A memoir-type story about my own experience as a freelance journalist covering the abortive communist coup attempt in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept 30, 1965.
General Suharto and Adam Malik, the foreign minister, initiated olive branch moves to Malaysia’s then deputy prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak, in early 1966. This eventually led to the complete end of hostilities between the two neighboring countries whose peoples are of the same Malay ethnic group. Peace between Indonesia and Malaysia spurred the establishment of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The regional political and economic grouping was co-founded by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand in August 1967 in Bangkok. Today ASEAN has ten member-countries, after Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar (Burma) came in.
In June 1966 Malaysia sent a team of journalists to Jakarta to interview ministers and other high-ranking government officials as part of a program to foster closer neighborly relations with Indonesia. They stayed in the Press House. I met all of them and became very close friends with two – Rejal Arbee of The New Straits Times and Musa Scully of The Star. Years later Rejal became chief editor of Bernama, Malaysia’s national news agency, where Musa was foreign news editor.
My friendship with Rejal and Musa brought me in contact with members of the Malaysian liaison office which later became the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta. I developed close friendship with Nizam, Ahmad and Rahmat (I’m not sure if the spelling of the latter two names are correct). We went out together a lot. In early December 1966 my Malaysian friends were invited to a wedding party by their Indonesian dates. There was a fourth girl, so they asked me to join them. As you may have guessed, the fourth girl was none other than Grace.
So that was how I met Grace. When she told me her full name, Grace Rorimpandey, that she worked for the TVRI and that she had just returned from Japan, I suddenly remembered something casual that happened to me several months before that night. In my room in the Press House I was reading Titian (Indonesian for makeshift bridge) magazine published by the US Information Service (USIS) in Jakarta. They published two magazines distributed free to the public – American Miscellany in English and Titian in Indonesian.
I was reading an article about two Indonesian trainees sent to Japan by the government to undergo on-the-job trainings in Tokyo. One of them was Grace, a TVRI announcer, who was assigned to the NHK (Japanese Broadcasting Corporation) TV station to learn the ropes of producing television programs. There was a picture of her showing her profile from the side. I could see a lot of her left hand but not much of her face. Suddenly I felt an attraction to her and said to myself in my heart, “I wish they put a frontal view of this lady.”
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