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South Moluccas

In 1950, in the first years of Indonesian independence, a group of Christians in the southern Moluccan islands, backed by Moluccan Christian soldiers from the Dutch colonial army, proclaimed the independent Republik Maluku Selatan (or RMS, Republic of the South Moluccas). By the time the Japanese had been defeated, there were sufficient nationalists throughout Indonesia, including Maluku, to rise and oppose the Dutch-sponsored Republic of the United States of Indonesia (RUSI), which was created to counter the threat posed by the nationalist Republic of Indonesia to a continued Dutch presence.

Southern Maluku, and particular Ambon, was hastened into declaring its independence from the Republic of Indonesia when the puppet state of RUSI collapsed. The many Dutch-educated and 'loyalist' Moluccan soldiers and civil servants, who had devoted their lives to running the former Dutch East Indies, could see no future in a Republic dominated by what they perceived as a Muslim majority hostile to them. The South Moluccan Council, backed by the people and making use of their right to withdraw from the Federal state of East Indonesia and of their right of self-determination, on April 25, 1950 proclaimed the Independent and Sovereign Republic of the South Moluccas (RMS).

The Indonesian Army quelled the uprising, though guerilla forces continued to fight for years after. Several RMS leaders escaped to Holland, where they established an RMS "government in exile." While the vast majority of Christians on the Moluccas today do not support independence, the memory of the RMS and its separatist aims still resonates in Indonesia, and Moluccan Christians today are accused by Muslim groups of having independence as their goal. This accusation has been useful in galvanizing Muslims to fight, and the situation has not been aided by the fact that some diaspora Moluccan Christian groups have taken up the RMS banner.




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