Saturday, April 30, 2016


By Mansor Puteh

Not many Malaysians and Indonesians today knew that in the early 1960s, the two countries were literally at war with each other with Indonesia under President Sukarno more vicious when they sent their commandoes to launch attacks in Johor, Melaka and Sarawak, but to no avail.

And it took a while before relations between the two countries returned to normal with Malaysia sending its students comprising mostly of the Melayu and establishing their Malaysian Students Centers in all the major cities in Jawa and Sumatera.

I finally managed to travel to Indonesia in May, 1974, long after relations were reestablish and not many in Indonesia could still remember what had happened between the two countries in the 1960s, now that their President Sukarno had died after living in a virtual house arrest.

Even then I still had to apply for a visa to go to Indonesia and if this is not enough I also had to get vaccination which caused the upper left arm to be inflamed when I had to carry my luggage all the time changing trains and buses, early on the trip from Jakarta after landing at Halim Perdana Kusuma International Airport after their major airport, Kebayoran Airport was closed.

Kebayoran Airport was often shown in the Indonesian films that were made in the 1970s that were shown in Malaysia which also received a lot of attention from the audiences in Malaysia.

But at the heights of the Konfrantasi, most of their soldiers could not function because they were not well-equipped with weapons and food and were duly arrested. But none were tortured by the Malaysian army.

So that was what happened when Sabah and Sarawak voiced their views on how they ought to join Tanah Melayu to form the Federation of Malaysia which finally happened on 16 September, 1963, following a referendum organized by the United Nations.

Thus Sabah and Sarawak were thus saved from being swallowed by the Philippines and Indonesia, respectively.

After a short period of confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia, efforts were being made to pacify both countries with Tunku and Sukarno meeting to trash their problems which finally ended the Confrontation or Konfrantasi as the Malaysians and Indonesians then called it.

So calls for Ganyang Malaysia! And Ganyang Indonesia! (Crush Malaysia! And Crush Indonesia!) that were shouted by the young in both countries’ capitals drowned.

Tunku and Sukarno met in Tokyo, Japan, a neutral place but where Sukarno who would later find a Japanese woman who he fancied enough to take her as his new wife who was called Ratna Sari Dewi.

The media did not like it that the two leaders were looking gloom as the mood they were in dictated it.

So a reporter asked them to smile. Tunku, being who he was, cracked a joke – but by uttering a word in Melayu which only had four characters which starts with the letter ‘P’ and that got Sukarno and the media people laughing.

But it was no laughing matter as Tunku had tried to save Sabah and Sarawak from being swallowed by the Philippines and Indonesia, respectively, and if not for these two states being accepted into the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September, 1963, chances are Sabah would be in the Philippines and Sarawak in Indonesia.

Yet, till today no Sabahan and Sarawakian has shown any appreciation for Tunku and Umno for accepting these two states, which would be very backward if they are not in Malaysia today.

I got this photo from inside the house of Utusan Malaysia journalist Melan Abdullah who is seen standing and laughing between Tunku and Sukarno, on 9 April when I was attending a tahlil for him together with former Utusan colleagues…

So I was not unduly worried when I went to Indonesia in May, 1974, flying into Jakarta and traveling by land from the capital city to Bogor, Bandung, Jogjakarta, Surabaya and then crossing the straits over to the island of Bali and on to its capital city called Denpasar where I would finally find myself at Ubud, the cultural center of Bali for twelve days, before making my way back to Jakarta in the same way traveling by land through the same cities taking the bus, supervan and train.

It was fun traveling along at a time when the two countries had just decided to use the same spelling system which in effect caused the Indonesian version of Bahasa Melayu to be written more systematically from the Dutch colonial influences they had got earlier from.

Unfortunately, till today, most Indonesians are still not able to pronounce Melayu words properly because the Indonesian government did not bother to do away with the Dutch alphabets that they still use which are odd and not much used elsewhere other than in the Netherlands.

Despite having been to forty countries and all the states in Semenanjung Tanah Melayu or Melayu Peninsula, I have yet to visit Sabah and Sarawak. I have just made stops at the airports in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu when I flew to Tokyo and back in October, 1989. I aim to visit the two states in the country soon.

But in the last some years I found myself visiting Aceh more than the other parts of the country. I started to visit Aceh four years after the Tsunami of 26 December, 2004 and returned there eight more times over the years.

Aceh is unlike Sumatera, Jawa or Bali that I had been to previously; it is more like Malaysia with the people there also having Melayu or Arab names which are similar to the ones we use in Malaysia.

But there are still many other parts of Indonesia that I have not been to that I wish I could visit in the near future, all of which unfortunately have not been that promoted by the media in the country, and vice versa with the Indonesian media giving scan attention and coverage to things Malaysian.

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