Friday, December 11, 2009

NATRAH - A documentary done by students

Maria Hertogh riots

Hi everyone, My name is Maria Hertogh. I was born on March 24, 1937 to a Dutch Catholic family near Dutch East Indies( Now known as Indonesia). Adeline hunter and Adrianus Petrus Hertogh are my biological parents. I was a Catholic since young. I led a carefree life with my five other siblings until World War Two broke out. I went to stay with Aminah binte Mohammad as my father was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army during the war.

This controversial transfer of custody created in chaos, and chaos resulted in causalities. Little did I know that I was the cause for the racial riots that broke out in the 1950s.

The riots.

The riots started on 11 December 1950, in Singapore.

It consisted of outraged Muslims who resented the court decison to give the custody of Maria Hertogh.

The riots lasted till noon on 13 december, with 18 killed, 173 injured and many properties damaged - the worst incident of its kind ever witnessed in Singapore.
The Maria Hertogh riots had received widespread press coverage by The Straits Times, etc.

When I was 13,I had been raised as a Muslim under the care of Aminah binte Mohamed, whom I regarded as my mother.

Che Aminah renamed me as Nadra bte Maarof and was brought up as a Muslim.

Early life

Aminah, my foster mother, moved out of Jakarta to Bandung where her fluency in Japanese enabled her to work as an interpreter for the Japanese military police. In 1947, fearing that my Dutch background made her vulnerable during the Indonesia War of Independence, Aminah and I fled to Terengganu, Malaya. I grew up in Kemaman, Aminah's hometown, where Aminah was highly regarded. Studying at Chukai Malay Girls' School, Kemaman, Malaysia, I was also trained in Koran reading outside school hours by an ustazah.

Reunited after the war, my biological parents began seeking for me in the late 1940s. They lodged a request with Dutch officials to locate me. Arthur Locke, the Administrative Officer (East) was the first to alert authorities about my whereabouts when he spotted me at a school competition in Kemaman. A custody battle then ensued over me,drew much public attention and fuelled religious sensitivities.

Initially, my custody was given to Aminah. Within 4 days of the ruling, on 1 August 1950, I was married off to Mansoor Adabi, a 22-year old Kelantan teacher at Bukit Panjang Government School, heading a second year Normal Class.

The marriage of me, who was 13 year old then, was raised in court, at Adeline's appeal for custody over me.

On 2 December 1950, my custody was gained by Adeline who whisked her to Amsterdam.

On 11 December 1950, riots were sparked off over the custodial ruling, resulting in the death of at least 18 people.


In Adeline Hertogh's point of view.
I think that Adeline Hertogh has the right to claim Maria Hertogh back as she had clearly stated that she did not give up Maria Hertogh's custody. She had to leave Maria Hertogh under the care of Che Aminah due to some financial problems. Lastly, according to the Dutch law, a girl can only married after 16, therefore the Dutch did not recognize juvenile Maria Hertogh's marriage.

In Che Aminah's point of view.

I think that the court is being unfair to Che Aminah as the judge threw out the appeal within 5 minutes. This meant that the judge did not even bother to look into the situation of Che Aminah, being deprived of her foster daughter. As Singapore was still under the British rule, I think that the British did not wish to offend the Dutch who gave them three islands, in trade of Sumatra and the Dutch East Indies. I think that the British should still respect the Malay tradition even though they did not recognize their culture.

The riots highlighted the insensitive way the media handled religious and racial issues in Singapore. The British colonial authorities also failed to defuse an explosive situation when emotional reports appeared in the local press of the custody battle accompanied by sensational media photographs of a Muslim girl in a Catholic convent.

Although the rioters were mainly Malays, they included a large number of foreigners including Indians, Pakistani and Indonesian Muslims.

Adding to this, the mainly Malay Police Force appeared to sympathise with the Muslim rioters and displayed some measure of deliberate inaction and defection during the riots. Gurkha Police Riot Squad Department, constituting at least 149 men were withdrawn at critical conditions.

As a result of this historic event, the Government of Singapore, upon independence in 1965, instituted legislation against racial discrimination. It became an offence to incite racial and religious hatred in Singapore. The local media exercised greater discipline in the coverage of sensitive issues. National integration and nation-building took top priority in the formulation of government policies.

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