zondag 15 mei 2016

Oom Ben versus Don Thomas

While preparing a contribution for the bi-annual Frans Seda Lecture (coming 9 June in Tilburg University), I read a book about Don Thomas, edited by Oscar Pareira Mandalangi (with a preface by Frans Seda): Don Thomas Peletak Dasar Sikka Membangun (Sikka, Yayasan Pendidikan Thomas, YAPENTHOM, 2003). Don Josephus Thomas Ximenes da Silva (1895-1954) was the last feudal ruler of Sikka, until 1951. There is a large number of contributions, but they all agree in one vision: he was a powerful ruler, who could deal with the Dutch government, but he was also very autocratic. In all positions he put his own family, and the word nepotism is mentioned by several authors. He definitely was not democratic and put aside the wishes of KANILIMA, the regions of Kangae, Nita, Lio, Maumere. The Catholic mission did not open a secondary school besides the minor seminary of Todabelu and his YAPENTHOM was a secondary school, opened in 1947.
I found a nice picture of this 'strong man', complete with the magical attribute of Flores culture, an elepghant tusk.
The last chapter in the book is about Drs. Ben Mang Reng Say, born in 1928 in Umauta, a village in the Sikka region. He married in 1955 a daughter of Don Thomas. He spent most of his life outside Flores: Schakelschool in Ende, entered the police in 1943 in Maumere, in 1946 in Bajawa and from 1948-50 in Makassar, where he also followed secondary education (MULO).  In 1951 he was accepted at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta where he graduated in social and political sciences in 1956. He was the first of Flores to take this degree in Indonesia. Already in 1954 he became a staff member in the ministry of internal affairs. In 1960-1 he was during one year at Georga Washington University in Washington DC.
 Oom Ben was active in the Catholic Party and became its third (and last) president, after Ignacius Kasimo and Frans Seda in 1964 (until the party was dissolved in 1973 at the 'simplification' of the political system with a reduction to three parties only.  - After this period Oom Ben managed  to survive, but could not held a key position in PDI, the 'Democratic/Nationalist'Party. He became ambassador for Indonesia in Mexico, in 1977. He was member of DPA, in 1973: a high advisory council, where he was even Vice-President in the period 1988-1993.
In my book on Catholics in Indonesia, I did not mention him among prominent people of Flores. I do still not yet have a good idea about him. Still missing for me is also more information about V.B. da Costa, who also made a career in the Catholics Party. There was at some time even a slogan of Ganyang Tiga-S or 'destroy the power of Seda-Sentis-Say' where Sentis stand in some way for V.B. da Costa.

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