Note from the Head of the Political Department

Dear readers of The Happenings,

This month it is my turn to write a foreword for The Happenings, as Head of the Political Affairs Department of the Netherlands Embassy. It is an illustration of these strange times, that I am actually writing this piece from The Hague, kind of my hometown in the Netherlands (my real hometown is Bedum, in the province of Groningen).

As you will understand, the reason for writing this from the Netherlands is the Covid pandemic, that is hitting Indonesia, the Netherlands and all other countries in the world. By the time you are reading this, I have returned to Jakarta. But wherever I will be, I will be working from home, just like most of you undoubtedly will be doing. The virus is out to get us, right? So please stay safe, wherever you are.

It is not a secret I love Indonesia and Indonesians. In fact, this is my second posting at the Embassy. I already lived and worked in Jakarta in the 1990s, at the time of Orde Baru. I was only too happy to be able to return to Indonesia for a second posting, to give all my efforts for the good of the relationship between Indonesia and the Netherlands and to enjoy life in Jakarta again. It has been great to observe how much Indonesia has improved in so many ways over the last 25 years!

I had hoped that this major advance of the Republic would be reflected in huge celebrations of the 75th of Indonesian independence. But the government opted for a sober commemoration. Of course it was the right thing to do. So many people, and indeed the country as a whole, have more or less run into trouble because of the pandemic. It simply is not the time for a party. But party or not, Indonesians can be very proud of what their Republic has achieved in 75 years. Of course many challenges remain, but they should not overshadow the achievements of the 75 past years. Not even in Covid times.

For the Dutch government it is always a political challenge to build a constructive and positive future relationship on the sensitive past. Over the past years we have been successful in steering the relationship into more positive waters. To highlight only the last year: we had a very successful visit of Prime Minister Mark Rutte in October 2019, and then in March this year of course the equally successful State Visit by King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima. Both sides – Indonesia and the Netherlands – emphasized the strengths and usefulness of the relationship and showed commitment to strengthen it further in the coming years. The Political Department of the Embassy will do its bit to achieve this objective, from which all kinds of opportunities will flow, in the economic, cultural and scientific domain, and of course for the many, many people to people contacts that exist between individual Indonesians and Dutch.

Even in Covid times, life goes on and so does our work. We have to overcome the present problems and adapt to new circumstances. That goes for the Embassy as a whole and also for the various departments, like our political department. It is difficult, mostly impossible to meet your counterparts in person. Our laptop must be our best friend, but honestly, I would like to have other friends. One of my colleagues always answers, when asked how things are, ‘surviving’. Let’s try to do that, all of us. And while doing that, enjoy reading this edition of Happenings!

Roel van der Veen,

Head of the Political Department