“Soekarno, Founding Father of Indonesia 1901-1945”

“Soekarno, Founding Father of Indonesia 1901-1945”

Preface by the Author (Bob Hering)

It is no mere coincidence that in his quote on the back-flap of my recent book,  “Soekarno, Founding Father Of Indonesia 1901- 1945”, Harry Poeze asserts that the book “ is the culmination of Hering’s almost life-long study of Soekarno”. In  “Lasting Fascination”, the Liber Amicorum presented to me by Harry Poeze’s and my wife Netty on the occasion of my seventieth birthday, my well known and enduring fascination for Soekarno is stressed several times. Allow me to state here how all that came about.
      First of all, I need to mention my parents’ views about Soekarno during the 1930s and 1940s. Back in those days, I accompanied my father, who was a donating member of Pasoendan, to several Soekarno rallies in the Soekabumi area near the rubber and tea estate he administered. During the Japanese occupation, my mother administered a Dutch agribusiness enterprise, and she was often moved by  Soekarno’s speeches.  My high school friends from the KW-III, Sri Sastromoeljono and the sons of Dr Arifin, went with me to Gambir Square to hear Soekarno speak after he had just arrived from his exile in Bengkulen. A week after that first memorable encounter, I was rounded up by the Japanese and interned with my fatter in ADEK, a Jakarta neighborhood not far from Menteng. ADEK was located close to Soekarno’s home at Pegangsaan Timur 56. There, whenever we prisoners were forced to cut the grass along the railway just north of ADEK, we were always met by some of Soekarno’s servants who offered us tea and cookies, a gesture of kindness which us tawanan kept in our minds forever. After one and a half years, the ADEK internees were transported to the Bandung-based Cikudapateuh camp, and there my father, wasted by dysentery, died on 24 January 1945.
      Exactly one month after the Japanese surrender, I took a train to Jakarta on 15 September 1945, and found the city of my birth transformed; Jakarta was festooned with red and white banners, and the trams and public buildings were spray-painted with nationalist and anti-colonial slogans.
      On 19 September 1945, together with Sri Sastromoeljono and Mochtar Loebis, I went to Ikada square to hear Soekarno entreat the huge crowd to go home and nurture their faith in the strength of the fledgling Indonesian Republic. A week after that event, I enlisted as a RAPWI Motor Transport Service truck-driver while also enrolling myself at the evening KW-III school. Two years later, I got my KW-III high school diploma and left for Bandung to become an Andir-based aircraft controller. After six months I was enrolled as an officer candidate at the Houtmanstraat military academy in that city.
      As a second lieutenant just after the second police actions started, I met Soekarno face to face at Maguwo Air Force Base when he was about to be transported by the Dutch to yet another place of exile. He shook my hand before he boarded the plane, and I was so stunned by that gesture that I found myself asking him if he had any wishes. Responding in fluent Dutch, Soekarno said, “Yes, a family reunion as speedy as possible”. That comment was proved to have shown remarkable foresight, since a mere six months later, Soekarno was back in Jogyakarta, and on 28 December 1949 I witnessed him addressing an immensely huge crowd at the portals of the Istana Merdeka at Gambir.
A few months after that grand event, I became a staff member at the Netherlands Military Mission (NMM) to Indonesia and was positioned as a paratroop-instructor to tbe Indonesian Air Force in Bandung, where I also was enrolled as an evening law student at Krisnadwipajana University. During my legal studies I became acquainted with Marcel Koch, an outspoken progressive Dutch socialist, who was living near my Kenarilaan boarding house. Meeting Soekarno at Koch’s home prompted me to stay on in Indonesia since the country was in need of the Belanda Indo as well. However, soon after events like the aborted Westerling/Sultan Hamid coup, the equally abortive Andi Assiz Makassar coup and the secessionist ‘Republic of the South Moluccas’ movement, made the Netherlands Military Mission become increasingly suspect in Indonesia.
      In my case, after being made a regular Dutch Army officer my NMM career came to an end, and I sailed to Holland on 24 January 1952. During 1954-1955 I was fortunate to be trained as a Dutch Air Force flight observer at Henderson Airforce Base, located just outside the Canadian city of Winnipeg. These new experiences in Canada prompted me to terminate my military career upon my return to Holland, and to then migrate to Toronto, Canada where I enrolled as a history student.  From 1957 through 1962, I was enrolled at the University of Toronto, where I received my BA and MA degrees in European Modern History and Southeast Asian Sociology.
      During those student years in Canada, I published a number of essays about Soekarno and Indonesia in the Canadian press and in some scientific periodicals, too.  My fervent engagement with Indonesia was further stimulated by my membership of the New Democratic Party (NDP, Canada’s only socialist party). In Sault St. Marie (Ontario), at the onset of 1963, I started my first career as a university lecturer.  For the next three years, I was the chairman of the local NDP, in Sault St. Marie. The NDP championed Soekarno, Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Patrice Lumumba, and posited that viewed historically, those remarkable men were far more than merely five separate individuals. They were connected to a common goal, and they represented a powerful option, an alternative, and above all, a far reaching counter movement which sought a just solution to the grotesque exploitation, suppression and degradation  of brown and black.  The vested power structure at that time saw those five men are a threat, much the way the West viewed Soekarno himself. As to my academic career, I was back at the University of Toronto during the summer of 1966 as an associate professor. That summer, just after I gained Canadian citizenship, I was given a five-year appointment by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs to serve as a UNESCO professor in the West Indies. So, in the autumn of that year I arrived in Barbados and worked for three years in the history department of the University of the West Indies. This was then followed by teaching in Jamaica and in Trinidad in the same capacity during the 1970 and 1971, respectively.
      During the West Indies period I continued to focus again on Soekarno and his beloved Indonesia.  I was soon to move again, this time to Australia, where I was first as a senior lecturer and later an associate professor at the Townsville-based James Cook University of North Queensland.
      During the hectic next twenty years at that northern Australian university, and through my chairing the Centre of Southeast Asian Studies and the Yayasan Soekamo, as well as through editing the periodical Kabar Sebrang, a flood of novel insights about Soekarno and his métier did find their way throughout the academic world. After getting my pension in 1992 and living in Stein, Holland, while still chairing the Yayasan Soekarno, I worked on my PhD dissertation, which analyzed Mohammad Hoesni Thamrin and his quest for lndonesian Nationhood during the years 1917-194. Through my work, I was fortunate to inform my readers about the symbiotic relationship that had existed during the 1920s and 1930s between Thamrin and Soekarno.
My recent book, “Soekarno: Founding Father of Indonesia 1901-1945” was published on October 28, 2002 and I dedicate it, dengan rendah hati, to the Rakyat Indonesia, everywhere they are. I hope this book will be a junction for reconciliation, for it is about time to convey our sincere regret for what we had done in the past to the Indonesian people and yoSoekarno.
      I am very pleased to know that my good friend Joesoef Isak, through his beloved Hasta Mitra, will soon edit the Bahasa Indonesia edition of the book. He was also the one paying his respects to the Leiden-based KITLV for making available to the world a work on Soekarno written from a different perspective than those reflected in earlier biographies.
      I have already begun work on the second volume of Soekarno’s biography, which will focus on Soekarno’s presidential years.  Again, I feel very fortunate indeed that it will also be published by the Indonesian-oriented scientific establishment, KITLV. God willing, part two of my Soekarno biography will be presented at the next Sumpah Pemuda Day, October 28, 2003!

Stein, December 20, 2002


Founding Father of Indonesia

On June 6, 1901 Soekarno was born, the man who more than anyone else came to embody the Indonesian struggle tor independence. This biography describes Soekamo’s life from his early formative years crowned with a degree in architecture from the Dutch East Indies College of Technology in Bandoeng with him however hardly ever practising thai trade. Instead, he applied bis political skilIs of attempting to undermine the colonial power in a long verbal struggle against Dutch colonialism. With him so earning the support of the Indonesian urban masses but also in\iting stern reprisals trom the Dutch East Indies authorities who sent him to jail and into exile tor close to ten years. The Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies during 1942-1945 opened up new opportunities tor Soekarno to further bis cause through cooperating with the Japanese. Together with Mohammad Hatta he thus utilised every possible means to advance the Indonesian struggle towards a future national independence.
      With the Japanese authorities allowing a so-called Poesat Tenaga Rakjat (or Poetera, Central People’s Party) with Soekarno as chairman and Hatta as vice-chairman. With both leaders then hoping that it would create a bridge to self-determination only to find out that it was merely a means by which Indonesians would be used more effectively tor the Japanese war machine.
      Even so, Japanese authorities did occasionally become involved in working on a possible future design tor self-determination. So in October 1943 Soekarno was made chairman of a Central Advisory Committee, a consultative institute however without any real influence or power. Shortly thereafter, in November 1943, Soekarno, Hatta and Ki Bagoes Hadikoesomo were sent to Tokyo as delegates to thank Tenno Heika for this rather insubstantial first step towards self- determination. So the three leaders returned home with high Japanese decorations but without any concrete promises concerning independence.
      Another low point in the history of Indonesia during these occupation years was the heartless sacrifice of ten thousand romusha, who were recruited under false pretences and put to work as forced labourers tor the Japanese war machine. Even Soekarno made himself quite eagerly available for romusha recuitment campaigns, which would prove a bitter memory to him  –- as well as for Hatta in charge of romusha affairs.
      As to Soekarno’s attempts of striking a compromise between Japanese wishes and Indonesian ideaIs that resulted in the establishment in OctOber 1943 of the Soekarela Tentara Pembela Tanah Air (or Peta). These Peta were trained by Japanese army officers, but the Peta were put onder Indonesian commanders up to and including the battalion level. Therefore,Soekarno and other Poetera leaders focused a great deal of attention on the Peta, which they perceived as an incipient Indonesian army. In the meantime the Japanese occupational authorities pressured by deteriorating military developments in the Pacific Ocean and concemed about the Poetera’s pro-Indonesian mentality, abolished Poetera and replaced it with a socalled Djawa Hokokai (Java Union of Service). All population groups organized in neighbourhood and block communities were now placed under the head of the Japanese military mie and mobilized to ward off a possible Allied invasion.
       Soekarno was thus forced to take a step backward since in the Djawa Hokokai he was made a mere advisor. When it became clear ,however, thai Japan was facing military defeat, more concessions were made to Soekarno. On April 29, 1945, the Japanese created the Badan Penjelidikan Kemerdekaan lndonesia (BPKI, Forum to Prepare Indonesia’s Independence) with Soekarno and Hatta as members. Soekarno was quick presenting bis faith in this BPKI on June 1, 1945 when he in a long impassioned address announced the Pantja Sila (Five Principles) on which a future Indonesian state would have to be established such as nationalism, international brotherhood, democracy, social justice and a quite tolerant confession of an eternal God. In his entire speech no mention was made to the Japanese, since Soekarno wished the impending freedom to be entirely determined by the Indonesians themselves and Dot led by Japanese principles, even though he knew that Japan would be still indispensibIe tor achieving lndonesia Merdeka.
        The latter proved to be true with the formation of a Panitia Persiapan Kemerdekaan lndonesia (PPKI, Committee to Prepare tor Indonesia’s Independence) on August 7,1945, with Soekarno and Hatta serving as chairman and vice-chairman respectively. In the end, the form taken by the proclamation of Indonesian independence was determined by Japan’s sudden capitulation on August 15, 1945.
      Fear of a blood bath prevented Soekarno and Hatta trom making the proclamation public without Japanese endorsement, a decision which led radical pemoeda on August 16  to abduct Soekarno and Hatta to Rengasdengklok, a village just outside east of Jakarta. Due to the clever machinations of Maeda, a high ranking Japanese naval officer, both leaders were tracked down and taken back to Jakarta which led to the brief declaration of independence being drafted during the early hours of August 17 at Maeda’s home.
      At ten o’clock in the morning in the front garden of Soekarno’s home Soekarno read out the declaration. The next day, Soekarno was appointed president and Hatta vice-president of the new Republic of Indonesia. On August 19 a Constitution was adopted which confirmed a republican form of government on democratic principles with a cabinet accountable to Soekarno. General elections were to determine tbe composition of the parliament. Until those elections were held a Komite Nasionallndonesia Poesat (KNIP, Central Indonesian National Committee), appointed by Soekarno, would assume the parliamentary role as representatives of tbe various Indonesian social groups.
      This authoritarian structure met with a great deal of criticism, especially trom the pemoeda, the young people who had made no secret of their radicaI, anti-Japanese sentiments during the last months of tbe Japanese occupation. They and their leaders, Soetan Sjahrir and Amir Sjarifoeddin among them, called for democratic reforms in which the cabinet would be responsible to tbe KNIP and more parties would be permitted.
      In November 1945 they got their wish. Soetan Sjahrir, leader of tbe Partai Sosialis lndonesia became prime minister of the first parliamentary cabinet. However with the steady build up of British and Netherlands forces taking place the cabinet as well as Soekarno and Hatta on January 4, 1946 moved to Yogyakarta leaving prime minister Soetan Sjahrir and some of bis staff in Jakarta to deal with the British and Dutch authorities for reaching a modus vivendi.
      As to the hijrah (arabic lor migration) to Yogya soon seemed to have been a wise and rather clever decision with Yogya henceforth being called the kota perjuangan (the city of armed struggle). A perjuangan already quite encouraged by the stiff Indonesian perjuangan efforts the British experienced during their ratber disastrous disembarkments in Soerabaja and Semarang.
Subowo bin Sukaris
HASTA MITRA Updated at: 9:23 PM