Elders Gala Dinner, held 21st Feb. at the Centre Cultural Kowe Karo, Noumea, has brought back Indonesia citizens, which were together aboard Biance in May 1949 to venture as contracted labors in New Caledonia. Compassionately, yet with happiness, Ridwan Zainin, Walad and Soeha catched up missed time together, accompanied by their families.
Ridwan Zainin recalled how miserably started work in Chagrin mining in the Northern Province, along with other Indonesian workers. “I only lasted six months, and then escaped to move the work as contracted labor of nickel mining in Noumea “, he said. In the age of 87 years, Ridwan Zainin currently enjoys a happy life with a wife of Javanese descent born in New Caledonia and blessed with five sons, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Walad alias Kasir was born in Cirebon in 1929, desperate to leave Indonesia to the France’s overseas territories, hoping to seek a better life. ““Kulo milih dados kuli kontrak tambang ni kelwonten Caledonia amargi bade dibayar katah (I decided to be contracted labor in Caledonia nickel mining, because of promised big salaries)” Walad said. In fact, his life and other Indonesia worker’s went very hard.
Having survived for 28 years working in SLN nickel factory, Walad decided to retire and then sell vegetables, fruits, rengginang ( thick rice cracker ) and tempe (fermented soybean) in Noumea market until now. Suported by pension fund from SLN, 215,000 CPF or about Rp. 20 million, Walad who has five children, 10 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren lives well. Moreover, with the social security and health, Walad receives regular care from medical personnel provided by local government.
Another story with Soehadi, which was brought by his parents to New Caledonia in 1949 at the age of 3 years. At age 15, Soehadi started working as an oporator of hard vehicles in SLN nichel mining until retirement. “I am happy to meet up with friends who had not seen for decades. I stay as Indonesia citizen despite my offsprings has chosen to become citizen of France “said Soehadi.
Former Chairman of the Association of Indonesian society and offspring (PMIK), 1984 -1998, Marie Jo Siban who in his childhood had lived in Yogyakarta, is proud of Indonesia offspring born in New Caledonia who lead the whole association of Indonesian society. “Tradition must be inherited. Events like this should be able to continue to be preserved by the young shoots “.
Indonesian Consul General in Noumea, Widyarka Ryananta, expressed the hope that the young generation of Indonesian diaspora (expats) in New Caledonia can continue to inherit ancestral good culture. “We will support the activities of the Association of Indonesian descent in promoting Indonesian cultural values” he continued.
Historian Catherine Adi, Indonesia descent who wrote the book Orang Kontrak, les engages de Java sous contract en Nouvelle-Caledonie de 1896 à 1955, said, it is not easy to uncover the history of the arrival of the Javanese people, because they are reluctant to recall the hard times experienced. “They wanted to bury the bitter memories and hopes that the breed can integrate well in New Caledonia, but do not forget the origins and ancestral traditions of Java”.
More than 500 Indonesia diaspora (expats) who attended the Elders Gala Dinner, came from different areas of New Caledonia, including that of Kone, the Northern Province within 264 km afar and should take 4 hour journey to Noumea. In addition, Marin, fourth descendant of the Indonesian diaspora flied from Ouvea Island to present Balinese dance. This event is a part of the commemoration of 120 years the arrival of Javanese to New Caledonia. The event, which was prepared almost 1 year, was supported by the Consulate General in Noumea and 13 associations of Indonesian descendants in New Caledonia.
Indonesian’s Traces in New Caledonia (indonesiathroughstamps.com)