The Colonies

14  Sukarno

Proclamation by Sukarno, the post-war years and Jakarta’s metamorphosis

Following the Japanese capitulation on 15 August 1945, Sukarno, the future president, was kidnapped from his home on 17 August 1945 by Indonesian students - a fact which is mostly unknown to younger generations of Indonesians - and he was taken to a property in Pegangsaän East, Jakarta, where he was forced to proclaim the Independence of Indonesia that day. His sketchy notes for the proclamation, hastily written prior to the event, were of course dated 17 August 2605, in accordance with the Japanese era which was still used at the time.
In later years, he and his family were banned by the Dutch authorities to a spacious mansion with a large courtyard in South Sumatra near Bengkoelen (nowadays called Bengkulu), where he was allowed to enjoy life 'in full freedom’, as long as he stayed on his property.

Allied Forces

So the English forces, including the illustrious Ghurkhas from their colony of India, arrived in the Indies to put things right in the entire Dutch East Indies, in conjunction with our small army which was gradually increasing in size as volunteers, who’d come over from the Netherlands, joined.
The Indonesian pelopors, or extremists, had no lack of weapons: the Japanese just looked away when their weapon supplies were raided by these so-called freedom fighters.

Facade of Hotel des Indes te Batavia, 1930
Facade of Hotel des Indes te Batavia, 1930. Source: Tropenmuseum

Personally, I was more fascinated by the American forces, which, according to the rumours, had been stationed in Hotel des Indes in Batavia not long after the war. This hotel had grown from a boarding house in 1856 to become the largest and best-known hotel of the Indies and was located at Molenvliet West, which is now Jalan Gajah Mada. At the front of the hotel was the Molenvliet Canal, always full of people doing their washing and bathing, and on the other side of the canal was Molenvliet East, the present Jalan Hayam Wuruk.
In those days, I worked for a short period of time as a warehouse manager with Comtech, an electricity company located a stone’s throw from Hotel des Indes. After a very long wait, an American officer finally emerged from the hotel and watched the traffic in the street. As it turned out, the first American I ever saw happened to be of Chinese ancestry!
Somewhat later, Hotel des Indes’ name was changed to Hotel Duta Indonesia, upon which it was pulled down in 1972. The enormous shopping mall Duta Merlin is now located at its site.

Jakarta now

During my many holidays in Indonesia, I’ve driven many a time on the Jalan Gajah Mada - the former Molenvliet West - which led from the Harmonie to Glodok, but I didn’t recognise it at all. The Jalan Gajah Mada, with the Jalan Hayam Wuruk across, are now five lane roads where traffic rushes through day and night. At the time, these roads were still reasonably quiet with the electric tram passing through as well. They were lined with tall, old trees on both sides, which are now all gone.
To me, all of the Jakarta that I used to know like the back of my hand, has changed so much that even though I am a born and bred Batavian/Jakartan, I can no longer find my way around there.
Although the catholic Cathedral is still in its same, familiar spot, nowadays the largest mosque of Indonesia is right opposite in the Wilhelmina Park with its bunkers, where I used to enjoy going for a walk.

Road signs
Road signs
The Pecenonganweg (Pecenongan Road) where Royal Book and Offset Printer G. Kolff & Co was located, a road I must've taken thousands of times during the six years I was employed there, has changed beyond recognition and has become completely unfamiliar to me. At night it used to be an absolutely quiet street, while now it is a busy street with many stalls where the Javanese can get just about anything they’d like to eat.

The Waterlooplein (‘Waterloo Square’), where I used to enjoy watching amateur soccer matches on many of the weekends, and which at the time still featured the monument with the Waterloo Lion on top, is now called Lapangan Banteng.

Koningsplein (‘Kings Square’), where I often used to watch boxing matches in the Deca Park and where of course the annual Pasar Gambir was held, is nowadays called Lapangan Merdeka. People would come from all over Indonesia to the Pasar Gambir and they’d then stay for a short holiday in Bogor, the Puncak or Bandung. A Pasar Malam, in the broadest sense of the word, was also held at Koningsplein. I often returned home late from the Pasar Malam, with bags full of Lux toilet soap and tins of Abdullah 555 and Capstan cigarettes that I had won playing darts and with which I could please my father before the war. All nostalgia, as nothing remains of those great places from my memory…

Vista at the outskirts of the city of Bandung
Vista on the outskirts of the city of Bandung

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