Subproject 2

Fighting corrupt colonialism (1920s-1950s)

focuses on the birth of the nationalist movement in Indonesia, with its supporters in the Netherlands, and the formation of the independent Indonesian state. Misuse of power in the late colonial state led to anticolonial critique invoking anticorruption sentiments (Fakih, 2014; Bosma, 1997). Sukarno’s ideas were informed by an understanding of the VOC as corrupt and the late colonial economy as the epitome of misuse of Indonesian resources. Earlier Indonesian nationalist writers, including Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo, Noto Soeroto or communists like Semaoen, also engaged in criticising colonial state activities as systematic misuse. In Indonesian language newspapers (e.g. Fajar Asia), Hatta and Kartosuwirjo (the founder of the Darul Islam – Indonesian Islamic State), linked corruption to the lifestyles of the local aristocracies, such as the Sunan of Surakarta. Joesoef Jahja Nasoetion – the editor of the paper Persatoen Indonesia – accused the government of destroying the economy of local people and keeping them uneducated, which to him was equal to ‘arbitrary rule and corruption’. How did the nationalist movement understand corruption? Moreover, what was the effect of their understandings on the establishment of the political and economic institutes after independence in 1945? Whether or not the Japanese occupation seriously changed the role of corruption will be explored, as well as sources about the problem of corruption during the Indonesian independence struggle (Hoek, 2014). Furthermore, the role of Indonesianisasi in the economic sphere, with its joint ventures and nationalisation policies, alongside Dutch companies becoming multinationals, was another breeding ground for misuse that sometimes led to publicly discussed corruption scandals. The project researches how companies negotiated and acquired concessions in this new situation of unequal power relations, beyond the former privileged realm of the Dutch colony. Further, Roeslan Abdulgani’s 1950s arrest on corruption charges marks a pivotal moment in the development of the corruption debate from the late colonial, anticolonial, nationalist movement, to good governance in the newly independent managerial state (Fakih, 2014; Purwanto, 2015). The discussion about intent became important: i.e. criminal or political intent (Politisasi Korrupti), entangled with issues of tax policies and state finances, as well as discussions about infrastructure as a public good, although not accessible to everyone. Sources and archives to be used in the Netherlands and Indonesia include ego documents of nationalists, media sources, policy papers, investigations into corruption and reports, reflecting the role of the law/judges and the military/business sector(s), just after independence.