(The UN and INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENTS – continued)
The war left the Philippines with an estimated 1,000,000 dead and a shattered economy. General MacArthur proclaimed the Philippines liberated from the Japanese in July 1945. A new president of the Philippines, Manuel Roxas, was elected in April 1946.
United States' plans for Philippine independence for 1946 had been in place since the Tydings-McDuffie act back in 1934. On July 4, 1946, the Philippines Islands became the Republic of the Philippines, with Roxas its first president. Opportunists had begun a guerrilla movement intent upon creating a socialist Philippines. And 620 million dollars from the U.S. was targeted for war damage claims and reconstruction in the Philippines.
The British recognized the difficulty and expense involved in continued resistance against India's agitation for independence. After Britain's conservative defender of empire, Winston Churchill, was voted out of office, Britain's Labour government started the ground work for independence – agreement among the people of India. British plans to prosecute Indians for treason, for having briefly fought on the side of the Japanese, had to be abandoned. British law in India on this matter had to be set aside in deference to the opinion of millions of Indians.
The British also moved toward independence for Ceylon, which was granted on February 4, 1948. It was a friendly separation that left Ceylon choosing to be a member of the Commonwealth. In 1972 the country's name would be changed to Sri Lanka.
Burma had declared its independence in 1943, under Japanese sponsorship, and the new government declared war against the Allies. When British forces returned to Burma toward the end of the war, the British promised independence, with the Burmese free to choose whether to stay in the Commonwealth of Nations. The British remained intent on creating law and order in Burma and on the Burmese developing institutions of self-government. Without these the British would give no date certain for independence. Arms left over from the war had fallen into the hands of various groups that sought favor from their fellow Burmese by outbidding each other in their demands against the British.
With Japan's occupation of the Malay Peninsula, many Chinese there fled into the jungle and built an independence movement – a guerrilla operation with Communist leadership. When the British returned to Malaya, the Malay Communist Party began functioning legally, and it organized labor unions and advocated higher pay and independence. The British consolidated all of the Malay Peninsula except for Singapore into the what it called the Malayan Union. This failed and was replaced in 1948 with the looser Federation of Malaya.
In 1948, the Communist Party of Malay returned to insurgency, this time against the British rather than the Japanese. Most people on the peninsula wanted independence from Britain. In 1955 the British offered the insurgents amnesty and a coalition government, and in 1957 Britain gave the Malay people independence, the beginning of what became the Federation of Malaysia and then Malaysia.
The British return to Singapore was welcomed by most Singaporese. The British accepted the formal surrender of the Japanese. A victory parade took place, and the British flag was raised over city hall. There the British put Japanese prisoners-of-war to work repairing water mains and machinery in power stations. The British did what they could to reduce the food shortages and hunger and to combat disease epidemics, while waiting for trade and economic recovery to resume. And while most Singaporese remained pleased by Britain's presence, they looked forward to eventual self-rule, and the British announced that it would be forthcoming. Singapore acquired independence in 1965.
As World War II drew to a close, the Japanese responded to lobbying by Indonesians and allowed the Indonesian, Sukarno, to establish a committee to prepare for independence. Sukarno was the son of a Javanese schoolteacher and his Balinese wife. He spoke several languages fluently. His intelligence and oratory had put him at the top of Indonesians seeking independence.
When Japan surrendered, its army and navy were still in Indonesia, and it was compelled to agree to pass what authority it was supposed to have there to the Dutch. On August 17, 1945, Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta declared Indonesia independent. The declaration was broadcast by shortwave radio, and expecting trouble, Indonesians flocked to Sukarno's residence to defend it from assault. On the following day the new country's leadership divided itself into eight provinces: Sumatra, Borneo, West Java, Central Java, East Java, Sulawesi, Maluku, and Sunda Kecil. On August 23 a Dutch force landed at Sabang, an island at the northern end of Sumatra. On the 31st Indonesia's new government was formally installed, with Sukarno as President and Hatta as Vice-President.
The Dutch in exile in Australia were alarmed. They described Sukarno as someone who had collaborated with the Japanese, and they sought help from the Australians and British. Britain's leader in Asia, Lord Mountbatten, then in Ceylon, was asked by the Dutch to use Japanese troops still in Indonesia to suppress Indonesian independence. A week later, September 8, the first British troops arrived, parachuting into Indonesia's capital city, Jakarta – while Japan's navy was surrendering to the Australians.
The Indonesians expected the Americans to land, and quotations from the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln's Gettysburg address were conspicuously displayed in the capital city -- Jakarta (Batavia). Instead, it was British troops that arrived, on September 8, parachuting onto Kemayoran Airport at Jakarta. The following day, the Japanese Navy in Indonesia surrendered to the Australians.
The Australian military supported the return of the Dutch to control eastern portions of Indonesia. Sukarno tried to win Allied acceptance of Indonesian independence by issuing a manifesto, on November 1, offering to protect Dutch lives and capital and to honor prewar debts of the colony.
Dutch troops attacked civilians. But the passionate hostility against the invasion of more foreigners erupted, with the Dutch as targets. The British used Japanese troops against the unrest. A group of Indonesian women set out for the United States to appeal to the Daughters of the American Revolution, thinking these influential ladies would surely understand what was in the hearts of the Indonesian people.
In July 1946, Britain (the United Kingdom) turned over all of Indonesia except the islands of Java and Sumatra to the Dutch. On October 25 the British 49th Indian Infantry arrived, the British dropping leaflets on the city of Surabaya, in Java, demanding that Indonesia's Republican forces disarm and surrender the city within 24 hours. Three days later the British began advancing into the city. They were driven back. Their commander, Brigadier Mallaby and over 200 of his men were killed. This success encouraged the people of Java and sparked a full scale revolt against the British across the island.
The British sent in reinforcements. On November 10, two cruisers and three destroyers together with tanks and artillery began shelling Surabaya while airplanes dropped bombs on rebel strong points. After three days of street fighting the British took Surabaya. The British (largely Indian troops) suffered over 900 killed and wounded. Some excesses had been committed by the British. Britain's Labour government argued that it was doing the job that the Allies had given it – restoring order. Indonesians had died in greater number, estimated at over 10,000, but for some of those fighting under Mallaby the loss of this one man had been too much to bear. According to foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, after Mallaby's death, preventing excesses by Britain's troops had become difficult.
On November 29, 1946, the last of Britain's troops left Indonesia. The Dutch were increasing their strength there, reaching 110,000 troops by May 1947. The Dutch considered themselves the legitimate power in a new state they had created, consisting of the eastern half of Indonesia. On July 20, the Dutch launched an effort to overpower the Republic of Indonesia's armed forces. The U.S. expressed its disapproval. India's leader, Nehru, was outraged. People in the Netherlands began demonstrating against the war. The Russians sided with the Indonesians, and Australian labor began boycotting shipments of supplies to the Dutch war effort. A war was taking place, a guerrilla war by Indonesians and a police action described by the Dutch. On August 1, the U.N. Security Council called for a cease fire, but the fighting continued in 1949. On March 31, the U.S. told the Dutch that their Marshall Plan aid was in jeopardy. The Dutch finally agreed to a cease fire in August 1949, and on November 2 they signed what amounted to giving up their hold on Indonesian territory. The Netherlands "unconditionally and irrevocably" recognized Indonesia as a federation of autonomous states.
Copyright © 2001-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.