Jakarta Post, 20 Jun 2005
Vietnam boat people's plaque torn down
The Jakarta Post, Batam
Industrial Development Authority (BIDA) has removed a large
stone plaque erected by former Vietnamese refugees at their
one-time camp on Galang island, Riau Islands province. The
monument was dismantled at the request of the Vietnamese
president on the grounds that it was offensive to Vietnam.
meter by 1 meter plaque was dedicated on March 24 during a
reunion of 150 of the former Vietnamese refugees, who are now
residing in various countries, including Australia, the United
States, Canada, Switzerland and France. The reunion and the
erection of the monument were the initiatives of BIDA and
Singaporean firm Bold Express, which acted in a liaison capacity
between the former refugees and BIDA.
Jakarta Post source, who requested anonymity, has said that the
destruction of the plaque was carried out on the orders of
President Susilo, as conveyed through the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, at the request of the Vietnamese government.
Vietnamese government took the view that the wording on the
plaque denigrated the dignity of Vietnam.
involves government to government relations, and I've no right
to comment. As far as I know, the plaque was dismantled after
the Vietnamese government addressed a complaint to President
Susilo," said the government source.
Meanwhile, the concrete frame in which of the stone plaque was
embedded is still standing. The marble tiles at the base have
been removed, however.
of visitors to the park and park workers expressed surprise at
the removal of the plaque. A maintenance worker at the former
camp, Mursidi, told the Post that he and three other workers
were abruptly ordered to pull down the plaque. However, Mursidi,
who is almost 60 years old, said he had forgotten the exact date
on which they carried out the order.
around the end of May when we were asked to take down the
plaque. It was already late afternoon and raining hard. But my
supervisor told us that it had to be dismantled immediately, so
we erected a tent over the monument so as to be able do so
despite the rain," said Mursidi, who has been working at the
site since the days when the camp was still open.
added that he was asked by his superior in BIDA headquarters in
Batam to record the wording on the plaque before it was
wording read as follows: In commemoration of the hundreds of
thousands of Vietnamese people who perished on the way to
freedom (1975-1996). Though they died of hunger or thirst, or
being raped, or exhaustion or any other causes, we pray that
they may now enjoy lasting peace. Their sacrifice will never be
forgotten. - OVERSEAS VIETNAMESE COMMUNITIES 2005.
reverse side of the plaque read: In appreciation of the efforts
of UNHCR, the Red Cross and the Indonesian Red Crescent Society
and other world relief organizations, the Indonesian government
and people, as well as all countries of first asylum and
resettlement. We also express our gratitude to the thousands of
individuals who worked hard in helping the Vietnamese refugees.
- OVERSEAS VIETNAMESE COMMUNITIES 2005.
said that the instruction to remove the plaque came from Pak
Ismeth Abdullah (former BIDA chairman), as it was he who
encouraged the reunion to go ahead. I don't know what the actual
reason behind the plaque's removal was. I'm just an ordinary
person," said Mursidi.
Meanwhile, Ismeth Abdullah, when contacted by phone, expressed
incredulity and anger upon learning that he was being blamed for
ordering the plaque's removal.
pure slander. We spent a lot of money on helping to make the
reunion a success. How dare they accuse me of destroying the
plaque. It's not true," said Ismeth.
Express's Project coordinator, Anne Oh, said that the Vietnamese
government had not only requested the removal of the plaque on
Galang Island, but also a similar plaque at the former
Vietnamese boat people's camp on Bidong island in the Malaysian
state of Trengganu. The request was still being hotly debated in
Malaysia, she said.