The Story of Perantau in Nusantara (#02)

Kamaruzzaman Bustamam Ahmad


The life of perantau initially struggled. An informant told how a
perantau community was built in the interior of Papua. He jokingly said that
initially, the village is established because there were perantau from Java who worked
on a project. They then settled there. Build a house. The family came from
Java. The market happens by itself. After that, the government administration
came later to the place. Finally, there was a community of nomads. In the past,
the term most frequently used was transmigrant, one of the New Order government
programs to move Javanese to several islands in the archipelago.

However, the government’s intervention began when they departed
from their hometown for the transmigration program. On the other hand, the
pattern of village development described above is pure because there is a new
area development project in the interior. When we headed to Boven Digoel, we
had the wrong direction, heading to an unknown village. We met a resident who
works as a traveling salesperson who has lived in the area for decades. The
migration pattern due to a new project is interesting to observe,
where those who live a life full of adventure every day.
Distant market. Unfriendly roads. Then, the internet network sometimes does not
exist. This is where the mental resilience of the perantau is tested. When
visiting tourist attractions in Musamus, almost all of the sellers are Javanese
perantau, who has lived in Merauke Regency for decades.

When entering this village, there is a feeling that was being in
the land of Java, where the music of Dangdut Koplo attracts visitors to dance.
The Javanese language is used for the communication between visitors and locals. The
visitors brought their families along. They did not feel they were far from
their hometown in Java. Sometimes they say that it is rather difficult to
return to Java due to economic conditions that do not support their
lives. When we met one of the families, he said that his son was in one of the
districts in Papua. They made a video call to each other to treat homesickness.

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The perantau adjusted themselves to a new life and new relatives.
One of the sellers said they did not want to get into trouble with the natives.
Usually, the problems that occur do not make sense because, in the end, it is
to find income through shortcuts. For example, when we stayed at Boven Digoel,
the owners were a husband and wife who had lived in the area for almost three
decades. Her husband works in a government office. They then opened a homestay at
their residence.

Their homestay is often full, even if they only provide a fan in
the room. The owner said that at 11 pm, the gate would be closed because the
natives were often drunk and looking for trouble. They warned that drunks would
mill about on the roadside every night and often bring trouble. This condition
was confirmed when I met a police officer who told me that the most problems they encountered were drunks who always
disturbed the community. If they are found on the side of the road in the
morning, they are usually drunk at night.

When we were in Munting, we were
told that that night there was a woman who was constantly raped by drunks. A
woman who is mentally ill on the street. Here the drunkards do not think about
the face. The important thing is that they can express their lust. That night a
not mentally healthy woman was sleeping right in front of our homestay.
Sometimes she was so weak because he served the drunkards who met her. This
story was obtained from the drivers of Munting – Merauke, who were perantau.
The same thing happened when we were in Merauke. Hotel staff said that if
someone looked for a room in the middle of the night. It was ensured that the
room be fully booked. So the drunk did not stay at the homestay. When we were
at a homestay in Merauke, at 2 or 3 in the morning, almost all of the room
doors were banging on. The receptionist said that it was drunks looking for
lodging or looking for trouble.

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The condition of the residents
who did not improve due to the arrival of the nomads was sarcastically stated:
“they came with stoves (
kompor) they
came home with suitcases (
kopor).” This is the daily
scene of the local people who cannot compete with the newcomers. The same thing
was also found in several cities controlled by perantau, such as Sulawesi.
Usually, they have the power and an extensive network to take care of each other.
When we arrived in North Kalimantan, just as we arrived, one of the Paguyuban
of Makassar immigrants was holding a meeting to elect its leader. The name of
the organization is KKSS (South Sulawesi Family Harmony). The influence of this
organization is quite strong, not only in the economic field but also in
politics. They can regulate the political system through a network of family
harmony that comes from various backgrounds.

Our nephew, who married in Makassar, has relatives
in Ternate who is the chairman of KKSS. He has a network with all the perantau
from South Sulawesi. No official does not know him. In several meetings, when
they saw this man, everyone acknowledged that the influence of KKSS was
influential in that area. This person becomes an essential person for anyone
who wants to be a leader in the area. In Kaltara, for example, every time there
is an election, one of the leaders chosen is certainly from South Sulawesi.

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When we were in Nunukan. A resident said that all residents in
Nunukan are perantau who have lived on this island for a long time. So, if
there is a regional head election, ethnicity issues often arise secretly
because most of the population wants their figures to become regional leaders.
Nunukan is also the entry point for goods from Malaysia, not to mention the
migrant workers returning from overseas. Nunukan Island, adjacent to Sebatik
Island, is a gathering place for various ethnic groups in the
archipelago.

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