Happy Groundhog Day, if you are in the United States! But seriously, after nearly three months of researching, recording, editing, and fighting off the challenges that kept me from working on the podcast, Episode 125 is now available! Today we take a close look at Sulawesi, the largest Indonesian island between Borneo and New Guinea. To compensate for the long time you waited, this is the longest episode I have made so far, at one hour and 23 minutes. So grab some refreshment (food or a drink), get comfortable, listen and enjoy!
This episode is dedicated to Flavio M, Cameron P., Evan S., David H., Charles B, and Dante G. All of them have made donations to the podcast. And that’s not all! Cameron P. made a donation in 2021, so on the Podcast Hall of Fame page, Cameron has won the coveted water buffalo icon. Evan S. has also won Walter the Water Buffalo, because he made two donations, one in December and one in January. In the past, I suggested that the quickest way to win an icon on the Hall of Fame page was to make a donation near the end of a year, and then make another donation after the new year begins. Well, Evan has gone and done it. Way to go, Cameron and Evan!
Since I started working on this episode, a new year has begun on more than one calendar, so may this year be the beginning of the best time in your lives so far. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
Episode 125: Sulawesi and the Way of the Ancestors
Greetings dear listeners, for the 125th time, from the hills of Bluegrass country in Kentucky! If you are listening to this close to the time of recording, we made it through 2022, so Happy Belated New Year!
First and foremost, I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, nearly three months since the last episode went online. As with the other times when an episode was delayed, the cares and concerns of the real world got in the way of my work. I don’t record a podcast to talk about my troubles, so I will just mention one of the challenges I faced: I am in the part of the United States that got hit by a blizzard in December 2022, the one meteorologists called “Winter Storm Elliott.” What a predicament, for a podcaster who talks about a part of the world that is always hot! And why are we now giving names to winter storms, anyway? I thought only coriolis storms (hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones) deserved that honor. Then after the blizzard ended, and December became January, my wife showed me photos of the destruction inflicted by major flooding, in her home province of the Philippines.
Another factor has been the research. I think I warned you that giving equal time to eastern Indonesia would take a lot of research. Well, all too often I came upon webpages that didn’t have the information I am looking for. For this subject we are getting into some really obscure material, on a par with what I said about the Kingdom of Arakan in Episode #18. In the end I had to say I couldn’t find some of the information I am looking for. Well, the record show I am going to have these episodes done right, to the best of my ability, no matter how long it takes. Thank you for hanging in there!
All right. If this is your first time listening to this podcast, for the last few episodes I have been tying up “loose ends,” talking about subjects that weren’t covered enough, the other times we got together. Along that line, we are now in a mini-series of sorts, about the islands of eastern Indonesia, because at least one listener felt that when Indonesia was the country under discussion, I talked mostly about events on the three big islands in the western part of the country: Java, Sumatra and Borneo. Fair enough. Now here is what I found, I hope you like it.
In the previous episode, we started the mini-series with a look at the island of Bali. Today, we will look at a larger island, just to the north of Bali, and just to the east of Borneo — Sulawesi. If you haven’t listened to Episode #124 yet, I recommend you pause this episode here, and go listen to #124, to find out how we started this mini-series; it includes a refresher course on Indonesian geography. Don’t worry, I’ll wait until you come back.
All right, are we ready to continue? Good!
Sulawesi is the largest island we will visit in this mini-series. In fact, it is in the group of islands geographers call the Greater Sunda Islands; the other Greater Sundas are Sumatra, Borneo and Java, which as I said, got enough attention in the episodes that talked about all of Indonesia, not just the eastern islands. This island has an irregular shape, with four peninsulas; to me it looks like a hand. Well, maybe a frog hand, if not a human hand. Some of my sources compared the shape with an orchid flower, or a lower-case letter “K.” The present-day Indonesian government has divided the island into six provinces. The latest census, conducted in 2020, put Sulawesi’s population at almost 20 million people. If you want to compare that with the population of Bali, the island we visited in the previous episode, Bali has 3 million people. The largest city is Makassar; it has 1.3 million people and rests near the southwest corner of the island. Likewise, the narrow waterway on the west side of Sulawesi, separating it from Borneo, is called the Makassar Strait.
If you want to complete the geographical picture, small seas surround the other sides of Sulawesi. The sea on the island’s north side, between Sulawesi and the Philippines, is called the Celebes Sea; more about that name in a minute. On the south side, separating Sulawesi from the Lesser Sunda Islands, we have the Flores Sea. And separating Sulawesi from the Moluccas and Banda Islands are two more small seas: the Molucca Sea to the northeast, and the Banda Sea to the southeast.
Like most of Southeast Asia, much of Sulawesi’s land is rugged with mountains, which include some volcanoes. The whole island used to be covered by jungles, but unfortunately, like in the rest of the tropics around the world, deforestation is a serious problem. 80% of the forests have been cut down, either to extract the hardwoods, a valuable resource, or to make room for farms and human communities. Intruders have also cut away part of the forest to mine the island’s metal resources, such as nickel, gold and copper. The good news is that just about all the land fit for farms and cities has already been cleared, so it doesn’t appear likely that the forests remaining will be cut down. One of my sources put the forests in seven categories, called mangrove, montane, monsoon, ultrabasic, limestone, peat swamp, and freshwater swamp forests. To protect the island’s many unique plants and animals, six national parks and nineteen nature preserves have been set up. Examples of Sulawesi’s special wildlife include the tarsier, a bug-eyed, rarely seen prosimian primate, built to leap from tree to tree; the hornbill, a toucan-like bird that uses mud and trash to seal itself up in a hollow tree, so it can raise its eggs and young in privacy; the maleo; a bird that incubates its eggs in the hot sands near volcanic vents; and the Celebes crested macaque, one of the world’s largest monkeys. Finally, I will remind you of something covered in the very first episodes of the podcast: the “Wallace Line,” a line drawn by biologists to distinguish between the animals of western and eastern Indonesia, runs through the Makassar Strait, between Borneo and Sulawesi.
And now a few words about the island’s name. We’re not dead sure what Sulawesi means, but it appears to be a combination of two words from the Indonesian language: sula, meaning island, and besi, meaning iron. The iron may refer to the rich iron deposits around Lake Matano, which the natives mined as early as the 13th century. So to Indonesians, Sulawesi’s name appears to mean “Island of Iron.” However, that is not the first name I learned for the island. When I was a kid, the island appeared on maps with the name “Celebes.” That name comes to us from the Portuguese explorers who visited the island in the 16th century, and “Celebes” appears to be a Portuguese attempt to say”Sulawesi.” Celebes remained the official name throughout the Dutch colonial era, but after Indonesia became independent in 1949, the Indonesians began promoting their own name for the island. It was only in 1978 that I first heard the name “Sulawesi,” so until I hear otherwise, I will assume it was in the late 1970s when the rest of the world switched to using the Indonesian name.
Like other Southeast Asian islands, Sulawesi is home to several tribes that speak many languages, but most of the young people prefer to use Bahasa Indonesia, the national language. When it comes to religion, the majority of the local population follows Islam, and there is a significant Christian minority. This is also typical for most of Indonesia. Nevertheless, one tribe living in the middle of Sulawesi is famous for practicing a form of animism, a religion which believes there are spirits in animals, plants and even non-animate objects in the world all around. These are the Torajas, who have built an elaborate funerary cult around the veneration of their ancestors. Those of you who follow the podcast’s Facebook page may remember that one or two years ago, I shared a video about the Torajas; that came from a documentary I saw on TV, back in 1978. Today the Toraja population is estimated at 1.1 million, of which 450,000 live in their ancestral homeland, which is called Tana Toraja, near the center of Sulawesi.
When researching this episode, I learned that the 44-year-old documentary I shared on the Torajas is out of date. Since the 1970s, anthropologists have come to study their culture, missionaries have come to convert them, and tourists have come to visit. In fact, the Toraja homeland is the second most visited place by tourists in eastern Indonesia, after Bali. All this exposure to the outside world has encouraged many Torajas to move away to seek better jobs, either to other parts of the island, or in some cases, off the island completely. Consequently their financial status is getting better. Remember when I told you about Filipinos who work abroad and send part of their paychecks back to their families? The Torajas are doing the same thing. And thanks to the missionaries, most of today’s Torajas are Christian; only 6 percent of them still follow the old-time religion, which the Indonesian government has named Aluk To Dolo, the Way of the Ancestors.
In the Toraja country, the houses are built on stilts, to minimize the effect of flooding, and are shaped like giant boats to look like the water craft their ancestors used to come to the island from China, the Philippines, or wherever. One of my sources was a travel guide that said, if you visit where the Torajas live, you should see one of their funerals, strange as it may sound. Some cultures in ancient times spent an extravagant amount on funerals — the ancient Egyptians and the Incas come to mind — but in today’s world, I can’t think of anyone who outdoes the Torajas on funerals. Whereas most of us see death as something to be dreaded and avoided, Torajas following the old religion see it as just another rite of passage, and will spend days, weeks, even years preparing for a funeral. When one of them dies, instead of removing the body right away, they will keep it at home for however long it takes, until enough money has been saved for the funeral and every relative has been notified of it. During that time, the body is simply called a “sick person,” while their loved ones apply formaldehyde to embalm the body, change the clothes, give them food and water daily, and swat any flies that land on them. It is only when all conditions are right that the funeral can take place.
The funerals are important status symbols for Torajan families, costing anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 in US dollars, depending on the social rank of the family. And here, as in most of Southeast Asia, $50,000 to $500,000 is worth much more than that to the locals. Thus, people can go into debt to provide a proper funeral for their loved ones, and a man may even postpone his wedding if he knows that his would-be bride has a relative who may die soon. The best time of the year for funerals is August or September, and they can last from a few days to several weeks, again depending on the social status of the individual. Of course some mourning happens during the funeral, but overall the event is treated like a great send-off party for the deceased. There are prayers, singing and dancing, while the main events are cockfights, the slaughter of pigs, and the ritual sacrifice of one or more water buffalo. The animal killings make sure there is enough food for the festival, and I don’t recommend they be watched by tourists, unless they have strong stomachs!
On the last day of the funeral, the deceased are finally taken to their resting places. Babies get coffins placed in hollow trees, while cliffside burials are preferred for full-sized corpses. The coffins for these burials can go into caves carved into the faces of cliffs, or the coffins might be fastened to the sides of the cliffs. Either way, a fancy wooden statue called a tau tau should be placed nearby, made to look as much like the deceased person as possible. Nowadays, some Toraja families will build a wooden mausoleum above ground that looks like one of their boat-houses. The mausoleum will have a single sealed chamber that can hold several bodies, though only photographs of the most important occupants are placed on the outside. Also, in recent years many tau tau statues have been stolen and sold to tourists, so some families have chosen to keep them in their homes.
Whatever form the burial place takes, it has to be sturdy, because even after the body is put away, the Torajas are not done taking care of it! Every one to three years afterwards, usually in August, they hold a refreshing ritual called ma’nene. At this time, they return to the tombs, remove the dead, clean off any bugs, place a fresh set of clothes on them, and spray them from head to toe. If the dead body has stayed in good shape since they last saw it, this is seen as a blessing. More importantly, this “second funeral” gives younger generations an opportunity to bond with their ancestors. It’s not unusual to see young Torajans share a cigarette with their dead great-grandfathers, or take selfies with the great-grandmothers they never met in life. Then they do maintenance on the tomb if necessary, and put the bodies back — until next time. Supposedly this custom started when a Torajan man named Pong Rumasek found the body of a deceased person under a tree while hunting in the mountains. Rumasek dressed him in his own clothes and buried him with all honors, believing this would bring him prosperity. Yes, among the Torajas, you can be the afterlife of the party!
Next, we will take a look at Sulawesi’s history and prehistory. The oldest evidence of humans inhabiting the island comes from cave art. From 2014 to 2021, archaeologists announced the discovery of paintings in the island’s caves, which they estimate are anywhere from 35,000 to 45,000 years old. These paintings may be the oldest examples of art in the world, and mainly depict outlines of hands, hand stencils in effect, and local animals like the Celebes warty pig. The artists may have arrived during the part of the ice age when land bridges connected the Indonesian islands to the Asian mainland, so they could have gotten there by simply walking — later on people would have needed boats, of course. The ancestors of today’s population, the Malays or Austronesians, arrived around 1500 B.C. They spread rapidly and split into various tribes, among which the largest group were called the Bugis.
The Bugis lived by hunting, gathering and growing rice. Their chiefs traded women in peacetime and battled each other during times of conflict. Head hunting was commonly practiced, and because they had boats, they would trade with neighboring islands. In addition, more than 400 granite megaliths, shaped like pots, plates or people, stand in central Sulawesi; we believe the Bugis carved these stones and placed them in their present locations. Finally, a few images of foreign gods have turned up, pointing to contacts with foreign merchants and missionaries during the early years. A bronze Amaravathi statue was discovered in South Sulawesi in 1921, which was dated to between the 2nd and 7th centuries A.D., and in 1975, small locally made Buddhist statues from the 10th or 11th century were discovered on Selayar, a small island off Sulawesi’s southern shore. However, it doesn’t look like the whole local population had been converted this early.
Above the family level, the simplest social unit is the tribe, and after the tribe, groups of people founded first villages, then city-states, communities surrounded by tracts of land. I mentioned earlier that Sulawesi’s residents began digging for iron ore in the 13th century, but aside from knowing some permanent communities existed, in the neighborhood of present-day Makassar, we don’t have any details on those permanent communities before 1400. This means the Bugis and other local tribes were still in a relatively primitive state when the Majapahit Empire invaded from Java and conquered Sulawesi in the 14th century. Unfortunately I could not find a date for the Majapahit conquest, but we know it must have happened before 1365, because Majapahit’s epic poem, the Nagarakertagama, mentions the city of Makassar as being part of the empire in that year.
The city of Makassar claims to have had three dynasties of kings, going back to sometime before the year 1000. According to a myth that appears to have been made up by Hindus, the first dynasty was established when a celestial princess descended to Sulawesi from Paradise. Whatever happened, the oldest king we know anything about besides his name is Batara Gowa Tuniawanga-ri Parang Lakenna. Try saying that name three times fast! He ruled from 1405 to 1425. Presumably this was when Makassar gained its independence from Majapahit. After this, we know that Makassar belonged to a small kingdom named Gowa, while another kingdom named Tallo stood next ot it.
The ninth king of Gowa was Tumaparisi Kallonna, and he ruled from 1511 to 1546. He forged an alliance with the neighboring state of Tallo, and that partnership would last until the Dutch took over in the next century. Over the next few years, an international port and fortress were built at Somba Opu, about ten kilometers south of present-day Makassar, and it would serve both states.
Also, in the same year that Tumaparisi came to power, 1511, Portugal conquered the Malay state of Malacca. Now Makassar took Malacca’s place as the principal trading center among Southeast Asia’s islands. First Malay traders, expelled from Malacca, settled here, and then the Portuguese themselves showed up. We think the first Portuguese expedition arrived in 1523. Like other European explorers at this time, the Portuguese looked for gold, since as we noted earlier, there was some gold available on this island. By the 1540s, they were using the port of Somba Opu as their base to stop and refit, on the way to and from the Spice Islands.
In Episode #12, we saw that religious extremists in Indonesia, especially the kingdom of Aceh, tried to expel the Portuguese from the entire region, and the Portuguese survived these onslaughts because they got along with more moderate islanders. Chief among the moderates was Makassar, and it gave the Portuguese shelter in their waters because Makassar wanted to do business with everybody. Besides the Portuguese and Malays, Chinese, Arabs, Siamese, Indians and Javanese also came here, to trade their manufactured goods, especially fine textiles, for spices from the islands to the east.
The next important ruler after Tumaparisi was Aladdin Tumenanga-ri Gaukama, who ruled from 1593 to 1639. You probably noticed that his first name, Aladdin, is an Arabic name. Well, during his reign both the Gowa and Tallo rulers converted to Islam, and Makassar’s Islamic history officially began on November 9, 1607, when the first congregation Friday prayer was performed in the Tallo mosque. This was also when another player, the Dutch, entered the game; the first Dutch ship to arrive at Makassar came in 1605.
The Dutch signed a treaty with Sultan Aladdin in 1609, which allowed them to have a warehouse, what was called a factory in those days, for nine years. Back in Episode #17, I mentioned that one of the ways the Dutch East India Company made money was by collecting rice from areas that grew it, and transporting it to rice-deficient areas; well, Makassar was one of those places where rice was available. The factory was evacuated, though, later re-occupied, and torn down in 1615. In 1616 fifteen Dutch sailors were massacred, after the Company took several Makassar nobles hostage in order to force the sultan to pay the debts he owed them. When the treaty expired in 1618, the Dutch were not allowed to renew it or build a new factory, though Portugal, Denmark and England all had permanent trading posts at Makassar by this date.
The Dutch returned to Makassar in 1633, and tried to blockade the harbor with a fleet, in an unsuccessful attempt to stop smuggling to the Moluccas; that violated the Company’s monopoly over the spice trade. That issue was settled in 1636, when the Company’s man on the spot, Anthony Van Diemen, concluded a treaty with the sultan of Gowa. The sultan would stay out of Moluccan affairs, in return for the right to trade with Malacca and one of the Moluccan islands, Ceram. However, the sultan would continue to support an anti-Dutch rebellion on Amboina. The next sultan, Muhammad Malik us-Said, expanded the state by conquering some neighboring territories: the Bugis kingdom of Bone in 1640, the island of Hitu in 1645, and part of Ceram in 1653. This expansion was considered an act of defiance by the Company, because the Company now wanted a monopoly over the spice trade, and when the Company ordered the sultan to destroy the clove trees in his realm, he did not do so.
A new sultan, Muhammad Bakr Hasanuddin, came to power in 1653, and under him relations with the Dutch went from bad to worse. The Dutch issued an order forbidding the people of Makassar to sail the seas, and Hasanuddin believed that it was not the will of God to allow only European commerce around the islands, so he continued to oppose the Dutch by smuggling and giving aid to enemies of the Dutch on Amboina. The Dutch responded by sending a fleet to take Ceram in the 1650s. By now the Dutch had proven they could manage everything more efficiently than the Portuguese had, and they decided that they wanted to rule Makassar directly. Because the sultan was a cruel monarch who was willing to abuse his power, and was very unpredictable, while the Dutch wanted a monopoly over the spice trade at any cost, it was only a matter of time before war broke out between them. That happened in 1660; a large fleet of 31 ships, commanded by Johan Van Dam, bombarded Makassar and destroyed six Portuguese merchant ships in the vicinity, and Dutch troops came ashore to capture one of the sultan’s forts.
Sultan Hasanuddin sued for peace and agreed to give up trade to the Moluccas, pay an indemnity and expel Portuguese citizens from his realm. But he took so long in carrying out these terms, that the Dutch felt compelled to resume hostilities. This time Dutch forces were commanded by Admiral Cornelis Speelman, the Company’s future governor-general, and he brought with him a native ally, Arung Palakka, heir to the throne of Bone. This prince wanted revenge against Hasanuddin, because for one of his atrocities, the sultan killed Arung Palakka’s father and grandfather; he had both of those unfortunates placed in a trough used for shelling the hulls off rice grains, where both were pounded to death by wooden clubs. Previously, Arung Palakka had proven himself worthy of Dutch support, by joining a Dutch military expedition to the west coast of Sumatra.
The combined Dutch and native force first sailed to Buton, a small island southeast of Sulawesi. This is where refugees from Bone had fled, and they had called on the Company for help. Speelman quickly defeated the force from Makassar on that island in January 1667. 6,000 enemy soldiers were captured; of those, 500 were sold as slaves, and the rest were dropped on an inhospitable island. Next, they went to Sulawesi; Arung Palakka was dropped off near Bone so he could liberate the city, and then he marched to Makassar, where Speelman’s fleet was waiting. The sultan could not defeat them, and in November 1667 they forced him to sign the Treaty of Bongaya, which re-established the monopoly of the Dutch East India Company in the area, under these terms:
- A monopoly on Chinese-made wares like porcelain.
- A ban on trade with all other European nations.
- A ban on trade between the Sultanate of Gowa and the Moluccas.
- Duty-free trade for the Company.
- Gowa had to pay a war indemnity and give up a thousand slaves.
- The fortifications in Makassar had to be torn down, except for the sultan’s residence and the fort already occupied by the Company.
- While the states of Sulawesi were independent, they recognized the Dutch as the ultimate authority over the surrounding seas.
- Bone regained independence, with Arung Palakka as its ruler. Henceforth, Bone would be the strongest native-ruled state on the island.
So do you think the sultan kept these terms? If you do, you haven’t been paying attention; he didn’t know when to quit. Within a few months he renounced the treaty, and Speelman came back to attack again; Arung Palakka raised an army of 10,000 native troops to help. This time, the fortifications of Makassar proved they were worth keeping, because the Dutch fleet exhausted all its ammunition in a useless bombardment, failing to breach Somba Opu’s defenses. The Company and its allies besieged the city for nearly two years, with diseases taking such a toll on the attackers that at one point only 250 European soldiers were fit for service. Finally, sappers were sent to dig under the local defenses, and Makassar surrendered on June 12, 1669. Those natives who refused to accept defeat fled to other parts of Indonesia, or to even more distant places like Siam, to join fights against the Dutch there. As for Arung Palakka, he ruled Bone until his death in 1696. Still, the Indonesians did not forget the sultan. In the 1930s, the Dutch would build an airport for Makassar, and fifty years later, in 1985, the Indonesians renamed it, so today it is called Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport.
Because Makassar and Somba Opu had been destroyed in the 1669 conflict, the Dutch designed a new, smaller city to take their place. They called the part of the city which mattered to them “Fort Rotterdam,” and the areas surrounding it became “Vlaardingen.” They also used Dutch architecture, laid out the roads intelligently, and placed parks in several locations, giving the city a modern, European look. As for Vlaardingen, it served as living quarters for slaves and other Indonesians who worked for the Europeans. Gradually, in defiance of the Dutch, Arabs, Malays, Bugis and Chinese returned to conduct their own business outside Fort Rotterdam’s walls. The commodities they traded were locally made — copra, rattan, pearls, trepang or sea cucumbers, and bado nuts, the oil of which can be used for men’s hair dressing.
The next thing I say will probably offend some of you, in these politically correct times. Makassar was also a notorious slave-market. Slaves were collected from everywhere, but they were mainly caught on the the coasts of Sulawesi, though hunting for them caused the destruction of local societies. Because there were so many tribal wars (and so many prisoners captured in those wars), there was always an abundant supply of slaves. The native aristocracy of Sulawesi in those days had done a lot to promote slavery and the abuses that come with it. Slavery was abolished by the Dutch in 1860, but it took until around 1930 for the Dutch colonial authorities to stamp it out completely, because of the inaccessible interior of some parts of their empire.
So far on Sulawesi, the Dutch only had a man on the spot in Makassar, but in 1699 they claimed the whole island as a colony, calling it Dutch Celebes. In 1739 Kareng Bontolangkasa seized the throne of Gowa and besieged the Dutch in Fort Rotterdam. The Dutch defeated him, destroyed much of Makassar and Somba Opu again, and installed their own candidate for sultan, Abdul Khair al-Mansur Shah. There was another unsuccessful revolt in 1778, and this time the rest of old Makassar was destroyed. Then in 1830, when the Dutch defeated Diponegoro, a prince who opposed them on Java, they exiled Diponegoro to Fort Rotterdam until his death in 1855.
We saw previously in the podcast that during the 17th and 18th centuries, when the Dutch East India Company controlled Dutch activities in Asia, the Company’s resources were limited, so the Company concentrated its efforts on Java and the Spice Islands. Over the rest of the islands, Dutch control was patchy and incomplete; the Company would work with natives who wanted a share of the profits. Well, near the end of the 18th century, two things happened. First, France conquered the Netherlands in 1795, and would rule it for the period of the Napoleonic Wars. Second, the Company went bankrupt. This meant the Dutch-ruled parts of Indonesia were now under the control of a government: first the French, then the British, when they conquered Java in 1811, and finally the Dutch government, when the Dutch regained their independence at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and returned to Java in 1816. During the next few years, the industrial revolution made the Netherlands richer and stronger than it had been before, and the invention of the steamship and the digging of the Suez Canal made Asia much more accessible to Europe. Now the Dutch could directly rule a territory almost fifty times the size of their homeland, more than seven thousand miles away. Since they didn’t need native middlemen anymore, they launched a series of campaigns to remove them. Bit by bit, between 1816 and 1908, the Dutch took over the whole Indonesian archipelago, one campaign at a time.
For the Dutch campaigns, the standard procedure was to first send an agent to the targeted native ruler, with a document called the Korte Veklaring, meaning Short Statement or Declaration. This was a standardized form that said the native ruler agreed to accept Dutch sovereignty. Some Dutch historians have said these expeditions were an “obligation,” because the Dutch had the responsibility to maintain law and order. If the ruler signed the form, well and good; there would be no war, because the ruler was considered to have abdicated. The Dutch called this the Pacificatie politiek, or the “Peace Policy.” If the ruler refused, Dutch troops were sent in, and the campaign usually ended with the troops forcing the ruler to sign the Short Declaration.
I said a few minutes ago that up to the mid-nineteenth century, the only part of Sulawesi that the Dutch ruled directly was Makassar. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much about how they gained direct control over the rest of the island. Maybe if I could read the Dutch or Indonesian languages, there would be more information available. For all I know, most of the island’s conquest could have come about through the “Peace Policy” that I just described. I did find that there was a military expedition in January 1860, where the Dutch occupied Watampone, the capital of Bone, and the king of Bone was forced to flee that mini-state, but again there were no details besides that.
One campaign that I did find details about is now called the South Sulawesi expeditions of 1905. One Indonesian historian, Hari Budiarti, has argued that this campaign had a strategic purpose: south Sulawesi was the “key” to controlling the rest of eastern Indonesia, which the Dutch called the “Great East.” There was also an economic motive: to extend the tax-collecting powers of the Dutch government in Makassar to the whole island. The goal was to depose the native rulers of three kingdoms: Bone, Luwu and Wajo. The Dutch governor of Sulawesi, Alexander Kroesen, wrote a letter approving the expedition on February 11, 1904. Still, negotiations were tried first, and when they failed, Governor-General Johannes Benedictus van Heutsz wrote a letter to Governor Kroesen, declaring that his intention was to occupy all of south Sulawesi by force and compel the local rulers to sign the Short Declaration. By the way, we met van Heutsz once before in this podcast; in Episode 22 he carried out the winning strategy for the longest war in Indonesia, the Dutch conquest of Aceh, on Sumatra.
The South Sulawesi expeditions were really two conflicts, the Third Bone War and the Gowa War. The Dutch went after Bone first, sending twenty-five warships and one transport to the harbor of Bajoe in July 1905. They delivered a letter containing the Dutch demands to La Pawawoi Karaeng Segeri, the king of Bone. These demands called for the king to turn over policing duties in his ports of Bajoe and Pallima to them, and that he accept compensation for giving up his right to tax imports and exports passing through the harbours. The king was given twenty-four hours to respond; he rejected the demands and declared war.
The Dutch came ashore at at Ujung Pattiro, at an estuary of the Cenrana River, where the first battle took place. The king’s son, Baso Abdul Hamid, commanded the defending force; he was defeated in every battle, and eventually killed in action. Ten days after the Dutch landing, it was all over, and Bone was completely occupied. The king fled to Toraja country, and offered peace terms after the death of his son. He was captured and exiled to Bandung, on Java, in December. There he died in 1911, and the Indonesians gave him the posthumous title Matinroe ri Bandung, meaning “who died in Bandung”.
Gowa’s turn came in October 1905. Governor Kroesen sent a letter to the king of Gowa, I Makkulau Karaeng Lembagaparang, inviting him to negotiate at Ujung Pandang. With the letter came an ultimatum that if he did not respond in three days, Gowa would be besieged. The king ignored the ultimatum, and fortified his fortresses instead. Needless to say the Dutch attacked, and the royal family fled to various locations.
Two months later, believing that the king of Gowa was in a kingdom named Barus, the Dutch sent a delegation to re-open negotiations with him, but the king had really gone to a third kingdom, Sawitto. The Dutch tracked him there, and besieged the fortress of Alitta, killing all the Gowan soldiers inside, including the king’s son, I Pangsuriseng, and capturing the king’s wounded brother, I Mangimangi. The king himself escaped, was surrounded, escaped again, but them fell into a ravine and died. Another son of the king, I Mappanyukki, took refuge with his forces among the Torajas. After fifteen months of resistance, he was persuaded to seek peace with the Dutch, but during the negotiations, he was captured and exiled to Selayang Island with his followers. He was allowed to return in 1908, when his uncle, I Mangimangi, was in turn exiled to Bima, a city on the east coast of the island of Sumbawa. After that, the entire island was directly ruled by the Dutch until the Japanese invaded during World War II.
There isn’t too much to report about Sulawesi for the World War II years. Japanese troops landed on the north side of the island on January 10, 1942, and staged a second landing near Makassar on February 9. From these points they conquered the island easily, because the only defenders were 2,300 Dutch troops, and the fall of their homeland to the Germans in 1940 meant they were leaderless and poorly equipped. A US air raid bombed Sulawesi, along with Timor, on June 30, 1942, and that’s it. There were no more battles here for the rest of the war, meaning there were still Japanese troops occupying Sulawesi when the Allies won the war elsewhere. Unlike Java and Sumatra, which were occupied by the Japanese Army, the Imperial Japanese Navy administered Sulawesi and most of eastern Indonesia. There were some nationalists active on Sulawesi, who made it through the whole war despite Japanese attempts to suppress them.
When the war ended, Australian troops came to Borneo and the eastern islands, to disarm and remove the Japanese, and to maintain order until the Dutch could return. Meanwhile, the Sulawesi nationalists started working with Sukarno’s nationalists on Java. One of the nationalists, Sam Ratulangi, was in Batavia when Sukarno proclaimed Indonesian independence, on August 17, 1945, and the Javanese appointed him the first governor of Sulawesi, under the new Indonesian republic. However, he was only able to serve in that position for two brief periods, each less than a year long. Dutch forces arrested Ratulangi in April 1946 when they returned to Sulawesi, and exiled him to a small island near Western New Guinea until March 1948, when the signing of the Renville Agreement compelled the Dutch to release him. They arrested Ratulangi again in December 1948; this time, because he was in poor health, they kept him under house arrest until his death on June 30, 1949. Thus, he did not live to see the final victory in Indonesia’s war for independence. Today on North Sulawesi, the airport for the city of Manado has been named Sam Ratulangi International Airport in his honor.
For more information about World War II in Indonesia, go back to Episodes 39 and 58. For more about the Indonesian war for independence, also called the Indonesian National Revolution, go to Episode 60.
There was a campaign specific to Sulawesi during the Indonesian War for Independence, and since you probably don’t remember it from Episode 60, with all the other things happening at the time, I’ll mention it again here. A Dutch officer, Captain Raymond Pierre Paul Westerling, also nicknamed “The Turk,” led the South Sulawesi Campaign, which lasted from December 1946 to February 1947. During World War II he had received commando training from the British, but was never sent to the front line. Now he took charge of a commando unit called the DST, or Depot Special Forces, which contained 130 Dutch and Indonesian soldiers. They were sent to Sulawesi, where Indonesian guerrillas had spread from Java, to assist, quote, “their brothers on Celebes,” unquote, by bringing enormous amounts of smuggled weapons. This was in violation of the recently signed Linggadjati Agreement. The local rebels were organized into several units, which included criminal gangs. One group was called the Badjeng Centipedes Army, another was called the Red Ant. Because the conventional tactics used by the Dutch armed forces had not worked, Westerling’s unit specialized in counter-insurgency warfare and interrogation.
Whereas the Dutch often released captured enemy fighters after interrogating them, Westerling argued that if they wanted to pacify Sulawesi, without losing thousands of innocent lives, they needed to apply summary justice. Typically Westerling’s unit would surround a suspected village at night, go in, drive the residents to a central location, and separate the men from the women and children. Those villagers who were identified as terrorists or murderers were usually shot immediately, without further investigation. Westerling also ordered the registration of all Javanese arriving in Makassar to identify those participating in the resistance. He also infiltrated villages with scouts to find enemy fighters. Afterwards Westerling forced communities to stop supporting guerillas by swearing on the Koran, and established local self-defence units by recruiting former guerrillas considered “redeemable.”
Westerling directed eleven operations during the South Sulawesi Campaign, which successfully restored Dutch rule in southern Sulawesi. However, word soon got out concerning Westerling’s controversal methods. In April 1947 the Dutch government instituted an official inquiry, and Westerling was never given another command assignment. In November 1948 he was relieved of his duties. Current estimates of the number of Indonesian civilians killed range from 1,500 to 3,500. The Indonesian government used to claim the number of victims was anywhere from 15,000 to 40,000, but this is now seen as fiction, wartime propaganda.
After leaving the army, Westerling married and moved to Pasundan, a state the Dutch created in Western Java. He tried to keep this area from joining Sukarno’s republic, by launching a coup against Sukarno in January 1950. The coup attempt failed, and the Dutch helped him escape from Indonesia completely. Eventually he settled down in the Netherlands.
Because the 1949 Dutch–Indonesian agreement on transfer of power stipulated that neither country would extradite war criminals to the other, Westerling never had to worry about standing trial in Indonesia, while the Dutch government refused to prosecute him. He did not admit to any war crimes until 1969, when he gave an interview on TV. No TV station showed the interview at the time, partly because of threats the Dutch stations received. The interview wasn’t broadcast until 2012, 43 years after it was filmed, and 25 years after Westerling’s death (from natural causes).
In 2013, the Dutch ambassador in Indonesia apologized on behalf of the Dutch government. This prompted widows and children of the Sulawesi victims to file a lawsuit against the Netherlands. A Dutch court then ruled in 2015 that the Amsterdam government was liable for the damage done because Indonesia was Dutch territory back then, and its people were citizens of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The latest on this case comes from March 2020, when The Hague District Court ordered the Dutch government to pay damage compensation ranging from €123 to €10,000, to the relatives of 11 men executed in the South Sulawesi Campaign. Also in 2020, a Dutch movie was made about the Indonesian National Revolution, called “The East.” Captain Westerling’s part was played by actor Marwan Kenzari.
Podcast footnote: Whoops! I made an error in the previous episode. There I reminded you that from 1946 to 1950, the Dutch had a plan to make all of eastern Indonesia a separate state from Java, Sumatra and Borneo, and call it Negara Indonesia Timur, or N.I.T., meaning the State of Eastern Indonesia. That was correct; my mistake was in saying that the capital of that state was on Bali. Well, I looked on the website of Encyclopedia Britannica, and it says the capital of the N.I.T. was really Makassar! It turns out this whole thing was an outgrowth of Dutch colonial policy. In 1938, just three years before World War II and the Japanese invasion of Indonesia, all of the Dutch-ruled islands east of Borneo and Java, including Western New Guinea, were merged into one province or governorate, and its administrative capital was Makassar. The Dutch name for this huge collection of islands and seas was simply the Great East. I don’t know where I got the idea that the capital was on Bali, but it may be because the first and only president of Eastern Indonesia, a gentleman named Cokorda Gde Raka Sukawati, came from Bali. Now if you can remember that name, you’re a real trivia expert! After the Dutch granted independence, Mr. Sukawati negotiated the merger of Eastern Indonesia with the western islands, because it was clear that a majority of his subjects wanted a unified Indonesia. Sorry for the inconvenience. End footnote.
I couldn’t find much to report on, for events that have happened on Sulawesi since Indonesian independence came. The main events occurred in the first decade after independence, starting with an uprising in Makassar, during April 1950. You may remember that when the Dutch agreed to independence in 1949, they created not one state, but a confederation of sixteen Indonesian states, called the United States of Indonesia, and within eight months, all the other states were absorbed into the state Sukarno led from Jakarta (formerly Batavia), to form present-day Indonesia. In the case of Makassar, 700 troops were sent from Jakarta on April 5, 1950, to persuade Eastern Indonesia to join Sukarno’s republic, and there were still 200 pro-Republican guerrillas around Makassar, left over from Westerling’s campaign. Opposing them were 350 troops that had previously served in the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army, led by Captain Andi Aziz. This force seized control of Makassar, and prevented the 700 Republican troops from entering the city by firing artillery at their troop transports, forcing them to retreat. Aziz defended his actions by claiming to uphold the Federal Constitution which guaranteed the autonomy of all of Indonesia’s states. He also claimed that he had discovered documents alleging that Sukarno was collaborating with the Indonesian Communist Party and the Soviet Union to destroy the “capitalist and upper classes” and establish a unitary state, which would pave the way for a communist take-over.
However, most of the East Indonesian government refused to support this coup. Within a week, Sukarno sent more troops, this time under Lieutenant Colonel Suharto (yes, the future President Suharto) and Colonel Alexander Evert Kawilarang. When they arrived at Makassar, they found only light resistance. Thus, the uprising only lasted for two weeks. Eastern Indonesian President Sukawati convinced Aziz to come to Jakarta and negotiate with Sukarno’s government; this was backed up with a safe-conduct pass from Sukarno and the United Nations Commission for Indonesia. However, after he stepped off the plane in Jakarta, Aziz was arrested. He spent the rest of his life on Java, so he is done in this story.
Indonesia’s separatists weren’t done, though, and they launched more uprisings later in the 1950s; I covered them briefly in Episode 97. On Sulawesi, a group called Permesta declared itself in 1957; the name is Indonesian for Universal Struggle Charter. Originally they were based in Makassar, but when they failed to take that city, they moved to Manado, a city on the northeast side of the island. In February 1958 they teamed up with the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia, or PRRI, a like-minded movement in central Sumatra, and that triggered the central government’s response. On February 22, 1958, the Indonesian air force bombed Manado, as well as Padang on Sumatra. This generated support for the rebels in north Sulawesi, and 2,000 former soldiers from the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army quickly joined Permesta. These soldiers were old — they had joined the Dutch army more than a decade earlier, before Indonesia became independent — so they were mainly used to train the younger, inexperienced enlistees who joined Permesta after that. With the help of arms and B-26 bombers, supplied by the US Central Intelligence Agency, Permesta captured the island of Morotai in the Moluccas, then Jailolo airbase on Halmahera, while on Sulawesi they captured the cities of Donggala and Palu, and in other parts of Indonesia they bombed the cities of Ambon, Balikpapan, Makassar, and Ternate. But aside from that, and controlling the airspace over eastern Indonesia, that was as far as the rebels got. In mid-May of 1958, the CIA decided to end its support for Permesta, and ordered its personnel to get out of Indonesia, and later in the same month, government troops struck back on both the Halmahera islands and north Sulawesi. It took until late July to reconquer north Sulawesi, but that did not end the uprising completely. Some Permesta rebels continued to resist, fighting a guerrilla campaign until the last of them surrendered and were given amnesty in 1961. Overall the uprising killed 4,000 government soldiers and 2,000 Permesta rebels.
No discussion of the Permesta uprising would be complete without mentioning the capture of Allen Lawrence Pope. Allen Pope is a US Air Force veteran, who flew bombing missions during the Korean War. After that war ended in a cease-fire, he transferred to the CIA, went to Vietnam, and flew transport missions to supply the French at the battle of Dienbienphu; see Episode 68 to hear what else I said about that battle. Fifty-one years later, in 2005, Pope said this about his Vietnam experience. Quote:
“I’m a communist fighter. I was born and raised to be against the communists.”
During the 1958 Permesta uprising, or as the CIA called it, the “Indonesian crisis,” Pope flew bombing missions in a B-26, until he was shot down over Ambon by government forces. Captured and held under house arrest on Java, Pope was put on trial, found guilty of killing 17 members of the Indonesian armed forces and six civilians, and sentenced to death. However, the US government intervened at this point. Over the next two years, there were extensive negotiations behind closed doors between American and Indonesian officials. Robert Kennedy, the US attorney general and brother of President Kennedy, met with Indonesian President Sukarno, and so did Pope’s wife, mother and sister; all of them pleaded for the pilot’s release. Finally in 1962 the two nations worked out a deal; Indonesia would release Pope in exchange for ten Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport planes. On July 2, 1962, Pope was quietly driven to the airport and put on a U.S. plane leaving Indonesia. Here is what Sukarno told Pope at the time. Quote:
“I want no propaganda about it. Now go. Lose yourself in the USA secretly. Don’t show yourself publicly. Don’t give out news stories. Don’t issue statements. Just go home, hide yourself, get lost, and we’ll forget the whole thing.”
In the US Pope joined Southern Air Transport, a cargo airline used by the CIA, and with them he flew more covert missions in Southeast Asia. Remarkably, Pope is alive; as I record this, he is 94 years old, and living in Miami, Florida.
The latest event I will mention is the 2018 earthquake and tsunami. On September 28, 2018, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake stuck the narrowest point of Sulawesi’s Minhasa peninsula, the island’s northern peninsula. The earthquake, with the tsunami and landslides that followed, inflicted considerable damage on the central part of the island, worth an estimated $1.5 billion in US dollars, especially in the city of Palu. Casualties were 4,340 dead, 10,679 injured, and 667 missing. 206,524 became refugees because of the destruction of their homes; many of them were still without homes and hospital facilities when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
And that does it for Sulawesi. If you are still here, still listening at this point, you deserve a double pat on the back: one for having the patience to wait until this episode was produced, and two for listening to all that I had to say in it. Next time, we’ll look at some more islands in Eastern Indonesia; join me to find out which ones, and have a good life until we meet again.
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