The future sultan was born Syarif Abdul Hamid Alkadrie on July 12, 1913 in Pontianak, an important trade port on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo. He had a very cosmopolitan upbringing, being raised until the age of 12 by two ladies of British nationality who taught him fluent English, his Scottish foster-mother Miss Salome Catherine Fox and Miss Edith Maud Curteis. His own ancestry was Malay-Arab and he attended Dutch colonial schools in what was then the Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia) before finishing his education at the Dutch military academy in Breda, The Netherlands. Upon graduating he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Royal Dutch East Indies Army, the primary colonial military force of The Netherlands. As the son of the Sultan Syarif Muhammad of Pontianak, of the Hang Dynasty Alkadrie, he was also given instruction by native teachers for the duties he would inherit and there was religious instruction in Sunni Islam, the faith of his family and which he was to adhere to for the entirety of his life.
All of that changed on December 7, 1941 when the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the Empire of Japan signaled the start of a huge, very intricate but very well planned Japanese offensive throughout Southeast Asia. The whole area was relatively swiftly conquered and the Dutch East Indies were the primary target due to the vast oil reserves and other natural resources which the archipelago had. The Dutch colonial forces offered heroic but futile resistance but in the early months of 1942 the whole area was seized and occupied by the Japanese. Sukarno was set at liberty along with any other anti-Dutch dissidents to aid in the Japanese occupation and war effort. Local princes who chose to cooperate could expect no harm but the entire white population was put in internment camps. Prince Hamid was also confined to an internment camp, in Java, by the Japanese as they had good reason to expect no cooperation from him. Early in the campaign about 28 relatives of the prince were killed by the Japanese along with his other maternal figure Miss Curteis. His father and two of his brothers were killed, along with other ethnic Malays in the “Pontianak incidents” and this, along with his close relationship with the Dutch and rank in the colonial army ensured that there would be no thought of any collaboration between Prince Hamid and the Japanese.
HM Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands, throughout World War II, had been adamant about restoring and maintaining the Dutch colonial empire and was not prepared to let the weakness of her country, after years of war, occupation and devastation, be taken advantage of. However, the Queen was also aware of the limitations on her long-suffering people and so was prepared to make compromises. Sultan Hamid II, being an important traditional authority figure and someone who the Dutch trusted, was right in the middle of these events as a delegate for the State of West Kalimantan in the Federal Consultative Assembly or BFO. The Dutch proposal was that the East Indies become a sort of federal republic of monarchies and states, the independent United States of Indonesia but still within the Dutch community and with the Queen of The Netherlands as sovereign. Sultan Hamid II supported this plan, preferring the federal system put forward by the Dutch and which had proven successful in Malaysia as a way to maintain traditional authorities without incessant in-fighting. Sukarno and his faction, a volatile combination of Marxists and Islamists as well as more mundane secular socialists, wanted a unitary state and a republic with no connection to The Netherlands at all and all traces of the Dutch population purged from the country.
|Queen Wilhelmina with Sultan Hamid II|
The first such operation saw the Dutch royal forces take control of most key areas of the country, the urban centers and major ports. The second of the two largest, Operation Kraai or “Crow” saw a greater further victory with the capture of Sukarno, his deputy Mohammed Hatta and the Indonesian Republican leadership at Yogyakarta where the local Sultan, a sympathizer, had been sheltering them, at the end of 1948. Unlike the republican rebel leadership, who surrendered to the Dutch, their host, Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, remained in his palace throughout the battle and refused all efforts at reconciliation by the Dutch. Sultan Hamid II was brought in to try to mediate with his fellow prince, to win him over, but all such efforts were rebuffed. Unfortunately, for the Dutch and the counter-revolutionary locals, the very success of this operation worked against them as The Netherlands came under pressure from the United Nations to give in to the revolutionaries they had just defeated. Fearing that the Marxists in Sukarno’s coalition would make the country a Soviet satellite, United States President Harry S. Truman (Democrat, Missouri) decided to sell-out a war time ally and threatened to cut off Marshall Aid to The Netherlands if Queen Wilhelmina did not give in to the rebels and accept Indonesian independence.
There was no realistic option other than to comply though Queen Wilhelmina could not stomach such a thing, abdicating in favor of her daughter, Queen Juliana, who was left to preside over the separation of Indonesia from The Netherlands. The independence of Indonesia was de facto recognized on December 27, 1949 in Java and Sumatra and Sultan Hamid II suddenly found himself having to answer to President Sukarno, recently released from captivity yet again. The Sultan was appointed to the cabinet of the new United States of Indonesia though he was given no portfolio, it being a rather symbolic gesture as a token to the native traditional rulers. In any event, the feigned pretense of this federal system would not last long in any event as Sukarno remained committed to his unitary republic.
|Capt. Ray Westerling|