Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Indonesian Nationalists and the Japanese "Liberation" of Indonesia: Visions and Reactions

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Indonesian Nationalists and the Japanese "Liberation" of Indonesia: Visions and Reactions

Article excerpt

Introduction

It is generally assumed that most of the Indonesian population, including the nationalists, resigned themselves passively to the threat of an imminent war with Japan. There were no large-scale preparations on the side of the Indonesians either to help the Japanese army of invasion find its way or to sabotage the Dutch.(1) This is especially true of Java, the political heartland of Indonesia, where the evidence would seem to point to the fact that no pro-Japanese underground movement existed.(2) Only in Aceh among the Minangkabau in Sumatra had the Japanese found Indonesian allies willing to organize anti-Dutch activities.(3) In Palembang in South Sumatra there was also an espionage organization established by the Japanese themselves probably in order to prevent the destruction of the oil refineries at Playu and Sungai Gerong.(4) In the strongly Islamic region of Gorontalo in North Sulawesi, the local nationalists actually succeeded in taking over the European administration. They arrested the Dutch and proclaimed the Republik Gorontalo on 23 January 1942, just before the Japanese reached their area.(5)

In Java, where the repressive policy adopted by the Dutch government towards the nationalists was most severe, the Dutch seem to have had everything under control on the eve of the outbreak of the war with Japan. Nevertheless, there is some information available which suggests that there could have been an anti-Dutch oriented underground organization in Java. In this context George Kanahele(6) mentions the Sumatran Jusuf Hasan who returned to Java early in 1941 as a Japanese agent.(7) He collaborated with several Japanese, including Nishijima Shigetada,(8) Ishii Taro, Maeda and Machida. Kanahele claims that their specific assignment was to collect information on Dutch military and defence installations and to set up a fifth column. In the summer of 1941, Jusuf Hasan and his Japanese accomplices organized a group of Indonesian nationalists in a conspiracy to sabotage the Dutch defence efforts in the event of a war with Japan. Among those whom he names as belonging to Jusuf's fifth column group are Achmad Subardjo,(9) Maramis, a close friend of Subardjo and of Jusuf Hasan himself, Tadjuddin Noor (member of the People's Council) and Dr. Samsi Sastrowidagdo, a prominent nationalist. The others are unnamed. Kanahele treats seriously the possibility that there was indeed a real attempt made by Jusuf Hasan to set up a fifth column. He concludes, however, that as events turned out the group had no real opportunity to operate against the Dutch because of the sudden collapse of the colonial defence forces a week after the Japanese landed in Java.

The NEFIS collection, held by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague, contains some documents classified under different headings which seem to support George Kanahele's presumption that there was a kind of underground organization operating in Java some months before the Japanese landed there. The documents, written in Indonesian, were found in December 1945 by the Dutch in the former building of the Gunseikanbu in Jakarta, where they were part of the archive of Sudjono,(10) who worked during the war with the Japanese Ministry of General Affairs. Most of these documents are classified under the heading "Organization Subardjo", even though most of the reports do not actually refer to this organization. Some of the 30 or so reports are dated March, April and May 1942, but the bulk of them are dated July 1942. All give an overview of the local situation and the activities of the members involved in the organization just before and just after the arrival of the Japanese Army. During the eight-day battle for Java they were among the first to form Merdeka committees to welcome the victorious Japanese army and offer their help.(11) Achmad Subardjo is named as one of the leaders of the Central Committee in Jakarta which co-ordinated the activities of the local Merdeka committees. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.