Tuesday, May 12, 2009

History of the forts of eastern Indonesia

One might reasonably ask what spices, especially cloves and nutmeg, have to do with forts and fortresses?

The main reason Europeans sailed to Asia was to control trade routes and spice-producing regions.

Many efforts were made to break the monopoly in the spice trade held by traders from India, China and the Middle East; the breakthrough came when Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama reached India in 1499 via Cape of Good Hope, opening the route to Asia.

Before long, the Portuguese had moved in, occupying Malacca and the Malay Peninsula in 1511.

After a secret Portuguese expedition by Antonio d’Abreu and Francisco Serrao to the Maluku Islands in the early 16th century, the Spanish adventurer Ferdinand Magellan followed in 1522 and Englishman Francis Drake in 1579. The Maluku Islands were now open to Europeans.

Under the Treaty of Tordesillas, signed in 1494, which divided the world outside Europe between Spain and Portugal along a north–south meridian 370 leagues west of Cape Verde islands, the Maluku Islands were divided into two.

This was revised by the Treaty of Saragossa, signed in 1592, under which the Maluku Islands fell into Portugal’s hands, hence the strong Portuguese influence in the Maluku Islands during the 16th century.

But if the 16th century was the Portuguese era, the first half of the 17th century belonged to the Dutch, with the Dutch East India Company (the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) and colonial government), with some bits of British influence in several places.

In every strategic place, the Dutch built posts and forts to control trading routes and protect themselves. Such fortifications could be the whole city or part of the city center.

Many of these fortifications are replicas of original buildings in Europe. Generally, they consisted of the main fort, surrounded by small forts or redoubts, which were used as the watch towers.

During the Pacific War, Papua and the Maluku Islands became a strategic area both for the Japanese and for Allied forces. Japan needed the region to hold off any incursion from the east and south, while the Allied forces needed the region to launch an assault on the Japanese forces, which then occupied everywhere from the Philippines to Tokyo.

The Japanese forces built pillboxes along the coastline as their outer defense line, while using natural and built cages inland to stop the advance of the Allied forces.--Matheos V. Messakh

The battle to defend military history

Matheos Viktor Messakh

The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

Perhaps because most of them were built during the colonial era, they have never really been regarded as part of our history.

For thousands of years, humans have been building fortifications, as military constructions designed for defense during war, in a variety of complex designs.

Although many of the fortifications in Indonesia were built before colonialism, a great deal more were built during it, meaning they were neglected after the nation won its independence.

Now, a new effort to preserve these historical defense structures is underway, with researchers assessing traditional and colonial fortifications around the country in a bid to preserve the structures and raise community awareness about their historical importance.

The project, run by the Center for Architecture Documentation (PDA) and its Dutch counterpart Passchier Architects and Cultural (PAC), under the auspices of the HGIS Cultural Funding of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Indonesian Culture and Tourism Ministry, began two years ago.

PAC is responsible for reviewing archives in the Netherlands, and the PDA is responsible for field surveys and reviewing archives in Indonesia.

“Fortifications should not be regarded only as a colonial inheritance,” executive director of the Indonesian Heritage Trust (BPPI) Catrini Kobontubuh told The Jakarta Post recently. “They are part of our history. Preserving them means we have preserved a source of knowledge for future generations.”

Catrini said the BPPI had been fully supporting the project since its launch in June 2007 because it was a rare initiative for Indonesia.

“Among the more than 200 forts registered at the Culture and Tourism Ministry, only seven have legal status as heritage buildings,” said Catrini.

The goal of the project is to produce a comprehensive database of fortifications to support government policy in the preservation of these heritage structures.

Archival research and field surveys have been conducted in various parts of the country to identify the types of fortification, their existing condition, common damage and development opportunities or risks, given the forts’ individual characteristics.

“We know that we have many historical buildings such as forts, but we don’t really know where they are or what condition they are in. Many have been neglected,” said PDA executive director Nadia Purwestry.

The research began with an initial list of 279 forts provided by the Culture and Tourism Ministry; of these, only 16 have been restored.

Information since gathered about these forts includes architectural facts and description, photos and videos detailing their current condition, data on the surrounding environment, GPS data on their position and accessibility, and information from local people.

The project is designed in three stages, each running for 12 months to review a different part of the country.

The first stage, from July 2007 to June 2008, identified fortifications in Maluku, North Maluku, West Papua and Papua.

The second stage, to identify fortifications in Java and Sumatra, began in July 2008 and will finish in June 2009. The third stage, from June 2009 to July 2010, will identify fortifications in Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara and Bali.

Top priority are fortifications from the colonial era, such as stockades, blockhouses, land batteries, small forts, redoubts, hybrid fortifications or renaissance fortifications, and city walls.

Next are bunkers and forts from during World War II, followed by prehistoric fortifications, stockades (fences) and traditional fortifications.

The team reports surprising findings from the first stage, not least that there were more forts than the number documented by the directorate general of history and archaeology at the ministry.

For the eastern part of Indonesia, the team has found 141 fortifications. In Java and Sumatra alone, the team has already identified 180 fortifications.

More than 70 percent or 104 fortifications identified in eastern Indonesia are colonial structures built around the 17th century; 14 are traditional fortifications and 23 are defense structures for World War II.

Among the colonial fortifications in a relatively good condition are the 17th-century Nieuw Victoria Castle in Ambon, Orange Castle in Ternate, Star Fort Belgica in Neira island in Banda Islands. These three are regarded as the main Dutch fortresses.

Others are the Amsterdam blockhouse built in Hila in Ambon in 1637; the San Jao or San Pedro redoubt built in Ternate in 1530, which is now known as Kota Janji; Tolukko castle, built by Portuguese general Francisco Serao in 1540; and the Batavia land battery and Colombo land battery built around the end of 18th century by then governor Francois Boekholtz at Gunung Api island.

“There are still many unidentified,” said Nadia Purwestry, adding that less historical information was available for fortifications in the western part of Indonesia than for those in the east.

Most of the fortifications in the eastern parts of Indonesia have been left to fall into poor condition. Only 23 of the 104 colonial fortifications are in a relatively complete state, 20 are in ruins, 23 are mere remnants, eight have been destroyed; 30 have not yet been assessed.

“Fortifications never come to our attention,” said Sudarmadji Damais, former head of the Jakarta History Museum. “Many of them, especially traditional fortifications, have disappeared, so this survey would be perfect if it was combined with an archaeological survey.”

He said many traditional fortifications had disappeared quickly because they were not made from stone or cement like colonial fortifications.

Of the 14 traditional fortifications identified, only two are in a relatively complete condition, one is in ruins, four are mere remnants, three destroyed; the other four have not been surveyed.

One of the traditional fortifications identified is Kapahaha hill fort built in 1646 by the people of Hitu in Ambon as a defense against the Dutch. Although it has fallen into a state of ruin, it can still be identified.

Most of the 23 World War II fortifications, mostly Japanese bunkers, are in good condition, with only three in ruins. However, very little information about them is available.

“We are relying on only two books about Japanese defense during the second World War,” said Purwestry.

Among these 20th-century fortifications are Japanese bunkers in Passo and Air Salobar, Ambon, military pillboxes along the coast line of Ambon beaches and Buru Island, as well as Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s station in Sentani, Papua.

The researchers hope that the comprehensive database being compiled will prove valuable for all conservation efforts and for finding ways to use the structures in the future.

With its detailed information on the sociocultural and economic aspects of the forts and their surrounding areas, the survey is also intended to stimulate public awareness, engaging local communities in conservation efforts.

At the end of the documentation process, a small exhibition and public seminar will be held in combination with the publication of a catalogue book. The findings will also be published on the Internet.

“This is only an initial step for preservation,” said Purwestry. “We hope that the result of this survey will become the basis for government decisions on preserving these historic structures.”

Singing their way to the world conference

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Mon, 05/11/2009 10:44 AM | Features

Singing for nature: The Al-Izhar Community Choir and Orchestra will perform at the 1st World Ocean Conference and the Coral Triangle Summit in Manado, North Sulawesi.  JP/Matheos Viktor MessakhSinging for nature: The Al-Izhar Community Choir and Orchestra will perform at the 1st World Ocean Conference and the Coral Triangle Summit in Manado, North Sulawesi. JP/Matheos Viktor Messakh

Singing in a choir or being part of an orchestra can be fun, especially when you share the stage with your nearest and dearest.

That was how Anti Dwicahyono felt when she first joined the Islamic Al-Izhar Community Choir, given that her 15-year-old daughter Nadya Rifani plays guitar in the choir’s instrumental counterpart, the Al-Izhar Community Orchestra.

“At first, I only accompanied my daughter to the choir and orchestra rehearsals, but then I thought, why not join the choir rather than simply waiting for my daughter? It’s fun and it makes me proud that my daughter is also there,” Anti said.

The Al-Izhar Community Choir and Orchestra will perform for the representatives of the 121 countries taking part in the May 11–15 World Ocean Conference (WOC) and the Coral Triangle Initiatives (CTI) summit in Manado, North Sulawesi.

Forty members of the choir and orchestra will join forces with 20 members of the awarding-winning Manado State University (Unima) choir to perform in front of at least eight heads of state and no less than 120 ministers from participating countries.

The Unima Choir won the gold prize in the Gospel and Spiritual Vocal Ensemble category at the Fifth World Choir Games in Graz, Austria, in July last year; in the same competition, the choir also won bronze in the Musica Sacra and Popular Choir Music categories.

The performance, titled “Symphony under the Sea”, will feature 12 arrangements including the traditional South Sulawesi tune “O Ina Ni Keke”, Alan Menken’s Academy Award-winning song from the Disney animation The Little Mermaid “Under the Sea”, ABBA’s “Mama Mia medley”, Carole King’s Grammy Award-winning song “You’ve Got a Friend”, Nickolas Ashford
and Valerie Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and a Latin medley.

The opportunity to perform at the conference didn’t come easily for the choir and orchestra, which were both founded in November 2006 by students, teachers, parents and alumni of Al-Izhar in an effort to create a community to play music together.

“We started to shortlist potential members — we have 300 students and alumni members and 200 of them are pianists,” head of the choir and orchestra Indira Hadi told The Jakarta Post during rehearsals for the WOC performance. “We just carried on with practice and after a while only about 40 people stayed in the orchestra and more than 100 people on the choir.”
As a community choir and orchestra, the groups had to cope with its members having various levels of musical skills.

“We only perform songs that all members can play and sing,” said Indira.

But it’s not just about talent, she said: Discipline has always been the main concern of the orchestra and choir, and they are strict about commitment.

“We practice once a week and if someone misses rehearsals three times, they are expelled,” said Indira.

The choir, which has performed for officials several times, not least at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta and Cipanas Palace in West Java, also holds an annual Grand Concert every March. For their first two years, they were helped by renowned composer and conductor Addie MS.

“We want to build a musical community where everyone can contribute, no matter how small that is,” said Indira, whose two daughters are members of the choir and orchestra.

As well as performing at the WOC on May 12, the choir and orchestra will visit several communities, schools and churches in North Sulawesi to share their musical skills and experience through joint performances and workshops.

“We just want to tell people that music unites people regardless of your background,” said Indira.

For Al-Izhar junior high school principal Yuli Suprianto, who is also a member of the choir, the most important thing is that the Islamic school has such solid community support in helping to enhance its members’ talents and even to perform at an international event.

“Basically, I like to sing but what makes me proud is that we have a solid community that encourages its members to improve their talents,” said Yuli, who will sing and dance with four other teachers and their students at the conference.

Director of the Al-Izhar Islamic School, Yuliantoronto, said he was proud to be able to perform at the conference.

“It’s a big honor for us. We are proud not only because we have been given a chance to perform at such a prestigious conference but also because we will be able to show the world that an Islamic school is not a closed-minded school,” he said.

“An Islamic school usually has gambus [a six-stringed Arab musical instrument resembling a lute] orchestra… but here, we have everything. We can play Latin music as well as classical.”

Nezar Patria: Juggling ownership and press freedom

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Mon, 05/04/2009 2:07 PM | People

JP/Matheos V. MessakhJP/Matheos V. Messakh

Nezar Patria wanted to be a journalist since junior high school, even though it went against the wishes of his father, veteran journalist Syamsul Kahar.

"Although my father is a journalist, who co-founded Serambi Indonesia newspaper in Banda Aceh, he never encouraged me to be a journalist. There was always a reason for his objections," he told The Jakarta Post recently.

But despite his love for journalism, there was a time Nezar lost all hope for it, tossing aside his ambition because he thought that being a journalist would not lead to anything positive.

"As a student activist I learned that there is no press freedom, so my priority was to bring the then dictatorship to an end," said Nezar, who was elected as chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) in January.

Born in Sigli, Aceh, on Oct. 5, 1970, Nezar spent one year studying agriculture at Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh. He then went on to study philosophy at Gadjah Mada University, where he was active in various organizations including the controversial Solidarity of Indonesian Students for Democracy (SMID).

Nezar, who co-founded SMID in 1992, said the organization was established to give students a forum to fight for their rights, as student organizations had been hijacked by the government.

After the Democratic People's Party (PRD) was accused by the New Order regime of engineering the riot of July 27, 1996, SMID, as an allied student organization, was also blamed and its members found themselves on the run.

Nezar was secretary-general of SMID at the time. On March 13, 1998, Nezar and two other SMID members, Mugiyanto and Aan Rusdyanto, were forcibly taken by the military from their cheap apartment block in Klender; they were tortured and interrogated for three days before they were handed over to the Jakarta Police.

He was held until June so he could only hear the roaring of the May 1998 political upheaval from his cell.

"I noticed that the police were very busy and when I vaguely heard the song *Gugur Bunga' *Flower Fall* from behind the bars I knew that students had died," he said. "I felt so sad that I could not be out there with my friends."

After being released by the police, Nezar became a volunteer for the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) to help find some activists that were still missing. He also helped established Kontras Aceh.

"I have overcome my trauma of being kidnapped but I still have a kind of bad dream about my friends who were kidnapped and never returned," he said. "Every time I see any news about them, I always feel uneasy."

Nevertheless, Nezar, whom former SMID colleague Coen Hussein Pontoh described as a "highly skilled theoretician and organizer who talks little", adding that "in his hands the SMID was run well", recovered his dream to be a journalist.

When other 1998 activists joined political parties or went into the civil service, Nezar decided to become a journalist. In 2000, he joined Tempo magazine.

The father of three agreed he built his career with the magazine relatively quickly, but said he never used his fame as an activist to climb the newsroom hierarchy.

"It has been fast but I have been through all the positions that a journalist should have. I started as a cadet reporter, reporter and then editor."

In May 2008, he and some of his fellow Tempo journalists founded www.vivanews.com, a website under tycoon and politician Aburizal Bakrie.

His decision to work with the tycoon sparked criticism among journalists and the pro-democracy movement. Some regarded it as a backward movement but Nezar, who won the International Federation of Journalists' Journalism for Tolerance Award in 2003 for his report on the May 1998 riot, titled "The Razing of Jakarta", has his own argument.

"It's a professional world and I want to prove that I am a professional journalist," he said. "It is an uncontested fact in the media industry that we will always work with businesspeople. Wherever you go, you will always come across the problem of ownership."

He might once have been an advocate of social democratic ideologies, but now argues that the best journalists can do is to admit they are living in the world of the capitalist media industry whose main aim is profit.

With this awareness on the capitalist environment, a journalist will know how to deal with media ownership, which has been described as one of the obstacles in the development of press freedom.

Nezar believes journalists should make themselves credible and professional in the eyes of media owners, which will help them to negotiate with the owners over independence.

"If you want to create a credible press, you should tell the owners right from the beginning that you want independence. I did have that guarantee," he said. "I realize that there is no total independence and the owners always want to intervene, but the space for negotiation should always be open."

He added that media owners should be told that by intervening in the newsroom, they have started to kill their own business.

His decision to quit Tempo to work for an online media outlet was partly due to his experiences while doing a Ph.D. in international history at the London School of Economics, which he completed in 2007.

"On the Internet we can find quality journalism. I am big fan of The Guardian newspaper but I never bought a copy of it because it available on the Internet," he said.

"It's strange that being fast seems to be an absolute necessity for online media in Indonesia, but at the same time they sacrifice quality. Online media could become the very first to provide news and information without sacrificing quality."

Nezar, who was AJI secretary-general from 2002 to 2005, said the Indonesian press had been enjoying better freedom since the 1998 political reform but remained under threat.

Among the problems he cites are that some laws continue to threaten press freedom, the court remains ambivalent about whether a media case is a civil or criminal matter, and the public - and even journalist associations - are divided over the meaning of press freedom.

"The threats of violence that became a trend during the early years of political reform are decreasing but the systematic effort by the powerful to reduce press freedom is increasing," he said.

As the chairman of the AJI, Nezar said it was time to bridge the gap of perception about press freedom among the public, the state and even journalists.

He said that although journalists should not enjoy special privileges as citizens, the profession is related to the public interest and should be protected by special laws in order to uphold democracy.

"Press freedom is not only for the benefit of the media or journalists," he said.

"It's part of the freedom of expression, which is a basic right for the people. It is not only journalists who will suffer, but the public also will suffer if it is neglected.

Love in the time of disaster

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 05/02/2009 10:40 PM | Lifestyle

Gufron Kamil never imagined that one month after the collapse of the Situ Gintung dam, he would be able to make a difference to his life from just a small amount of support.

But the dam collapse, which claimed 100 lives and destroyed hundreds of houses in Cireundeu, Tangerang, had a silver lining for the 17-year-old student.

Gufron, who lost his grandmother, uncle and niece in the catastrophe, is likely to feel much better with the results of his recent national exams, thanks to a remedial course beforehand.

"If there had not been the disaster, we might never have had this kind of course. We might have had to study on our own at home and have no one to ask if we had any difficulties," said Gufron, a student at Islamic high school Madrasah Aliyah Darul Ma'arif.

"If wasn't here I might have more trouble with the recent exams."

Gufron is one of 18 junior and senior high school students, and 11 elementary school children from the affected area of Cirendeu, Ciputat, who organized themselves, with the help of the Nurani Dunia Foundation, to prepare for the national exams, which were held April 20 to 24.

Since the dam collapsed on March 27, an abundance of aid in various forms was sent and among those rushing to help the victims were corporations, public figures and nearly all election candidates.

Some sent donations, while others attended the scene to make philanthropic gestures, such as organizing outings and entertainment events, to comfort the victims.

But sociologist-cum-philanthropist Imam Prasodjo, who is the chairman of the Nurani Dunia Foundation, did one little thing that turned into a big thing for these students: providing a shelter for final year students so they could prepare for the important national exams.

Nurani Dunia volunteer caretaker Iqbal said Imam Prasodjo had set up the shelter after visiting Cirendeu and talking to Mei Shinta, a high school student at the refugee camp.

According to Mei Shinta, Imam Prasodjo told her "I will try to help you get what you want but I need you to be able to organize yourself."

Mei Shinta and Gufron Kamil tried to find as many final-year students as they could, with help from some volunteers.

"We started with five people and later we had more than 20 people but some didn't want to come here," said Mei, who attended the Islamic high school Madrasah Aliyah 4 Jakarta.

The 17-year-old, who hopes to study communications at the University of Indonesia or at the Jakarta National University, said she and her friends struggled to find available information about students in the aftermath of the disaster.

"We found a list of the students in the disaster area but it was just a general list, which didn't identify what grade the students were in," said Mei.

Nurani Dunia bought these students shoes, clothes and books for school, but also, and most importantly, found them a place to study in preparation for the final exams, then just a few weeks away.

The foundation located a house in Pondok Pinang, South Jakarta, not far from the FedEx building. Knowing that the house would be used for "quarantine" for the Situ Gintung victims, the owner offered them use of the house for free until May 2.

"Luckily, the house has made them closer to their schools, which are located around South Jakarta," said Iqbal.

The foundation also received a lot of support for the study shelter, including food, beds, whiteboards and kitchen sets.

So, from early April, 18 high school students stayed and studied in the five-room house, far from the bad memories that surrounded them at the refugee camp. Three volunteers took turns to oversee them.

The shelter also provided volunteer tutors. At least five tutors from the state high school SMAN 8 Jakarta and from the Al-izhar Islamic school visited the house for three hours each day to help the students.

As for the sixth-grade elementary school children, who were considered too young to leave their parents, they just visited the shelter after school hours each day to attend tutorials.

The shelter also provided allowances for the children to go to school.

"We just tried to give these students what they really needed. We could give whatever they wanted but the national exam is crucial for them," said Gita Prasodjo from the Nurani Dunia Foundation.

If only the data on the students had been complete, said Gita, the foundation might have been able to help victims with more specific help.

However, these students have got the thing they needed to help keep their dreams alive: a little help to pass the exam, even while their parents remained concerned about their future, living in refugee camps in Kertamukti, in rented houses or with relatives.

"I am the eldest of four children and I feel obliged to make my family better off. But I also have a dream of studying mathematics at the School of Mathematics and Natural Science at the University of Indonesia," said Gufron, whose ambition is to become a math teacher.