“Remember the Westerling victims nationally”

After years of no progress despite having taken the case to the UN, the government nationalized all Dutch assets in Indonesia and expelled Dutch citizens. In 1961 when the Dutch tried to prepare the territory for self-rule, President Soekarno formed the Supreme Command for the Liberation of West Irian (Trikora) and began small scale military incursions into the region.

President Soekarno “formed the Supreme Command for the Liberation of West Irian and began small scale military incursions in the region.

In the same year, the government initiated national commemoration of the fifteen anniversary of the massacres at the Youth Building in Jakarta on 11 December 1961. In his speech entitled “Remember the Westerling victims nationally”, President Soekarno said:

            “Today we all remember the details of 40,000 people of South Sulawesi as victims of the inhumanity of the Dutch colonial army under the command of Westerling. The inhumanity of the right hand of Imperialism is part of the ruthless imperialism to uphold colonialism on Indonesian soil. The death of 40,000 souls in this episode prove that the people of Indonesia paid for Indonesian Independence”

Soekarno used representations of the Westerling massacres to motivate Indonesians to support the Trikora campaign and end Dutch colonialism.

Extra notes:
Controversy over death toll
The Republican government claimed that Westerling was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. Initially they had estimated the number of victims at 15,000, but later stated it was 40,000. A monument with the name Monument Korban 40.000 Jiwa was erected in the city of Makassar to commemorate the victims of the campaign. Dutch historian Jaap de Moor blames the inflation of the death toll on the fact that Republican government used it as propaganda to draw attention from the world to their diplomatic and armed struggle against the Dutch. Mr. Mohammed Natzir of the Indonesian Historical Commission of the Armed Forces also calls the figure of 40,000 deaths fiction and a propaganda measure of the Republican government against the Dutch occupation of that time.

In his book De Zuid-Celebes Affaire: “Kapitein Westerling en de standrechtelijke executies”. Dutch historian Willem IJzereef estimates that the actions of the DST cost about 1,500 Indonesian lives. About 400 of them were executed during actions led by Westerling himself, while the remaining 1,100 were killed during actions of his second in command. Another 1,500 deaths could be added by actions of other KNIL units. Approximately 900 Indonesians were killed by pro-Dutch police units and members of the village guards. IJzereef believes that Indonesian resistance caused around 1,500 victims.

Accusations of war crimes
Westerling has always defended his actions and denied accusations of war crimes. His memoirs, which he published in 1952, devote a chapter to his self-defense. “They painted me as a bloodthirsty monster, who attacked the people of Celebes by fire and sword and exposed all those, who in the interest of Indonesia’s national independence resisted Dutch rule, to a merciless campaign of repression”.

Westerling stated he had based his tactics on the premise that he performed the role of policeman, combating terror: “I arrested terrorists, not because they acted as instigators of the Republican government… but because they made themselves guilty of open and unmistakable crimes…I never had them [his troops] bombard a village, nor did I take the hut of innocent under fire. I had executed some criminals, but nobody had died needlessly or wrongly by my doing.

In 1949, the Dutch–Indonesian agreement on transfer of power stipulated neither country would call the other on its wartime offenses, thus ruling out any attempt by Indonesia to press for Westerling’s extradition.

My final note: Captain Westerling was with his DST men, a little more than 100, in the area of Makassar, Celebes for 88 days. To kill 40,000 people means an average of little over 454 a day. Just think about it!


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