Moluccans: Dutch medals outrageous

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The Moluccan government in exile has expressed anger at the Dutch defence ministry's plans to award a medal to the soldiers who helped end the 1977 hijacking of a Dutch train by Moluccan activists.

The Moluccan government in exile (RMS) calls the plan “inappropriate and outrageous,” saying the Dutch government used excessive force to the end the hijacking. “Thirty-five years on we are still convinced that the use of force was excessive, unnecessary and even criminal. Many, including non-Moluccans, consider that the rescue operation was a deliberate execution.”

On 23 May 1977, six Moluccan activists seized a train with dozens of passengers on board in the northeast of the country while four other Moluccan activists took five teachers and some 100 pupils hostage at a primary school in the same region. The activists wanted the Dutch government to do more to bring about an independent Moluccan Republic in Indonesia. They also demanded 21 Moluccan convicts be released. On 11 June, special forces stormed the train killing all six hostage-takers. Two hostages also died in the operation. The activists at the school surrendered and were given prison sentences ranging between six and nine years.

In a reaction, a defence spokesperson said on Saturday that the medal “is not aimed against any community but is for the bravery of the soldiers who ended a terrorist action.” The soldiers who put an end to the kidnapping at the school are to be awarded a medal too.

The former head of the Dutch armed forces, Dick Berlijn, who was involved in the action as a young fighter jet pilot, said on the radio that he regrets the government intends to award medals to the soldiers. A date for the ceremony has yet to be announced.


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