Thursday, July 15, 2010


Mintardjo (Photo by Alpha Amirrachman/JP)
First published in The Jakarta Post, March 30, 2010

Mintardjo: Indonesian at heart

Alpha Amirrachman, Contributor, Oegstgeest, the Netherlands | Tue, 03/30/2010 8:51 AM | Life

When young Mintardjo was sent to Helsinki, Finland, to attend the 1962 communist World Youth Festival and later to communist Romania to study, little did he know he would not return to Indonesia for many years because of unexpected political developments.

Just three years after he left his homeland, the then popular Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) collapsed and carnage among its followers ensued.

“I was not allowed to return to my homeland,” he told The Jakarta Post during a recent interview at his modest house.

Now living in exile in the Netherlands, Mintardjo shows his love for Indonesia by earnestly helping Indonesian students studying in the country regardless of their ideology or religion — providing them with accommodation, transport and a place to gather for social activities.

Born in Bagelan, Purworejo, June 6, 1936, Mintardjo attended several schools, including the Holland Indische School in Purwokerto, where he stayed with his grandfather, and a Catholic-oriented Kanisius school in his hometown of Purworejo.

Just two months before Indonesia proclaimed its independence in August 1945, the Japanese arrested his father, accusing him of organizing two revolts against the Japanese.

In 1948, his father was shot dead, some say by the Indonesian military at the time (TNI), while others claim it was by the Dutch colonial army (KNIL). So Mintardjo was forced yet again to hop from one school to another.

Although Mintardjo always made time to attend various political gatherings regardless of their political orientation, he was never a member of any association. He preferred to be involved in organizing sports events such as soccer and volleyball matches for local youth. He became a member of a soccer player association alongside members of Young Indonesia, an organization created by the Youth Congress during the 1928 Youth Pledge.

So when Young Indonesia asked Mintardjo to attend the 8th World Youth Festival in 1962 in Helsinki, it was to help organize its soccer team.

Many national youth organizations joined the Helsinki youth summit, such as the People Youth, affiliated to the PKI, Indonesia’s Muslim Youth (PII), the Association of Christian Students of Republic of Indonesia (PMKRI), the National Movement of Indonesian Students and the Concentration of Indonesian Student Movement (CGMI), which is affiliated with the PKI.

Then in a twist of fate, he received two callings from the small Eastern European country of Romania.

During the festival, Mintardjo first received an invitation from Romania Youth, affiliated with the Romanian Communist Party, to attend its independence day celebrations. Then Indonesian ambassador Sukrisno also offered him a chance to study in Romania.

Mintardjo’s life changed from that moment on.

After 1965, where the PKI’s power was removed and millions of its members executed, Indonesian ambassadors explained to Indonesian citizens living overseas at that time that they did not know what exactly had happened and “their position was to leave all matters to president Sukarno, the great leader of the revolution”.

Mintardjo and students initially agreed but were then asked to change their stand to support General Soeharto’s government.

When he and many of his friends steadfastly refused, their citizenship was scrapped against their own will in April 1967.

Mintardjo finally graduated from Vladimir University in 1969 in political economy. Later he worked as a civil servant at the Romanian tourism ministry and married Romanian Liliana Gabirella. They have three children — Heru Tjahjo, Ratnawati and Nurkasih.

When Romania’s dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was executed and his communist regime collapsed during the 1989 bloody revolution, Mintardjo sought political asylum in the Netherlands.

But Mintardjo still longed for the warmness of his home country.

Staying in Oegstgeest, very close to Leiden, Mintardjo welcomed to his house many Indonesian students who were studying in Leiden, a university known for its excellent Indonesian and Islamic study center.

In fact, it has almost become a tradition for students to use his modest house as a venue for activities, from the election Indonesian Student Association (PPI) executives to monthly discussions where students or guests present their scientific papers.

“I remember Pak Min and his wife cooked for about 50 people who performed at the Indonesian Cultural Night in Rotterdam,” recalled Michael Putrawenas, former secretary-general of the PPI in the Netherlands.

His bicycle also became the “official” vehicle for PPI executives, said current PPI Leiden vice president Hilman Latief.

Mintardjo was also actively involved in every student discussion.

“I am happy if students remain critical and have a balanced perspective about issues,” said Mintardjo, who also initiated the establishment of the Inter-Generation Dialogue association and later Sapulidi Foundation, which strengthens Indonesian younger and older generations residing in the Netherlands.

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