By Lotte Levelt
The topic of colonialism has always been controversial and surrounded by heated debate. It is generally agreed that the expansion of Europe from the 15th till the 20th century has ceased, but this century-long colonisation has certainly left its marks in both ex-colonised and ex-colonising countries. The colonised countries’ side of the story regarding the consequences of colonialism is predominantly subject to research. Nonetheless, the way colonialism is treated in previously colonising countries is at least striking, and perfectly illustrates how colonialism is still sensitive and perhaps in a way perseverant.
The Netherlands, a previous - and major - coloniser itself, illustrates just how delicate the subject matter is. The country has been questioned and criticised multiple times in the way it deals with its colonial past, for instance in lawsuits and regarding education about colonialism. What is termed ‘politionele acties’ (‘police actions’) by the Dutch state was in fact the Indonesian War of Independence, both terms describing the military aggressions of the Netherlands in attempting to prevent the end of Dutch control in Indonesia between 1947 and 1949. Furthermore, a case of a woman being raped by five members of the Royal Dutch Indies Army during the aggressions has come to light. The Dutch government stated the case had expired - a claim that was later refuted in court, as it concerns a crime against humanity.
The Dutch case in Indonesia presents a solid of example of how the sensitivity and controversy of colonialism is still widespread and will most likely continue so in the future. The way previous colonisers deal with their colonial history differs per country. What is apparent, however, is the need for these previous colonising countries to take responsibility, instead of shutting their eyes for something that may have happened in a faraway place, a long time ago.