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D.E.I. - Indonesia, 1945 -1949

by Philip Levert

Wild times in the East about fifty-five years ago. We’ be talking about the first years of the Indonesian Republic, the days of them battling the Dutch. I‘ve been able to make use of the remarks and comments of Leo Vosse of the Dai Nippon club, for which I thank him. However, what follows is my responsibility.

For stamps of the Dutch East Indies the information comes from the NVPH catalog. For stamps of Repoeblik Indonesia I was able to use a borrowed copy of the 1996 edition of the Prangko Indonesian Stamp Catalogue and the 1945-49 catalog of the Dai Nippon club, edition 1981. For the ‘Vienna Printing’ (more about that later) I had access to a 1990 catalog, put together by H Ramkema of Nunspeet. Of course there are more up-to-date Indonesian catalogs of Dai Nippon. In 2003 Dai Nippon also published a full color catalog of the Vienna Printing, while these Vienna Printings are also, since 1997, listed in the Prangko catalog.

Some facts:
In Indonesia, the Gordel van Smaragd (the Emerald Belt), legends are treasured. For example the 1996 Prangko catalog, in its preface, states that there were more than 1 million casualties in the Indonesian’s fight for freedom. Independent historian come to about 250,000 people, including about 50,000 militants as a result of their fight against the English, Japanese, Dutch and among themselves. The rest are innocent men, women and children - Chinese, Christians, and people living in villages (desas). Most of these lost their lives due to armed bandits, their own compatriots. They had nothing to do with the fight for freedom, but it made a strong argument for the Dutch to instigate their police actions.

The Indonesian archipelago covers a very large area: including the surrounding waters it is 5100 km by 1760 km (3200 by 1100 miles), much larger then Eastern and Western Europe together. Sumatra by itself is the same distance as Rotterdam to Gibraltar. The densely populated island of Java, 600 miles long, is three times the length of the Netherlands. Thinly populated Sumatra covers 12 x the Netherlands. Java and Madura in 1940 had 45 million inhabitants, Sumatra 12 million. Together that were as many natives as the rest of the islands together. I call them natives since the word Indonesian and Indonesia didn’t become common words until the Japanese occupation of 1942-1945.

The official Indonesian language Bahasa Indonesia was introduced during the Japanese time, at the insistence of the Indonesian nationalists. The base of Bahasa is Malayan, since centuries the business language of the Dutch East Indies, Singapore, Malacca, English Borneo and the southern islands of the Philippines. For only 7% of the Indonesians is Bahasa their mother tongue. For all others it is a second language, like English for the Dutch. So just about all Indonesian students now get schooled in a ‘foreign’ language. In 1972 the written version of Bahasa was changed to be more in line with the written language used in Malacca and Singapore. Additionally, after 1950, many town- and island names, for reasons unknown to me, were changed by the Sukarno regime. Collectors of Indonesia 1945-1949 therefore usually use old Dutch East Indies maps.

Period 1945- 1949:
The period starts in Batavia (Jakarta) with the proclamation by Sukarno of the Republik Indonesia on August 17, 1945, two days after the Japanese surrender. The news spread slowly but was enthusiastically received on the important islands of Java, Sumatra, and Madoera. Until the end of September, the mail was still controlled by the Japanese .

The Dutch territory, the NICA part:
Sukarno's Repoeblik in 1945 didn’t strike much of a responsive chord outside of Java, Sumatra, and Madoera. Small groups of Dutchmen, aided by Australians and Americans, didn’t have much trouble taking over power from the Japanese on all islands except Java, Sumatra and Madoera. These Dutchmen were part of the interim government, the NICA: Netherlands Indies Civil Administration. They came from bases in East Borneo, Australia and Ceylon. Their ranks were augmented by people from the prewar government, as they were released from those Japanese camps located outside the Dutch East Indies. From 1946 on the Dutch navy were in control of the sea links between the islands. The Dutch issued NICA money and NICA stamps, both of which were recognized internationally.

The Repoeblik (Indonesia) Territory:
The area on Java and Sumatra under control of Sukarno’s Repoeblik Indonesia became smaller over time.
After monetary reform Republik Indonesia bank notes and stamps were issued in this area, however, they were not internationally recognized and as a result of this were useless outside the area.

The Republik area covered:

* Period August 1945 - July 1947 (date of 1st Dutch police action):
All of Java, Sumatra, Madoera, with the understanding that in the enclaves Batavia-Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya and Belawan-Medan the situation was unclear. In those areas for example the Dutch- East Indies’ NICA mail and the Republik mail - the Djawatan PTT- were both functioning. During the second half of 1946 these enclaves were taken over by the Dutch after the English-Indian troops had left. Those troops had been there since the fall of 1945 to evacuate Japanese and to protect women and children who had been in the Japanese camps, against Indonesian gangs. In Bandung, Semarang and Surabaya they had fought tough battles against tens of thousands of republican youngsters (the pemoedas) . So, the Dutch took over the enclaves and by mid 1947 from there they went on the offense. At the urgent request of the U.S. and the Security Counsel of the U.N. these military actions stopped in July 1947, after only 14 days. Large parts of Java and Sumatra remained under republican control.

* Period July 1947 - December 1948 (date of 2nd Dutch police action):
One third of Java, 80% of Sumatra; the rest was under Dutch control.

* Period December 1948 till transfer of power end 1949.
With the second Dutch police action the Dutch occupied the remaining part of the Repoeblik; Sukarno and the majority of his cabinet members were arrested. After the second police action the Repoeblik had no territory left, except for a short while remote Atjeh and the Lampongs on Sumatra. Republican money and stamps were invalidated.

Stamps in NICA territory
In the NICA area, thus on most of the Dutch East Indies islands, at the end of 1945 NICA money and the stamp series NVPH nrs. 304-316 were issued as quickly as possible.

There are only a few (very scarce) NICA ‘noodzegels’ (temporary stamps) known, they are from the islands of Timor and Sumba. These were still available prewar Dutch East Indies stamps (with or without chop (Bali anchor)), Japanese stamps and definitive Japanese occupation stamps. A small number of these were locally overprinted with NICA TIMOR or NICA SUMBA (refer to illustration 1). The only other temporary stamps mentioned in the Dai Nippon catalog are the NVPH #s 304 -316 with hand overprint ‘PORT’, the so-called Medan porten, used only locally in Medan, Sumatra.
The official regular and postage due NICA stamps are listed in the NVPH catalog; they are NVPH #4 304 -350, and postage dues 49 -66. Additionally in 1947 the prewar Dutch East Indies stamps 252, 253, and 254 (from the Kreisler series) were re-issued without overprint: check the cancel dates on the stamps you have. All NICA stamps were internationally accepted for franking. It should be understood that the NICA stamps and NICA money were also issued in those parts of the republican area controlled by the Dutch troops during their police actions. The Republik stamps and their propaganda cancels disappeared quietly into the black market circuit.

Stamps in the Republican Area
There were no postal connections between the republican Java and Sumatra. Republican Java and republican Sumatra had their own stamp issuing policies. The republican stamps were only regional i.e. available on the island only and valid there only.
Postal stationery from the Repoeblik can be found, however, as is the case with the ‘chop’ stamps from the Japanese occupation period there are quite a few falsifications and ‘made to order’ products. If in doubt about an expensive item it is advisable to contact Dai Nippon club, can have the knowledge to help you.
In 1945 there appeared hand- and machine applied overprints ‘Repoeblik Indonesia’ on left over pre-war Dutch East Indies stamps, often accompanied by a ar or stripes across the printed “Nederlandsch Indië” text. These overprints were also applied to the definitive series of the Japanese Java occupation stamps.
Starting in 1946 on Java there were definitive Repoeblik (after 1948 “Republik”) Indonesia stamps issued; refer to the catalog.
The best known is a series of thirteen - 3 sen to 1000 sen - with warlike scenes; refer to illustration. The workmanship is rather primitive, which is surprising since the earlier machine made overprints on Dutch East Indies stamps and occupation stamps were well done. In 1948 as well as 1949 there appeared a number of Republik stamps. Those after december 1948 were only used for business purposes since the postoffices on Java/Madoera were under Dutch control as the result of the second police action.
Vienna Printing
A strange interlude are the in Philadelphia, USA and Vienna, Austria printed ‘Repoeblik Indonesia’ ’stickers’. Word had it that these were also issued in Indonesia (from December 17, 1949 on it has been said; shortly after Indonesia’s Independence), but only at the postoffice Djocja (Java).. These stickers were put on the market by stamp dealer Stolow in New York. They are referred to as ‘Vienna printing’. Sly Mr. Stolow in 1948 had signed a contract with Indonesian delegates to the UN, respectively the ‘ambassador’. If this is the case, these people were not authorized to do this and the Djawatan PTT was completely unaware. No problem: on orders of Mr. Stolow, in the US and Austria, about 700 different ‘Vienna Printing’ Repoeblik/Republik Indonesia stamps and blocks were printed, with and without perforations, with and without overprints and subsequently put on the market worldwide. They were even reported to the UPU. As far as I know they were never used, only known as ‘maakwerk’ (made to order) on letters Mr. Stolow sent himself and not sent through the regular mail. Unused/mint copies can still be found in various places. My opinion: pure swindle. Many Indonesia collectors might think so too, but since 1997 the Vienna printings are listed in the Prangko catalog.

From September 1945 on there it was just the same mishmash as it was in 1942 under the Japanese occupation. At the Sumatra postoffices there were still pre-war Dutch East Indies stamps, many with a chop from the Japanese time. These and Japanese occupation stamps received an overprint: a black ball or square, hand overprinted ‘Rep. Indonesia’, ‘Rep. Ind.’, ‘Indonesia PTT’, ‘N.R.I.’, etc. A near limitless number with different types of pre-applied chops. From May 1946 onwards there also appeared rudely made definitive stamps with imprint ‘N.R. Indonesia’ (Negara Republik Indonesia: Negara means province). N.R. Indonesia stamps exist in a number of varieties and re-prints.. They are also known with locally or regionally applied overprints. Overprints ORI (Oceang Republik Indonesia); Oceang is money) were releted to money reform: Japanese occupation notes were replaced by Republik Indonesia notes, except in Atjeh. New N.R. Indonesia stamps kept appearing until the end of 1947; strangely enough, according to Pranglo in 1949 there appeared another six overprints.

What came next
The period ends in 1949 when the Netherlands (forced to do so by the US; withdrawal of Marshall help if they wouldn’t give in) in a ceremony in The Hague handed opver sovereignty of the Dutch East Indies (with the exception of Dutch New Guinea) to Sukarno’s representative Mr. Hatta. This all happened in spite of the fact that the Dutch, after the second police action, had all republican parts under militarycontrol, had organized the government and the infrastructure, and had Sukarno and most of his cabinet officers in jail.
Then current stamps were as of December 9, 1949 replaced by NICA -stamps (Hartz series) with overprint: bar or stripes with text ‘Indonesia’. Three weeks later the numeral series ‘Indonesia’ 1 to 12 1/2 sen, (design Smelt) were issued. Refer to NVPH # 351-361/371, and 362-370. Next came two UPU stamps and then the temple series. (NVPH # 372-373, and 374-388) That’s how far the NVPH catalog goes.
The Dutch New Guineas issued their own stamps from 1950 through 1962. In 1963 these ‘possessions’ were, under U.S. and United Nations pression, ceded to Indonesia.
New Guinea from 1963-1970 retained its own currency, which meant that Indonesia had to issue ‘Irian Barat’ stamps. It should be known that the majority of Dutch Newa Guinea and Irian Barat stamps were issued for stamp collectors.

Indonesian society still today shows some remnants of the customs of the Japanese presence during 1942 -1945. Among them are the district-senior (police spy), morning exercises at school, flag ceremonies, school uniform, organised marches with martial songs, flags and banners. Of all of this, including the Islamic radicalizing, noticable through the white head covering of women, nothing can be found on the stamps of Indonesia. Those white head covers you only used to see on the heads of some Arabic women during colonial times. What is laudable is that Indonesia has a moderate stamp issuing policy; in general it issues fewer new stamps per year than the Netherlands.

Made to order letter Repoeblik/Republik Indonesia from Djakarta/Java (1946)

Made to order letter Repoeblik/Republik Indonesia from Medan/Sumatra (1947)

Netherlands Philately Vol. 29 No. 2 #