At exactly 10.0 am on Friday, 17 August 1945, at Jalan Pegangsaan Timur 56 in Jakarta, Indonesia’s political leaders, Soekarno and Hatta, proclaimed the Independence of the nation and people of Indonesia, shedding off more than 300 years of colonial yoke under Netherlands’ rule:
“PROKLAMASI : Kami, bangsa Indonesia, dengan ini menjatakan kemerdekaan Indonesia. Hal-hal jang mengenai pemindahan kekoeasaan,dll., diselenggarakan dengan tjara saksama dan dalam tempoh jang sesingkat-singkatnja. Djakarta, 17-8-’05. Wakil-wakil Bangsa Indonesia. (signed) Soekarno-Hatta”
Thus spoke the sonorous and charismatic voice of Soekarno, which was followed by the historic first time hoisting of the Red and White Flag of this young Republic, for which so many people would later give up their lives. Note that wordings in the original typed text are still in the old Bahasa Indonesia spelling. While the Official English translation reads as follows:
PROCLAMATION : We the People of Indonesia hereby declare the Independence of Indonesia. Matters which concern the transfer of power and other things will be executed by careful means and in the shortest possible time. Djakarta, 17 August 1945. In the Name of the People of Indonesia: signed Soekarno – Hatta.
This clarion call for independence was surreptitiously broadcast through radio to all corners of the archipelago, and the people across the islands responded with joy and determination to liberate their homeland, – then called the Netherlands East Indies, – from heinous colonialism, if need be through blood, sweat and tears.
Indonesia’s Proclamation for Independence came only two days after Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces under leadership of General MacArthur of the United States in Asia and the Pacific, marking the end of World War II.
Japanese authorities, who then ruled the archipelago, had at first promised Indonesia’s political leaders: Soekarno and Hatta, that Japan would support the liberation of Indonesia. However, after their unconditional surrender, Japan had to retract this promise and keep the de facto position at prior to Japan’s occupation of the territory.
Soon Allied Forces under the Dutch descended on Indonesia to reclaim their territory, only to find strong armed resistance everywhere from the indigenous people who had been fired up by the Proclamation of Independence.
And so, unlike British colonies, who were granted independence, Indonesia and the Indonesian people had to fight hard with many deaths for her Independence.
Only after long and hard battles and hundreds of thousands volunteer youg men and women killed in what is known as the Indonesian National Revolution, did the Netherlands Government finally concede to recognize the existence of the Republic of Indonesia in 1949, but not without proviso, involving a number of islands, notably in the eastern part of Indonesia.
Nonetheless, young Indonesia was adamant to reclaim the entire territory once colonized by the Dutch in the Netherlands East Indies, – from Sabang on the island of Sumatra in the west to the town of Merauke on the island of Papua in the utmost eastern corner – to be the undivided territory of the new Republic of Indonesia. It was only in 1963 that the Netherlands finally relented to recognize the Independence of the entire Indonesian archipelago as we know today.
Unfortunately, the house at Jalan Pegangsaan Timur 56 (now Jalan Proklamasi) where the Proclamation of Independence was declared has been torn down. In its place are monuments among a garden setting. Most notable of which are the statues of the two Proclamators: Soekarno – Hatta , who later became Indonesia’s first President and Vice President.
The original Red and White flag, which has become frayed through the years is now stored in the National Monument where is also a diorama on the history of Indonesia’s fight for Independence. The original flag is reverently taken out to accompany the replica flag hoisted every 17th August for the official Independence Day ceremony in the grounds of the Merdeka Palace.
The site where the Independence of Indonesia was proclaimed on 17 August 1945 on Jalan Pegangsaan Timur 56 – now renamed Jalan Proklamasi – was the house where Soekarno used to live. Gedung Proklamasi is the road that extends from Jakarta’s elite road, Jalan Diponegoro where are located many foreign embassies. Hatta, himself, lived on the lower part of Jalan Diponegoro in Central Jakarta. Unfortunately, for an unknown reason, in 1960, President Soekarno had the house torn down, and in its stead was constructed a building for the Development Plan of Indonesia. In 1980, Indonesia’s second president, Soeharto, built a monument on this historic site, depicting statues of the two proclamators at the Proclamation of Independence, Soekarno-Hatta , as taken from a historic photograph. Between the two leaders stands a black marble tablet, which inscribes the exact typed text of the original document. While on the exact location where the ceremony took place on 17 August 1945 now stands a pillar topped by a thunderbolt, known as the Tugu Proklamasi, or the Pillar of the Proclamation. Since Indonesia’s Reform movement in 1996, popular National Day ceremonies are often held here, in addition to it becoming a favorite location for political rallies to declare loyalty to the Proclamation of Independence of the Republic of Indonesia.