South Moluccas

South Moluccas

The South Moluccas consist of about 150 islands in the Banda Sea. The main islands are Ceram, Ambon, and Buru. The people of the South Moluccas are mainly Melanesian Christians, numbering about one million. The islands are a part of the Republic of Indonesia and the birthplace of the counter revolutionary movement called RMS. Notable South Moluccan communities outside Indonesia can be found in the Netherlands as well as the United States state of California. In the colonial era South Moluccans were considered a Martial Race of the Dutch East Indies.

outh Moluccan career soldiers of the colonial (KNIL) army

A relatively large number of the professional soldiers serving in the Dutch colonial (KNIL) army were recruited among the population of Ambon and the surrounding South Moluccan islands. The South Moluccan islands were among the first to come under European influence in the 16th century. The Protestant mission had been more successful there than elsewhere in the East Indies; half the Ambonese population adhered to the Calvinist branch of Protestantism. During the era of the VOC, the Moluccans were not only forced to trade with the VOC only, but also to focus solely on the production of cloves. After the downfall of the VOC and the collapse of the trade in cloves, they were fully dependent on the colonial structure and found occupation in the colonial army. The Ambonese were regarded as fierce fighters, reliable soldiers and absolutely loyal to the Dutch Crown. It was precisely this reputation that made them unpopular with other Indonesian nationalities. The Malay nickname for them was "Belanda Hitam", which translates to “Black Dutch” in English. All of this put them in a difficult position during both the Japanese occupation and the Indonesian national revolution.

During the Japanese occupation in the Second World War, most of the Moluccan soldiers were only briefly interned as POWs. Initially, the Japanese occupation force decided to release them from military duty and send them home. However, the Japanese quickly discovered their miscalculation when the Moluccans became among the most active in the resistance movement against them. Throughout the occupied Dutch East Indies, Moluccan soldiers created underground resistance cells aiding the Allied forces. Some of these cells were active in gathering intelligence; other sleeper cells hid weapons in strategic locations waiting to take up arms during an Allied invasion. The Japanese secret police (Kempeitai) responded by torturing and beheading any suspect, which in general did not deter the Moluccans. After the capitulation of the Imperial Japanese Army to the Allied forces, the Moluccan soldiers acted equally defiantly towards the Indonesian revolutionaries trying to fill the power vacuum left by the Japanese. Smaller scale conflicts in the Bersiap period between regrouped Moluccan fighting units and Pemuda groups usually left the well-trained Moluccan military men victorious. In their efforts to subdue the counter revolutionary RMS movement on Ambon, the newly established Republican Indonesian army (TNI) encountered the military prowess of the Moluccan special troops. The heavy fighting triggered them to create their own special troops. [This initiative by former KNIL officer Evert Kawilarang developed into the notorious Kopassus unit.] At that time the Moluccan special troops only found their contemporaries in the Ghurka units of the British Army.

Disbanding the colonial (KNIL) army

During the Indonesian National Revolution, the Dutch had to disband the reinstated KNIL and the native soldiers had the choice of being demobilised or joining the army of the Republic of Indonesia. Due to a deep distrust of the Republican leadership, being predominantly Javanese Muslim, this was an extremely difficult choice for the Protestant Ambonese and only a minority chose to serve with the Indonesian Army. Disbanding proved a complicated process and, in 1951, two years after the transfer of sovereignty, not all soldiers had been demobilised. The Dutch were under severe international pressure to disband the colonial army and made these men temporarily part of the normal Dutch army, while trying to demobilise them in Java.

Herein lay the source of the discontent among the Moluccan soldiers as, according to the KNIL policy, soldiers had the right to choose the place where they were to be discharged at the end of their contract. The political situation in the new Republic of Indonesia was initially unstable and, in particular, controversy over a federal or centralised form of the state resulted in armed conflicts in which Ambonese ex-KNIL men were involved. In 1951 an independent Republic of South Moluccas (Indonesian: RMS, Republik Maluku Selatan) was proclaimed at Ambon. The RMS had strong support among the Ambonese KNIL soldiers. As a consequence the Moluccan soldiers located outside the South Moluccas demanded to be discharged at Ambon. But Indonesia refused to let the Dutch transport these soldiers to Ambon as long as the RMS was not repressed, fearing prolonged military struggle. When after heavy fighting the RMS was repressed at Ambon, the soldiers refused to be discharged there. They now demanded to be demobilised at Ceram, where counter revolutionary pockets of resistance against Indonesia still existed. This was again blocked by Indonesia.

Demobilisation of the Moluccan (KNIL) soldiers to the Netherlands

The Dutch government finally decided to transport the remaining men and their families to the Netherlands. They were discharged on arrival and 'temporarily' housed in camps until it was possible for them to return to the Moluccan islands. [The complicated story of the disbanding of the KNIL is set out briefly here. For a more extended analysis see Manuhutu (1987); Steylen (1996: 33-63); van Amersfoort (1982: 101-8). The psychological impact of the dissolution of the KNIL on the Ambonese servicemen is described in Wittermans (1991).] In this way around 12,500 persons were settled in the Netherlands, more or less against their will and certainly also against the original plans of the Dutch government. The reaction of the Dutch government to the settlement of the Moluccan soldiers was exactly the opposite of the reaction to the Indo repatriates. [The history of the Indos and their emigration from Indonesia after World War II is also reflected in interesting ways in the Dutch literature: the circumstances of the repatriation are, for instance, spiritedly evoked in the stories of Springer (2001: 179-239).] Whereas the latter were defined as fellow-citizens who had to be integrated as quickly and as fully as possible, the Moluccans were considered to be temporary residents who had to be repatriated to Indonesia. [In this article the words Ambonese and Moluccans are used synonymously. This is strictly speaking not correct. The Protestant Ambonese form about 90 per cent of the Moluccans in the Netherlands and have played a decisive role. There is also a small number of Muslim Ambonese and of Moluccans from the islands of Kei and Tanimbar.] They were 'temporarily' housed in camps, mostly in rural areas and near small towns. A special agency was set up to manage all matters concerning these temporary residents, the 'Commissariaat Ambonezenzorg' (CAZ).

To deal with all kinds of daily matters the CAZ created 'representatives' in the camps who regulated the lives of the inhabitants in accordance with the rules. These representatives were (mostly) recruited from among the non-commissioned officers, who were in this way able, to a certain extent, to re-establish their status in the new circumstances. The housing situation in the camps resembled in many ways the barracks of the colonial army, where the soldiers were housed, together with their families, under the direct supervision of non-commissioned officers. This specific housing situation contributed greatly to the isolation of the Moluccan population from Dutch society. The camps, and later the neighbourhoods, became enclaves where the schools, though officially Dutch in programme and language, became exclusively Moluccan and where access to the labour market was geographically often restricted. Even when it became more and more obvious that there was no possibility to repatriate the ex-servicemen to Indonesia, the Dutch government did not formulate a radically different policy.

This situation dragged on until 1970 when the CAZ was finally dissolved and normal ministerial and other agencies became responsible. The Dutch government had at last admitted that the Moluccans were not temporary residents and that their future lay in the Netherlands. Still, in 1968 more than 80 percent of the Moluccans were still without official citizenship, i.e. stateless. The ex-soldiers were deeply frustrated by the demise of the colonial army. The KNIL had offered not only an income, but also a whole way of life in which their status was secure. They had always been loyal to the Dutch Crown and had felt betrayed when their services were no longer rewarded. In response they had pinned their hopes on an independent RMS and had expected that the Dutch would help them to realise it.

These feelings continued and were even strengthened in the years of isolated settlement in the Netherlands. There seemed to be only one worthwhile ideal and that was the creation of the RMS. But whatever the merits of this ideal, the Moluccans in the Netherlands could do nothing to bring its realisation any nearer. Moreover the isolated situation in the camps and neighbourhoods had given rise to a type of expressive leadership that could only manifest itself in opposing and confronting the CAZ and the Dutch in general.

outh Moluccan terrorist action in the Netherlands

This situation led to growing tension and to splits within the RMS movement. The older generation of leaders of the RMS movement saw their authority challenged. Finally the crisis in the Ambonese communities exploded in a decade of violence against internal rivals and Dutch society. A series of terrorist attacks started in 1970 with a raid on the residence of the Indonesian ambassador in Wassenaar. The Dutch reaction to this attack was restrained. The attackers received mild sentences and were still seen as misguided idealists. Within the Moluccan community the 'boys of action' gained great prestige. This fueled further terrorist actions in 1975 and 1977. As with the attack in Wassenaar, the aims of these actions were not very clear; apart from restoring unity within the RMS movement, it is difficult to see any concrete objectives in the vague rhetoric and impossible political demands made by the attackers. [Siahaya (1972) paints a good picture of the mind of a Moluccan terrorist.] Attacks on a train and on a village school in 1977 led to a final escalation of the violence. The Dutch government saw no other way out than to use military force to end the action. Meanwhile, support for this kind of action within the Moluccan community was ebbing. Instead of reuniting the Moluccans in the Netherlands, this radicalism threatened to lead to more division. When, in 1978, a group of youngsters raided the seat of the provincial government in Assen, they received not the slightest support.

econd and third generation Moluccans in the Netherlands

Towards the end of this period of terrorist violence, the Dutch government had already dropped the idea that the Moluccans were temporary residents, but had not been able to create a channel of communication through which to discuss and implement policy measures that opened a way to the future. The social situation left much to be desired, school attainments were low and unemployment high. Earlier attempts to set up a communal platform for the government and Moluccan representatives had not been successful, because of antagonism within the Moluccan communities and impossible political demands made at the outset by the Moluccans. In 1976 a platform was formed where government policy measures could be discussed with representatives of the Moluccan community, the IWM (Dutch abbreviation for: Inspraakorgaan Welzijn Molukkers). In 1978 a substantial White Paper (De Problematiek van de Molukkers in Nederland) was sent by the government to parliament. It offered measures to enhance Moluccan participation in Dutch society, in particular in the fields of education and the labour market.

The IWM has proved a valuable communication channel for communal projects. A case in point was the plan to create thousands of jobs for Moluccans in government service. The primary goal was to combat high unemployment, but a secondary goal was to open up a particular section of the labour market where Moluccans were significantly underrepresented. The recognition that employment, education and social welfare in general were important fields where the situation of the Moluccan population, and especially of the new generation, had to be improved, was a positive development. Partly because the second generation was already much more oriented to Dutch society, partly as a result of the policy of affirmative action, participation in the labour market and in the school system developed positively after 1980. Levels of educational attainment rose, unemployment levels were lower and the jobs fulfilled were also somewhat higher in scale. In general the second-generation Moluccans made a great leap forward in this period, compared to the first 'soldier generation'. They are more and more at home in the Netherlands. [Smeets, H. and Veenman, J. (2000) 'More and more at home: three generations of Moluccans in the Netherlands', in Vermeulen, H. and Penninx, R. (eds) Immigrant Integration. The Dutch Case. Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis, 36-63.]

The situation of the Moluccans in the Netherlands is at present remarkably different from that in 1970. Practically all Moluccans are now Dutch citizens. This makes it more difficult to give the precise number of Moluccans in the Netherlands, though research shows that there are to date about 40,000 persons who can be classified as Moluccan. [Beets, G., Walhout, E. and Koesoebjono, S. (2002) 'Demografische ontwikkeling van de Molukse bevolkingsgroep in Nederland; Maandstatistiek van de bevolking, 50(6): 13-17.] A majority of this population identifies itself to a certain extent with the Moluccan islands where their families once came from, but this identification seems less and less an impediment to integration in Dutch society. In this sense the Moluccans have at last become 'normal immigrants'. [van Amersfoort, H. (2004) 'The waxing and waning of a diaspora: Moluccans in the Netherlands, 1950-2002', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 30(1): 151-74.]

outh Moluccan Cultural activity in the Netherlands

In the 1950s and 1960s Moluccan musicians made their mark together with artists from the Indo community. In the 1980s, bands like Massada [ [ Official website Massada] ] were popular. Massada's hitsong 'Sajang e' is the only song in the Malay language to ever reach number one ranking in the Netherlands.

One of the most talented artist to arise from the South Moluccan community in the Netherlands is the internationally acclaimed singer songwriter Daniel Sahuleka. [ [ Official website Daniel Sahuleka] ] [ [ Live footage Daniel Sahuleka at the Java Jazz Festival] ] Also in Indonesia many famous musicians are ethnic Moluccans. Like popstar Glenn Fredly who toured the Netherlands in 2008 and acknowledged Daniel Sahuleka as one of his main inspirations.

In the 21st century new generations of South Moluccans in the Netherlands have chosen cultural ways to manifest their heritage and express themselves. Performing traditional Tifa music and Cakalele dance.

As Dutch sports culture features great football (soccer) prowess, also many South Moluccans in the Netherlands have made a name for themselves in this sport. Famous Moluccan players include: Simon Tahamata and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who’s mother is Moluccan.

outh Moluccas Republic

The Republic of the South Moluccas, or "Republik Maluku Selatan" (RMS), was a self-proclaimed republic in the Maluku Islands, founded April 25, 1950.

RMS history

The Moluccas were part of the Dutch East Indies, a colony of the Netherlands, since its conception in the 18th century. When Indonesian revolutionary leaders declared the independent Republic of Indonesia, the south Moluccas were considered part of that country, by its freedom fighters. Indonesia's struggle for recognition of its independence lasted from 1945 until December 27, 1949 when under heavy international pressure, especially from the United States which threatened to cut off Marshall Plan funds to the Netherlands, the Dutch acknowledged a federal Indonesian republic.

In first instance the Netherlands acknowledged the independence of Indonesia as a federation of autonomous states, of which one was the South Moluccas. On April 25, 1950 demobilized ex-colonial KNIL army men who remained loyal to the Dutch crown, staged a revolt and proclaimed what they called the "Republic of the South Moluccas". They wanted a totally independent country, so even more than just a federal state. On August 17, 1950, the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia, as originally proclaimed, was restored by military force. The liberal democratic system of government, whereby the cabinet would be accountable to the House of Representatives was retained. This was a source of political instability in the young Republic with frequent changes in government until the rise of the so called New Order. Still from within Indonesia the call for an independent Republic of the South Moluccas was never again heard as loudly as in 1950.

RMS in exile

The rebellious RMS group was defeated by Indonesian forces in November 1950. The defeat resulted in the flight of the self-declared RMS government from the islands, and the formation of a government in exile in the Netherlands. The following year some 12,000 Moluccan soldiers accompanied by their families went to the Netherlands, where they established a "Republic of the South Moluccas" government-in-exile.

During their exile parts of the RMS movement have committed terror attacks. Some say weasel word this caused the Dutch government to withdraw their support for the RMS. Others weasel word argue that the attacks were caused by frustration of the non support of the Dutch government in the first place.

The first attack took place in 1970 at the Indonesian Ambassador's house at Wassenaar, during which a Dutch policeman was shot and killed. This attack was followed up in 1975 with the hijacking of a train at Wijster which was spontaneously supported by another, improvised, attack on the Indonesian consulate in Amsterdam. Three hostages where executed in the train and one Indonesian man was mortally wounded while trying to escape the consulate. In 1977 another train was hijacked, this time at De Punt, supported by a primary school hijack at Bovensmilde. These actions where ended with force by marines of the BBE in which 6 hijackers and 2 hostages died. The last action took place in 1978 when the provincial building in Assen was occupied. This action too was ended by BBE marines.

From the 80s to the present day no such actions re-occurred.

RMS Presidents

The first president in exile was Prof. Johan Manusama.

Dr. Chr. R. S. Soumokil was the RMS president in 1954 who went into hiding on Ceram island. He was only captured by the Indonesian Army in Ceram on December 2, 1962. Brought to trial before a military tribunal in Jakarta, he was sentenced to death and executed under President Suharto's rule on April 12, 1966.

The government-in-exile continues to exist, with Frans Tutuhatunewa as head of state. However does not proclaim any violent action towards either the Netherlands or Indonesia. The president in exile has said that the young generations should focus on their education and development opportunities in the Netherlands if they want to potentially support and develop the South Moluccas.

The current Indonesian ambassador to the Netherlands Junus Effendi Habibie, brother to the third president of Indonesia, has said that he would do all he can to facilitate the repatriation of first generation Moluccans to their homeland. [ [ Dutch television interview with Junus Habibie] ] [ [ Indonesian television interview with Junus Habibie] ]

RMS coat of arms

The RMS coat of arms depicts the white Moluccan dove called 'Pombo'. The white dove is seen as a symbol of positivity and a good omen. The blazon of the RMS coat of arms state the words 'Mena - Moeria'. This slogan is derived from the original Melanesian Moluccan language. Since ancient times it is yelled by the steerer and paddlers of the traditional Moluccan rowing boats called 'Kora Kora', to syncronise their strokes during off shore expeditions. It literally means 'Front - Back', but is also translated to 'I go - We follow' or 'One for all - All for One'.

RMS Anthem

The RMS anthem is called 'Maluku tanah airku' which translates in English to 'Maluku my homeland' and is written by Chr. Soumokil and O. Sahalessy in the Malay language, also using latin and Melanesian Moluccan words.

Original text RMS anthem

First verse:

Oh Maluku, tanah airku,

Tanah tumpah darahku.

Ku berbakti padamu

Slama hari hidupku.

Engkaulah pusaka raya

Yang leluhur dan teguh.

Aku junjung selamanya

Hingga sampai ajulku.

Aku ingat terlebih

Sejarahmu yang pedih.

Second verse:

Oh Maluku, tanah airku,

Tanah datuk-datukku.

Atas via dolorosa

Engkau hidup merdeka.

Putra-putri yang sejati

Tumpah darah bagimu.

Ku bersumpah trus berbakti

Serta tanggung nasibmu

Aku lindung terlebih

Sejarahmu yang pedih.

Third verse:

Mena-Muria, printah leluhur

Segenap jiwaku seru.

Bersegralah membelamu

Seperti laskar yang jujur.

Dengan prisai dan imanku

Behkan harap yang teguh

Ku berkurban dan berasa

Karena dikaa ibuku

Ku doakan terlebih

Mena-Muria, hiduplah!

English translation RMS anthem

Verse 1: Maluku, my homeland, my land of origin. I devote my strength to thee, as long as I may live. Thou art my great heritage, uplifted above all. I will always honor thee until my dieing day. I will recall in memory above all thy harrowing history.

Verse 2: Maluku, my homeland, land of my ancestors. Through this long road of suffering will we reach liberty. Thy true sons and daughters have shed their blood for thee. I am sworn to dedication to keep thy future safe. Above all I will protect thee and thy harrowing history.

Verse 3: ‘Mena Muria’, the higher call, I yell wholeheartedly. I hasten to defend thee as an army just and true. With shield and faith and above all in great resilience, I will sacrifice and struggle. For thou art my cradle and above all I will pray that ‘Mena Muria’ may forever stay.

Recent developments in Indonesia

The South Moluccan people are predominantly Christian, unlike most regions in Indonesia which are overwhelmingly Muslim. The South Moluccan Republic, however, was also supported by some Moluccan Muslims in the region at that time. Today, while the majority of Christians on the Moluccas do not support separatism, the memory of the RMS and its separatist objectives still resonates in Indonesia. Moluccan Christians, lately during the chaos in Moluccas, are accused by Muslim groups of having independence as their goal. This accusation has been useful in galvanizing Muslims to fight (jihad), and the situation has not been aided by the fact that some diaspora Moluccan Christian groups have taken up the RMS banner.

In the Moluccas agreement in Malino (Malino II), signed to end conflict and create peace in the Moluccas, Moluccans claimed "to reject and oppose all kinds of separatist movements, among others the Republic of South Moluccas (RMS), that threaten the unity and sovereignty of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia". However during the visit to Ambon of the Indonesian president in the summer of 2007, RMS sympathisers disturbed ceremonies by performing the Moluccan war dance and hoisting the RMS flag. [ [ Dutch television report] ]

Maluku Sovereignty Front

Since 1999, a new organization known as the Maluku Sovereignty Front (FKM) has operated in Ambon, stockpiling weapons and flying the RMS flag in public places. The leader of the FKM organisation Alex Manuputty has fled to the United States, but continues to support independence. [ [ Live video footage interview with Alex Manuputty in exile, in the USA.] ]

ee also

Terrorist Activity in the Netherlands

* Attempt at kidnapping Juliana of the Netherlands 1975
* Train hostage Wijster 1975
* Indonesian consulate hostage 1975
* Train hostage in De Punt 1977
* School hostage in Bovensmilde 1977
* Province Hall hostage Assen 1978


*Postal history of South Moluccas
*Kora Kora



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*Bartels, D. (1989) Moluccans in Exile. A Struggle for Ethnic Survival. Leiden: COMT/ IWM.
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External links

* [ History of South Moluccas]
* [ Briefing Paper Presented to The United Nations Commission on Human Rights 1996 Session March at Geneva by Karen Parker, J.D.]
* [ RMS Terror Activities in The Netherlands]
* [ Moluccans reject RMS]
* [ Dutch television news item on recent RMS activity]
* [ Indonesian television interview with Junus Habibie]

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