Rawagede: still waiting for Dutch aid money

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They weren't allowed to call it reparation money or a compensation payment and it had nothing to do with the 1947 massacre in Rawagede, but at the beginning of 2009, the then Development Cooperation Minister Bert Koenders earmarked €850,000 for Balongsari, a small county in Java, Indonesia. It was development aid money and ostensibly had nothing to do with the fact that the village of Rawagede is also in Balongsari County.

On 9 December 1947, Dutch troops rounded up and killed an estimated 431 men in the Javanese village of Rawagede. It was one of the worst massacres during the ‘Dutch police action’ in the Dutch East Indies just after the Second World War.

It’s almost 64 years later and the Dutch government still shies away from any acknowledgement of guilt or hint of responsibility. It’s purely development aid money and not a reparations payment or compensation and it’s not for Rawagede, it’s for the entire county. The €850,000 was supposed to fund a school, a market and expand the hospital in the village.

RNW Rawagede coverage
in Indonesian language

RNW's Bahasa language department closely followed developments before and after the Rawagede verdict on Wednesday 14 September.

Check out the Rawagede reports on RNW's Bahasa Indonesia site

News update
Netherlands ordered to pay

The Dutch state has been ordered to pay damages to widows of victims of the massacre in Rawagede, a court in The Hague said on Wednesday. The amount of the damages has not been determined yet.

Another demand of the victims' relatives, a criminal prosecution of the Netherlands, was thrown out by the court. The case was brought by relatives of the victims.

Dutch troops invaded the Java village of Rawagede on 9 December 1947, looking for independence fighters. Most of the male villagers were executed, over 400 of them, according to Indonsia.

The Netherlands never apologised for what happened, although the Dutch government did express its regret over events in Rawagede.



The sole survivor's tale

A black page in Dutch history

Some 30 months have elapsed since the money was allocated but almost nothing has been accomplished. On the outskirts of the village, a rice paddy measuring around one hectare has been cleared but the school still hasn’t been built. The local authorities say the building plans are ready and they’re just waiting for the money.

Sukarman says construction will begin as soon as they get the money. He’s the chairman of foundation that has already built one school in Rawagede; it stands across the road from the cleared rice paddy and has some 800 students already.

“We built that school in just 3 months. The World Bank gave the money to our local foundation and we could arrange everything directly.”

The Dutch development aid money is taking a different route: it’s not going to Rawagede, it’s not going to Balongsari, and it’s not even going to the district of Karawang; it’s going to the interior ministry in Jakarta. The ministry is responsible for deciding who can build a school and when.

The Hague has signed an agreement with the Ministry and a portion of the money was transferred last December. The local authorities have still not received any notification from Jakarta and they still have no idea when, or if, the project will be started.

The Dutch embassy in Jakarta has defended the bureaucratic maze, calling it ‘due care and attention’. Ambassador Annemieke Ruigrok:

“All of the projects must have a sustainable character and everything has to be carefully calibrated and the individual projects need to be coordinated with each other. Due care and attention take time.”

She added that the ministry is currently “working out the final details.”

It’s not clear what "working out the details" means, nor is there any sign of ‘coordination’. Even though the local authorities have had their plans ready and waiting for the past 2 years, the ministry still hasn’t made any contact with them.

Not all of the money that was allocated in 2009 is in Jakarta; €254,500 went to the Dutch Hivos foundation. The organisation has used some of the money to fund micro-credit loans in Rawagede.

Hundreds of people in the village – and hundreds of others in neighbouring villages – have taken advantage of the HIV OS microcredit loans. A total of €106,533 has been lent so far, while the rest of the €850,000 is doing nothing for the people of Rawagede.

Hivos has set a cooperative up and it now has 1247 members. It is supposed to be running an organic shop and the Dutch foundation has so far funded it to the tune of €50,000.

The head of the cooperative, Riyadi, acknowledges that the shop hasn’t yet been set up although a small gas canister business has gotten off the ground. According to Riyadi, the €50,000 has been sent spent on operational costs and salaries.

Several attempts to get compensation for the victims’ relatives were dismissed on the grounds that the events took place so long ago that the charges had lapsed. On Wednesday, judges will issue a ruling on a case brought by four relatives of Rawagede victims; they are demanding an apology and compensation.

Their lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, does not believe that the case has expired, saying that the Netherlands still handles cases dating from World War Two. If the judges rule in favour of the plaintiffs, it could have huge consequences for the victims - and their relatives - of other Dutch ‘police actions’ as they could also claim compensation.