Jakarta 1967-1970’s


The capital of Indonesia, The Great Jakarta or Daerah Choesoes Ibukota Djakarta Raya (D.C.I. Djaya) is usually shortened and called as Djakarta.[1] That was the name of DKI Jakarta when Obama and Ann Dunham stepped feet here. It was the 11th province of the total 27 provinces back then (currently Indonesia has 33 provinces). That moment was around two years after the forever-remembered-bloody-incident of 30th September for Indonesian people.

At that time, arresting the people suspected of having any relation with the Indonesia Communist party (PKI) and moreover the members of the party itself. They were accused of being responsible for the murder of six top military generals and the aide of General Abdul Haris Nasution and it was widespread to the small regions in Indonesia. One of the examples is what happened on Sunday, October 1st 1967 when Gedung Kedutaan Besar Republik Rakyat Tiongkok (RTT) or the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China was assaulted by around a couple thousands of high school and college students as protesters. The exchange of fired bullets and broken bottles was going on for two hours causing some of the protesters to get injured—that’s how the Kompas daily explained what happened on it’s front page on October 2nd 1967.  The bilateral relation between Indonesia and China worsen as the excess of the September 30th incident till at the end they ended the relation temporarily.

Soeharto had just become the temporary in-charge officer replacing for the president and on October 1967 he announced the structure of ‘Ampera Cabinet’. The chosen ministers started doing their jobs since then. Indonesia was still in the transition and restructuring era. Including when both Obama and Ann first came here.

Guntur Sukarnoputra, the oldest son of the previous president Sukarno, was sentenced for a month with 6 months parole by judge Sutjiati for driving his car without rybewys (license to drive) on October 6th while prosecutor Rugajah requested for next appeal. There was a picture of Guruh being held hand by Megawati-the future 5th president of Indonesia and both of the article and picture were published on Kompas.

Djakarta in 1970s was rather hyped up by the city bus-Dodge-came from the US as one form of the funding to the New Order government under the President Soeharto. It was going to every direction available in the city and they had bad habit to drop off the passenger NOT at the bus stop. Besides the city bus, the other form of public transportation was ‘Oplet’ by Morris-famous as the public transport for the office workers. There was also ‘bemo’, the three-wheeled by Daihatsu Japan and still used by some area of smaller towns in Indonesia. ‘Bajaj’ is also a three-wheeled motorbike by Vespa with some kind of cart imported and inspired from India. They have taxi at that time-legal and illegal-along with ‘helicak’, the three-wheeled by Lambretta Italy.[2]

The point is Jakarta was filled with European and American cars such as Fiat, Mercedes, Chevrolet, Ford, and Holden from Australia. The last one was often used for the illegal taxi. Compared to the others, Fiat 125 is the most popular car at that time. It was somehow wouldn’t be legit for the businessman if they don’t own Fiat. Jakarta was rather Europe-minded back then.

Fiat entered Jakarta as the official car of the big event of Asian Games in 1962. Imported by the prominent businessman Mr. Hasjim Ning and Mr. A.M Dasaad (Taufik Dasaad’s grandfather, one of Obama’s classmates from SD Besuki). Asian Games was also the beginning of the presence of Mercedes Benz 180 and microbus.[3]

The Japanese cars such as Mazda, Honda, Suzuki, Toyota, and Nissan, started making their way into the country after the 1970s. Corolla came in 1973—although one or two people might have owned it before that time. Till the 1960s, the import of the entire cars is only reaching up from 5 to 6 thousands per month. There was no exact number for that. The valid data for the import of cars was acknowledged in 1972. Currently the number is about 60 thousands while the 40 thousands out of it were in Jakarta.[4]

In the 1970s, riding pedicab (kindly check the file of Dewi Asmara and Widiyanto Hendro) is still such a comfortable thing. The senior citizens told us that they can ride their cars and open their window and enjoying the cool air without having to inhale the thick smoke of cars’ and motorbikes’ emission and the honking for every second-because now the traffic is very bad. It was 24 Celcius in the midday but now it’s 32-34 Celcius. The cool and comfortable temperature is around 24 celcius which now can only be had in the evening, sometimes we’re not that lucky.

At that time the most famous band is Koes Bersaudara, later changed their name to Koes Plus. They became the role model of Indonesian music. The bosses of the recording companies always requested the other bands (including the upcoming one) to make music like Koes Plus. Their songs were simple, easy listening, using the chords mostly: C, F and G-usually called as the technique of the three chords.

In 1969—when Obama stared speaking Indonesia rather fluent, Koes Plus released their new album called ‘Dheg Dheg Plas’ with one of their hit single ‘Back to Jakarta’. The refrain is: ‘To Jakarta, I’ll be back, no matter what happens, I have experienced, my own life, my friends went and away, long I’ve waited, search I must do, or I won’t be known  again.[5]

This song is often sung by the Jakartans who moved outside the city or country.[6]

Ali Sadikin (used to be called “Bang Ali”) was just recently appointed as the Governor of Jakarta. He was appointed by Bung Karno on February 1966. There was no election at that time for the Governor. His tenure ended in 1977. He managed to boost the city growth and development very well including the relocation of the zoo from Cikini to Ragunan, the continuity of establishment of Ancol recreational Park and the red-light district in Kramat Tunggak. Some others are the Jakarta Fair, widening the roads to overcome traffic jam.

Jakarta at the end of 1960s was populated by around 4.5 million people. There was no family plan program and was just established in 1968. The family with many kids; from five to nine, was a common sight back then. Quoting Firman Lubis in his book: Jakarta 1960s—Memories During The College Times, published by Masup Jakarta, November 2008: “If we take a walk, you can see many children, everywhere. Whether it’s in the yard, roads or pedestrian path, outdoor, and public places; the thing you see the most is the children!”

Around that kind of situation Ann Dunham and Obama landed at Kemayoran International Airport, Center of Jakarta, on October 1967. [7]


[1] In 1972, Djakarta was changed to Jakarta using the new literature system (EYD).

[2] Pasar Gambir, Komik Cina & Es Shanghai—Sisik Melik Jakarta 1970’s, written by Zeffry Alkatiri, published by Masup Jakarta, June 2010.

[3] ‘Arsip Mobil Kita. Tamasya Sejarah Perjalanan Mobil di Indonesia’ written by Bambang Trisulo et al. Printed on July 1st 2003.

[4] My interview with Mr. Bambang Trisulo, the automotive expert.

[5] The song ‘Back To Jakarta’ was at the 6th on the chart of the 150 top Indonesian songs of all time according to Rolling Stone Indonesia last year. There are 10 songs of Koes Plus included on this list, the band that had most songs on the list. Started in 1980s the songs about Jakarta were telling social complaints/protests of the unfairness, poverty, and unemployment including from Iwan fals (was nominated as the Asian Heroes by TIME Magazine in 2002).

[6] It was last sung by the previous Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani when she took the offer of becoming the Managing Director World Bank on May 13, 2010. Sri Mulyani had to leave for Washington DC as the impact of the indecisiveness of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to his political opponents in the scandal of Bank Century case.

[7] For further detail kindly read the previous memo I sent you before (“About Jakarta”).


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