In recent weeks, much has been said between Malaysia and Indonesia. On the current tension, on Malaysian and Indonesian relations, following an outrage by some Indonesians accusing Malaysia of ‘stealing’ Indonesian culture, a sweep against Malaysian nationals done by a certain group of people in Jakarta was pathetic. The security of Malaysian nationals in Indonesia is at risk. A group of Indonesians who carried sharpened bamboo sticks and sought out Malaysians along Jalan Diponegoro, Jakarta, last September 8 in a “Sweep Malaysia” activity was uncalled for. The group claimed they were dissatisfied over the Indonesian government’s so-called soft stand against Malaysia over the alleged Malaysian ‘theft’ of the Balinese Pendet dance.
This was somewhat nostalgic. What happened recently happened to me back in 1997. I was an expatriate in Jakarta. I remember travelling in the car chauffeured by my then driver, Pak Suminta. We were driving along Jl. Gadjah Mada when suddenly we were stranded in a 'macet' or traffic jam. This was during the impending fall of the then President, Suharto. A group of unruly men and young boys had barricades on the two lane road narrowing it into one. Every car that passed their 'sentry' had to chant some religious verses before they would let through. I was anxious in the car as I was not their 'own kind'. Now I understand why most, if not all cars in Indonesia have fully tinted windows. This is to prevent outsiders from viewing the inside occupants, in case you may not be their 'own kind'. When our turn came, Pak Suminta alighted from the car and chanted the 'password' for clearance.
The ‘cultural’ disputes perhaps are unnecessary given the historical fact that Indonesia and Malaysia are two nations that share the same cultural roots. During those times, my colleagues and friends would always agree that between them and me, we were 'SERUMPUN'. We spoke 'Bahasa' even though most of the words that I used they didn't quite understand at times. I remember travelling in a Bluebird taxi. I was constantly telling the driver to 'pusing kiri' or 'pusing kanan' and he would chuckle. I was not amused only to be told later that 'pusing' (turn in Malaysian) in the Indonesian language is having a headache (kepala pusing). The correct saying was to 'belok'. So, even though we were 'SERUMPUN', we had our differences.
One of the 'cultures' of Indonesia that was 'acceptable' was most things were 'ATURABLE'. The word 'ATUR' means arranged; when put together, it literally means to be 'Arranged under the TABLE'. I remember that my drivers' license was 'arranged' for me by my employer without me having to even go to the Road Transport Department. I remember that when driving and if I was stopped by the cops, all I had to do was to flash my 'authority card' which was signed by a retired four star general in the Army. Thanks to my employer again. The card states, 'To allow the bearer to pass safely and without any hindrances'. It was like a 'license to kill' so to speak. I remember upon my arrival at the airport from any of my travels, I would be escorted from the aircraft right through immigration, through customs, all in a jiffy. No need to queue, no hassles with my passport and luggages brought to me at the arrival hall. This is what 'ATURABLE' means, all arranged under the table; for a small fee of course. I had employers who ensured that we were protected against bureaucracy from the authorities.
Where I used to work - Omni Batavia Hotel, Jakarta
Life as an expatriate in Indonesia was exhilarating. I enjoyed weekends in Bali. I enjoyed Sundanese meals at the Pondok Laguna restaurant. I enjoyed chilling out at the Pit Stop, Sari Pan Pacific. I enjoyed golfing at the Karawaci Golf and Country Club. I enjoyed karaoking at the Hai Lai Executive Club. I enjoyed grocery shopping at Sogo. I enjoyed having a haircut at Rudy Hardisuwarno. I enjoyed the cool air at the peak of Punchak. I enjoyed buying designer wear at Plaza Indonesia. I enjoyed drinking 'Bir Itam' with 'Kraeteng Daeng'. I enjoyed eating 'Nasi Padang' at Sari Ratu. I enjoyed 'Mie Bakso' at Bakmi Gadjah Mada. What more is there not to enjoy?
I was also toughened by an earthquake there. I was in my office when I suddenly felt nausea. My desk slided a little to the side and everyone was evacuating. This naive Malaysian joined them in the evacuation, only having to run up again realising that I left my mobile phone in the office. When I asked them what was the commotion about, they replied with much cheer, 'Gempa Pak' (Earthquake, Sir).'Gempa'? We are blessed from that here in Malaysia. And no, I don't agree in paying maids the suggested wage of a minimum RM 800 by your government. We maybe 'SERUMPUN' but we really do have a lot of differences.