Indonesia 1973-75

The Australian Embassy - Then and now -

Getting There

Every four months the Department issued a Posting Notification spreadsheet.

It was a simple document that stated:

  • who was at a Post;

  • who was to replace that person; and

  • where the latter was being re-posted.

…………………………................

P. Malone: Jakarta/New Position/June 73.

………………………………...........

I had about a month to prepare myself.

I had studied Bahasa Indonesia at University so I had a head start with the syntax and grammar.
It was only a matter of refreshing myself with the vocabulary and I would be off and running.

Dave (Fitzroy) Shannon wanted to sub let my one bedroom flat in the suburb of Turner and we organised it with a few telephone calls.

I still did not have much gear accumulated so all my worldly possessions could be on forwarded to Jakarta by my unaccompanied baggage allowance.

I was not attached to any particular girlfriend so it was just a matter of waiting a few weeks and I would be on my way.

Transit by Singapore

Singapore

Jakarta was considered a hardship posting.

As a concession, the department allowed for travel to Jakarta via Singapore and two nights’ accommodation in order to "Kit Up".

This was enough time for me to get tailored for 3-4 Safari suits (the fashion) and a dozen cotton shirts; the latest in HiFi and other stuff.

As I was shopping around, I came across a shop that was selling plastic Water Bed carcasses.

They only weighed 9-10 kilos - so I purchased one.


Two contracted aid workers (Ian Lewis and Tony Foran) were also transiting Singapore on their way to the Cilacap Harbour Rehabilitation project .

In Jakarta, I was to be their designated liaison officer and it was pre-arranged that I would meet them in Singapore for a "briefing".

This was because the "remoteness" of Cilacap meant that they would be air routed via Jogjakarta (Central Java) and then by a 5-6 hour torturous drive west south west.

For both, it was their first time out of Australia.

They were walking around Singapore - bewildered. It was a busy thriving metropolis. Vibrant, clean tidy and compliant. What a shock they had coming!

Arrival/First Impressions

Confusion at the Airport

I landed at Kemayoran airport in North Jakarta - not far from the Port of Tanjung Priok was constructed by the Dutch in the late 40's. The facility has long since been replaced by urban sprawl.

Google Maps now shows boulevards have replaced the runways.

The building complex was a long single two story Dutch colonial design with lots of what is now called alfresco public areas.

You disembarked and walked across the tarmac to the baggage hall where immigration and customs were waiting behind a grilled iron barricade.

The protocol was for an incoming staff member to be met by his/her replacement.

I was an addition to the Aid Section's establishment.

Fred Schwinghammer was designated to meet me.

There was little to no security. A diplomatic ID card was enough to bypass the sentry at the arrival gate and to get into the baggage collection area.

The plane was on time.

Passengers collected their baggage and proceeded out to Customs and Immigration.

In the end, I was the last one standing there - new Safari Suit; Qantas carrier bag; one suitcase; several HIFi cartons and, of course, a water bed.


In comes Fred S. with a puzzled look in his eyes. Pot bellied; also wearing a Safari suit - hair disheveled.

I am the only one there. He looks me up and down and walks away.

"Oh well!" I say to myself "Could have sworn he was an Australian".

There was no point waiting any longer.

So I also proceeded through Immigration and Customs - unassisted.

At this period in Indonesia's development there were no reliable public telephones.

So I asked some official if I could to make a phone call to the Embassy.

After waiting an eternity I got through to the Aid Section receptionist. The Section was divided into two groups (i) Projects (ii) Scholarships.

I was told to "hang on" as all the Australia Based Project people had gone out to the airport to meet me.

Within minutes of this reassuring phone call I was "claimed" by Andy Satrapa - also wearing a Safari Suit.

He took me to Ros McGovern and this "idiot" with the pot belly and Safari Suit who still had a puzzled look on his face.

(It turned out that Fred always presented himself like this - an amazing fellow, very much concerned with the bigger picture. I became part of his family - his wife Luddy Schwinghammer and their small children)


Well, anyway, I was chuffed that the entire Section came out to meet me.

Instantly I felt an 'Espirit de Corps" which Ros M (my boss) brought to the team.

Everybody was immediately impressed as to my command of Bahasa Indonesia at that point when it came to my "round" at ordering the beer "cold - but with no ice". (Dingin - tampa es!)

The truth be known that I never wanted to repeat the mistakes of Saigon and drink hot beer with ice cubes - the ice being suspect.

Becak driver waiting utside Hotel Indonesia

Aust. Embassy Foreground
Hotel Indonesia - Background

Getting to the Embassy

I was booked into the Hotel Indonesia.

It was the best pub in town.

But a real disappointment when compared to Brussels and Paris standards.

The following morning, it was assumed that I knew my way to the Embassy.

A throng of Becak drivers was waiting outside ready to take anybody anywhere.

In my best Indonesian I said "Kedutaan Besar Australia - Australian Embassy" .

Then I began to haggle the price. So pleased with myself, I jumped into the seat.

Ever so slowly the bicycle took off.

Then, just as slowly it stopped before it had gone some 50-60 metres.

I leaned out and turned around to ask why he was not moving.

He pointed to the building next door "Disini! (Here it is)" - before he rode away with a day's wages.

Thus began my education about getting around in Indonesia and "donations" to the poorest of the poor.


Another lesson was to learn local dialect- Bahasa Betawi asap.

For example: Before I committed to a taxi ride and finalised the price, I would ask

"Do you know where it is - Tahu?"

If the reply was "g'tahu!". The "g" was almost inaudible and short for unga - which is a negative.

At first, my hearing did not pick this up and each trip ended in confrontation.

"You said you knew so I am not paying you!"

"No I said I did not know"

It was fortunate that years later, Bahasa Betawi was the dialect of the Cocos Islanders whose forefathers were recruited from the Batavia region of Java.

Australian Embassy
(Next door to Embassy of Japan)

Anti Japanese riot outside Japanese Embassy

The Embassy Site

At the time, the Embassy was located next to the Japanese Embassy in Jalan Thamrin - downtown Jakarta.

It was a four storey purpose constructed building designed during the period of Konfrontasi (Indonesian aggressive opposition to the creation British Dominion states of Singapore and Malaysia).

Pre 1965, Indonesia's Communist party (POI) instigated riots.

Hence the complex was designed so that in an emergency, it could be locked down in an instant.

Like bank teller defences, iron doors snapped closed at the press of a button.

(Pity any poor sod who got his privates in the way!)

The copper roof was an interesting feature. It had a curved Chinese pagoda look - which invited the ire of the Indonesian military now in power. (it was anti communist - and anti Chinese).

My Job

The position, Second Secretary (Aid) had meat in it.

Indonesia was a fragile and fractious nation - in turmoil and in much need of assistance.
The Japanese armed forces occupied most of the Indonesian archipelago from 1942 to 1945. Lines of communication were stretched and allied forces interdiction particularly the submarines played havoc with shipping.

This meant mass deprivation for a population hitherto dependent on Dutch colonial administration.

Post WW2, revolution, rebellion and anarchy made things worse as infrastructure fell apart.

Then along came the attempted September 30 1965 coup by the communist party followed by a military take over wherein it was estimated that over 500,000 "reds" were put to death through organised massacres sanctioned by the right wing military. These poor sods were already practicing communial living and sharing.


Australia's aid program was focused on infrastructure rehabilitation.
We were involved in a range of core projects:

  • Australian Telecommunications Mission

  • Cilacap Harbour Rehabilitation

  • Feasibility Studies - Hydro; Industrial Estates; Integrated Rural Development

  • Australian Fixed Telecommunications Networking

  • West Kalimantan Roads Project

  • Animal Husbandry - livestock Development

  • Rolling Stock for Indonesian Railways

  • Bogor and Sanur Water Supply

  • Health Serum Vaccination Production

  • Animal Health Serum Production


The job of the Aid Section was to get personnel and supplies to and from the provincial sites and maintain project momentum as well as organise "in country" on the job training and scholarships in Australia.

All aid experts had to be accredited; passports endorsed with Entry/Exit visas;
all supplies were deemed Duty Free but we had to prepare the documentation (PP19s) waiving the customs and excise duties.

We were donating:

  • pencil to pumps

  • biros to bulldozers

  • generators, vehicles; machinery, medical equipment, serum, syringes & spectrophotometers.

(take a deep breath tax payers!)

The Indonesian bureaucracy was top heavy.

A piece of paper had to run the gauntlet of many stamps and signatures which, in the end was pointless because a bribe would be needed to "grease the hand" regardless of how many rubber ink stamps an official document had on it.


We operated under Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) which outlined bilateral government inputs.

On the Indonesian side this only meant (i) counterpart personnel - to be trained and (ii) Petrol Oil and Lubricants.
On a few occasions it included local building materials.

Corruption was rampant. Funds destined for aid projects were siphoned off.

Specifications were 'doctored' or replaced by inferior product at high prices.

Budgets were promised but were either delayed or cancelled.

Our financial year was out of synch with Indonesia's.

Indonesian counterparts could not afford to live on a single government wage. They usually "moon lighted" in second jobs in the private sector and hence were AWOL at critical times.

It seemed a national pastime at all levels of government was to frustrate the Orang Putih (White Man) to the point of distraction.

After twenty seven months in country, in spite of all these constraints I feel that we did "make a difference".

We contributed to roads being built; clean water supply to urban cities, safer air travel; phones no long being paper weights; animals surviving tropical diseases, etc..

Work Colleagues

I was designated as a clerk class 6 (Second Secretary - Aid) as was Andy Satrapa; Fred was a clerk class 8 (First Secretary - Aid).

We were overseen by Ros McGovern a clerk class 11 (Counselor - Aid) who also supervised the Scholarship Program.

Mike Koodiaroff was First Secretary (Students) and then Ted Byrne was Second Secretary (Students).

Over the next year:

  • Fred was replaced by Kevin Conlan;

  • Mike by Rex Benn;

  • Andy by Rod Parry; and

  • Ted by Judy Prosser.

Ros McGovern Kevin Conlan & Wife Rex Benn & Wife Judy Prosser Me Rodney Parry

Female Local staff are below

Life in Jakarta

Within a few months, I was proficient (but not fluent) in Bahasa Indonesia.

It made working in a cross cultural environment so much easier but the real benefit was enjoying Life in Jakarta so much more to the full.

The locals embraced you - not vice verca. You were not afraid to go anywhere because with a few choice words you could turn antagonists into allies.

The waitresses were besotted. You got served first and fast and always with a giggle as you could joke with them. As in Vietnam, they were captivated with the thin nose and were ready and willing to fall in love with you at the drop of a hat - or some other piece of clothing.


Dave Smith

A Strange Visitor – My Dad

I was a dinner guest at the home of Chris and Dave Smith (photo above).

Both were Machine Operators in the Communications part of the Embassy and subsequently got married.

They were later posted to Singapore where Dave was the Best Man and Chris was the Maid of Honour at our wedding in the High Commission - more on that later.

The other guests were ?? and his wife ?? and her sister ??.

He was the Embassy Technician whose specialty was electronics.

During the meal the sister mentioned that she had a talent as a séance medium.

As these were the 70's we all decided to play the Ouija Board.

We set one up and started.

"We call on the Spirit, we call on the Spirit are you there?"

"YES!" was an emphatic response.

"Have you a message for anyone?"

"Yes!"

"Who"

"P.A.U.L"

"What is the message" said Paul

"s.o.n."

"Are you my father?"

"YES!"

I somehow knew it was him but I wanted proof. So I asked a question that the others would not know"

"You visited me in Paris just before you died. What was the name of the street where I lived"

"y.v.e.t.t.e"

"Correct" I said.

Everybody was in shock - but it was not scary.

"How did you die?"

"g.r.e.a.t. p.a.i.n"

I proceeded to ask him questions.

He answered candidly.

"Did you love my mother?"

"d.e.a.r.l.y!"

...

The session went on for about 90 minutes and were now getting more pissed.

After giving me lots of advice on things I have now forgotten, the Spirit said he had to go.

The other five started arguing about the veracity about what they had experienced.

I had no doubt.

So we decided to call it up again and sort him out one way or the other.

"We call on the Spirit" are you there?"

"We call on the Spirit" are you there?"

"We call on the Spirit" are you there?"

"Yes" was the weak response "but I. am e.x.h.a.u.s.t.e.d"

The answers to our question were not as lucid and you could tell that it was fruitless to continue.

That was the first and last time I dabbled with the occult.

I reasoned that this extra ordinary event occurred because I had unresolved issues.

Dad had died of a sudden heart attack when I was in Paris.

It was not government policy to pay for return air fares and mum said not to bother coming back as the funeral would be over by the time I arrived.

I now believe it was my finger that unconsciously and subtly moved the glass thimble with my finger to the letters and words "Yes" and "No" whereas the others followed.

Anyhow, that is what I want to believe.

I do know that after this incidence, I did not think so much of my father and was in a better frame of mind to "let go".

My Residence

I had the best residence.

For that time, it was an ultra modern three bedroom home, newly built in Kebayoran Baru (Jalan Suren II)

Servants

I had three servants:

Iom Live-in No 1 Maid

Iom and husband (Solikin)

Itik


Me, Iom, Itik and family

Iom was the live-in maid. She had a small un air conditioned room and Indonesian toilet/shower at the back of the kitchen. She was petite yet a little plump. She was so shy. To mask this, she always put on a stoic solemn face.

But if I said "Boo" she would start giggling like a 14 year old school girl.

She did the housekeeping books and used to nervously present lists of expenses in running the household. The cost of living was so cheap, I had no interest in her accounting and would not have minded if she did "cook the books" as well as the food.

She had recently married Solikin - who had a reputation as a superb cook and beer pourer.

Most embassy staff used him if they wanted to put on a dinner party.

(I never used him because I moved in social circle where as a bachelor, dinner parties were not for me)

Solikin was rarely there. It was up to Iom to do the cooking.

But I was so unpredictable as to when I would be home she could only start at short notice.

Iom would wake me by knocking on the door to my bedroom at a designated time and then serve breakfast.

Breakfast consisted of fresh fruit juice and seasonal fruit.

She had one day off a week. On that day the night watchmen would wake me and leave my breakfast (prepared the night before) on the table.

Itik was gorgeous - (The word means Duckling ????).

She was married with children and was a day worker. She was so tiny. Together with Iom they kept the place spotless but Itik was in charge of the laundry and ironing. It was great to get up in the morning open up the wardrobe and select any combination of freshly washed and ironed outfits.

Her economic circumstances were more severe than Iom/Solikin. Often she would ask for "loans". Huge for her and so insignificant for me I would "forget" about an agreed repayment plan.

Sunarso

I had a combination of night watchmen/gardener.

They were notoriously unreliable and estranged. They would come at dark and leave when Itik came in the morning. The reason they were so untrustworthy was perhaps due to a lack of social contact to listen to the troubles of the poor and impoverished of millions and millions of fellow Indonesians.

People complained that they slept all the time even on watch. But so would you if you were living on a diet of poor food and poor nutrition.

They would often set up a friend to burgle your home - or rob it themselves and disappear into a village kampong never to be seen again.

Reporting to police was useless because you were considered rich and could afford to be robbed.

Most popular for converting to cash was stereophonic gear - amplifiers; tape recorders; LP record players.

To discourage this, one would drill a hole in the teak bookcase; feed the electric chords through; knot them; re assemble the plug and insert it in a wall socket and then make bookcase so heavily laden with items it would be simply too much trouble to move the book case to get to the plug to unravel the knot to disconnect the plug ...

One amusing incident. We slept with air conditioners at full blast. But Jakarta being Jakarta the power supply was both erratic and irregular. Often we would get blackouts - lasting hours.

One night the air con when clunk! "Oh no not again!"

It was Iom's day off. But the night watchman did not wake me. Itik had not yet arrived.


I got up and went into the living room.

The front door was wide open - as was the front gate.

On the floor next to the Hi If equipment was a pair of thongs and a pair of scissors with the blades blackened and fused together.

The idiot had cut through the electric chord.

Remarkable things happened Chez Paul.

When we called for more beer and food to entertain, in a servant would come with an expressionless face pour the beer and depart.

The next day, if I was in chat chat mood they would remind me of incidents the prior night and start cackling and laughing until they cried.

"But you had such a stern look on your face."

"Oh that's our job to act like that.

Stranded in Surabay
Plane cancelled due to mechanical problems

... nothing to do until the next day.

Rugby Mates

Despite the numbers of Australia Based males, I was the only rugby player.

We played in the cool of the evening and I found it a means of letting off steam about official frustration.

There were enough ex pats to field two teams so we played against each other week in week out.

We had annual trips to and from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur including a NZ Maori Battalion stationed in Singapore.

UK and Australian naval vessels paid regular visits to Jakarta or Surabaya and we would play them.

So there was enough to keep up a level of fitness which compensated for an over indulgent lifestyle.

The players were professional senior management in charge of companies that were beginning to reap the benefits of doing business in Indonesia.

They were in charge of factories that had their own infrastructure such as cold storage; generators; ran shipping companies or were involved in Technical Assistance.

So, in addition to mixing with the Embassy "Ghetto" group, I had this additional social outlet.

Most of us were bachelors.

Our parties were fun. We attracted the local females who worked in expatriate companies.

The girls were cultivated; spoke perfect English and very willing.

There was a problem with long term relationships as the girl’s parents (usually Muslims) frowned on any association with white men whom they considered were only our for one thing.

I recall one memorable incident where my contacts helped avoid a disaster.

Professor Bob Bain was a world famous immunologist and specialist in Newcastle disease in poultry.

He loved coming to Indonesia as an aid expert - as he was indeed making a difference. In every village throughout Indonesia there was the ubiquitous chicken that underpinned nutrition and protein. His involvement was advice to counterparts and assisting with lines of distribution of anti biotics to keep on top of outbreaks.

A very serious outbreak of Newcastle Disease happened and arrangements were made with the Welcome Foundation who owned the manufacturing rights to deliver a plane load of serum for local cultivation.

But after arrival in Indonesia this consignment had to be kept cold otherwise it would "go off".

It was panic stations. I phoned around and established that one rugby contact had a cold storage facility and oodles of capacity so the that serum could be kept at the right temperature until locally re-processed and shipped off to all parts of the archipelago. Disaster avoided.

Hash House Harriers

Running around through and in the Indonesian Kampungs (Communal villages) on the outskirts of Jakarta was a hoot. The locals would think we were mad screaming and yelling and then drinking copious amounts of beer mixed with ginger beer to quench the thirst then sing dirty ditties into the night until you were devoured by the mozzies.

They thought it more funny when a posse of 50 to 60 white men would break rank and scamper in all directions when their thrashing around disturbed the occasional angry snake.

Like the rugby it was a means of letting out frustrations.

A few more of the Embassy staff participated. Alan Valtas, Kevin Conlan, the military attaches and yes Judy Prosser

Judy Prossser

Jakarta was a staunchly and chauvinistically ‘Men Only Hash’ but in 1973-74 the amazingly Judy Prosser started running with them. She refused to be intimidated or embarrassed and her example encouraged other women. (For example around 1978 Jacky Higgins and Carol Cooney were noted ‘regulars’.): Hashpedia


"Walkabout"

Ros McGovern gave me lots of official travel.

I was fit, could eat anywhere, single and proficient in Bahasa.

There were lots and lots of delegations from Australia on junkets and we had to escort them to and "show piece" our achievements.

We would simply contact the Foreign Relations Co-ordination Branch of a particular department who would organise reception and transport at stopping points with us picking up the tab for airfares and accommodation. We would meet with provincial governors and be feted with receptions and luncheons.

On many occasions military helicopters were supplied.

Conservatively I estimate that one week in three would see me in a location remote from Jakarta ... and to think that I got paid to do this!

The following is a collection of memories:

Central Java - Cilacap

(Spelt Tjilatjap by the Dutch).

Within days of my arrival in Indonesia Andy Satrapa and I were off to meet up with the advance team of the Cilacap Harbour Rehabilitation project. It involved dreding the estuary gateway to the ocean; removing vessels sunk during WWII; construction of wharf and storage godown.

We travelled by overnight train to Purwokerto then were picked up by a local driver assigned to the Serayu River Basin Project to take us on a four hour trip to Cilacap.

(a distance of about 80ks - but the road was horrendous.)

We booked into the only hotel and asked if the staff had seen an Orang Putih (white man) called Pat Carol Pat, an Australian had won the aid contract, to dredge the channel in Cilacap Harbour which was a component of the MOU.

In 1942, Cilacap was an evacuation point for escaping allied forces embarking by flying boat and ship to Broome WA.

The harbour was unusable due to sunken craft bombed by the Japanese and post war siltation.

The historical significance did not escape me.

We were here to re-instate the facility. Wonderful!

A hotel receptionist said that Pat had moved out and set up in a house in town but had left a "note".

She handed over the "note".

It was a "cheque" signed by Pat for so many Rupiah - made out to the hotel.

We were puzzled.

It turned out that this person did not know that this "piece of paper" was a cheque and thought it was something that Pat wanted to pass on to us.

Pat was recruited from Singapore and spoke no Indonesian. He must have handed this piece of paper over the counter as he was leaving to set up premises in town.

Strange but true. But it demonstrates the lack of worldly ideas and concepts that we in the West took for granted....

We met up with Ian Lewis, the Project Administrator; Tony Foran Supervising Engineer and negotiated the rental of premises; purchase of furniture and creature comforts such as ice boxes, desk fans and mosquito nets. Air conditioners were out of the question as there was not enough electricity in any home to support even the smallest drawing current. We also arranged for hire of transport until and aid vehicle arrived as well as bank accounts for the transfer of monies.

We also showed Ian how a simple Imprest Accounting system worked using a manual spreadsheet.

We were asked what to do if the was civil unrest.

Our advice was to commandeer a boat and head due south - 400 km to Xmas Island.

We also surveyed the derelict godown and wharf that was to be knocked down and rebuilt to Australian specifications.

The major engineering component was pile driving concrete piers to support the superstructure - designed by Australia's Department of Housing and Construction (Melbourne)

At night we dined in the only restaurant in town.

Ice in the beer - no option. Hygiene - dicey!

But it was the best seafood and cheap!

I came back to Cilacap several times

  • To express the embassy's condolences to the families of two Indonesian locals killed by asphyxiation cleaning out the bilges of the dredge;

  • The next was to supervise the survey mapping of the sunken wrecks in the harbour

  • Then to accompany the Industrial Estate Feasibility Team investigating linking WA industry with Javanese labour


Sucked Under

Pat's dredge would suck up the mud n silt from the harbour bed; head out sea; open the hydraulic bottom flaps thereby dumping the muck and repeat the exercise until the channel was dredged.

Occasionally the load would not drop. Pat's contract local employees had bamboo prodding sticks to stand on top of the load and it free up.

Once the load would give signs of dropping they would hang on to the sides.

Pat would relate that often, without warning, the load would release together with the prodders.

No fatalities - they would emerge about 50 meters behind the moving barge screaming and yelling!


Sunken Vessel Survey

A contract surveyor (Capt ??? an Australian) and his Singaporean diver and I hired a local "tinnie" and petrol driven compressor.

The diver slid over the side. His head piece consisted of a mask; and air line and a two way radio. In the murky depths he plotted the location of a major wreck that had to be blown up.

It was a case of touch, feel, report and plot. I was invited to give it a go. I stripped, got two feet down and chickened out.

Laughing the Singaporean diver took over.

He was down there god knows where he was entwined when the air compressor stopped.

The Captain took command. He was very deliberate in a set emergency procedure and got the diver back on board, navigating through a maze of twisted metal. When the crisis was over I asked the local what had happened.

"Bensin habis- no petrol".

We were all cowboys.

Alcatras

Like Brisbane, Cilacap was a natural harbour because a large island (Nusa Kembangan)

This island is dubbed the "Alcatras of Indonesia". There are nine Dutch built maximum security prison farms scattered throughout the island. It housed the balance of the 'reds" rounded up and awaiting summarily execution.
Without trial, no preparation, just taken out and shot - as a culling exercise.
Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine group were arrested at Denpasar airport in 2005 for drug trafficking and sentenced in 2006 to execution by firing squad. They were eventually transferred to the island and executed on April 29, 2015.

Pat Carol took me out on a "sea dump". To do so you motored past the island. So close you could see the prisoners and their guards.

You could also see the throngs of daily visitors (family) ferrying to the island to provide solace and supplementary food.

It was like a scene from the movie Papillion .

As a precaution, the local authorities placed someone with a uniform on each barge trip.

I did not care. I took a series of pictures - all the time with this official gesticulating not to do so.

(I hope one day I will find these photo negatives)


Another Era

As part of touring the location we ended up in a part of the town that was literally built on timber stilts over the water.

It was a mass brothel. I did not partake - so squalid. It was as if I had stepped into a world two centuries ago - no electricity, no radio, banter and bartering, laughing, babies crying.

The Serayu River Basin

Andy Satrapa departed Cilacap for Jakarta via Jogakarta.

I stayed in the region in order to visit the Serayu River Basin Study project.

The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) was contracted to undertake a feasibility study to determine if there was sufficient hydro capacity to build a dam.

The team was located in Purwokerto (see earlier reference).

Russell Tracer, a hydrographer accompanied me.

Poverty was pronounced youths in urban areas with tongs picking up cigarette butts – to reclaim the tobacco and resell it.

Can you pick out Russell in the above photos?

What an Eye Opener! How good was Dutch hydro engineering.

The fertility of soil put great population pressure on every square inch of land available for agricultural production.

Every drop of water was saved, re channeled into weirs; drop down weirs that were tunneled into mountains; went under rivers only to come out downstream ready for use in another area.

The villages were amazing. There were thousands of children transfixed as to the size and colour of the white man. They and their mothers would yell out "Orang Blanda - Dutch man".

Everyone was smiling happy and boisterous.

Little did they know that if our study proved feasible, the villages would be flooded and everybody transmigrated to the Wilderness of Kalimantan (Borneo).

Australia was also providing railway track to the G.O.I.


Bundung was the provincial capital of West Java. It is located on a mountain plateau hence more cooler than Jakarta. Nights were cold - to the extent that blankets and/or doonas are used. The Dutch favoured Bandung over Jakarta and over the years made it the administrative capital. Large spacious bungalows with thatched roofs were ubiquitous; servants were cheap and abundant; traffic was not as horrendous. It was a prime posting.

My colleague from Vietnam days, George Wilson was the Admin officer for a team of about 40 staff working on the Australian Telecommunications (ATM) Project which had its headquarters in Bandung.

Australian Telecommunications Mission

The easiest and safest means of travel from Jakarta to Bandung was by train.

Sitting in a first class compartment you pulled out of Gambir Station only to be confronted with the poverty and hopelessness of the masses squatting inside the railway boundaries. This is because they are homeless and have no other place to go. Slums. No clean drinking water, no sanitation; stagnant brackish pot holes; open sewers; living quarters made out of squashed aluminum cans, walls from cardboard packing crates that disintegrate at the start of a wet season

You see this for kilometer after kilometer. When you got to Bandung you experienced the same thing.

The Indonesian Government had been granted a World Bank loan to install a microwave communication network from the top of Aceh, through the Island of Java to the next island - Bali.

Teluk Betung Sumatra - Climbed the tower to see adjoining relay towers

Australia agreed to provide the technical supervision of the construction of the towers and installation commissioning of the microwave system including standby power generation - all supplied by Japan. It was a big project. The microwave towers were built line of sight 30 km apart over mountains, through jungle; swamp land - all sorts of terrain.

In addition, Australia donated; installed and commissioned telephone automatic switch exchanges in about 10 sites throughout Sumatra which introduced STD communications and opened up the outside world to this area.

The Post Master General's Department PMG was our contractor.

It seconded engineers (mechanical, electrical, electronic); technicians; draftsmen, linesmen a mechanic a catering officer and an administrative officer (George W). Bandung had a staff of 10-12 people (mainly engineers);
Towns like
Medan, Padang, Jambi, Palambung and Teluk Betung had mess style quarters for itinerants - linesmen, technical officers.

In the core remote regions we kitted out mobile caravans with all the comforts of home.

Being PMG employees all were militant unionists. Much of our time involved transmitting and interpreting petty requests about terms and conditions; higher duties; overtime in lieu allowances; in-country travel allowances, single vs married conditions; home and regional leave etc.

A favorite pastime was inventing fiddles - presenting receipts as "food" not booze.

For the crew, it was a "one off" adventure never to be repeated. They were intent on bleeding us dry.

But as long as the phones began to ring ... it was the price we paid.

...

Other Interventions in Bandung:

My many trips to Bandung included liaison and co ordination a range of Australian Aid Experts:

  • Indonesian Atomic Research Centre - Secondment of Australian Atomic Energy Commission staff from Lucas Heights

  • Bio Farma. A national pharmaceutical organisation aligned to Australian Commonwealth Serum Laboratories CSL

  • CSIRO Solar Energy adviser


Bogor (formerly Buitenzorg) was only an hour's drive from Jakarta.

City Water Supply

Australia, through the Department of Housing and Construction DHC did the engineering design and supervised the installation and commissioning of the Bogor Water Supply project.

It was managed by Gutteridge Haskins & Davey.

The project was nearing completion by the time I arrived. We did the hydraulic investigations to source the water; built a holding reservoir and supplied and commissioned the pumps along several sub stations; supplied the pipework and fittings;

The GOI supplied the buildings and the labour to dig up the roads and earthworks.

For about two years, movement around the city was chaotic due to the work. Bogor has the record as the most precipitous location in the world. Ok for sourcing the water but a nightmare for working in the wet.

The project engineer was Gerry Jones.

He was an old hand at working in colonial administrations and nothing phased him.

Animal Health

Australia also provided assistance to the animal health laboratories there.

In my time, this was in the form of equipment such as autoclaves (and generators to run them).

We were also building up to one of Australia's most ambitious development assistance interventions:

From memory it was called the Lembaga Penelitian Penjakit Pertenakan - Institute for Research into the Disease of Animals.

Australia's CSIRO's Animal Health Division was actively involved.

Multi disciplined investigative and technical teams were visiting a large site of many hectares, where the ground was prepared for building foundation for a high security laboratory; research centre; library; office accommodation and the like.

It was full on and took a lot of our time and resources to organise airport reception, attendance at meetings; trouble shooting and customs clearance.

While the city had a world class botanical gardens and palace it was, for most Embassy staff, a passing through city on the way to the Puncak - a hilly/mountainous location where the Embassy owned five guest houses for staff rotation.

Sumatra

Sumatra contains some of Indonesia's most picturesque and culturally significant locations.

The Batak clans from Medan are reputed as the Indonesia's smartest.

The people around Padang are Minangkabau have a unique architecture and are matrilineal.

In 2004 the population and terrain on the west side of the island was severely impacted by the Tsunami.

It is hard to imagine how such an event could happen to an area I knew well when I was climbing up transmission towers and travelling from town to town to report on progress with the telephone exchanges and fly the flag - it was important to show to the PMG militants that we also were prepared to rough it.

The town of Teluk Betung sits on the southern tip of Sumatra.

Huge mountains jut out from the sea. When you catch a ferry to Java you go past the remains of the Island of Krakatoa

This was where a volcano blew up in 1883 it killed a paltry 37,000 people - mostly by the resultant tidal surge.

On top of a littoral mountain coastline there still sits a huge rusting iron hull - the remains of a ship that was pushed upwards by the force of the wave. - amazing.

West Kalimantan

About two months prior to my arrival the Kalimantan Barat (Kalbar) Roads Project got underway.

While Australia pledged to support Indonesia's infrastructure rehabilitation program it made no sense to pick a location 400 km in the interior of Kalimantan (Borneo) and build a road network towards the coast.

The penny dropped when you looked at a map.

The road network would support the movement of troops to the border with Malaysia Kuching, the capital of Sarawak was not far from the border. (Relations between the 2 nations was still raw after Konfrontasi ).


The Indonesians said they wanted to start at Sanggau because one could get the heavy earth moving equipment to this location up river - by barge.

If we went by road from Pontianak, the bridges would collapse.

Meeting with Governor of West Kalimantan

Inspection of an airstrip funded by an NGO. Useful for Medivac of aid peronnel

Speed boat in ready for trip Pontianak-Sanggau

Backwash of speedboat - Interesting to note Bugis prahus (left) loading timber -See Becalmed at Sea

Ferry Crossing along the Sanggau River

SMEC Personnel co passangers
Luxury treatment - rather than by road

Stopping for dental treatment in a village - pedal drill

One helicopter trip involved flying in a very old Sikorsky helicopter to a Dayak long house.

The village was located in very dense jungle near the border of Sarawak.

If the aircraft went down the jungle canopy would cover it up.

The purpose of the visit was to see, first hand, a common affliction - enlarged and painful thyroid glands.

It was obvious that the cause was something lacking in their diet - but it was beyond our terms of reference for this visit - however interesting.

What really captured our immediate interest was attempted take off in this jungle clearing.

An auxiliary engine is used to boost start the main engine.

The pilot tried time and time again. But the only response was rrrh rrrrhrr rrrrh!

Deaf Freddy could tell the battery was being drained at each attempt.

In a last desperate attempt he decided to use all the power left on the main engine to turn the rotor blades.

They turned slowly then kicked in - truly touch n go!

As in any Indonesian city there were military barracks with family quarters.

It was pretty clear that the pilot was giving a message to his wife that he was returning home as he started performing aerobatics over the barracks.

It seems to me that the aircraft was too old for these maneuvers.

What a cowboy!

Bogor Region

Hiking and camping overnight in Mt Salak National Park. We slept on the caldera of a live volcano at the peak of the mountain. It was so cold, I closed the vent space on my sleeping bag - only to wake up several hours coved in condensation - due to my breathing.
It was the worst night I had ever experienced - wet cold and awake.

No shortage of water here. The Bogor region used to record world record precipitaion figures.
This made it easier to design Town a Water Supply

Bogor Water Supply Project.
Flushing newly installed grid system. Australia provided design and strategic materials - pumps. pipes, control systems

Bali

As well as involvement in the Bogor Water Supply project (see above) we were providing Water Supply engineering consultancy and materials for the village of Sanur - a sleepy idealic location to the east of the provincial city Den Pasar.
It was later extended to the whole of Den Pasar.

The rational for the project was that a a secure domestic water supply facility would underpin an emerging tourism industry.

I also escorted several Australian delegations whereupon the Indonesian government hosted VIP tours of the province This meant that in addition to accommodation in luxury hotels we were driven all around the countryside.

In addition to official travel, also went there for holidays (twice) and took mum there.

So I was extremely familiar with a beautiful island which had not yet been exposed to traffic log jams and hordes of yobbo Australian tourists.

There was no urban spread and village life was simple.

Soccer and cock fighting were standard past times. The latter has now been banned.


Fringe Benefits of Aid to Indonesia

I first met Marie Pongo in Jakarta - at a reception held at the Australian Embassador’s residence early in 1973.

(see above foto –us shaking hands with Ambassador Furlonger)

I took Marie out a few times before she got a job in Bali as a Guest Relations staff member in a major hotel in Sanur.

Australia was involved in a nation wide progam of eradicating Newcastle disease in village chickens in Bali.
We provided the serum and transport in the form of a fleet of 4 wheel drive vehicles – Landrovers

It was quite easy to borrow a vehicle and tour out of the way locations.

At that time there were few vehicles and driving was a pleasure.

If you drove through a village, it would be common for females wearing sarongs that were only waist high.

It seemed an idealic life.

Lombok

I can not remember the reason.I went to Lombok – but it was not for holidays. I stayed in Mataram and drove half way up Mount Rajani which togrther with Gunung Agung majestically overlook the Lombok Strait.

Flores

At the time there were no direct flights from Bali to Timor.

One had to transit/overnight in Ende.

The place was extremely under developed.

West Timor

Scholars were offered to GOI bureacrats located throughout Indonesia.

Applications were processed centrally from Jakarta but there was the slog of conducting English Testing. This meant that once a year a staff member from the Scholarship’s Section of the Aid Branch would travel to regional hubs and supervise the English Tests.

The country was too sparse for any one officer to do this so I was given the visit to Kupang the provincial capital on the far west coast of Indonesian Timor.

Australia had no aid projects there.

But 20 years earlier we sponsored the construction of a road from Kupang to the border.
Ross suggested I examine its condition in concert with conducting the tests.

I reported to Canberra that it was now in bad shape. Parts were washed away and in disrepair; bridges were still standing but waterways had moved. It was clear no budgets had been organized for repair and maintenance.

Driving Miss Daisy

Mum (Miss Daisy) visited me in Indonesia in 1974.

Another chapter in mum's life was visiting sons posted overseas - John. Paul and Sam. She took the opportunity of sharing their experiences.

I could only do it with Indonesia and Cocos Islands. I had the advantage of fluency in Bahasa Indonesia - which maximised her visit.

The servants treated her like Royalty. (I was joyous that neither Iom nor Itik could speak only Indonesian.)

I showed mum all the sites around Jakarta. But she liked the country side. We went by train to Bandung.
The journey took us through the slums of Jakarta, then the plains of north Java to Cirebon where it turned south to climb into the mountains traversing valleys, bridges, aqua ducts and other engineering marvels you do not see in Australia.

George Wilson met us at the station . We were his guest in a large bungalow constructed in the Dutch era.
We toured a massive volcano going right to the caldera. As well we visited some hot springs where the New Zealanders were giving technical assistance in converting the hot water to energy.

Bali also was on the agenda. I had a prior engagement I could not avoid.

I organised with a local tour company to take mum to the airport and put her on a plane to Jogjakarta and then by car via Central Java to Surabaya East Java (one of the most populous locations in Indonesia); then by plane to Den Pasar and then to the hotel.

I met her at the hotel in Bali whereupon she stated her amazement at the things she saw.

Rather than hiring a car mum (aged 60) wanted to try riding pillion passenger on a motor bike on a day trip all around the island.
We took off early in the morning heading straight towards and up
Gunung Agung.

The bike was rather clapped out. The higher up we got, the slower it would go until mum finally got off and walked the last few hundred meters until we reached the top.

We traversed the caldera and free wheeled down - the wind in our hair with no helmet and shitty brakes. She loved it.

It was extremely hot. We stopped at a road side warung where we had a coke served hot (we dared not trust the ice). The locals were fascinated as to this bird on the back of a motor bike and her "bilingual guide".

As we were sitting there, a local wedding party passed by. Everybody was dressed in their sartorial spender. The wedding party was preceded by a band; then ladies throwing flowers in the path of the main party.

It was a local show not put on for the tourist and brought home to mum just how lovely was this paradise.

For years afterwards mum would always remind me of her trip that day.

Home Leave -Australia

DFAT conditions included a return trip to Canberra.

I took the opportunity to return to attend Jen and Greg's wedding in June 1974 .


The plane connection arrived in Canberra in the early morning. Mum had gone to work (at the ANU) and had locked the house. I knew some window would not be locked hence it was only a matter of finding it.

I took my shoes off to better negotiate the entry.

When my feet and socks hit the carpet it was so cold that I felt that the house was accidentally flooded.

All I could do was go to bed immediately to escape freezing to death.

Soon after acclimatising, winter was such a relief after the tropics.

I joined up with Glen Gulliver, a Jakarta rugby mate and we spent a week down in the snowfields freewheeling down the slopes at breakneck speed.

Socialising

Aid Section Staff


Yayah (Chinese)

Hetty Javanese Debbie (Mixed Race)

...

Debbie went on to become a well known Activist

Tutty ??? Beachside Resort Merak

Information Sect - Reny Ruharti

"Is that a Whip Al?"

Sure is Pal!

"More Chili Paul ?"


Bungalo Hill Retreat


Happy Hour - Embassy Pool

Embassy Pool

Alan Valtas

Reading his first book
"Onward Virgin Soldiers"

Judy Prosser

Cocktails on a Coral Island

The "Music Men" Pelabuhan Ratu