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Kudang Laiskodat, a Charismatic Hero of Timor in the XVII Century

This charismatic warrior figure came from the Helong tribe. The Helong tribe called him “Aka Kudang Neno Laiskodat,” or in daily life, it was called “Koen Laiskodat.” The Dutch greeted him with “Kudang” or “Kuda”, similar to the shape of his legs, which were strong and sturdy like the legs of a horse, and his strength was the same as the strength of a horse. He had strong physical strength, so he was respected by the Helong people.

Within the scope of Helong’s life, “Aka” was a traditional leader, and Meo (warlord) owned a large land or landlord (Dale Lama Tua). In the Helong’s customary system, Kudang was given a noble task as a supervisor of tribal lands and also had the authority to distribute tribal lands to people who did not have cultivated land or a place to live. The distribution of land to the community is on the condition that it be managed properly and be responsible to God, others, and the environment. If the land given was not used, then a strong reprimand is given and even the land is taken back to be given to people in desperate need.

Robby A. Ndun, The Author.

The Helong community and the surroundings had a view that the land belonged to the King. Each year’s harvest must be surrendered, or “susut,” in part to the king or a landlord. The surrender of crops by the farming community showed a sign of loyalty and respect based on a sincere conscience to the king or landlord and was also intended as a form of gratitude to the Most High Guardian. The farming community also worked together to prepare the king’s garden, or “klap it,” because they saw that the king or landlord was not allowed to work and stand in hot places. The peasant community loved and respected the landlord or king, and, vice versa, the landlord or king loved and protected his people from time to time.

The peace and tranquility were disturbed when the Portuguese and Dutch arrived in Kupang, Timor Island. At first, their presence was warmly welcomed through Helong’s customary system, called “basan”. There was a chain of brotherhood and harmonization between the Helong people and the Western nation through “basan,” which was shown by respect, good communication and dialogue, as well as adaptive behavior toward local leaders.

However, the friendly attitude of the Western people did not last long. They had a mission to colonize, so they gradually became bored by carrying out arbitrary actions and using tricks. Their actions caused both physical and mental pain, which made people’s lives harder. A French explorer and artist named Jecques Etienne Victor Arago, 1790-1855, who went to Kupang in 1817, wrote all about it.

The cruel and inhumane oppression carried out by the West caused the rise of a warrior figure who wanted to fight and sacrifice to defend his community. The figure of the warrior was Kudang Laiskodat. He said, “Life will be more meaningful if you fulfill your duties and responsibilities to yourself, your family, society, the country, and God.” Responsibility is the nature of the human conscience, and its form is in service and sacrifice.

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Devotion is in the form of good deeds and thoughts, and mustering all strength as a form of loyalty, love, affection, respect, and sincerity. Sacrifice includes everything that is given as a sign of devotion. On the basis of this philosophy of life, it is imprinted in the mind of Kudang Laiskodat.

The warrior was called with a noble intention to raise the Helong people from adversity due to forced labor, the application of high taxes, the domination and exploitation of natural resources (the land of the people and the king was taken and controlled by force), underdevelopment, poverty, and illiteracy, people’s movement limitations, and discriminated treatment by the Dutch colonialists.

His noble principle was to free the Helong people from the shackles and slavery of colonialism. Many plans and methods were used to bring about the goals for the good of the people.

There were pros and cons, but it was his militant, heroic spirit and broad-mindedness that finally succeeded in igniting his fighting spirit to overcome colonialism. The shout of enthusiasm in the Helong language, “deken baen bel blai muti deken,” means that it is better to give something to one’s own ethnic group than to a foreigner. Many of his followers and people who agreed with him helped him in his fight and followed in his footsteps, which made the Dutch colonialists nervous.

A threat to the Dutch colonials because the charismatic figure, Kudang Laiskodat, carried out a rebellion by shouting along the streets, cursing the behavior of the Dutch company, which only made the native people miserable. He strongly criticized the native foremen as employees of the Dutch company who also took advantage of and contributed to the hardships of the people. He continued to struggle by building alliances with his brothers based on the ancient adage of his ancestors, “Sawu wants, Belu wants, Tie wants.”.This expression aimed to revive the ties of brotherhood among the Timorese, the Sabu people, the Rote people, and the Semau people.

Finally, they were all involved in donating their efforts through meo in facing the Dutch company power in Kupang. But over time, the Dutch carried out a political strategy of divide et impera, or to divide. To maintain the fort’s defense and security, the Timorese, Sabu, Rote, and Solorese were stationed in such a way that if there was a conflict or war with the colonials, they would face off again with the natives stationed around the fort. In connection with Kudang Laiskodat’s struggle with the unstoppable meo, the Dutch tried to capture and exile him to Batavia.

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Because of the Dutch’s various strategies and cunning tactics, Kudang was finally arrested along with the meo while performing a traditional ceremony on the northern coast of Semau Island near the port. After completing the traditional ceremony, Kudang and the meo were herded into a Dutch ship and left for Batavia on November 12, 1689. During the voyage, the ship did not pass through the waters of Semau Island, Monkey Island, and Timor Island. This voyage lasted six (6) months, but it never made it out of the water.

Finally, on the next month’s voyage, the Dutch ship ran aground in front of Cape Toda, on Bun Namo beach, also known as Bun beach, in April 1690. At Cape Toda, the charismatic figure Kudang Laiskodat told the captain of the ship to drop them off at Bun beach so that the ship could continue its voyage. Otherwise, the ship remains shipwrecked. The captain of the ship obeyed Kudang’s words, and finally the ship was able to pull one anchor while the other anchor could not be lifted. He just cut the rope, and the ship continued its voyage. The ship’s anchor that was left behind is now kept at the NTT Provincial Museum as a piece of history.

Laiskodat Kudang lived together with 23 meo around the beach of Bun Namo, which was quiet with a vast expanse of wilderness and uninhabited at that time. However, in the field, a spring was found which was named by Kudang Laiskodat, namely, “Uihelo,” meaning Helong water. The spring was still there until now. In their daily lives, they relied on the availability of nature and the existence of springs that were not dry even in the summer. However, their existence was again disturbed by the arrival of Dutch soldiers, who persuaded them to be loyal to the Dutch. However, it was ignored by Kudang Laiskodat and his meo. The Duth was furious, and the Dutch soldiers then gathered, handcuffed their feet and hands, and massacred them cruelly and sadistically on the shores of Bun Namo-Sulamu.

Kudang Laiskodat’s grave with the meos is currently being restored to be a historical site. There is a spring that never dries up, even in summer. The spring is close to the beach, but it never tastes salty. There is a cave with an area of hundreds of square meters that is a hiding place for Kudang Laiskodat and his followers. The 3-kilometer land which stretches from east to west along the coast has been acknowledged by the locals from generation to generation that it belongs to the Kudang Laiskodat, or the Laiskodat Family, or to the Helong People. This land should not be disturbed, taken over, or left empty until now. The coastal area has the potential for developing fantastic and exotic coastal tourism objects with a high historical value.

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I personally hope that the government of East Nusa Tenggara Province can collaborate with the Public Works Department to open a permanent road access to support the coastal tourism areas. Also, to make collaboration with the State Electricity Company a priority to embody the tourism sector as a prime mover. Meanwhile, the Tourism and Creative Economy Department needs to organize the Bun Namo-Sulamu beach as a new leading tourist destination in Kupang Regency, East Nusa Tenggara Province and also to foster the tourism awareness group in that region. The Department of Industry and Commerce also hopes to train and grow community businesses, especially the seaweed industry in the area. Also, right now, the Department of Education and Culture of East Nusa Tenggara Province is making the area a cultural tourist site by putting one of the guardians in charge of keeping the site in order to preserve the cultural wealth and local history of the area and help East Nusa Tenggara promote tourism.

Finally, to coincide with the spirit of celebrating the 77th Republic of Indonesia’s Independence Day, the author is interested in describing a little story about the history of the struggle of a charismatic figure Kudang Laiskodat. Previously, this article was written to commemorate National Education Day, May 2, 2022, with the theme: Leading the Recovery, Moving Forward for Free Learning, as those are in line with the 18th episode of Freedom of Culture and to make East Nusa Tenggara rise and prosper through the strengthening of literacy, the promotion of tourism through cultural wealth, nature, and its historical values.

Those are the reasons that the author is interested in describing the history of the struggle of a charismatic figure, Kudang Laiskodat. This local figure inspires us as today’s generation to remember his fighting spirit, who is willing to sacrifice, to defend the truth and justice, to love the culture of his ancestors and people, to adore and love his homeland and nation, and to fight for the independence of his people. His fighting spirit is in line with the profile of Pancasila Students because it contains life values such as: being a role model for the younger generation, fighting not for rewards and ranks, never giving up, and maintaining unity and integrity.

I hope this article is useful for the readers. God bless you all.

 

Reference:

The reference for this article comes from a book entitled: ‘A Study of the History of the Struggle of Kudang Laiskodat Against the XVII Century Dutch in Kupang-Semau’ compiled by Dr. Andreas Ande, M.Si. and published in 2021.

 

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