Highlighted research

The project The Politics of Redress: War Damage Compensation and Restitution in Indonesia and the Philippines, 1940-1957 was part of the larger project Indonesia across orders hosted by the NIOD (2002-2006) and funded by the Dutch Ministry of Welfare Health & Sports (VWS). This sub-project focused on the aftermath of the Second World War in Southeast Asia as described in a sobering and insightful history of two types of redress:

  • compensation for material war damage
  • restitution of looted property

It was first published in Dutch (2006) and later adapted and translated into English. Redress proved a process of intricate political, economic and legal fencing between coloniser and colonised, and between domestic political and economic forces in two different colonial contexts.

Large areas of Manila were destroyed when the Americans drove the Japanese Army and Navy out of the city in February and March 1945

Researcher: dr. Peter Keppy
PublicationThe Politics of Redress: War Damage Compensation and Restitution in Indonesia and the Philippines, 1940-1957 (Leiden; KILTV 2010). Translation by Mischa Hoyinck and Robert Chesal.

More information

Japanese Army units and citizens stole goods while shelling and bombardment by all sides destroyed factories, offices and residential neighbourhoods. After Japan surrendered in 1945 Indonesia went into a new a state of civil war, the Indonesian revolution. The loss of property and lives was not halted. How were these cases of material damage and loss to be rectified, and who was to rectify them? What financial means and legal precedents were there to fall back on at a time of decolonisation, independence struggle, and shifting alliances on the brink of the Cold War?

On the basis of records from Dutch, Indonesian, Japanese and American archival collections I describe and explain why the Dutch East Indies, Dutch and Japanese governments did not compensate for material war damage caused by the Second World War in Southeast Asia and the ensuing Indonesian revolution. The materialisation of a restitution ordinance in Indonesia, a law to return looted property, and its application proved an equally precarious process in the context of the on-going state of civil war known as the Indonesian revolution.

The background of the materialisation of the 1946 Philippine Rehabilitation Act reveals the specific situation of the post-war Philippines on the eve of independence and illuminates the Indonesian situation where such legislation was doomed to fail. In the Philippines the Act was the outcome of a trade of terms between the Philippine and the American governments. War damage compensation followed in the wake of the reordering of economic relations between the US connected to the American-Philippine preparations for independence for the year 1946. In contrast to Indonesia, the issue of looted property was, however, not addressed in the Philippines. The absence of any formal legal solution to address this specific problem was the outcome of the tense political situation in the immediate post-war Philippines, particularly the issue of collaboration during the Second World War and its legal and political aftermath.

The Politics of Redress makes an important contribution to the study of law and society in Southeast Asia. It lays bare the complex web of interconnections between politics, law and economy from a comparative historical perspective.

The translation of this book by Mischa Hoyinck and Robert Chesal was funded by the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research).