Sat, 08 Apr 2000

Tale of Jl. Pecah Kulit more than skin deep

By Ida Indawati Khouw

For those unfamiliar with the capital, its assortment of unusually named streets -- Jl. Gereja Ayam ("church chicken"), Jl. Gambar Hidup ("portrait of life") and Jl. Tiang Bendera ("flagpole") -- may sound more than a little odd. Our 33rd article in a special weekly series on Jakarta's historical and protected sites and buildings digs into the horrific tale of Jl. Pecah Kulit ("broken skin") in West Jakarta.

JAKARTA (JP): Street names come and go with the times, especially when their unusual meanings hit a discordant note with modern residents.

One of them, Jl. Jagal Monyet, literally "monkey slaughtering", has become the more genteel sounding Jl. Suryo Pranoto.

But Jl. Pecah Kulit, a small L-shaped street near the busy Jl. Pangeran Jayakarta in West Jakarta, has kept its name.

The 250-meter-long street's eponymous name refers to the grisly mass killing of rebels by the Dutch colonial government at the site some 278 years ago.

Extant records say the rebels were led by Pieter Erberveld, a son of a German-Siamese couple, who plotted for the 1722 rebellion.

Printed data said locals gave the street its name from the pieces of human skin left after the torture and killing of the men on April 4, 1722.

The rebel leaders were reportedly dragged along the street by horses before being skinned alive.

Erberveld (some sources call him Erbervelt or Ervervelt) was 59 when he was killed.

A report compiled in 1977 by the then City Museum and Historical Agency, titled Pieter Erberveld Trying to Reach the Stars, said Erberveld, who was born a Christian, converted to Islam partly due to his closeness with local Muslims, who shared his desire to banish the Dutch from Java.

It said Erberveld's father, who shared the same name, was a noted landlord and a captain of a cavalry unit in Batavia. His father came from a small town in Germany's Wuppertal-Elberfeld region and married a Siamese Christian woman, Elizabeth Cornelis.

The younger Erberveld is believed to have been born in Batavia and enjoyed a close relationship with the pribumi (indigenous community).

The agency's report said the plan for rebellion stemmed from an incident when Erberveld was publicly humiliated by a Dutch trader, Van der Shuur, who accused Erberveld of being a man of German descent who once tortured a group of Javanese.

"After the incident, Erberveld held hatred toward the Dutch. It could have been from then that he decided to take revenge ... In stages, he gathered (local) friends, who shared the same feeling and desire," the report said.

Adolf Heuken said in his book Historical Sites of Jakarta that Erberveld wanted to kill all Dutch inhabitants residing in Batavia on New Year's Day 1722 simply to fulfill his dream to become a community leader, locally called Tuan Goesti (My Lord).

The agency's report stated that Erberveld started plotting his revenge in 1720 by recruiting local people in Java. He named nobleman Raden Kartadria from Kartasura in Central Java as his close aide.

The main task of Kartadria was to initiate contact with people living outside of Batavia and to prepare weapons, like kris and spears, for the massacre.

Erberveld had become known as Tuan Goesti by his followers at the time.

With support from 17,000 people from many areas across Java, he set up a series of secret meetings with his followers at his house on Jl. Jacatra (now Jl. Pangeran Jayakarta).

"It was like a huge group of grasshoppers surrounding a paddy field, ready to ravage the grains," the report said.

The plot of Erberveld and his troops was thwarted when his slave, Ali, and the Sultan of Banten in West Java betrayed him to a senior Dutch military official and Governor General Hendrik Zwaardecroon respectively.

The report does not mention the sultan's reasons for betrayal, but noted Ali was angered when Erbereld would not allow him to marry his daughter, Sarina.

During a secret meeting on Dec. 31, 1721, a day before the massacre of the Dutch was to be carried out, Erberveld, Kartadria and 17 followers were arrested by the Dutch troops.

A court sentenced them to die on April 24, 1722.

Dutch clergyman Francois Valentijn recalled in his book that Erberveld and his followers were "tortured by using burning pliers to peel off their flesh in six parts".

Their right hands were cut off, and their hearts pried out and thrown into their faces. They were beheaded and their bodies torn into four, he said.

"The parts were scattered at several locations outside the city as a frightening deterrent to others," said Valentijn.

He said that four indigenous people also were killed. Three women were strangled to death and 10 other people were killed by being tied to wheels as their bodies were torn apart.

Another version says Erberveld and Kartadria were dragged by horses along what is now Jl. Pecah Kulit, causing the flaying of their skin.

The city agency's report said 24 people were killed.

To commemorate the incident, the Dutch government erected a white wall monument with a stone skull statue at the site of Erberveld's house.

The inscription on the monument was written in Dutch and Javanese: "In loathsome memory of the punished traitor Pieter Erberveld, nobody shall now or ever be allowed to build, to carpenter, to lay bricks or to plant in this place, Batavia, 14th April, 1722."

Heuken believed the monument was actually constructed years later when people no longer remembered the tragedy because "the stone says that it's erected on April 14th, 1722, while Erberveld was quartered on April 24, 1722".

The inscription's sober warning apparently fell on deaf ears; Erberveld's home is now long gone, replaced by a big auto workshop and showroom.

Local residents have no idea of the site's grisly history.

The original stone is now in the grounds of the Jakarta Historical Museum in West Jakarta, and a replica is at Memorial Stone Park Museum in Central Jakarta.

The blood which flowed on an April day three centuries ago has given way to the dirt and odors of the traditional market which now operates at the site.