Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The National Awakening Day-Is it 20th May or 16th October ?

For 101 years, Boedi Utomo has been regarded as The pioneer of Nationalist movement in Indonesia that lead to the Independence of Indonesia on 17th of August 1945. Thus its founding day on 20th of May is widely celebrated as The National Awakening Day (of Indonesian Nationalist Movement). However it becomes many people concern regarding on whether they were the first nationalist organization. On the other hand, the nature of Boedi Oetomo itself promote another question on whether it was really a nationalist movement after all?

As you already know, Boedi Utomo was founded on 20th of May 1908 by Dr Sutomo and his friends from School of Medicine STOVIA. Raden T Tirtokusumo, The regent of Karangayar , was elected as the first chief until 1911 and then he was succeeded by Arjo Noto Dirojo, a Prince from Pakualaman Palace. The first Congress of Boedi Oetomo on July 1908 described the nature of the the organization as :
  • Focus in education, training and ethic
  • Provides and collects scholarship (studie fonds)
  • Apolitical
  • Accepts member from Java and Madura only

The First Boedi Oetomo Congress on July 1908 (Source : Lowensteyn.com)

Savitri Prasisti Scherer wrote in her (well looks like a woman name for me :P) thesis in 1975 at Cornell University about the main idea behind the foundation of Boedi Oetomo. She described the confrontation (or feeling of inequality to be precised) occured in Java between two upper classes, i.e. Noblemen versus intellectuals (notably medical doctors). Learning the situation, Dr Sutomo found the organization in order to give confidence or feeling of equality to his doctor colleagues in front of the noblemen of Java. Furthermore Suwarno, the secretary of Boedi Oetomo in Batavia Branch issued a writing to explain the objective behind the founding of Boedi Oetomo, the objective turned out to be the pioneer of Java Unity (Algemeene Javaansche Bond)

After learning the nature of Boedi Oetomo and the objective of its founding, many people question the wisdom behind the appointment of 20th of May as The National Awakening Day. Especially if there was another organization that were founded before 1908 and showed the nature of a pioneer of Indonesian nationalist movement. The organization is Sarekat Dagang Islam which was founded 3 years before Boedi Oetomo on 16th of October 1905 and later evolved to Sarekat Islam on 1911.

In his book “Syarikat Islam Bukan Budi Utomo: Meluruskan Sejarah Pergerakan Bangsa", KH Firdaus AN revealed the inclusiveness of Syarikat Islam by pointing out the multirace leadership of Syarikat Islam that consisted of Hj Samanhudi, HOS Tjokroaminoto (both are Javanese), Abdoel Moeis, Agus Salim (both are West Sumatranese) and AM Sangaji (Ambonese). However, the nature of the organization itself is quite interesting. Initially, the organization was cautious to confront the Dutch Colonial Government, as stated by Tjokroaminoto himself at the first Sarekat Islam Congress in 1913

First Sarekat Islam Congress in 1913 (Source : Lowensteyn.com)
"We are loyal toward the Government; we are satisfied with the Dutch Government; it is not true that we want to fight; he who says so or thinks so, is not sane, we don't want to fight, a thousand times, NO! The Sarekat Islam is not a political party; it is not a party that wants revolution, as many think."
However, as the time went by and the strength of Sarekat Islam grew to 800.000 members, (other source only mentions around 300.000 members) in 1917-1918 they began openly critical to the Dutch Colonial Government and became a non-cooperative movement.

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself, ABBA said :D So after more than 60 years since it was first celebrated on 20th of May 1948, will we repeat it again after this year?
Only time will tell...

Reference and Further Reading

Boedi Oetomo, Syarikat Islam dan Kebangkitan Nasional
Seabad Boedi Oetomo-Tepatkah 20 Mei Jadi Harkitnas?
Seratus tahun Boedi Oetomo
Kenapa Menggugat Boedi Oetomo?
The Sarekat Islam by Peter Lowensteyn
Kebangkitan Nasional atau Kebangkitan Elit Jawa?

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