“The Missing History” includes the true story of how a small group of generals, diplomats, scholars and others are planning to topple the Indonesian President Suharto in the early 1970s.
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The ambassador came smiling forward to shake hands with Djani.
“Welcome to the Embassy,” he said, holding Djani’s hand warmly. “I am Soepardjo.”
“I am Dewa Soeradjana,” Djani presented himself to be polite, even Hartato just had already announced him. “I am pleased you have time to meet me, Your Excellence.”
“I will leave you,” Hartato said.
“Thank you, Hartato. I will take care of our guest from here. Please have a seat Pak Dewa.” The ambassador pointed at a chair on the long side of the conference table in the middle of the room.
“Thank you, Your Excellence.” Djani said as he put his briefcase on the floor next to the chair.
“Would you like some coffee or tea?”
“I prefer tea Your Excellence,” Djani answered, as the ambassador addressed the secretary to arrange for the tea, before he took a seat at the end of the table. Looking forthcoming at Djani he leaned relaxed back on the chair and said smiling:
“Here we are.”
“Thank you for taking time to see me, Your Excellence Ambassador,” Djani repeated, as he wasn’t sure, that the ambassador had heard it the first time. Unsure of what would be the topic of their conversation, he also felt unsure, whether he should sit formally up-right on the chair or just lean back relaxed as the ambassador. Finally he laid his hands flat on the table, with the wrist resting on the table edge and tried to keep calm, as he got a strange feeling, that he had met the ambassador earlier.
“You live in Slovenia, Pak Dewa?”
“Yes. I live in Kranj, Your Excellence Ambassador. It is approximately 30 km north of our capital Ljubljana.”
“Please do not address me as Your Excellence.”
“Thank you,” Djani said and continued: “Bapak Dubes,” to see, if it would be the right title to use. If not, he would use Pak Soepardjo, even mentioning the ambassador by name would be too close a relation, even it was an Indonesian custom in line with using bung, brother, for someone one admired. However, he would never use General Soepardjo. Nevertheless he appeared to be kind, he was appointed by Soeharto. If not, by Soeharto himself, then by someone in his regime. And for sure he hadn’t been appointed ambassador, without agreeing to Soeharto’s politics. It made ‘bung,’ Indonesian custom or not, out of question.
The ambassador continued looking at Djani, but didn’t say anything.
It made Djani feel obliged to go on:
“Pak Hartato told me, that you arrived just a week ago. How do you like Beograd?”
“I haven’t even had time to see the city. First of all I have to adapt to this place,” Soepardjo made a gesture meaning the embassy. "It is my first position as ambassador. I have spent the last five years as Director of the Asia Pacific Department in our Depart-ment of Foreign Affairs.”
“I hope, you will like it here, Bapak Dubes. Beograd is a very beautiful city. I can rec-ommend a nice restaurant, Orac. I use to go there, when I am here.”
“Thank you,” the ambassador said and stood up to get a paper and pencil from his desk. “To remember it,” he said. As he wrote, he asked:
“Pak Dewa, when did you yourself arrive in Yugoslavia?”
“On 23 March 1961 at Rijeka, Croatia,” Djani answered promptly.
“Why did you choose to go to Europe? It is far away from home, isn’t it?”
Djani looked at his fingers for a while and then he looked at the ambassador, thinking of where to start, before he said:
“Actually it is a bit funny, Bapak Dubes. In 1960, when I was 22 years of age, I was studying at the Mining Faculty at ITB in Bandung. One of my school fellows got a schol-arship for studying in Japan. It was a part of the payment for war damages. He asked me to join him. I accepted, as I had no obligations in Indonesia, other than to get a good edu-cation. I considered it, as a good opportunity to go abroad for further education, to be helpful to our country in the future. We were tested during three days in different sub-jects, like English language, history, the political arrangement in Indonesia etcetera. After the tests we were asked just to wait for the results. When my friend had received his, but I hadn’t got mine, I went to Jakarta to ask for it. I got it and my result was very good. However, I was informed, that my request to go to Japan couldn’t be met. Each Indone-sian province had a quota of two students only. They had been taken already, so there was no space left for me to join. Instead, I was offered to go to Europe. Most probable to Russia or East Germany which I happily accepted. I was eager just to go abroad. I didn’t care where it would be. Two weeks later I was informed, I would be sent to Yugoslavia. My only knowledge about the country at that time was, it was a socialist country, the President was Marshall Joseph Tito and Beograd was its capital. I didn’t even know Yu-goslavia is a federation of six countries. However, I expected to learn more before we left Indonesia, as we had a ten day training period at Puncak near Bogor. A senior student from Czechoslovakia was there to inform us about habits, customs and life in Europe in general. But he didn’t know much about Yugoslavia, so it was a bit fun to us going here. The reason for lack of information about Yugoslavia may come from, that out of 44 stu-dents in the training center, 35 were going to Czechoslovakia and nine only to Yugosla-via,” Djani said to end his explanation.
The ambassador smiled, like he had enjoyed Djani’s story.
“Why did you decide to study in Slovenia and not Beograd?” he asked curiously.
“On 21 January 1961,” Djani continued happy to tell his story, “we started our adven-ture by airplane from Jakarta to Singapore, where we boarded the cargo ship AVALA from Yugoline. Two months later we arrived in Rijeka, after we had been in Venice. It was fun there, because…”
There was a knock at the door and Djani paused.
“Come in,” the ambassador said with a loud voice.
A local Serbian woman, dressed in a white apron and white cap, entered the room hold-ing a tray with two cups of tea, sugar and some cookies. While the woman arranged the cups and the other, Djani took a discrete look at the big portrait on the wall behind his host. ‘It should have been Soekarno. Next to him should have been Hatta, our first vice president,’ he thought. But the space was empty. To Djani it confirmed the patriarchal attitude of Soeharto, leaving no space for others. Looking at the ambassador helping the woman arranging the tea, he became a bit confused of the contradiction of the openness from the ambassador, telling about his own career, and his cruel master. He hardly heard the ambassador thanking the woman, as she left .
“Black Indonesian tea, as back home,” the ambassador smiled as he poured out.
Djani took the cup to taste the tea. The smell was good. The taste as well.
“You were telling about Venice, Pak Dewa. What was so funny?”
“I had never imagined, how beautiful it was and at the same time, it was so cold,” Djani said with the feeling, the ambassador could hear, that he had been about to express some-thing else. Which he had. When the maid had knocked the door, he had been on his way to say: “… we were surprised, that the Italians didn’t know when we told we were from Indonesia, but when we mentioned Soekarno, they knew him very well.” He zipped the tea with a silent thank you to the woman, who had saved him.
“Yes, it is a very different climate, than we are used to, isn’t it.”
“But it was more surprising to us, when we were in Beirut,” Djani went on. “It was the first time, I saw snow.”
“That should be unusual.”
For a moment Djani didn’t knew, what to say. He felt, like he had made a joke of the ambassador by deluding him, that there was snow in Beirut itself.
“It was not in the city,” he said. “It was in the mountains. We could see it from the ship, when we approached the harbor.”
“Of course. Snow in the streets of Beirut, would have been rare, wouldn’t it?”
“I didn’t answer to your question, Bapak Dupes,” Djani continued to get away from Venice and Beirut, “why I decided for Slovenia. When we arrived in Rijeka, we were guests of the trade consular in the nearby town of Opatija. We were there for a whole day. Two senior students from Ljubljana had arrived to inform us, that we could choose to study either here in Beograd, in Zagreb, Croatia or in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I asked about, who were already studying in Ljubljana. When they mentioned the name of a friend of mine I used to play football with in Bandung, it was easy for me to make my choice. So I arrived in Ljubljana on 24 March 1961.”
The ambassador smiled like he felt well entertained.
It made Djani continuing his story:
“I decided to study chemistry, as I wanted later to work at petro-chemicals plants. I had already applied for a scholarship from Caltex in Indonesia, but didn’t get it. I was also thinking of studying agronomy at the faculty at Bogor. I also had applied to study at the Oil Academy in Pladju, near Palembang at Musi River, Sumatra,” he put, even the am-bassador of course knew the location of the Oil Academy. “I was accepted as a student and was prepared to move to Pladju. However, I also got an immediate scholarship from the Ministry of Education in Jakarta, to study mining at ITB in Bandung. I accepted the offer and instead of going to Pladju, I went to Bandung. That is in brief the explanation, why I ended up here.”
“It was quite a bouquet of opportunities you had.”
“Yes, it was. Sometimes it is strange, how things come to you.”
“You haven’t been home, since you arrived in Slovenia,” the ambassador said, more like a fact than a question. “Ten years is a long time not seeing one’s relatives, isn’t it?”
“I didn’t have the opportunity,” Djani said with a blocking voice unsure, whether he should regard it as a rebuke or the ambassador just had made a simple calculation. No matter what, it was a fact.
“When did you finish your study in Ljubljana, Pak Dewa?” the ambassador carried on.
“On 19 October 1965,” Djani answered aware of what would be the next question:
“Weren’t you supposed to go home then?” the ambassador asked, as if he wasn’t sure.
“I was, but as I had good results, I decided to continue to get my Master Degree. I con-sidered, it would be more useful for Indonesia. I was offered a scholarship from the University of Ljubljana and asked one of your predecessors, ambassador Soebijakto, if it was okay, that I continued. It was accepted at once, as it would last two years only,” Djani said and waited for the ambassador’s inevitable question of why he didn’t go home, when he had finished his Master’s Degree in 1967.
But the ambassador just looked friendly at him, if as he waited for Djani to continue.
Djani was considering of how to put his words, so the ambassador wouldn’t get him wrong, when the ambassador asked:
“Am I right, if I guess, that you had met a girl, already when you had to go back in Oc-tober 1965?”
“Yes, I had. To be honest,” Djani smiled.
“What could we expect other, when we send a handsome exotic looking guy to live in a foreign country during four years? Soekarno may have overlooked that risk,” the ambas-sador added still smiling. “Have you married Pak Dewa?”
“Yes, we married in April 1966.”
“So it became difficult to go to Indonesia in 1967, when you finished your Master De-gree.” The ambassador kept smiling, like he enjoyed Djani’s story.
“It wasn’t the reason, why I was staying,” Djani said with a slightly harmed voice. “My aim was to do a Ph.D. study before going home. To be more useful for Indonesia,” he asserted, as if he felt offended by the ambassador’s question.
“Have you succeed?”
“Not yet,” Djani answered, feeling the ambassador looking appraising at him and thought of, whether he should tell, he even hadn’t got started, but decided to leave it. Otherwise he could just wait for the next question. Obviously it would be: Why are you then still here in Yugoslavia? For sure the ambassador knew the truth already. Exactly like he had stated, that Djani hadn’t been home since he left Indonesia.
“As I couldn’t find a scholarship, we only would have my wife’s salary to live from. It would be too little to survive from month to month, even we rented a very small apart-ment of 30 square meters only,” he said and hoped, he would dare to trust the ambassador and tell him the full truth.
“So you needed find a job or would be left to go home,” the ambassador concluded. Looking appraising at Djani he asked: “Did you ever tell your wife, that you were obliged to go back to Indonesia, when your first study was finished?”
“Yes, of course, I did. Actually, she was aware of it, already before I met her. Her friend was dating an Indonesian studying under the same conditions as me,” Djani said aware of the ambassador’s next question:
“Was she okay with that?”
“Yes,” Djani answered promptly, even it was a comparison of the truth. “However, I succeed to find a job.”
“Wasn’t it difficult as a foreigner without work experience?”
“I applied for a job at the Atomic Institute Josef-Stefan-Ljubljana.”
“An atomic institute?”
“Yes, the director was the former assistant to the professor of the Inorganic Chemistry at the university, so I knew him well,” Djani explained, enjoying the ambassador’s sur-prise.
“What were you supposed to work with at the institute?”
“I would work in the field of Uranium enrichment. It is known as Uranium hexa fluoride or UF6. It can be used as fuel for Nuclear Electric Power.” Djani looked at the am-bassador and continued with a little smile, without knowing why: “And atomic bombs.”
“Yes,” Djani couldn’t help smiling of the ambassador, as he looked, as if he didn’t be-lieve him.
“Did you get the job?”
“Almost,” Djani answered with a little smile.
“I was promised a job at the institute. However, I had to wait three to four months for the final confirmation. They were awaiting their yearly budget here from Beograd. How-ever, one day I was walking in the Tivoli Park to get to town, I met a friend from my fac-ulty study. We discussed my situation and he said, he would be happy to present me to the manager of his company in Kranj. He thought they needed a chemical engineer. I went there and was offered the job. However, I had to sign a contract for two years; oth-erwise, I would be no use to them. As I couldn’t be sure to get the job at the Atomic Institute, I accepted the conditions and informed the Institute, they hadn’t to think more about me.”
“What were the company doing, since it was interesting to you?”
“They were processing ox hide into leather for shoes and alike, as well as producing synthetic leather to be used for upholstery in the car industry. It was based on polyvinyl chloride, better known as PVC and acrylic and polyurethanes.”
“It is a too technical for me,” the ambassador interrupted. “What was your occupation?”
“I was employed to research and develop artificial leather. At the end of 1969 I was transferred to be the assistant of the production manager, where my job was to take care of everyday production and to solve problems occurring in the production. My boss was occupied with meetings and political affairs most of the time. But as we cooperated very well, I learned a lot from him.”
The ambassador looked at Djani for a moment before he asked:
“Pak Dewa, do you consider yourself as a good manager?”
“I believe I am, Bapak Dubes,” Djani answered surprised by the question.
“Pak Dewa, if you were given the possibility to choose, would you then prefer to work as a manager or as a specialist?”
“I don’t know,” Djani answered and wondered a little of the question. He had just an-swered to, if he considered himself being a good manager.
“Pak Dewa. Do you have children?”
“Yes, we have a son. Robert. He is two and a half years old.”
“Robert? It isn’t a typical Indonesian name.”
“No, it isn’t. My wife and I had an agreement, that if we would have a son, she would give the name and if, it would be a girl, I would give the name.”
“So now you hope for a girl?”
“We are expecting our next child end of April,” Djani said proudly.
“Congratulation,” the ambassador smiled. “I have two sons myself. They are 10 and 12.”
Djani took his wallet from his jacket pocket.
“This is my wife, Marija Ana, and my son,” he said, as he showed the ambassador a photo.
“How is it to be an Indonesian in Slovenia?” the ambassador asked after having studied the photo for a moment.
“It is fine. People are very welcoming and friendly. It is a very nice country. We are less than two million inhabitants. You should come and visit us to know Slovenia and also visit the company, where I am working. If possible, you should also meet my family to see, how we live.”
“I will find a convenient time for it,” the ambassador said and started to stand up.
Djani followed the ambassador’s move. When he had buttoned his jacket he returned to the formal address, he had used at first:
“Your Excellency, thank you for taking your time to invite me to your office. If Pak Hartato informs you, that I appeared a bit reluctant to accept the invitation to meet with you, it just came from, that I was surprised. I am not used to meet our ambassador face-to-face.”
“I am always very interested in meeting my fellow countrymen. Also if it wasn’t a part of my job,” the ambassador smiled, as he opened the door for Djani.
“Then we will see you in Slovenia,” Djani said and was just about to put:
A nations history is based on the truth of several incidents.
Some nations history is based on several truths of the same incident.
In 1945, seven years old, after escaping into the Balinese jungle, Dewa Soeradjana, his family and the rest of the villagers, watches how KNIL, the Royal Dutch-East Indies Army, and their Indonesian henchmen are burning down all their houses, destroying the crops and killing all the livestock, leaving nothing behind.
It is how Dewa Soeradjana‘s amazing life took off to culminate, when he in 1972, 34 years old, becomes involved in the planning to topple the Indonesian President Soeharto without knowing why.
* * * * *
In early 1974 the Indonesian President Suharto is handed a document from General Ali Murtopo, head of OPSUS, an extra-constitutional agency with broad and undefined powers. The document hints that a general with the initial S will attempt a coup détat in between April and June 1974.
The initial S meant General Soemitro, a distinguished army man, Commander of KOPKAMTIB, the Indonesian secret police agency for restoration of security and order, and by this the most powerful man in Indonesia, next to President Soeharto himself.
However, is it possible that the document, known as the Ramadi-document, refers to an incident, which took place already in June 1972, two years earlier than hinted?
But, if the coup was planned to take place already in 1972, how is it then possible, that the participants as generals, diplomats and high level civil servants continued to serve President Suharto and his regime, and some even were promoted to higher positions, in the years which followed?
* * * * *
Based on Dewa Soeradjana’s personal story the book gives a valuable insight in the true Indonesian story from 1938 – 1972.
It is also the example par excellence of how the will to will creates the possibilities.
Photo: General Soepardjo and Pak Dewa March 1972.
* * * * *
“The Missing History is written by Peer Holm Jørgensen, the author of The Forgotten Massacre (Mizan 2009). As he believes in history defines the future, the book also provides an invaluable insight in history for the young Indonesian generations of today and those to come.
It may also set a new standard of public awareness, when it comes to the ruling power.
Publishing rights available. Please contact us at email@example.com
Dewa Soeradjana and Peer Holm Jørgensen met for the first time in December 2011 to lay out the story line of “The Missing History”. Here they are in Bled, Slovenia.
Published in Bahasa Indonesia by Noura Books, Jakarta (2015).
* * * * *
With approximately 250 million inhabitants sharing more than 17.000 islands spanning over three time zones Indonesia is the fourth biggest nation on Earth.
Arriving with the Arabian traders around 8th century and by the 15th century spread to most of the islands Indonesia today is the biggest Muslim society in the world; however not the only religion as 5 more are officially recognized by the government. Hereto there are about 245 non-official religions.
Until 1522 when the Portuguese built their first fort Indonesia had been a dynamic organization of countless kingdoms and sultanates.
In 1596 the Dutch arrived and colonization initiated. 350 years later in 1945, based on the Pancasila, Indonesia liberated itself from the colonial powers. 20 years later in 1965 one of the darkest periods in the Indonesian history changed the standards of governing.
Modern Indonesia has recently started its journey towards its deserved position in the world community.