Never Forget Boven Digoel, A Historical City

Currently, Boven Digul is not Digul in the past. At this time Digul has been acknowledged as the Boven Digul Regency. In the past Boven Digoel, which directly shares the border with neighboring Papua New Guinea, previously was known as the place of the political prisoners. According to Ensiklopedi Nasional Indonesia Boven Digul was used for a prison for Indonesia movement leaders and at least totaling 1308 fighters to be sent there as a result of carrying out the revolt against the Netherlands during 1926 and 1927 in Jakarta. Up until 1942 Digoel was still being used as the prison by the Dutch Government. Leading figures of the national movements who had been thrown away were Sayuti Melik (1927-1938), Mohammad Hatta (1935-1936), Muchtar Lutffi, and Ilyas Yacub (Permi and PSII Minangkabau).

Soetan Sjahrir, who had been imprisoned there in 1934, in a book entitled Meditation and the Indonesian Struggle (published by Dian Rakyat-Jambatan, Jakarta) said that Digoel was like Europeschewijk (the European settlement). There were a cinema, ballroom, hospital, school, mosque, church including the performance of art and sport. Writers could still look for additional income by sending their articles to newspapers outside Papua. Living in the Boven Digoel was free because they could run a business, work in the farm, and teach in private schools for their children. Remember that Pontjopangrawit master musician of the court of the central Javanese city of Surakarta, who was interred there between 1927 and 1932 was successful to create the Gamelan Digul, an orchestra of Javanese gamelan instruments made at Tanah Merah camp on the Digul River.

They could feel at home in the place that was full of mosquitoes due to the help of the Papuan community. They were united with the local inhabitants and of course helped each others. It is not surprising that their positive emotions formed during their interaction can continue until now. Due to their harmonious relationship, Netherlands failed to isolate Bung Hatta and Soetan Sjahrir and decided to move them to the Banda Island (see Hatta Memoir published by Tinta Emas). Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu SH has reminded the younger generation that the Boven Digoel prison served as the leading thread in the history of the Indonesia struggle because the nation’s best sons such as Hatta, Sjahrir, and others were isolated by Dutch colonial. Therefore, he added, the Tanah Merah must be made as “a Heroe City” such as Surabaya Kota Pahlawan and Bandung Lautan Api. The similar statement was also stated by Boven Digoel Regent Yusak Yaluwo during the celebration of the 62th Republic of Indonesia that the Boven Digoel Prison was the site for Indonesia national struggle, meaning it is proved that Papua is an integral part of the territory of the Republic of Indonesia.Last month, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono attended the commemoration of Youth Day event to be held in the Boven Digoel District, South Papua. At that time, the head of state also laid a stone which would mark the construction of Bung Hatta`s monument in remembrance his fighting spirit. One of Bung Hatta`s daughters, Meutia Hatta who is now the state minister for women`s empowerment also attended the stone-laying ceremony.

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