1883 – The titanic eruption of Krakatoa
1908 – Budi Utomo Organization established by the students of STOVIA (now FKUI). Commemorated as National Awakening Day.
2002 – East Timor became Timor Leste state after gaining their independence from Indonesia in 1999.
IO – In May 20 2019 we commemorate the National Awakening Day: the event which signifies the birth of Budi Utomo in 1908, exactly 111 years ago, is an important moment for the awakening of Indonesia’s awareness of Nationalism. For a while, let us reflect on the meaning of that day.
The atmosphere that convinced Bung Karno in 1959 to set May 20 as National Awakening Day, abbreviated as “Harkitnas” was actually more nuanced. The first half of the 20th Century was indeed filled with an awakening atmosphere, as people began to identify themselves as “INDONESIAN people”.
At the start of the century, in 1905, Islamic Trade Union (Serikat Dagang Islam) emerged; it opposed the economic control by the “non-indigenous”; then, in 1906 they became the Islamic Union (Syarekat Islam); in 1912 Muhammadiyah was established; before that, Budi Utomo was pioneered by doctors.
There’s an important story that I read in a book written by Prabowo’s grandfather, RM. Margono, regarding Ki Hajar Dewantara, who wrote “Als ik eens Nederlander was” (“If I were a Dutchman”), in July 20 1913, who strongly protested the Dutch plan to celebrate independence.
The writings of Soewardi Suryaningrat (the real name of Ki Hajar Dewantara) which was published in De Express newspaper in June 13 1913, were not just shocking, but it’s also caused him to be arrested and subsequently exiled to the Netherlands.
Ki Hajar asked: why do the Dutch have the nerve to hold the celebration of their 100th anniversary of independence in a country they invaded? Does that not mean that they love their homeland? Also a patriot who longs for their freedom and independence? So, “is the celebration ethical?”
That’s the atmosphere… another important thing to remember, about the role of the doctors in the pre-independence era, who began at “Javanese Doctor School” (Sekolah Dokter Djawa) which later named as STOVIA (School tot Opleiding van Indische Artsen) (India’s School for Doctoral Education)
The doctors in those times were motors of change. They were involved in organization and movements with the purpose to consolidate the power of the people through education and mass movements. That STOVIA is the school which is today FKUI.
I remember all the legendary doctors since the age in the past till now… STOVIA’s, Javanese doctors and the doctors who made history… I’m close with Hariman Siregar, the leader of the Malari movement in 1974… now we knew Ani Hasibuan… all from FKUI.
So, this day, May 20 2019 is a moment to remember all the events which led to our State’s establishment. The people at the beginning of mid 20th century are people with clear colors… they fight for change. They don’t care about intimidation because they moved ahead of their times.
I also remember, 21 years ago. I was sitting with Prof. Amien Rais at early dawn in front of National media, canceling an event “commemoration of National Awakening Day in Monas field”. We announced it several days before. This the peak of the protest against the New Order regime.
We cancelled the event because there were threats of massacre which was reported to Mr. Amien before national media. We ourselves checked the situation in Monas in the night of May 19 1998. And Monas was filled with war materiel. There was massive weaponry mobilization. It seemed that there were bad intentions.
So, May 20 1998, early dawn, we cancelled the event. But, outside our expectations, on exactly May 21 1998 Suharto resigned his position as President and was replaced by his vice president, BJ Habibie. The process ran so fast and peacefully; every student cheerfully prostrated himself, expressing gratefulness.
Now, at the same National Awakening Day, May 20 2019, 21 years later we feel the same tension. There must be a deadlock. It must be that there are long causes because the mass concentration is impossible to appear in a flash. But, what is the meaning of all this for a Nation?
I tend to give it positive meaning. That in the body of our nation, there is “the soul’s power” which never remains silent and always comes to the surface when needed. This is the spirit of the age, the signs of the existence of something which obliges us to wake up and elaborate our awareness.
Let’s be an adult, my nation. We must accept differences, don’t make aspiration and the freedom to “unite, gather, and expressing thoughts both verbally and in writing” as your enemy. Don’t oppose demonstrations and protest, because that is the channel for the flow of thought and differences.
But if the flow is clogged, threatened, and criminalized, it is like building a levee and dam for water which is always looking for the lowest point to be filled and corrected. Just look, the dam and the levee will break, and the flood could be coming our way, becoming a disaster for us all.
I just remind us all of the needs for maturity and power with gracious face. What’s the use of using threats and power to threaten and oppress? Be aware that the people are the permanent power in our history. Don’t oppress them, because they can resist with much power.
I hope we can capture the soul of the 111th National Awakening Day. Once more in this 1440 H Ramadhan Atmosphere I wish happy National Awakening Day, I hope the soul of awakening will never waver.
Allahu Akbar! Freedom!