Family wants more roads named after leftist national hero Tan Malaka

CNN Indonesia – December 19, 2020
Writing under pictures reads 'Young people refuse to forget' – Undated (Antara)

Padang – The family of Tan Malaka want more roads named after him in areas which were once a basis for his struggle. Not just in West Sumatra, but also in other parts of Indonesia.

Hengky Novaron Arsil Datuk Tan Malaka, as his heir, said that the state needs to respect the service of heroes. Moreover Tan Malaka was one of the activists who voiced Indonesian independence in the past.

"It is very fitting that Tan Malaka's service and role be remembered so that Tan Malaka will always be carved in the consciousness of the next generation of this nation and at the same time as a means of resisting forgetting", Hengky told CNN Indonesia on Thursday December 17.

According to CNN Indonesia's records, roads named Jalan Malaka are only found in West Sumatra, namely in Padang city (around two metres long) and between Limapuluh Kota regency and Kota Payakumbuh (around 45 kilometers).

Speaking separately, historian Bonnie Triyana believes that it is reasonable to consider the proposal in order to introduce Tan Malaka to the younger generation.

Aside from this, the story of Tan Malaka's struggle also needs to be taught more often. "How can we want to have many roads named after Tan Malaka in Indonesia if his history isn't even known", he said.

Triyana said that the younger generation would be proud if they knew about Tan Malaka's struggle, particularly if many roads were named after him.

"This great idea will be very useful if the story of his history is also taught to the younger generation so they can learn a lot from Tan Malaka as well as being able to be proud of an era when we once had international caliber movement figures who were fluent in half-a-dozen languages", he said.

Triyana also said that in the Rawajati suburb of Kalibata in South Jakarta, there are two lanes named Tan Malaka 1 and 2, although the trend is still limited.

Randi Reimena, a West Sumatran youth historian, agreed. Aside from naming more roads after Tan Malaka, other measures are needed to appreciate his service.

For example, by guaranteeing the freedom to openly hold discussions on Tan Malaka's ideas.

"In 2018, the screening of a film about Tan Malaka was banned in West Sumatra. Yet, there are two stretches of road [named after] Tan Malaka in the province. Meaning that naming streets isn't enough", he said. (adb/bmw)


Tan Malaka was a member of the Indonesia Communist Party (PKI) and a proponent of a syncretism between Islam and Marxism. He was executed by the Indonesian military in 1949 but in 1963 was named a national hero by Indonesia's founding president Sukarno. Along with Sukarno and the country's first vice president Muhammad Hatta, Tan Malaka has been described by many historians as one of Indonesia's founding fathers. But during the Suharto era, Tan Malaka was all but erased from history books because of his leftist ideology, although his recognition as a hero was never repealed.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Keluarga Ingin Nama Jalan Tan Malaka Diperbanyak di Indonesia".]