Recalling the struggle of Soekarno

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Photo: Freddy Wally)

IO – June is known as the “Month of Soekarno” since the first President of the Republic of Indonesia was born on June 6 – added more sentiment to June, President Soekarno constructed the Pancasila as the state’s ideology on June 1, 1945. 

Commemorating the Month of Pancasila will be more complete if we recall Soekarno’s struggle while the Republic was fighting Dutch imperialism. Bandung is one of the silent witnesses of young Soekarno against Dutch tyranny. He left the traces through the site of the former Banceuy Prison and Indonesia Menggugat Building. 

Banceuy Prison 

On December 29, 1929, Soekarno, alongside the other three from Indonesia National Party (PNI), Maskoen, Soepriadinata, and Gatot Mangkoepraja, as activists troubling the Dutch East Indies government, were arrested in Yogyakarta and thrown into Banceuy prison for about 8 months. 

The prison was located behind the office buildings and the Banceuy Permai shopping complex. The former Banceuy prison leaves one cell that was once inhabited by Soekarno. Cell number5isnolessthan2x1.5meters in size with a thick metal door that has a small hole. 

In the “Bung Karno: Penyambung Lidah Rakyat Indonesia” biography by Cindy Adams, Soekarno explained the cell number 5 in Banceuy Prison as a “coffin.” The description is solely based on the poor situation he was in inside the rectangular room filled only with a cheap mat and a piss pot. 

The Banceuy Prison was built by the Dutch colonial government in 1887 in an area that was formerly known as Kampung Banceuy. As one of the oldest prisons in the Dutch East Indies, this prison was seen as somewhat creepy – the robbers and murderers detained inside added a more eerie impression to the building. 

Inside the current cell number 5, which is free to be visited, sits a bronze statue of Soekarno. Visitors can read the summary of the journey of Soekarno and his three colleagues on the walls. 

Shook by the situation in Banceuy Prison, Soekarno specifically expressed in his biographical book: “I am a neat and picky person. I am someone who likes to indulge myself with good clothes, good food – I have found the alienation and the degrading behavior towards prisoners to be very insulting.” 

Soekarno revealed that his only friend was a group of cicak and sometimes he stole newspapers smuggled by his wife, Inggit Garnasih. “Our foods are delivered to the cell. So when cicak-cicakku gather, I feed them. I hold out a grain of rice and wait for them to crawl from above the attic.” 

Interestingly, out of pity the guards sometimes let him read the newspaper at night. Two newspapers that Soekarno frequently read were AID de Prianganbode and Sipatahoenan, the newspaper led by Otto Iskandar Dinata which regularly reported on the development of the PNI. 

Besides the former Soekarno’s cell, the Banceuy Prison also leaves a watchtower that is visible from the edge of Jalan Banceuy, leading to Jalan Naripan and Jalan Cikapundung. 

Indonesia Menggugat Building 

Located on Perintis Kemerdekaan Street Number 5, not far from the City Hall, as one of the well-preserved historical buildings in Bandung, this building has a fairly large courtyard with a sturdy banyan tree. 

Initially, the Indonesia Menggugat Building was a residence for Dutch citizens, built in 1907. In 1917, the building changed its function to the Landraad or Dutch Colonial Government Court. In 1930, Landraad was used to try freedom fighters. 

When Sukarno was put on trial, the Proclamator rebelled in court and made a legendary defense declamation under the title “Indonesia Menggugat.” This incident certainly shocked the Dutch colonialists until finally Soekarno’s defense was used as the name for the building and stands until now. 

Several times this building had changed its function. After independence until the 1950s, this building changed its function to the Office of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI). Later, from the 1950s to 1973, this building became the Finance Building. From 1973 to 1999, this building was used as the West Java Trade and Industry Office. 

In 2005, after undergoing revitalization, the building was named the Indonesia Menggugat Building by the former Governor of West Java, H.C. Mashudi. June 2007, the Indonesia Menggugat Building was officially opened to the public and became a class A cultural heritage building. 

Visitors can see the traces of this courthouse with the benches of a courtroom that are silent witnesses. Visitors can also see photos of Soekarno and his comrades from the PNI who were also on trial. 

Currently, the Indonesia Menggugat Building functions for public spaces such as seminars or cultural events. There is no entrance fee to visit it. (Freddy Wally)