircraft guns given by the Japanese shot down three of the planes. The street fighting continued until November 12. The Indonesians tenaciously continued to resist with the song of “Merdeka atau Mati [Freedom or Death]” blaring through loud speakers….

In addition to the establishment of the independent government, the Indonesian soldiers who had been trained by the Japanese as Giyugun [義勇軍 'Loyal Manly (=Volunteer) Army' or] Heiho [兵補 'Soldier Assistant/Probationary'], and discharged at the time of the Japanese surrender, quietly gathered back at the Giyugun barracks. They were organized into the public security force, the TKR, with educated youths appointed to various positions as commanders.

A further category of labor mobilized by the Imperial Japanese military was known as 挺身隊 teishintai ‘offer self/body corps’ (Kor. Chongshindae or Jeongshindae), which included various sorts of organized physical labor battalions, including those euphemistically called “comfort women” (従軍慰安婦 jūgun ianfu ‘serve-military comfort/consolation/amusement-women’).

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Japanese Revolutionaries in Indonesia, 1945-46

From the Introduction by Saya Shiraishi to A Japanese Memoir of Sumatra, 1945-46: Love and Hatred in the Liberation War, by Takao Fusayama (Equinox, 2010), pp. 9-11, 13-14:

I have three namelists in front of me which I acquired during the course of my research on the Japanese occupation of North Sumatra. They were composed by a former Japanese military officer in Medan, East Sumatra, and dated May 11, 1952. The title of the first list reads, in Japanese, “Namelist of the Japanese who died in battle or of illness in/around Medan.” It contains 102 names, each with information concerning the person’s “former military affiliation,” “hometown” in Japan (one, however, is from Korea, one from Taiwan), and a brief record of how and where he died. A certain “Shimada,” for example, “died during the fight against the Dutch in front of Siantar Railroad Station, July 27, 1947. An art college graduate, an excellent painter.”

Three notes at the end of the list inform the reader that there are 88 additional Japanese who reportedly died in the region, among them the 83 who were massacred in Tebing Tinggi in December 1945 (see below, Chapter 8), but their names are unknown. There may have been further deaths which have not been confirmed. With the few exceptions of those who died of malaria or other illnesses, “most are martyrs to Indonesian independence who fell in battle against the Dutch.”

All the deaths took place after August 15, 1945, the date marking the “end” of World War II for Japan. This record provides a basis for the claim that there were more Japanese casualties during Indonesia’s revolutionary war than during Japan’s three-and-a-half year occupation of the tropical land.

The second list contains 97 names of the “members of the Japanese Association in Medan.” It provides such data as birth date, age, former military affiliation, family address in Japan, current address, marriage and children, current occupation. These men were living in Medan with their families (presumably Indonesian-born) as “mechanics,” “automobile repairmen,” “plantation clerks,” “pharmacists,” “blacksmiths,” “judo instructors” etc. Their birth dates range from 1907 to 1923. When the list was prepared in 1952, they were 29 to 45 years old. Some had already lived in Sumatra for ten years since the Japanese landing in the island in 1942.

I was also told in interviews I conducted during my research that, in addition to the names listed here, there must be other Japanese who when they married entered the wives’ families, becoming Muslims, acquiring Indonesian names, and being lost to their fellow Japanese. A few more names would then be mentioned of those who had come to the Dutch East Indies before World War II, had subsequently been recruited to serve in the Japanese occupation government, and then remained on in Indonesia which had apparently become their home.

The third list contains 20 names, with their family addresses in Japan, of people who in 1952 had just been sent back by ship to Japan from Medan. I met some of these returnees in Tokyo in 1974. One said that he was happy that he had been able to come back to Japan, had started life anew, and was planning to write a memoir after his retirement. Indeed, his book was published some years later. Another made it clear that he had been “forced” by the Indonesian government to leave the village in Aceh where he was farming. According to his old friends, he had close trusting relationships with the religious and political leaders in Aceh, among them the charismatic Tgk. Daud Beureueh who was to lead a revolt against the government in 1953. Two others did not want to talk about their experiences. They were working for the Japan-Indonesia petroleum trade and their “past” was currently both an asset and liability It was not an “unforgettable, exotic” experience, but their life was still tied to it.

During the 1970s, large numbers of war-time memoirs were written* and published in Japan. Among them, the “Indonesian experience” of sharing with young revolutionaries their historical moment (the period of the revolutionary war rather than Japan’s occupation of the land) was remembered with unfading enthusiasm. The experience was something too significant for the veterans to let it vanish from their life.

    *The combined figure is significant enough considering the fact that by the end of World War II, (1) in the whole of Sumatra, there was only one division (Konoe-Daini Division) in the north and one brigade in the south; (2) due to the drastic reduction in the numbers of Japanese soldiers, the “division” barely managed to maintain its structure through incorporating the hastily organized Giyu-gun forces of local youths (at least 15 companies and 4 platoons in Aceh, 4 companies and 3 platoons in Medan) into its rank and file. See Saya Shiraishi, “Nihon Gunsei Ka no Aceh [Aceh under the Japanese Military Administration]” Southeast Asia: History and Culture [Tokyo] 5 (1975): 141.


The readers of this “documentary novel” written by Takao Fusayama will perceive the zeal with which his story is narrated. It is also his dedication that has brought his recollections across the Pacific. He not only published his memoir in Japanese, but also took the pains to translate it into English himself and search for an English-speaking audience. This unceasing commitment to the memory of the brief period of their youth, during which the lives of some hundreds of Japanese young men actually did change, is the notable feature shared by other memoirs as well. Behind their narratives we find this zeal for life. It is there, because it was their own life. Their own youth. We hear in this book, the voice of hundreds of youths whose “personal” life-stories in a “foreign” land have been edited away.

It is through this voice, however, that we may come closer to understanding the nature of the revolutionary war and the “stateless youth” who fought it. One of the former Japanese “deserters” [!] once answered my question as to why he had not returned home, “Oh, it was just natural for me to stay there.” He did not choose to be sent to Sumatra as he did not choose to be born a Japanese. He found, nevertheless, that his life should belong to Sumatra whose natural beauty he loved dearly. He had had enough of the military, enough of the state’s arbitrary control over his life. He had never forgiven the state, Japan, that had intruded into his life and, upon his graduating from college, sent him out to the warfront. He was a revolutionary youth “himself.”

His story is yet to be written. Takao Fusayama’s account of his own experiences, however, will open up and invite more attention to this unexplored field.

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Madrasahs vs. Secular Schools

From: Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World, by Vali Nasr (Free Press, 2009), Kindle Loc. 3297-41:

Madrasah is a catchall term. A madrasah can mean something as simple as a Koranic academy where young children learn a few religious basics and practice reading from Islam’s holy book. Or it can mean a primary or secondary school meant to compete with national education; or a seminary established to train proper clerics in classical Islamic religious knowledge. Madrasahs, in other words, vary widely in what they teach, how they teach it, and what view of Islam and its place in the world they impart on their students.

Madrasahs are generally conservative and some are troublingly fanatical—some do indeed harbor and train jihadis and terrorists. These are a minority, however, and the problem is less extensive than is usually thought. To begin with, there are not as many madrasahs as common wisdom holds, and they train relatively few students. A Harvard University and World Bank study of Islamic education in Pakistan found that in 2002, fewer than 1 percent of all students in Pakistan were attending madrasahs. That number has risen but only to 1.9 percent in 2008. The report also found that over the decade leading up to 9/11, madrasah enrollment had risen by 16 percent, which was slower than the increase in overall school enrollment. Madrasahs were not gaining, but instead were losing part of an already small market share. Even in Indonesia, where Islamic education is on the rise, only 13 percent of the country’s 44 million students attend some form of Islamic education. The poor do flock to madrasahs, but more so in rural areas than in cities, and studies of students’ economic backgrounds reveal too much diversity to see Islamic education as the domain of the poor.

Terrorism experts Peter Bergen and Swati Pandey argue that the link between madrasahs and terrorism is weak. The anthropologist Robert Hefner estimates that of some 46,000 pesantrans (as madrasahs are called in Indonesia), no more than forty or so qualify as extremist. Perhaps a larger problem is that in many countries, the so-called secular schools teach a great deal of religion, often interpreted in illiberal ways, and sometimes push hair-raising intolerance. State textbooks in Algeria, Pakistan, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia all stand as cases in point. In Algeria, the battle against Islamic extremism now centers on changing school curricula that have long been under the control of conservative religious leaders. Sometimes, as in Jordan, the problem is that state authorities have tossed fundamentalists the education ministry as a sop. Better to give them that than have them clamoring for the foreign-affairs or finance portfolios, the thinking seems to have run. It is a worrisome reminder of the lack of seriousness with which these governments consider education.

In Pakistan, it was General Musharraf—an avowed secularist and admirer of Kemalism—who changed the law so that a madrasah certificate counts as well as a university degree in qualifying someone to run for parliament. Other rulers seem to feel that a religious formation for young people is preferable to the Marxism or Western decadence that might otherwise vie for youthful attention. Pakistan’s national identity is strongly Islamic, and Saudi Arabia sees Wahhabism as its national creed. Neither country can truly envision education as a secular enterprise. In this, they may not be so different from secular-nationalist regimes that seek to infuse young minds with an almost religious sense of national identity and cohesiveness. Madrasah-bashing will not clean up education; that requires pressing the governments not just the clerics.

Since 9/11, many madrasahs have in fact done better than governments when it comes to reform. The overwhelming bulk of madrasahs in Indonesia and Bangladesh have submitted to government oversight and implemented required curricular reforms. In general, madrasah reform progresses slowly, but in the meantime, Islamic education of a hopeful nature has been thriving outside of the madrasahs.

In one Pakistani poll, 70 percent of those surveyed favored reforming madrasahs to root out extremism and boost educational quality but also rejected secular education. That is not a surprise if you consider that secular education in that country has pretty much collapsed. Too many schools lack textbooks, desks, and blackboards, and too many teachers are underpaid and unqualified. There is very little in way of proper education in sciences and math. All around the Islamic world today, in fact, secular education draws little praise. The demand is for high-quality, useful Islamic education but not extremism; for teaching religious values but not political activism; and vitally, for providing children with the knowledge needed to make it in the competition of the modern, globalized economy.

In Pakistan, Islamic high schools cost far less than secular private schools while producing graduates who do better than average on college-entrance exams and standardized tests. Muslim parents can see the value for money here, especially in a country with numerous young people and a tight job market. In Bangladesh, almost a third of university professors are graduates of Alia madrasahs, a network of government-mandated seminaries that combine traditional Islamic education with English and modern subjects. Between 1985 and 2003, the number of Alia madrasahs in Bangladesh grew by 55 percent. If the goal is upward mobility, Islamic education is the rational choice for many parents in many countries.

In too many countries around the Muslim world, political parties have turned campuses into battlegrounds and gutted higher education in the process.

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“Indische” Indos and Theosophists in the Dutch East Indies

From: Being “Dutch” in the Indies: A History of Creolisation and Empire, 1500–1920, by Ulbe Bosma and Remco Raben, tr. by Wendie Shaffer (National U. Singapore Press, 2008), pp. 293-297:

The 20th century arrived in the Dutch East Indies accompanied by a chorus bewailing the growing number of children who had concubines as mothers. The prevailing tone was that many of these children did not merit the status of European. A commonly heard anecdote was that of the down-and-out soldier who, in exchange for a bottle of Dutch gin, acknowledged that he was the legitimate father of a child who had not a drop of Dutch blood. The newspaper Java-Bode reported the growing number of “degenerate Indos and complete hybrids” who were in fact natives but were entitled to call themselves European: “Without a doubt, such people must feel deeply dissatisfied with their lot.” These gloomy musings were, however, seldom based on more than anecdotal accounts and were certainly not founded upon systematic research. It was nothing new to hear of “immoral” goings-on in the army barracks, while concubinage and large families of pauperised (Indo-)Europeans were a familiar phenomenon. What was new were the growing complaints about the situation and the sombreness of their tone. Such attitudes became widespread at the end of the 19th century, when interest grew in matters such as genetic inheritance, Malthusian ideas about population control and the theme of ennobling the lower classes.

The fin de siècle Zeitgeist encouraged the notion of a moral decline of European society in the Indies. Colonial policy in the Indies had always tried to draw a clear distinction between European society and the natives. Until the close of the 19th century the emphasis had continually lain on reclaiming the stray sheep of the European flock and returning them to the fold of European culture and values. Bur now the idea arose that it might be better for them to remain in their native environment. This notion, born largely out of discussions on inheritance, race and degeneration, now buzzed on every side. The Java-Bode, which represented the conservative opinions of the more wealthy Batavian civil servants, used the word “hybrid” to highlight the problematic aspects of racial mixing. Understandably, this newspaper did not dispute the fact that there were large numbers of decent Indo-European families bringing up their children in a correct and seemly manner. But once the journalists got the bit between their teeth, they became carried away by polemics regarding degeneracy and childhood neglect. It only needed a tiny slip of the pen before they were fulminating about the stereotypical Indische family where the eternal ne’er-do-wells lazed around and never lifted a finger, convinced as they were from birth that to do manual work would debase them forever.

This caricature was not something new. A hundred years earlier, at the beginning of the 19th century, newcomers to the East Indies had written with shocked amazement about the lack of parental care, about the frequent beatings that children received, and about how their mothers carried on their peddling trades and spent their time playing cards instead of looking after their children. Around 1900 such commentaries became imbued with pseudo-scientific arguments on the topic of racial inferiority. Articles and reviews with scientific pretensions were published claiming to substantiate the stereotypical pictures of Indo-Europeans as people who were underhand, easily suspicious and quickly roused to anger. The widely held opinion in British colonies that when European populations became mixed with a native race they dissolved into native society also crept insidiously into Dutch (Indies) publications. Some suggested that several generations of mixed marriage resulted in infertility — although such an opinion would appear to be firmly disproved by the many large and flourishing Indo-European families. However, a conservative newspaper like Java-Bode could not be shaken from its conviction that social improvement — with all its biological connotations of crop or cattle improvement — was the same thing as opposing mixed marriages. In the Netherlands, newspapers were quite unabashed in stating that pauperism was the result of racial mixing. The word volbloed (pure-blood) began to appear in advertisements for domestic staff and personnel. Cynical remarks were heard to the effect that the elite corps of the Binnenlands Bestuur [Dept. of the Interior], in Dutch keurkorps, was turning into a coloured corps, Dutch kleurkorps. In short, with the arrival of the 20th century, the colonial discourse became strongly racialised.

It is tempting to think — although inaccurately — that Darwinism, then a fashionable ideology, was responsible for this racist thinking. Social Darwinism was widely accepted in Europe, but in the Indies it was the Spencerian theory of evolution that predominated. Herbert Spencer saw human ability as the product of social evolution, and not of biological selection. It proved a difficult task, however, to distinguish between inherited propensities and the effects of upbringing. The journalist Paul Daum, for instance, was a fervent Spencerian, yet in his novel published in 1890, titled “Ups” en “downs” in het Indische leven (“Ups” and “Downs” of Indische Life) — which recounts the downfall of the aristocratic planters’ family the Hoflands — he invokes heredity as a major element in the family’s decline. In his journalistic writing, however, he pleaded the cause of education as the driving force behind social advancement and the best possible cure for the ills assailing the European community in the Indies. City gardens, public parks, theatrical performances and concerts were surely more attractive ways of passing the time than cockfighting, tandakken (Javanese dancing) or Javanese wayang puppet theatres. Cultural paternalism of this nature encountered little opposition; indeed, it was applauded by the newspaper De Telefoon, which wrote in this context of “the improvement of destitute Europeans”.

All the complaints about the effects of mixing and the negative influences of an Indische lifestyle might almost make one forget that ever-growing numbers of Europeans in the Indies were now speaking Dutch, reading the paper, and writing letters to the editor on touchy topics. It was a recent development, for until well into the 19th century — even in wealthy families in the Indies — the lingua franca was not necessarily Dutch, but Malay. This appears, for instance, from a complaint made in 1887 by the education inspector about the poor level of Dutch among students at the HBS School, which was intended for children from the better circles. It was only in the closing years of the 19th century that Dutch began to be more widely used among Europeans. It first became the standard language at work and then moved into informal areas. In contrast to the much-quoted opinion of the education inspectors that in 1900 the majority of Indies-born European children at elementary school had a very poor command of Dutch, we find that at that time already 40 per cent of Europeans used Dutch in their everyday affairs.

The early 20th century also witnessed an alternative wave against the assumption that “Indische” meant “inferior”. While the terms “hybridity” and “Indische” when used in the colonial context both had negative overtones, the cultural avant-garde in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the Western world embraced the exotic. The artistic style of Jugendstil (art nouveau) made use of exotic shapes and designs. The artist Jan Toorop, born in Java in 1858, who was greatly celebrated in the Netherlands, exploited heavy symbolism borrowed from Javanese art and even transported this into his painted posters advertising salad dressing. For the colonial newcomers, belief in animism was superstitious, possibly even dangerous, nonsense, but in the Netherlands it was all the fashion to hold séances and make contact with the spirits of the dead. What might be described as an organic way of thinking, most powerfully expressed through the eclectic and unrestrained images of Jugendstil, flourished among the elite of the Netherlands. The urge to reconcile opposites also reached the colonies and was to have an influential role in the rejection of conventional European tastes and values One manifestation was the growth of the Theosophical Society (founded in 1875) which acquired a considerable following in the first decades ot the 20th century. Before this, the Freemasons had been the chief instigators of dialogue between the various cultures and faiths in the colony. In about 1908 the Theosophists took over. In the Indies their champion was Dirk van Hinloopen Labberton, who taught Javanese at the training institute for the Binnenlands Bestuur in Batavia, the Willem III School. This eloquent, indeed loquacious, man was inspired by the great British Theosophist Annie Besant (1847–1938), who had left England for British India in 1893, declared the Indians to be her brothers and sisters, and become a tireless advocate of home rule for India. Theosophy also appealed to nationalist intellectuals in the East Indies, who applauded its approach of an Eastern counter-current against the materialism of the West.

Thus the world of the East Indies became aware of two contrasting, indeed opposing, voices. Since the rise of the Soeria Soemirat movement, the Indo-Europeans had spoken out as a separate group, although their plea was to be accepted as Europeans. In contrast, the notion ot an Indische domain as a space where European and Asian cultural influences were equally valid steadily gained ground. The politically tense period linked with the growth of nationalism served to reveal the tensions between the concept of “Indo-Europeans” — people who constituted a category of class and race within the wider group of “Europeans — and “Indische”, a term that could be applied to everything connected with the Dutch East Indies. On the one hand, the expression “Indo-European (or Indo) was used to apply to Europeans who had a part-Asian ancestry as opposed to pure-blood white. At the same time, the word Indische was used in contrast to Hollands (Netherlandish) but never to demarcate Europeans from Indonesian, Chinese or other population groups living in the East Indies. The “closed” character of the term “Indo-European” and its opposite, the boundless connotations of the word “Indische”, have dominated the political evolution of the Indies. During those years of budding nationalism the political pendulum swung continually between the struggle to establish a movement representing the more general Indische interests, and a Union of Indo-Europeans. Two Dutch words crystallised the differences: beweging (movement) stood for new and open, while bond (union) implied the formation of a group to defend one’s own interests. Everything born out of the Indische movement was to be absorbed almost unnoticed into Indonesian nationalism, while the notion of a union or brotherhood gained definitive form in 1919 in the Indo-Europeesch Verbond (IEV) — the Indo-European Union.

This final excerpt from this book touches on most of the major themes raised in this fascinating look at the history of the Dutch and their local allies in their East Indian colonies.

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South Moluccans: Teachers before Soldiers

From: Being “Dutch” in the Indies: A History of Creolisation and Empire, 1500–1920, by Ulbe Bosma and Remco Raben, tr. by Wendie Shaffer (National U. Singapore Press, 2008), pp. 173-176:

Migration to other territories within the vast Indonesian archipelago was also part of a general pattern in the Moluccas. From the letters of the Neumann family, we gain a unique picture of an Ambonese family that became widely scattered. The letters also offer an occasional glimpse of the poorer relatives who sent their children to study in Batavia in the hope that they would gain an acceptable job as office clerks. Family members who emigrated remained in contact with each other, forming a small colony in the city of Batavia and maintaining their links with Ambon. Relations with home were maintained, and presumably this held true for all the Moluccans who left their native islands and ranged out across the Indonesian archipelago. According to the 1930 census, about 16 per cent of Moluccan Christians lived outside their home islands. Traditionally, the highest status an Ambonese Christian could attain would be Burghership, and a position as clerk or teacher. In contrast, a position in the army was generally spurned. This aversion to military service had already been prevalent in the 18th century when village headmen had to furnish young men for the annual patrols guarding the clove monopoly. For those living on the Ambon islands, upward social mobility came through education, missionary work and Burghership, while the army was traditionally considered to be an instrument of economic oppression.

The bases for missionary work and education, also in the Dutch language, were already laid in the 17th century. However, these became gradually eroded in the 18th century, a period of economic decline in the Moluccas. Things began to pick up when the Reverend Joseph Kam, shortly after his arrival in 1815, installed a small printing press at the back of his home; here he produced religious matter for his local readership. Then in 1834 the missionary Bernhard Roskott founded a teachers’ training college, which by 1855 had turned out 82 teachers. Most of them found jobs in the village schools on the Moluccan islands. Although these pupil-teachers in the main received Bible instruction, the missionary background undoubtedly enhanced the status of the elementary schoolteacher. From 1856 on, children of native Christian Burghers had the opportunity of attending a European elementary school without having to pay fees. As on the island of Ternate, so too on Ambon, in most cases a distinction was no longer made between the descendants of Europeans, and Christian Burghers; admission to elementary school, and hence the opportunity of gaining a job as a low-ranking civil servant, became equally possible for them all. However, this was only in principle; the two elementary schools on Ambon could not possibly accommodate all the children of the 8,000 Ambonese Burghers. There were, furthermore, few job opportunities in the Moluccas for these junior civil servants — unlike the encouraging outlook for schoolteachers.

It is doubtful whether the missionary teaching made much impact on Dutch fluency among the Ambonese — the Bible was, after all, translated into Malay. Nevertheless, in the second part of the 19th century the Dutch language spread even to the small villages. The inspector for education. Van der Chijs, reported in about 1860 that the Ambonese were more inclined to regard Dutch as their language than were the Indo-Europeans in Java. The affection for the Dutch language would only grow stronger. After the establishment of the second European school in 1856, the Ambon Burgher School was founded in 1869; this was intended for the native Christians of Ambon and had Dutch on its curriculum. Pupils with the highest marks in their school-leaving exams received the diploma of junior civil servant. It seems that in the 1860s there was enormous enthusiasm among the Ambonese Christians to become teachers. Indeed, they were so keen that it was reported, “If they are not curbed, half the male population would become a schoolmaster”. Not surprisingly, when the government teacher training college opened its doors in Ambon in 1874, there were many applicants. Anyone with a certificate as junior civil servant or schoolteacher who failed to find work in the Moluccas left for Java, for the towns of Surabaya, Semarang or Batavia. Some students found their way to the STOVIA ([School Tot Opleiding Voor Indlandsche Artsen =] college for training native medical doctors) in Batavia, which had been founded in 1852.

Although the army did not enjoy great popularity in the Moluccas, the colonial administrations found it most important to have a sizeable contingent of local Christian soldiers in the army, since it was largely composed of Javanese Muslims. Native Christian soldiers had enjoyed the status of semi-Europeans ever since, in 1804, Daendels had declared that the military from the Ambonese islands, Timor and Minahasa were to be treated as equals of European soldiers. Nevertheless, army recruitment in the Christianised islands proved a very difficult task throughout most of the 19th century. In 1854 the local government began a recruitment campaign to increase the numbers in the military, but at the end of two years the army authorities had to concede that all their efforts had yielded no more than a meagre 77 recruits per year for Minahasa and the Ambon islands combined. In 1860, however, the army managed to recruit 1,308 “Ambonese” — this term was used in army statistics to describe soldiers from both Minahasa and the Moluccas. Half this number came from Minahasa. Midway through the Aceh War, in 1875, the numbers from Minahasa had declined to 498, and those from Ambon were merely 398. When the war started in 1873, the residents of Ternate, Manado and Ambon were exhorted to concentrate on recruiting — especially in the Christian villages; but this had little effect, despite a 50-guilder premium to the village headmen for every soldier they provided. At the beginning of the Aceh War, army recruitment moved at a snail’s pace. In addition, in 1864 the cloves monopoly was rescinded, which not only led to a growing trek towards the towns but also produced an economic revival in the villages, since during the 1870s and 1880s cloves were fetching a very good price. In Minahasa, too, the numbers of Christians from the Manado district remained meagre, despite a large number of conversions to Christianity during the 1850s. Only at the end of the 1870s, when the early losses in the Aceh War had made enlistment in the military even more unpopular, did the army authorities manage to attract more recruits. In 1879, when a school was opened in Magelang, Java, for army children from the Moluccas, Minahasa and Timor, it proved exactly what was needed. And, besides, training for the military was expanded. Thus, the army became a feasible route to social advancement, all the more since employment as a clerk or teacher proved unattainable for most
literate Moluccans.

By 1883 the Ambonese contingent in the Dutch-Indies army had doubled to 801 from Manado and 708 from Ambon. The appeal of the army would increase even more on the Ambon islands in the 1890s, when the prices of cloves fell once again. At last there were sufficient volunteers — and the same was true for Minahasa. Indeed, here the army authorities were even able to select out of the large numbers who applied. Ultimately, the greatest number of soldiers would come from Minahasa; in 1918 there were 6,388 soldiers from Minahasa compared with 3,674 from the Moluccan islands. The increasing majority from Manado can easily be explained: in the 1870s the Christian populations of these two areas were more or less the same size, that is, around 60,000. The figures for the 1900 census, however, are 72,359 native Christians on the Ambon islands compared with 164,117 in the Minahasa region.

The former military became part of the village notables, along with the raja and other village headmen and the schoolteachers, who were on a slightly lower rung of the social ladder. Both in Minahasa and on the Ambon islands it became part of the local pattern of social mobility to enter military service; it also formed a confirmation of the Christian identity of these communities. The army did not, however, initiate the integration of the Christian communities in the colonial world. The image that has evolved in Dutch colonial history of the Ambonese as a martial race is primarily a colonial picture and does not reflect a predilection for the military life on the part of the Ambonese.

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