Life

New volume reveals 'hidden
intentions'


Kronik Revolusi Indonesia Jilid III (1947); By Pramoedya Ananta Toer, et.al.; Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia, Jakarta (2001), xxvi, 507 pp.; Rp 54,000,-

JAKARTA (JP): A friend once warned me against ""the hidden intention"" of the two earlier volumes (1945 and 1946) of this title.

What my friend meant was, in fact, ""the leftist"" message inserted in several pages of the volumes concerning the labor unions and the communists during that period.

In this third volume, Kronik Revolusi Indonesia Jilid III (1947) {Chronicle of the Indonesian Revolution Volume III (1947)}, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the editor of the book, is open in his recognition of the elements that my friend referred to.

Pramoedya, the cultural editor of Lentera, the supplement of 1the (now defunct) Bintang Timur daily, which was the trumpet of the (now banned) Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in the early 1960s, says those disclosures went ""missing from circulation"" for several decades.

He considers this news to be important in being exposed because news is a reflection of events.

On June 9, 1947, for instance, the Central Bureau of the All-Indonesian Labor Union (SOBSI), a labor wing of the communist party, was accepted as member of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) in its meeting in Prague, in what was then, Czechoslovakia. Indonesia was represented by two SOBSI activists, Setiadjit and Oei Gee Hwat.

Pramoedya points out that a chronicle is a chronological record of a series of events and incidents in the past. ""It's history minus opinion, (what one does is) merely putting forward the facts"", he writes in his preface.

But facts are not identical to events or incidents, because it is impossible to describe them ""intact"" in whatever form.

""Here we speak about subjectivity, namely that the chronicle -albeit in principle, has characteristics of objectivity - cannot take away subjectivity away from history"", the editor says.

The task of a chronicle, just like history, is to give a form to the past in order that its pluses and minuses are revealed.

Renowned historian Ong Hok Ham in his introduction criticizes the previous two volumes for inadequate references. In the two books, the editor only used sources (such as newspapers, magazines and books) from Indonesia and focused on events occurring around Jakarta.

Ong suggested that the editor use other sources such as diaries, memoirs, biographies, articles written by national leaders including Adam Malik and Mohammad Hatta, as well as manuscripts published by the Rijks Geschiedkundige Publicatien in Holland such as Netherlandsch-Indonesische Betrekkingen, 1945-1950 (Netherlands-Indonesia Relationships, 1945-1950).

However, some improvements have been made in the third volume. The editor has apparently tried to accommodate Onghokham's suggestions. The volume is richer in references and covers more regions, thanks to the effort of another editor, Ediati Kamil, a former librarian at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Indonesia.

Nevertheless, Pramoedya fails to suppress his nationalist sentiments when speaking about the references included in the book. He says it is mainly from Indonesian sources, as read in the bibliography, because it is the Indonesian people who are the most concerned about Indonesian history.

And because the editor of this chronicle is an Indonesian, ""the Indonesian-centered inclination is unavoidable, despite the fact that a chronicle should not take any side"".

When composing this volume, Pramoedya has admitted to predominantly using two main chronicles, namely Documenta Historica Jilid I (1953, 373 pp.) by Osman Raliby, and three volumes of Perjuangan Kemerdekaan di Aceh (Independence Struggle in Aceh) by T.A. Talsya (1990).

Those two books have enriched this volume with details about the province of Aceh, which was Indonesia's stronghold in the struggle against colonialism at the time.

If you take the present situation of Aceh in mind, it's interesting to read that on January 15, 1947, Muslims throughout Aceh observed the feast for three days without a break as a plea for divine help for the safety of the fledgling republic and the safety of its soldiers fighting on the front line.

There's more. The Aceh Regional Council for Defense then called on the people of Aceh to raise funds and collect food for the front line. The Acehnese had indeed made material and spiritual sacrifices for the survival of Indonesia.

Pramoedya notes that in literature on the history of the Indonesian Revolution, only those two chronicles by Raliby and Talsya are in existence.

In fact, the Ministry of Information had published in 1950 a chronicle entitled Beberapa Catatan: Detik dan Peristiwa 17 Agustus 1945 - 23 Januari 1950 (Some Notes: Moments and Events of August 17, 1945 - January 23, 1950).

Maybe Pramoedya could use this chronicle for his next volume.

The editor also notes that, based on the information from Jaap Erkelens of Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde, some bulletins of the Antara news agency in the revolution years of 1945-1949 are still stored at the Arsip National Republik Indonesia in Jakarta.

There are at least two important events in 1947 contained in this third volume. They are the signing of the text of the Linggarjati Agreement on March 25 in Jakarta, and the first clash with the Dutch that started on July 21. The press and literature published during that period was preoccupied by the two events, details about them dominate this volume.

Although there is a concern about the so-called ""hidden intention"", the publication of chronicles documenting the years in which the struggle for independence took place is very important, not only to inform the younger generation about the armed struggle, but also as a source of reliable reference for historical or scientific purposes.

Despite his ""leftist"" image, Pramoedya has obviously tried in this book to be objective and treat all events and actors equally. (Darul Aqsha)

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