FORGOTTEN, NOT REMEMBERED © Duncan Graham 2006
The Netherlands War Graves Foundation does a great job maintaining its seven cemeteries in Indonesia.
But those that predate the war, like this one in Surabaya, are no longer respected. The tombs have been plundered for valuables. The ghouls’ tunnels remain open as a sign to others: ‘Don’t bother – we’ve robbed this corpse.’
There are flower sellers nearby, but the time for petals to be scattered at the Jalan Peneleh graveyard have long gone. Villagers use it for a shortcut. Washing hangs under the little roofs. Tree roots have lifted the slabs.
Some read: ‘Never to be forgotten.’ They lie.
Others have no words. The marble has been taken for tabletops. Angels weep over drying baskets. Neither fame nor fortune can protect the dead from the living. The one-time rulers of Java have turned to dust.
Historian Eddy Samson (pictured) and his friends have repaired a few broken graves for families in Europe who want their ancestors’ bones to rest in peace.
But most memorials are just crumbling – waiting for the time when the land will be needed for a highway or shopping mall. Then the last remnants of Dutch colonialism will be erased. Forever.
(First published in the Sunday Post 3 September 2006)