Drug and Collonialism in Java: Opium-Related Problems in the Dutch East Indies

Friday, March 14th, 2014, 08:01 WIB

abdulwahidSince the mid-nineteenth century, one of the most disputable issues in colonial Indonesia was the Dutch government policy on opium. The dispute is related to ethical reasons denouncing the colonial state exploitation by taking profits from selling various drugs to the population. The drugs include opium, heroine and other related products. Furthermore, there are failures of the colonial government in establishing of closed-circuit system to lessen impacts and intensities the drug trafficking and other opium related problems, such as addiction, violence and smuggling.

The colonial police department cooperated with the opium monopoly (opiumregie), established a special anti-opium unit as an effort to mitigate the opium problems (opiumkwestie), such as smuggling and illegal opium distribution. Moreover, there are substantial documentations about opium in Java. These include a large number of report writings and internal debates on paper about the transformation of the opium farm system to the Regie. The remnants of which, having served their objectives, were filed away carefully and kept in the archives afterwards. It was frequently happened among Dutch colonial bureaucrats, the Opium Regie submitted extensive reports of its own once established, which were also saved.

Dr. Abdul Wahid, presented this topic, at CRCS-ICRS Wednesday Forum on 12 March 2014. Dr. Wahid is a teaching staff at the Department of History, Universitas Gadjah Mada Yogyakarta. He holds Bachelor and Master degree from the same university in 2000 and 2006 respectively. In 2009, he obtained M.Phil. degree from the Institute of History, University of Leiden under the framework of ENCOMPASS (Encountering a Common Past) Scholarship. In 2003-2005 he conducted research and presented papers concerning social and economic aspects of the Indonesian decolonization in the 1940s-1950s. He conducted a post-doctoral research at the KITLV Leiden in 2013. His research interest includes the following subjects: social economic history, state formation and modernity, violence and citizenship in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

Dr. Wahid clearly described that the annual report of the opium monopoly administration since 1915 have significant influences to performances of anti-opium squad in Dutch East Indies. The colonial government claimed that this organization had been working effectively in many cases in countering the contraband. However, the fact was it failed to significantly exterminate this illegal activity. Dr. Wahid brilliantly try to investigate the work of the anti-opium squad in the late colonial period by using the colonial government and non-government sources. Furthermore, he argues that the work of the collonial organization has complex connections with the ‘political stand’ of the colonial state on opium and its financial interests. Accordingly, the capacity of colonial state and the nature of its ‘governance’ in general have considerable significances on this issue.

Dr. Wahid also explained that the beginning  of the  Dutch-Java opium  monopoly was when the Dutch promotes intensive expansions to embrace all the Indies. Surely, this is part of Dutch’s efforts to dominate  the  trade during  the  ensuing  century. It is clear that  the  Dutch  East India company competed with the English, the Danes, and the Arabs. Then, the Company secured a treaty from King Amangkurat of Java in 1677 guaranteeing it a monopoly over the importation and distribution of opium into Mataram Kingdom. Meanwhile, Paku Buwana's treatise shows the decline in the moral values of the Javanese court at that time because it involved to hasten, and accompanied, the Dutch political dividing up and oppression over the kingdom and other regions. (admin,che)