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.
We first flew to Palembang, capital of the South Sumatra province. During the MPRS sessions in Jakarta Peter had met Major General Ishak Djuarsa, commander of South Sumatra’s Sriwijaya military division. The general hosted our visit to Palembang. We interviewed him and he showed us several agricultural projects in which soldiers were involved. We then took the train from Palembang traveling in southwestward direction to either Muara Enim or Lahat, or both. My memory is failing me this time. We stayed overnight in either one of them. The following morning we chartered a Land Rover stationwagon driven by a native of Mana, a town in South Bengkulu in the southwestern part of Sumatra.
We were headed for Bengkulu, capital of the province with the same name. Peter also met the governor of the province during the MPRS sessions in Jakarta, so we were his guests during our overnight stay there. During his political struggle against the Dutch colonial government, Soekarno was exiled to Bengkulu where he was under house arrest. Peter and I were put up in the house where the political leader who later became Indonesia’s first president was placed during his exile. Some of Soekarno’s personal belongings, including books and a bicycle, were still kept in the house.
There was not much to write about in Bengkulu. But there were political moves going on to split the province into two halves — North Bengkulu with Bengkulu as its capital and South Bengkulu with Mana as its capital. This was one of the stories Peter and I were after. We interviewed government and political leaders about this. Then we went on our hired Land Rover to Mana. The actual road linking Bengkulu and Mana was very badly damaged. It was an unpaved dirt road which became muddy and slippery because of the rainy season that had just ended.
So the driver, who was also the owner, of the Land Rover – I think his name was Effendi – took Peter and me to Mana through a land route he creatively devised. Some parts of the damaged road were still passable in short stretches because Effendi drove the four-wheel-drive vehicle on its special gear for muddy tracks. But where we really couldn’t travel on the muddy road, he went off the road and, through the vegetable gardens of villagers living along the roadside, got onto the parts of the beach bordering with the gardens. This was the higher ground where the sand contents were sparse before the beach sloped down to the edge of the ocean where it was sandy and soft, which obviously couldn’t be driven on.
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