Jan 20, 2007

Tracking Down Obama in Indonesia

Barack Hussein Obama the Senator from Illinois has formed an exploratory committee to explore a presidential bid. Obama has had a remarkable rise from lawmaker to politician in less than ten years appearing suddenly onto the political scene.
New on the scene, Obama remains a charismatic man of mystery, very little is known on him. His only remaining relative seems to be his half-sister Maya Kassandra Soetoro or as she is known now Maya Soetoro-Ng.
What is particulary intriguing though for many is that Obama has not been seen to have been forthcoming with his past with regards to the time he spent in Indonesia.
Either he wishes to forget his past or perhaps he has something to hide.
In any event, I have now spent over twenty years of my life here in Southeast Asia, am well versed with the culture and speak the language. With regards to Obama's Indonesian past, I now find myself intrigued to find out more about Obama and his life in Indonesia.

The House on Dempo Street Vanishes

Jakarta - More on the US story of the senator, Barack Obama, in Indonesia.

During this short period of time, Barack was believed to have lived in a house on Dempo Street near Amir Hamzah Park and the city center of Jakarta. However, currently the occupants of the house and the residents in this area have never heard of either Barack or Barry.

Tracking down the past of US senator in Indonesia is quite difficult, The only quite strong information detikcom was able to obtain was from a Onny Padmo, Barry's classmate in class 4 of Besuki primary school, Menteng, Jakarta near the city center around 1971.

Onny admitted to attending Barry's birthday party at his house at that time. Barry's house was supposedly on Dempo Street near Amir Hamzah Park. But, Onny didn't quite seem to remember the exact address. As you know, that was over 35 years ago.

Detikcom investigated the area, on Monday (3/7/2006). However, several residents who have lived in this area for quite a long time had never heard of the Barack name or Barry. They had also never heard of the Lolo Soetoro name, Ann Dunham, or Maya Kassandra Soetoro.

Lolo Soetoro was the husband of Ann and the stepfather of Barry. Ann was a US citizen and the mother of Barry. Whereas Maya was the stepbrother of Barry, the child of Ann and Lolo.

In fact, Barry together with his mother and his stepfather lived in Indonesia for quite a long time. Apparently Barry went to Primary School here for only one year in Primary 4, but the information from Maya Soetoro is that Barry had lived in Indonesia between the years of 1968-1973.

However, the exact location of Barry's house for 5 years remains unclear.

The only thing that is certain, according to Onny, is that "Barry" lived on Dempo Street.

"I had previously attended Barry's birthday party in the house, not far from Amir Hamzah Park", said Onny, Barry's school friend during 1971. It wasn't far from Amir Hamzah Park, said Onny, Barry's school friend from 1971. At the time, Dempo Street was still be worked on.
It was just off Amir Hamzah Park although not right in front. The road closer to the mosque at that time was quite famous.

One of the residents who had lived a long time in the Amir Hamzah Park area, Ari (aged 55), when being questioned by detikcom claimed to have never heard of a Barack, Obama or Barry. He had also never heard of a person named Lolo Soetoro.

"As I remember in the 1960's many Dutch lived near this area." If there was a Negroid child, I would have known, said Ari. Apart from Dutch though, in this area there also lived many decendents of the Dutch Ambonese.

Haji Mamiati, who had lived in the area since the 1950's also admitted to not knowing of an Ann Dunham, Lolo Soetoro or Barry.

He claimed that in the Amir Hamzah Park area, during the 1960's there were many foreigners.
Mamiati claimed thought that he had indeed seen a black negro child who had curly hair that live in No. 2 Dempo Street sometime around the 1970's.

However, he said the negroid child was claimed to have been from Papua.

"Indeed there was a negroid child, but they claimed that the child was from Irian." said Mamiati.

Could it be, that the negroid child mentioned by Mamiati was in fact "Barry"?

It is diffucult to say, the house on No. 2 Dempo Street existed only during the time of the Dutch. Now the place where the house supposedly stood houses a dentist and there are many other new houses in the area - Dempo has changed over the years.


  1. Anonymous9:02 AM

    Apparently you were asking folks in the Obama neighborhood if they remember a "negroid" child. Since Obama is 1/2 black, has light skin, and lived with parents that were Indonesian and bule - maybe you shouldn't identify him as "negroid".

    Some may not have know he was a step-son of his indonesian step-dad and assumed he was 1/2 indonesian.

    I remember an Indian expat in Jakarta who says the locals often assumed he was Indonesian.

    Ask them about the kid with the big ears. Obama says he was teased as a kid about his oversized radar!!

    Keep it up!!


  2. I think it is a mistake for Senator Obama's staff to try to distance him from his Muslim ties. It would only make him look dishonest. But I would not say, as you did, that Obama himself has tried to "hide" his past in Indonesia, since he did discuss this at some length in his autobiography, "Dreams from my Father".

    I am an Indonesian so I have firsthand knowledge of Indonesian public schools. Let us examine the facts. Senator Obama's father was a Kenyan Muslim, although in practice he is an Atheist. His Indonesian stepfather was a Muslim who practiced a moderate brand of Islam common among Indonesians. This is true and Senator Obama himself has pointed this out in his autobiography. While he was six, in Indonesia, being the son of a Muslim stepfather, it was quite likely that his official registered religion would be Islam. This is why, as an article in the Houston Chronicle pointed out, Senator Obama's religion in the school records as a child in Indonesia was Islam. There is nothing wrong with this.

    Indonesia is a secular nation, but not secular in the sense of complete separation of religion and state as in the US. So in essence you have to pick a religion when filling in forms to enter the school. I have to remind people not to get the wrong impression here. This does not mean that students in Indonesia are forced to be religious. It is just that Indonesians are a religious people, and the accepted practice is that religion should be taught in public schools. Remember that in all public schools in Indonesia, religion is taught (twice a week) to the students, according to his/her own religion , this includes Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, and Hinduism (recently Confucianism has been acknowledged as well). For the Christian classes, a priest may actually be called on to teach. Since Senator Obama registered as a Muslim, it is also likely that he attended the Islamic classes and was taught basic Islamic teachings, prayers, etc. Again, there is nothing wrong with this and this possibility should be openly acknowledged.

    There is no way that Indonesian teachers at the school would teach six year old students to hate the west or hate people of other religions. Since he was only six, doubtless he has forgotten most, if not all, of the things that was taught in his religion class. However, this experience would still be positive for him because it exposed him to a welcoming environment of Muslim kids who are his friends and classmates. This would allow him, on a personal basis, to be more tolerant and understanding toward Muslims around the world.

    To summarize, Senator Obama was raised in a non-religious household and is now a committed and practicing Christian. He does have Muslim ties as explained above, in addition to an international experience that not many people can claim. All of this should magnify people's estimation of him, not diminish it. I myself am a Catholic born and raised in Indonesia, and my outlook towards Muslims is very different from that of many Americans. To me they are simply friends and family.

  3. Anonymous12:33 PM

    I love it! The persecution of a 6 yr old.

    I mean he was six at the time he was allegedly practicing Islam.

    For shame if his memory is hazy, I am sure you can remember all your lessons and homework when you were SIX also.

    While you are at it, call every adult who can not remember with your supposed clarity, all that they did when they were say, up to the age of 12.

  4. Anonymous12:46 PM

    Lets all harp on the fact that his religion was listed as "Islam". That, is the TRUTH!

    Now what about the fact that he was listed as an Indonesian born in Hawaii, and not an American? Hmm that's a lie, but we can forget about THAT lie.

    Ohh and his father is Indonesian, hmm another lie, but we don't care about that one either.

    We are going to pick and choose what truths, we will believe, and right now, the only thing worth believing is how adults classified a minor. With or without his consent because they were his parents. Or were they?

    So what if he learned Islam as a religion, I am sure Catholicism was equally shooved down his throat (being all adults love to shove religion down the throats of children).

    How many children do YOU know of, have the power to decide what they learn as a child? I hated going to church, it didn't stop my mother for making me go.

    As for the recollections of classmates as to how he behaved on Fridays during prayer time or while learning the Koran. Give me a break! I am way younger and to say or even imply that I can remember how my classmates acted when I was in high school. Would be nothing short of a bold faced lie. Let alone when I was in elementary school.

  5. The world is tired of the marauding Anglo-Saxons peoples who have plundered their way across the planet leaving havoc and causing genocide witting or unwittingly on every continent except Europe.
    America needs some one the none European world can trust, he might be just that man.


  7. "Apparently you were asking folks in the Obama neighborhood if they remember a "negroid" child. Since Obama is 1/2 black, has light skin, and lived with parents that were Indonesian and bule - maybe you shouldn't identify him as "negroid"."

    It is the Indonesians themselves that described Obama as a negroid, with a neighbor thinking the child was from Iran Jaya.

    It's understandable really, anyone at the time that saw Obama's mother and Indonesian stepfather would have noticed the differences in Obama's features.

  8. I don't know enough about this. However as a "military brat" most of my education was outside of the United States. My father was in the Navy. I have been to schools with different religions including an all boys Catholic school taught by guys who all looked like Friar
    Tucks with round bald spots on top of their head and brown robes with white ropes tied around their waists. I remember some of those earlier experiances quite clearly as they had a profound effect on my religion. I may not remember what all of my classmates said but I certainly remember some of them quite well. Not every word but certainly a lot. My experiance with peoples childhood memories is that lots of people were affected by the things they were learning from the years 6 to 11. How many of you remember one or more of some of your first teachers? I certainly remember a certain Mrs. Carr, she was a goddess and taught me how to read, bless her soul. I think a lot of people are still affected by their earlist schooling. I am very carefully not saying that any of these earlier experiances affected Mr. Obama negatively or positively. Only he and maybe history will make it clear. When I have listened to him speak I like him very much. However good speech writers are "De Riguer (sic?)" for presidential candidates. How can you really be sure, I sure don't know. I still feel that Bush and his family stole the election, that's my opinion. I just feel like Mr. Obama is not being upfront about it and it makes me wonder why. I could certainly use some honesty from our next president.


  9. Indonesia has always been a faux secular nation.

    It's "Ke-Tuhan-an Yang Maha Esa" means Monotheism.
    Strong emphasis in Islam since it's the majority (if you can call 95% a majority). In layman's term, though luck for those who believe in other religions besides Islam & Christian.

    You're not only have to "pick" a religion, you will have to LIVE according to your religion. If one doesn't show a strong religious act, one would be called a Communist and that is a very bad thing.

    If I could describe how Indonesian mind works when it comes to religion, it's like they're still very "young". All things will be measured by religion, and lately it's getting even worse. It's trying to evolve into an Islamic nation at large.

    Parents dictate what religion their kids will have. It's not just a matter of personal choice anymore. It's more like a war, with each sides trying to recruit as many followers as possible.

    If you don't believe my words, see if you could find Muslim Indonesian families in the United States (or any other country), 95% of the time, the children will have the same religion as their parents. This is the Indonesian muslim way.

    It's absolutely horrible to live in Indonesia, when you're not part of the "Majority".

    To those who said all the moderate things about Indonesia, I can understand your timid nature - you probably still live there, and still afraid of being "heard" by the officials.

  10. I am Indonesian who live in NYC. i went to government school and government university in my country. Most of my friend are Muslim. They have never been hostile to me. We really can not generalize Islam as something bad. In one community there must be a good person and bad one. There are Modern, general and radical Muslim in Indonesia. And the radical one is very small percentage. But they have done a big bad things (bombing, church attacking, etc) It's really depends on the person. I never had any problem as a Christian in Indonesia.

  11. Ronald,

    It's difficult to comment on what you have to say really without a bit more information.

    You say you live in NYC now and are a Christian, so obviously you left Indonesia. I suppose the next question would be are you Chinese and when did you leave Indonesia?

    For the record, not everyone has been as lucky as you have been.

    Jakarta Riots of May 1998

  12. hi..i was just browsing around and found this blogpost..

    couldn't help myself to comment. I'm an Indonesian muslim living in NYC with my husband (a grad student) who is also Indonesian.

    I went to Christian elementary and middle school before moving to a much affordable public school, because my father (a muslim) thought that the Christian schools have a better discipline and education system. There I had mostly Christian friends, but also Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians, etc. Many of them are Chinese. I'm still friends with them after 20 years or so. We still keep in touch through the internet.

    I'll say I'm quite religious, I have a strong Islamic faith. But I'm also tolerant to other religions, every religion. I don't hate Jews. And the majority of Indonesian muslims are like me (except for the Jew thing, they always refer the Jews to Israel zionists).

    ronald was right. The radicals are only a small percentage, but they gave Islam a really bad name.

    and Lao, many Chinese Indonesian come here to study, not to seek refuge. Sometimes the May 98 riot issue was abused by some people to get asylum. They say they suffer from hate crime by muslims but in fact they just want to live in the US. Many deported back to Indonesia on this matter (in 2005).

    Yes, I agree to what bigpow said, Indonesia as a faux secular nation. Islam is a majority, and those who are minorities sometimes feel the unfairness of some things and regulations. But it's not a horrible place to live. Just ask my Chinese friends who still live happily and peacefully there.

  13. Did Barack's Indonesian father adopt him, perhaps making B. a citizen of Indonesia? That might present some interesting constitutional question regarding his eligibility to run for US president. I don't think there's any law regarding that, yet. Yikes! Another election case heading to the Supreme Court!

  14. The last few comments speak about how there is a low percentage of radical Muslims. Let me just give a little info - those few radicals are wreaking havoc in the world right now! The mainstream are in jeapordy of that small percentage. We must be very careful of those involved or associated with this element both abroad and here in the US. We were all warned that the next 'Jihad' would destroy America from the inside out. We cannot allow that to happen - questioning everything that doesn't make sense instead of just following a belief because that's the way we've always done it.

  15. Want the poop on Barry Soetoro? Search "Barry Soetoro" and find out why Barrack changed his name.

  16. Anonymous8:06 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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