Fri, 25 Apr 2003

'Post' debut a break with the past

Willem A. van den Wall Bake, The Hague

One of our better Dutch writers, A. Alberts, wrote a delightful little memoir about his sojourn in Indonesia, aptly titled In en uit het paradijs getild ("Lifted into and out of paradise"), a work which deserves to be translated into both English and Bahasa Indonesia.

I was lucky to have lived in Indonesia for almost 25 years, but all good things come to an end and recently I was also lifted out of paradise. It is only back on earth that one realizes how spoiled one was in Indonesia.

The early morning was always the best time of the day, beginning with a cup of sweet kopi tubruk (coffee prepared Indonesian style) and The Jakarta Post. Now, if so inclined, I could make a cup of kopi tubruk here, but it does not have quite the same flavor and also there is no Post to accompany it.

I now have to start up my PC to go to its website, but the cyber Post is definitely not the same as the real thing. Could a European edition be contemplated to give the International Herald Tribune a run for its money?

Nowadays one takes The Jakarta Post for granted, while in fact it did not exist when I first arrived in Indonesia. There were one or two English newspapers, which were better known for their unconventional and at times hilarious treatment of Shakespeare's language than for their informative merits.

The birth of the Post coincided with the second oil shock, the resulting economic reforms and the gradual opening up of Indonesia to the world. Its appearance was another break with the past and greeted warmly by all expats interested in Indonesia and also, I suspect, by quite a few Indonesian citizens.

Suddenly we had a professionally produced, informative and unbiased newspaper on par with the leading papers in the region, at a time when the political authorities were not too keen about a free and independent press. Sabam Siagian and the other founding fathers deserve praise and gratitude for their initiative.

Now there is a whole generation of expats who started to understand the country they had come live in with the help of the Post. May the paper go from strength to strength, but please add a weekly "what's on" column, listing all current exhibitions, forthcoming art performances, etc. It is the only thing missing in an otherwise ideal morning paper.