Saturday, August 20, 2011

Merdeka '11 - Pertemuan di Taiping Aerodrome (SGN-TPG)

Taiping Aerodrome in Tekah, Amelia Earhart and Sukarno Hatta. 

Five seemingly unrelated names, you might add, and what do they have in common?

Tekah is place where nenek and I used to go to, multiple of times, looking for pucuk paku. Yes, we did that in the early 70s. I would bring her to this place in Tekah at the back of my bicycle in the 70s. There were abundant of pucuk paku and it was so easy to pick. No need to go to the pasar to buy and it was the freshest pucuk paku one can get - in the wild!

God bless nenek (Bulan).

In the old days of the 70s, we would always be in awe of Tekah, for this is the place where Taiping Aerodrome is located. With train as our affordable, and romantic mode of transportation, it would never crossed our mind then to fly (for sure we could not afford it), and the Taiping Aerodrome was the nearest thing for us to gawk at the flying thing.

What many of us didn't realize is the importance of Taiping Aerodrome in the history of Malaya and Malaysia. It is the oldest airport in Federated Malay States, and was built by the British in 1929 (Wiki) for non-military purpose and can accommodate Fokker.

Mind you, it is an airfield - not an airport per se, hence to us Taipingites, it is called an aerodrome, eventhough if you were to google it, the name airport would be used. But as far as I can remember, on the roof of the aerodrome building, it is written as Taiping Aerodrome.

As we approach Merdeka day, and with many of us still too lethargic to fly the national flag, I would like to reminisce the importance of Taiping aerodrome in the nation's history.
Source Wiki
Do you know that Amelia Earhart, the famous American aviator stopped by in Taiping for refueling in 1937 enroute to Singapore (from Thailand) on her ill-fated round the world flight attempt?

I am sure the world would have heard of Taiping by then - may be in the footnote of history. It was 7 June 1937. Bapak would have been one year old, and Mak would not have been even born!

You can read all about Amelia here.

But the most important event in the life time of Taiping Aerodrome happened on Aug 12, 1945 - that is just over a week today 66 years ago. Obviously, this is not mainstream history, so it did not get space at all in our history books, and nothing to remind us in the newspapers or telly.

But it is history that needs to be told.

Sukarno and Hatta, the founding fathers of Indonesia had a stop-over in Taiping Aerodrome. They had just met the Japanese Army Commanding Officer Marshall Tereauchi in Saigon to discuss the independence of Indonesia, and they returned to Jakarta on 13 Aug 1945. 
Soekarno and Hatta in Taiping in Aug 1945 - source Wiki.
Mind you, Indonesia declared independence from the Dutch 4 days later. For them to stop over in Taiping just before declaring independence shows the importance of this meeting ("Indonesia pasti merdeka sebelum jagung berbunga.").

The meeting was arranged by non other than Ibrahim Hj Yaakub, the Malay nationalist and founding member of KMM (Kesatuan Melayu Muda). KMM, for the uninitiated, was formed in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur by Ibrahim Yaakub to protect the Malay's right and gain independence from the British.

So it was not UMNO who first 'fought' for independence of Malaya! Much earlier, and if not it were not banned by the British and Ibrahim himself was thrown in jail, we might not have UMNO.

In the meeting with Soekarno (with Dr Burhanuddin Helmy in attendance), Ibrahim told him that the people of Malaya are ready to join the Indonesia for independence under the banner of Indonesia Raya. Unfortunately, the Japanese lost the war within the next two days, and Soekarno was not ready to fight with two world powers then (the Dutch and British) and declared independence on their own - without Malaya, on 17th August 1945.

Please read here about the details of the meeting in Taiping.

I guess there are always two sides of a coin. In hindsight, some may say that we were lucky not to have joined the Indonesia for the Greater Indonesia nation. But who are we to say one way or the other. If only there is a parallel time track that we could observe as an independent observer, then we could say which one would have been better for us. Current political climate in this country is not better than that of our neighbour, and the nation's wealth have been plundered many times over since Independence anyway by our kulit sawo matang brethren.

If you can call them brethren!

Please read about Kesatuan Melayu Muda here. And about the Malay nationalist Ibrahim Hj Yaakub (born Temerloh Pahang, died in Jakarta in 1978) who was buried in Taman Makam Pahlawan in Kalibata.

Anyway, I do not wish to write about the politics of Malaya/Malaysia, as my blood pressure would boil.

Hahaha. That's my laugh to lower my BP! ;))

I took these pictures in 2007 - Raya 2007 to be precise, with my then Olympus bridge camera. It was not the best of pictures - it was a cloudy day in Taiping, and it looked like it was going to rain. But I post it here anyway as an addendum to this entry.

Tekah Airfield, looking West. There was no housing complexes
here in the old days, so it was more saujana mata memandang
than this.
This is my padang lalang as in M Nasir's song. Not because of the lyric, more so for the fact that it was a padang lalang. This place is unlike any other place in Taiping. Here, it is saujana mata memandang if you were to look West. It is flat, and from afar, it is full of lalang (wild grass).

Look at any other direction and you will know that Taiping is hilly.

Tekah Airfield, looking East and the Maxwell Hill mountain range
Another view of the airfield, with the building in the background.
Here is the aerodrome main building. It is made of wood and hence it is now in dilapidated.
It is now in dilapidated state, unfortunately. I think we are a nation
lost on her history. We would like to erase anything that
is not mainstream. The winner takes all.
The radar tower?
Where is the history society? Where is the Jabatan Muzium, the Kementerian Warisan? Where art thou? History could have changed its course on 12 Aug 1945.

I do wish time had split on that day, and that there are independent parallel time with loops and branches, so that we could observe the what-ifs  had an Aug 17, 1945 declaration took place, and how this country would be in 2011.
One track just the way we are experiencing it,
and another track is for what could have been. It is multiple lines running
in parallel, and with another branch ahead, the lines
might join sometime in the future.

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