Amir Tejo & Putri Prameshwari
Surabaya. The East Java capital of Surabaya is laying an audacious claim to a piece of history that has gone unchallenged for almost half a century: the birthplace of the founding president, Sukarno.
Surabaya Mayor Bambang Dwi Hartono said his administration was drafting a petition to the government to claim that Sukarno was born there, and not in Blitar, also in East Java.
“We want Surabaya to become the city of Sukarno, just as Washington, DC is identifiable with George Washington,” the mayor said.
Bambang claimed Sukarno had been born in the village of Pandean Peneleh in Surabaya, where on Sunday he and local dignitaries laid the first stone of a proposed monument.
Sukarno’s official birthplace and date are given as Blitar on June 1, 1901, according to the military’s research center, which first released the information in 1967.
Since then, textbooks, biographies and history books have cited Blitar as Sukarno’s birthplace. The founding father was buried there when he died in 1967, and his family home there is a major tourist draw.
However, most biographies before 1967 had Sukarno being born in Surabaya.
Peter Rohi, a journalist in the East Java capital who is among those behind the petition, said he wanted to “straighten out the history of Indonesia.” He added that Pandean Peneleh would soon be designated as a cultural preservation area.
“If only we could ask [the late] Nugroho Notosusanto [former head of the military’s research center] why he chose to give the birthplace as Blitar,” he said.
The house where those behind the petition claim Sukarno was born is the current home of Jamilah and her family, who bought it in 1990 for Rp 16 million ($1,800).
“There have been a number of journalists and researchers who have visited our house over the past two years,” Jamilah said. “I never knew this was where Sukarno was born.”
The mayor said Pandean Peneleh, which is located near the Kalimas docks, was where Sukarno’s parents, Raden Soekemi Sosrodihardjo and Ida Ayu Nyoman Rai, landed after leaving Bali in 1900, after Soekemi was assigned to teach at a school there.
The future independence hero and president was born a year later, the petitioners say.
However, Soekemi is also thought to have been posted to a school in Blitar around the time of Sukarno’s birth.
Despite decades of historical texts belying their claim, the Surabaya petitioners say they have written records to support their case.
These include the 1933 biography “Soekarno Sebagai Manusia” (“Soekarno the Human Being”) by Im Yang Tjoe, “Kamus Politik” (“Political Dictionary”) by AM Adinda and Usman Burhan in 1950, and “Pengukir Jiwa Soekarno” (“Soekarno’s Soul Carver”) by Soebagijo IN in 1949.
A handful of foreign authors have also cited Surabaya as Sukarno’s birthplace, including Cindy Adams in her 1965 “Sukarno: An Autobiography,” Bob Hering in his 2001 book “Sukarno, Architect of a Nation,” and Lambert Giebels in his biographies of Indonesia’s most important independence figure.
Most of these foreign chroniclers of Sukarno’s life used the Leiden archives in the Netherlands in researching his background.
The archives, which contain Sukarno’s academic transcripts and trial records from the time he fomented unrest against the Dutch colonial power, list Surabaya as his place of birth.
Amir Tejo & Putri Prameshwari