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Between Stock Investors, and National Heroes

Shortly after the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence on August 17, 1945, Sudirman, then a PETA commander (‘Pembela Tanah Air’, or ‘defenders of homeland’, a military organization formed by the Imperial Government of Japan in Indonesia), rushed to Jakarta to meet President Sukarno to express his support for the establishment of Republic of Indonesia (RI). On October 5 in the same year, the Government of Indonesia formed the People's Security Army (Tentara Keamanan Rakjat, TKR) which became the forerunner of the Indonesian National Army (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI), and on November 12, TKR members made their first general meeting to choose who would be their top leader. Sudirman, then 29, was elected as military chief, with the rank of colonel.

Initially because of Sudirman's young age and his background as a teacher (before becoming PETA commander, Sudirman worked as a teacher at Muhammadiyah school in Cilacap, Central Java), many people doubted his capability as a military chief, but Sudirman soon showed that he deserved to be a commander. On October 20, 1945, the British Army, part of the allied forces that had just won the Second World War, landed in Semarang, Central Java, to free prisoners of war and disarm the Japanese Army. Initially their arrival was welcomed, given the Allies promised not to disturb Indonesia's sovereignty. But as they continued to advance towards Ambarawa until Magelang, they started giving weapons to the recently freed Dutch prisoners of war, and also sought to disarm TKR's arms, so it was apparent that they tried to help the Dutch Government to regain control of Indonesia. The TKR army then mounted a resistance that forced the Allied Forces to withdraw to Ambarawa, but the Allies retaliated by pushing forward to Magelang, and a long battle was ensuing.

Until finally on December 11, 1945, Sudirman held a meeting with the TKR commanders, and one day after, Sudirman directly led the TKR to siege the Allied troops in Ambarawa since dawn, and machine gun fire and bomb explosions were heard all over the city. And finally, after a fierce battle for four days, the Allies withdrew to Semarang, and Ambarawa was ruled by RI. In this historic Battle of Ambarawa incident, no less than 2,000 TKR soldiers sacrificed their lives for Indonesia, while the casualties on the side of the allies were only about 200 soldiers (allied troops was outnumbered since the beginning, but they were supported by a far better armament plus tanks). Nevertheless this victory shows the international world that the newly established State of the Republic of Indonesia can not be underestimated, and on December 18, Col. Sudirman was confirmed as the chief of staff of TKR, and his rank was promoted to General (but in the reorganization of the army some time later, where TKR became the Indonesian National Army/TNI, the rank was lowered to lieutenant).

In subsequent years, with President Sukarno and his cabinet continued to work on negotiations with the Dutch Government (which was still trying to regain control in Indonesia), including moving the capital from Jakarta to Yogyakarta (Jogja), Sudirman continued to lead military resistance. However, when the Dutch conducted a massive military operation carrying more than 120,000 troops in July 1947, known as the Dutch Military Aggression I, the inferior TNI soon suffered defeat, of which 200 - 300 thousand soldiers and volunteers belonged to the TNI, about 150,000 were injured or dead (compared to 6,000 victims from the Dutch side), and the Netherlands then successfully controlled all of Sumatra and parts of Java. Nevertheless, Sudirman did not surrender, and continued to fight using the tactics of guerrilla warfare, which later forced the Dutch to enter into an agreement with the Government of Indonesia, where part of Java, in this case Banten, Jogja, and parts of East Java (including Madiun) remained under RI. Sudirman then led his army to return from hiding in the forests to Jogja.

But even the domestic situation in Indonesia was far from peaceful, where the political conditions were completely unstable, including a revolt in Madiun by the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI), in September 1948. Sudirman, then ill, sent his deputy, Colonel Abdul Haris Nasution, to crush the rebellion and they did it, where TNI troops shot dead three hundres of rebel soldiers and captured thousands of others. Sudirman then visited Madiun, and he once told his wife that he could not sleep at all during the battle. On October 5, 1948, after the TNI's 3rd anniversary ceremony, Sudirman collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, and it was discovered that he had tuberculosis. While in the hospital, Sudirman left most of his duties to Col. Nasution.

Unfortunately Sudirman could not rest for long. The Dutch troops, who may have seen the Indonesian military weaken after the Madiun rebellion, resumed military action, this time aimed to wipe out the RI for once and all, including controlling Jogja as the capital of the Republic. On December 17, 1948, Sudirman, who had just returned to office as military chief of staff, immediately ordered a massive military training, to show the Dutch that the TNI was still too strong to attack, but failed because only two days later, the Dutch launched the Military Aggression II by attacking directly to Jogja, and they immediately controlled all over the city. Sudirman rushed to the Presidential Palace in downtown Jogja to meet with Indonesian state officials, to invite them to continue fighting, but the invitation was rejected, and Sudirman himself was not allowed by his doctors to continue the war, given his increasingly severe tuberculosis.

And if only Sudirman decided to stay in Jogja, to lay down the weapons and surrender, then maybe the Republic of Indonesia would perished at all, and the archipelago again controlled by the Dutch. But Sudirman insisted on continuing the struggle, so it was finally agreed that Sudirman and his troops would continue to fight, again with guerrilla tactics, but President Sukarno and the Indonesian Government officials would remain in the city and let them be captured by the Dutch, thus Sudirman had enough time to leave town. The plan was successful, than when President Sukarno and other officials were arrested and sent into exile, at the same time Sudirman and his troops moved south to Bantul, then continued to Trenggalek, East Java.

Later, after a long journey through dense forests for months, including several shoot-out contacts with Dutch troops, on February 18, 1949, Sudirman's army arrived at Sobo, near Mount Lawu, and he considered the area to be safe from the Dutch pursuit while on the other hand not too far from Jogja. After a meeting with his subordinates, it was decided that the TNI would carry out a massive attack on the City Center of Jogja to show the international community that Indonesia and its TNI still exist! The strategy is that the TNI guerrilla forces will carry out small attacks on villages around Jogja, so that the Dutch will place more troops in the area so that the guarding in Jogja will decrease, and then the main army will attack the city center. Sudirman then appointed Lieutenant Colonel Suharto as field commander for the main attack.

And on March 1, 1949, at 06.00 AM, TNI troops made a attack so suddenly until the unprepared Dutch Army was forced to withdraw from the city, and at noon at 12.00, TNI troops managed to occupy and control the city center! Before then retreat back on the evening (when the Dutch army assistance has arrived in Jogja, TNI troops have been retreated).

But despite only taking control of the city for about six hours, the attack successfully damaged the reputation of the Dutch Government in the eyes of the international world, as the Dutch previously claimed that they had already crushed the TNI (and they even claimed to have Sudirman arrested). After receiving pressure from the United Nations, in May 1949, the Roem-Royen Agreement was adopted, in which the Dutch Army was required to withdraw from Jogja and the entire archipelago by July 1949 at the latest, and the Government of Indonesia could return from exile. After returning to Jogja, President Sukarno personally ordered Sudirman to go home, but Sudirman chose to stay at his guerrilla base, arguing that the Dutch could break the treaty and re-engage in military aggression (before Roem-Royen, Dutch Government and RI had previously made the Renville and Linggadjati Agreements, but the Dutch violated both treaties).

It was only after he was picked up by Lieutenant Colonel Suharto, in August 1949, that Sudirman was finally ready to go home, where he was welcomed by President Sukarno, Vice President Mohammad Hatta, and others, and also greeted by a massive military ceremony in Jogja Square. Still suffering from tuberculosis, Sudirman was later admitted to Panti Ratih Hospital, before being transferred to a rest house in Magelang, but his health continued to deteriorate. On December 27, 1949, the Dutch finally recognized Indonesian Independence, and a month later on January 29, 1950, Sudirman died in his bed, and was buried in Semaki Hero Cemetery, Jogja. He was only 34 years old. Lieutenant Sudirman was posthumously promoted to General, and in 1997, he was again promoted to the highest rank of the Indonesian military, the General of the Army.

General Sudirman and his aide, Lieutenant Colonel Suharto

'Our Struggle' Today, compared to th Struggle of Heroes

As an investor, as I once mentioned in other articles, I really like to read historical stories, especially the story of the struggle of General Sudirman above. Because only by recalling the services of such a hero, then we will realize that we are very fortunate to live in this era of independence and prosperity. So when I began to stress when looking at the portfolio performance that is not as well as expected, I usually say to myself: Compared to the struggle of our national heroes, the difficulties that you are experiencing right now is absolutely nothing!

I mean, look at General Sudirman: In a state of severe illness and without adequate treatment, he insists on struggling, leaving his family and all his possessions, spending most of his time living an uncomfortable life by moving from one forest to another, while continuing to bear the risk of being arrested (or even shot dead) by the Dutch Army, and during that time he had to lose a number of men that were wounded, killed, or caught. Yet he was able to remain focused, did not fearful, and in his mind at that time there was only one oath: the Republic must be free!

While we? Well, if I myself, when do the 'struggle' (read: work), I spend most of time to read the financial statements of companies etc. while sitting comfortably in a soft chair in a cool air-conditioned room, and I can rest, eat, and sleep anytime, and we can go to the forest but not for join the guerrilla, but for breathe the fresh air. And the only risk we face is if our stock goes down and we have to lose some money, but nothing more. We do not have to worry about being captured or shot dead by enemy soldiers, and even the risk of getting sick is almost nonexistent, because we work in a comfortable, clean, and healthy environment.

So when friend complained, ‘Dear Sir, how could you be so calm? I cannot walk away from my monitor to look at my stocks, and sometimes I could not sleep if my stocks go down..’, thenI will say, really? If you cannot sleep just because of the fear of losing money, then what if you were in a position responsible for crushing the rebellion in Madiun?? Or you have to survive in the forests to face the Dutch??? Maybe if one day you become the military commander, the very next day you immediately surrendered to the Dutch, and the Republic of Indonesia immediately perished! Actually, back to stock investing: If you can not be calm in holding your current funds, then how could you hope to manage a larger fund in the future?

But my point is, once again, as mentioned above, we are very fortunate to live in an age where we, as investors, only have to take a very very easy responsibility, that even if we fail and lose some money in the market but we will stay healthy, and there's always a chance to try again as long as you do not give up. Of course, not everyone is able to contribute to the nation and state, let alone be a great hero like General Sudirman. But if you can not sleep just because of fear of loss in stocks?? Well, you can do better than that!

Happy Independence Day! Happy 72nd Anniversary of Republic of Indonesia!

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