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Intrigue from Baliís Recent Past

Bali History: The Mysterious Demise of Baliís First Governor: Anak Agung Bagus Sutedja

(6/2/2013) While the Balinese have recently gone to the polls to elect the 10th governor and deputy governor in what was seen by many as a controversial politcal race, it may be a propitious time to reflect back on the first man to serve as Bali’s governor.

Anak Agung Bagus Sutedja (1923-1966) was Bali’s first “official” governor, appointed by President Sukarno in 1958 after Bali’s elevation as a Province of the Indonesian Republic. Sutedja was the Son of Bali’s last Raja of Jembrana, Anak Agung Bagus Negara.

Prior to this, Sutedja served from 1950-1959 as the head of the Bali Executive under an appointment of a Provisional Regional Council. The Provisional Regional Council took over the administrative affairs of the Island from a Royal Legislative Council (Paruman Agung) comprised of representatives from Bali’s many royal courts.

After his appointment by I Gusti Bagus Oka as temporary head of the Bali region for 1958-1959, Sutedja  was then appointed as Bali’s first governor in December 1959. His second term of office as governor ended in 1965, a few months after the attempted coup of September 30, 1965, when he was replaced by the second man to serve as Bali’s governor, I Gusti Putu Martha.

Mysterious Disappearance

Anak Agung Bagus Sutedja disappeared under very mysterious circumstances on July 29, 1966 in Jakarta, the presumed victim of a political kidnapping, tragically common during that era of Indonesian history.

Sutedja was never seen again, precipitating a great deal of popular conjecture as to his final disposition. As reported by Beritabali.com, some postulate Sutedja was the victim of a political conspiracy while other more stories contend he escaped overseas because of his connections with the Communist Party and the bloody aftermath of September 1965.

During the 1950s, Sutedja was known to have enjoyed a close relationship with Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno. His surviving wife, Anak Agung Istri Ngurah Sunitri (82), tells of how she and her husband often visited with Soekarno at the Presidential Palace in Tampaksiring, Bali.

In the period leading up to the fateful days of 1965, Soekarno frequently stayed at Tampaksiring, often accompanied by his daughter Megawati who would eventually go on to serve for a period as President of the Republic.

Most historical speculators presume Sutedja died in a “cleansing” following the GESTAPU (30 September 1966 Movement) related to his close links to President Soekarno.

Those who still recall Sutedja’s administration of Bali, give him generally high marks as the Island’s leader. He led Bali in a period of heightened political tension, managing to maneuver a neutral position between the two dominant political parties of the time: The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and the Nationalist Party (PNI).

Following the attempted coup of September 30, 1965, President Soekarno asked Sutedja to remain calm amidst the fast-moving political environment of the time. But, on December 2, 1965, the ancestral palace of Sutedja in Negara, Bali was attacked by hundreds of demonstrators, accusing the former governor of close ties with the PKI.

Fearing for his safety, President Soekarno summoned Sutedja to Jakarta, the next day, December 3, 1966. Until his disappearance seven months later, he remained in Jakarta staying in the Senayan Complex.

Anak Agung Gede Agung, Sutedja’s first-born son, says his Father was met by four men wearing military uniforms driving a Nisssan Jeep at around 9:00 am on July 29, 1966. The men ordered Sutedja to come with them to the military garrison on Jalan Merdeka Barat. Agung said his Father followed their orders, not suspecting anything was amiss.

When late afternoon came and went, the mother-in-law of Sutedja became nervous and personally visited the Garrison where she was told no one had been ordered to meet or bring the former governor to their headquarters. A report was quickly filed with the Minister of the Interior, but subsequent searches bore no fruit.

Ever hopeful, Sutedja’s family conducted tireless searches for the former governor from the date of his abduction until the Presidency of Megawati Soekarnoputri.

40 years after Sutedja's abduction, resigned to the fact that the former governor was now dead and that his remains would never be recovered - his family burnt a sybolic  effigy on a cremation pyre in Bali, committing Sutedja's soul to the waiting universe.