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.
It was in the kraton that the president met Ibu Tien who was a nurse with the Indonesian Red Cross or Palang Merah Indonesia (PMI). I can’t remember exactly how Suharto got slightly wounded. Ibu Tien treated him for the wound which was how the two first met. As Col. Suharto and his men were drawing up their strategy in the kraton to launch the attack on the city, interaction between the young colonel and Ibu Tien became increasingly frequent. Their frequent interaction developed into a romantic relationship which brought the ringing of wedding bells into their life.
On March 1, 1949 Col. Suharto led the all-out attack on the Dutch troops in Yogyakarta and occupied the city for six hours. This offensive is recorded in Indonesia’s history as “Serangan Umum Satu Maret” or “the First of March All-Out Attack.” A movie was made based on a novel about this military action which, if I’m not mistaken, was titled “Janur Kuning.” I can’t remember the other details of the president’s after-lunch story he told Ray and me in English with great enthusiasm, putting on his famous smile all the time. Ibu Tien would jump in every now and then to clarify some points in the president’s narrative.
President Suharto was not like the late ex-president Soekarno as far as interacting with newsmen was concerned. Soekarno made himself easily accessible to reporters on every official occasion in Merdeka (Freedom) Palace or anywhere else. Suharto would quickly disappear from the media people on such occasions and let a spokesman handle their questions. As far as I can remember, until the last year of my journalistic stint in Jakarta in 1976 he never gave any exclusive interview to a local journalist, let alone a foreign newsman. The only exception was Dr. O.G. Roeder, a Jakarta-based German correspondent who wrote the president’s autobiography, The Smiling General. So after that godsend lunch on Pulau Monyet, I never had any similar opportunity to have a one-on-one dialog with the president.
However, there were a couple of occasions on which I found myself in close proximity with the president again. In early 1970 I started my own public relations agency in Jakarta while still stringing for Time magazine and CBS News. Freeport Indonesia, at the time a subsidiary of Freeport Minerals Inc. of New York, was the first foreign company who signed an agreement with the Indonesian government following the enactment of the country’s Foreign Investment Law, known as Law No. 1 of 1967. President Suharto had agreed to inaugurate Freeport Indonesia’s copper-mining operations in Tembagapura (Copper Town), Papua, then known as Irian Jaya.
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