History is notorious for being a grey quagmire, including the time when Indonesia was first mapped as a free republic 71 years ago. Though the stories behind many historical figures might be unclear and contradictory, they do share the same patriotic spirit to see a better future for Indonesia. Read on their interesting stories below as a reminder to keep the spirit alive. Merdeka!
Her story in the history of Indonesia's independence struggles are rarely heard, but as Japan's Tokyo had Rose and Vietnam's Hanoi had Hannah as their radio voice, Indonesia's Surabaya had Sally. Muriel Stuart Pearson, nee Walker, was her real name, though K'tutTantri—meaning the fourth-born child—became hers after adoption by a local Balinese rajah, according to stories.
Tantri's life had crisscrossed the globe from being born in Glasgow, in the UK; emigrating to California in the US on the eve of World War I, searching for herself in Bali; getting captured by the Japanese; and finally joining the nationalist movement under Bung Tomo in Surabaya. She was then entrusted to spread word about Indonesia's independence movements in the Voice of Free Indonesia, the predecessor to the RRI's Voice of Indonesia division, and its accompanying English-language magazine. Later on, Tantri would become Soekarno's speechwriter and helped the new country in several diplomatic roles.
Behind the Transmitters
There were Joesoef Ronodipuro and F.Wuz who aired the Proclamation, among other key people who helped to spread the news. After the Japanese heard about the independence proclamation, news outlets were immediately banned from airing. Syahruddin—a journalist from Japan's official news agency Domei—however, passed a copy of the important text to Waidan Palenewan, head of the radio. Palenewan immediately told F.Wuz, a wireless operator, to transmit the news three times—though he was caught and stopped after airing it twice. The station was then sealed, but little did the Japanese know that Ronodipuro also had heard the news and held a copy of the text. He was a broadcaster at Hoso Kyoku, a privately owned news station that later on would become Radio of Republic Indonesia (RRI). Ronodipuro managed to use the international transmitter and read the text in Bahasa before English around 20 minutes later; since then, the news slowly spread both inside and outside Indonesia.
Besides Indonesia Raya, Hari Merdeka is always sung during Independence Day's flag-raising ceremony. Husein Mutahar, who composed the song, embodied the patriotic spirit reflected in the rousing march. The story went that the sacred, heirloom flag had to flee to Jogjakarta in Soekarno's suitcase when the Dutch came back to take Jakarta in 1946. Upon the Dutch's second invasion, the first president cut the flag in two and told Mutahar to guard it with his life. Mutahar was then captured, but he managed to escape to Jakarta and sew the parts together, before seeing the flag sent to Soekarno in exile in Bangka. The talented man he was, Mutahar was an ambassador to Vatican during Soeharto's years and spoke at least six languages. He also composed the Indonesian scout's hymn and was one of the movement's key builders, aside from laying foundation and fostering the flag-raising troop (Paskibraka).
Image courtesy of Indonesian National Library's Online Collection