Radio address by Queen Wilhelmina on 7 December 1942
Today it is a year ago that the Japanese, without previous declaration of war, launched their treacherous attack on our Allies. At that time we did not hesitate for a moment to throw ourselves into the struggle and to hasten to the aid of our Allies, whose cause is ours.
Japan had been preparing for this war and for the conquest of the Netherlands Indies for years and in so doing sought to follow the conduct of its Axis partners in attacking one country after another. This plan we were able to prevent, thanks to our immediate declaration of war. After a year of war we can bear witness that the tide is turning and that the attacker, who had such great advantages, is being forced on the defensive.
It is true that the Netherlands Indies, after defending themselves so heroically are, for the most part, occupied by the enemy, but this phase of the struggle is only a prelude. The Japanese are getting ever nearer the limit of their possibilities as our ever-growing might advance towards them from all sides. They have not been able to break China's courage and endurance and Japan now faces the ebbing of her power in this self-willed war, which will end with her complete downfall.
At this moment my thoughts are more than ever with my country and my compatriots in the Netherlands and the Netherlands Indies. After an age-old historical solidarity, in which had long since passed the era of colonial relationship, we stood on the eve of a collaboration on a basis of equality when suddenly we were both confronted by the present ordeal. The treacherous aggression on the Netherlands in 1940 was the first interruption in the process of development; the heroic battle of the Netherlands Indies, followed by the occupation of the major part of this territory in 1942, was the second.
At the time when the Indies were still free and only Holland was occupied, the vigor of our unity became apparent and on both sides a feeling of stronger kinship developed more rapidly than it could have in peacetime. Now, however, this mutual understanding has been deepened still further because the same struggle is shared in all its agony and the same distress is suffered in all its bitterness. In the Netherlands as well as in the Netherlands Indies the enemy, with his propaganda for the so-called new order, has left nothing untried to lure the spirit of the people and to disguise his tyranny and suppression with the lies of his promises for the future. But these lies and this deceit have been of no avail because nearly all have seen through them and have understood that our enemies have as their aim nothing but slavery and exploitation and that as long as they have not been driven out and defeated there can be no question of freedom.
In previous addresses I announced that it is my intention, after the liberation, to create the occasion for a joint consultation about the structure of the Kingdom and its parts in order to adapt it to the changed circumstances. The conferences of the entire Kingdom which will be convoked for this purpose, has been further outlined in a Government declaration of January 27th, 1942. The preparation of this conference, in which prominent representatives of the three overseas parts of the Kingdom will be united with those of the Netherlands at a round table, had already begun in the Netherlands Indies, Surinam and Curacao, the parts of the Kingdom which then still enjoyed their freedom. Especially in the Netherlands Indies, detailed material had been collected for this purpose and it was transmitted to me in December 1941 by the Governor-General. The battle of the Netherlands Indies disrupted these promising preparations.
We can only resume these preparations when everyone will be able to speak his mind freely.
Although it is beyond doubt that a political reconstruction of the Kingdom as a whole and of the Netherlands and the overseas territories as its parts is a natural evolution, it would be neither right nor possible to define its precise form at this moment. I realize that much which is great and good is growing in the Netherlands despite the pressure of the occupation; I know that this is the case in the Indies where our unity is fortified by comon suffering. These developing ideas can only be shaped in free consultation in which both parts of the Kingdom will want to take cognizance of each other's opinions. Moreover, the population of the Netherlands and of the Netherlands Indies has confirmed, through its suffering and its resistance, its right to participate in the decision regarding the form of our responsibility as a nation towards the world and of the various groups of the population towards themselves and one another.
By working out these matters now, that right would be neglected, and the insight which my people have obtained through bitter experience, would be disregarded.
I am convinced, and history as well as reports from the occupied territories confirm me in this, that after the war it will be possible to reconstruct the Kingdom on the solid foundation of complete partnership, which will mean the consummation of all that has been developed in the past. I know that no political unity nor national cohesion can continue to exist which are not supported by the voluntary acceptance and the faith of the great majority of the citizenry. I know that the Netherlands more than ever feel their responsibility for the vigorous growth of the Overseas Territories and that the Indonesians recognize, in the ever-increasing collaboration, the best guarantee for the recovery of their peace and happiness. The war years have proved that both peoples possess the will and the ability for harmonious and voluntary cooperation.
A political unity which rests on this foundation moves far towards a realization of the purpose for which the United Nations are fighting, as it has been embodied, for instance, in the Atlantic Charter, and with which we could instantly agree, because it contains our own conception of freedom and justice for which we have sacrified blood and possessions in the course of our history. I visualize, without anticipating the recommendations of the future conference, that they will be directed towards a commonwealth in which the Netherlands. Indonesia, Surinam and Curacao will participate, with complete self-reliance and freedom of conduct for each part regarding its internal affairs, but with the readiness to render mutual assistance.
It is my opinion that such a combination of independence and collaboration can give the Kingdom and its parts the strength to carry fully their responsibility, both internally and externally. This would leave no room for discrimination according to race or nationality; only the ability of the individual citizens and the needs of the various groups of the population will determine the policy of the government.
In the Indies, as in the Netherlands, there now rules an oppressor who, imitating his detestable associates and repudiating principles which he himself has recognized in the past, interns peaceful citizens and deprives women and children of their livelihood. He has uprooted and dislocated that beautiful and tranquil country; his new order brings nothing but misery and want. Nevertheless, we can aver that he has not succeeded in subjugating us, and as the ever-growing force of the United Nations advances upon him from every direction, we know that he will not succeed in the future.
The Netherlands Indies and the Netherlands with their fighting men on land, at sea and in the air, with their alert and brave merchantmen and by their dogged and never-failing resistance in the hard struggle, will see their self-sacrifice and intrepidity crowned after the common victory with the recovery of peace and happiness for their country and their people in a new world. In that regained freedom they will be able to build a new and better future.
1. Quoted from AUTONOMY FOR INDONESIA by A. ARTHUR SCHILLER 1944 - Pacific Affairs, vol. 17, no. 4, Dec. 1944, pp. 478-488.
‘In 1936 the so-called Sutardjo motion was laid before the Council, calling for autonomy of the Indies within the Kingdom, particularly by fostering greater political activity in Indonesian society, by establishing an imperial council with representation of the four territories therein, by enlarging the numbers and powers of the People's Council and making department heads — as ministers — responsible thereto. This precursor of the promises recently made was adopted by the Council. But in November 1938 a royal decree disposed of the matter, on the ground that "clarity of aim is lacking in its formulation, and that the calling of a conference in the manner visualized would be contrary to existing constitutional law."’
‘It was just a year after the invasion of Holland that the Queen and officials of the Netherlands government first promised far-reaching reorganization of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and of the component territories thereof — the Netherlands, Netherlands East Indies, Surinam and Curacao —upon the termination of the war. In the words of the Governor-General of the Indies,' on June 16, 1941: "Immediately after the liberation of the mother country, the adaptation of the structure of the Kingdom to the demands of the times will be considered, the internal constitutional form of the overseas territories constituting an integral part of the program." Shortly thereafter, the Queen promised that a conference would be held to advise the Crown upon the relation of the parts of the Kingdom to one another, and upon the revision of the Administrative Acts (constitutions) of the four territories? Details of the future conference were announced in January 1942: fifteen delegates from the Netherlands, fifteen from the Netherlands Indies, and three each from Surinam and Curacao. Ten of the Indies members were to be appointed upon recommendation by the People's Council, the central representative body of the Indies, the other five to be named by the Government of the Netherlands Indies independently. Queen Wilhelmina's radio address of December 6, 1942, was, accordingly, but a confirmation of a course of conduct outlined earlier.’
2. Quote from Imperialism in SE Asia- A Fleeting Passing Phase by Nicholas Tarling p. 262
The Dutch had … begun to prepare the way for their return as early as 1942 by an attempt to 'counter American attitudes toward colonialism'. A broadcast by Queen Wilhelmina in December alluded to 'a commonwealth in which the Netherlands, Indonesia, Surinam and Curacao will participate' in 'a combination of independence and collaboration'. Talking to the British, H. J. van Mook, the wartime Colonial Minister, had envisaged a Netherlands government and a Netherlands Indies government, with equal status, and, above them, responsible for defence and foreign policy and matters of general interest, an Imperial government. The speech has been called 'a poorly designed and unrealistic proposal ... better characterized as an improvised concession to the language of the times rather than a map of the road to independence'. It echoed the proposals made by the moderate nationalists in the 1930s in the Soetardjo petition of 1936, for example and then rejected. It was, however, a belated attempt at a new form of post-imperial state-building that, unless it was developed in a liberal way, would have little appeal in 1945, and perhaps not sufficient even if it were.
3. Quote from Troubled days of peace: Mountbatten and South East Asia Command, 1945-46, by Peter Dennis, Manchester University Press, 1987 pp. 74-75.
American approval of Dutch colonial policies and their future application was the sine qua non for access to American military largesse, and when Roosevelt suggested that the Dutch make some announcement about the postwar status of the NEI and other Dutch colonies, Van Mook was among the ministers consulted on the thrust of the speech.'
It was timed to coincide with a meeting in Quebec of the influential Institute of Pacific Relations, which had organised a conference to discuss the postwar colonial situation. When she broadcast on 7 December 1942, the Queen promised to convene a conference as soon as possible after the end of the war to discuss the reorganisation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands into a Commonwealth in which relations between the four component parts (the Netherlands, the East Indies, Surinam and Curacao) would be based on the twin principles of 'complete partnership' and 'self-reliance' and freedom of conduct for each part regarding its internal affairs.' Although Roosevelt and American public opinion seemed reassured by these promises, the speech merely stored up troubles for the Dutch. It offered little concrete information about the postwar status of the East Indies, and gave even fewer substantive concessions to reformist let alone nationalist opinion. Van Mook's attempts to spell out the details to a number of American journalists were purely personal; others, including the Dutch prime minister, Professor P.S. Gerbrandy, maintained in private that the speech in no way represented any diminution of the powers of the central government over colonial affairs. Promises of a postwar conference locked the Dutch government into the vagueness of the speech and prevented them from advancing further initiatives as the wartime situation unfolded. The speech was delivered in English – for primarily American consumption – and thus was largely unknown to the very audience to which it was theoretically designed to apply. When the Dutch finally straggled back to the NEI in September 1945, they were no longer part of an American-dominated theatre, but were clinging to the coat-tails of the hard pressed British, who had colonial problems of their own. Furthermore, all the Dutch had to offer was a shadowy plan for reform that was almost three years old. Conditions in the NEI had changed dramatically since 1942, and had rendered the vague promises of the Queen's speech all but irrelevant.
The Dutch, however, did not realise this. Throughout the war information on the NEI was scanty and, as later events showed, often completely unreliable.
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