header ads

Subscribe Us

header ads

The Invasion of Ambon was a combined Indonesian military operation which aimed to seize and annex the self proclaimed Republic of South Maluku


Following the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference, the Netherlands recognizes the independence of the Republic of United States of Indonesia (RUSI). The RUSI is a federation whose People’s Representative Council consists of 50 representatives from the Republic of Indonesia and 100 from the various states according to their populations.

Distrusting the Javanese and Muslim-dominated Republic of Indonesia, the largely Protestant and pro-Dutch South Moluccans - who have long contributed forces to the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) - declare the independence of the Republic of South Maluku in Ambon and Seram on 25 april 1950. former minister of Eastern-Indonesia declared the independence and former District Deputy-Governor of South Mollucans, mister Manahutu was made President of the new Republic.

The RMS Proclamation was a purely Moluccan nationalist action. The Moluccan people wanted to be independent, both from the Unitary State of Indonesia and from the Netherlands. The Ambonese KNIL soldiers no longer accepted commands from the Netherlands. On may 9, 1950 a representative of the Ambonese soldiers in Ambon solemnly handed over the cooperation attributes to the KNIL authorities. The same day the Moluccan army (APRMS) formed.

On 17 August 1950, the Indonesian President, Sukarno, proclaimed the restoration of the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia. This RMS was not acknowledged by Sukarno and on his order Indonesian military invaded the Mollucan island of Buru and a part of the island of Ceram.

Invasion of Ambon

After a naval blockade by the Indonesian navy, an invasion of Ambon took place on 28 September 1950. The APRMS fled from the town of Ambon before the invading Indonesian troops had taken up positions, in old Dutch fortifications in the hills over looking the town. From here they were waging guerilla warfare.

The TNI occupied the northern-half of the island, had been halted by fierce Ambonese resistance at the one kilometre wide isthmus, which links the southern half. On 5 november the city of Ambon came into the hands of the Indonesian army. The RMS government went to Ceram in December to continue the RMS battle in the form of a guerilla war. The town of Ambon had been wiped out except for four buildings, an eyewitness Mr. Muir told an Australian newspaper. The Indonesians had constantly shelled the town and planes had strafed it, but much of the destruction had been caused by arson. The inexperienced Indonesian army had high losses against the well trained ex-KNIL soldiers. With 20,000 TNI soldiers against only 1,000 Ambonese the TNI lost 4,000 men to 500 Ambonese. During one surprise attack on the Indonesians the Moluccans massacred several hundred TNI, including the 24-year-old Chief of Staff (Lieut.-Col. Slamet Rijardi).

Dutch involvement

During the Indonesian National Revolution, the Dutch had to disband the reinstated KNIL, and the native soldiers had the choice of either being demobilised or joining the army of the Republic of Indonesia. Due to a deep distrust of the Republican leadership, which was predominantly Javanese Muslim, this was an extremely difficult choice for the Protestant Ambonese, and only a minority chose to serve with the Indonesian Army. Disbanding proved a complicated process and, in 1951, two years after the transfer of sovereignty, not all soldiers had been demobilised. The Dutch were under severe international pressure to disband the colonial army and temporarily made these men part of the regular Dutch army, while trying to demobilise them in Java. Herein lay the source of the discontent among the Moluccan soldiers as, according to the KNIL policy, soldiers had the right to choose the place where they were to be discharged at the end of their contract. The political situation in the new Republic of Indonesia was initially unstable and, in particular, controversy over a federal or centralised form of the state resulted in armed conflicts in which Ambonese ex-KNIL men were involved. In 1951 an independent Republic of the South Moluccas (Indonesian: RMS, Republik Maluku Selatan) was proclaimed at Ambon. The RMS had strong support among the Ambonese KNIL soldiers. As a consequence the Moluccan soldiers located outside the South Moluccas demanded to be discharged at Ambon. But Indonesia refused to let the Dutch transport these soldiers to Ambon as long as the RMS was not repressed, fearing prolonged military struggle. When after heavy fighting the RMS was repressed at Ambon, the soldiers refused to be discharged there. They now demanded to be demobilised at Seram, where pockets of resistance against Indonesia still existed. This was again blocked by Indonesia.

The Dutch government finally decided to transport the remaining men and their families to the Netherlands. They were discharged on arrival and 'temporarily' housed in camps until it was possible for them to return to the Moluccan islands. In this way around 12,500 persons were settled in the Netherlands, more or less against their will and certainly also against the original plans of the Dutch government.


After the defeat of the RMS on Ambon by Indonesian forces in November 1950, the self-declared government withdrew to Seram, where an armed struggle continued on until December 1963. The government in exile moved to the Netherlands in 1966, following resistance leader and president Chris Soumokil's capture and execution by Indonesian authorities. The exiled government continues to exist, with John Wattilete as its incumbent president since April 2010.

United Nations

The Proclamation of the RMS has been a subject on the agenda of the United Nations, but was displaced there by the Korea War.

Post a Comment