25 July 2010

Indonesian Heroes -- Achmad Mochtar...

Indonesia is a wonderful country. Indonesia is a country filled with many wonderful and accomplished people. Indonesia is also a country with a rich history. It is in consideration of this that I post this little news piece discovered on my daily surf through Internet news. The post is in stark contrast to the less than rosy picture I have been painting with the posts about SBY and his ineffectual presidency.

Achmad Mochtar is not necessarily a name that jumps from the page as an easily identifiable Indonesian hero. However, he should be recognised much more widely for his sacrifices for the nation and her people. And, perhaps, this may now begin to happen.

Achmad Mochtar was executed by the Japanese in 1945. His beheading was to perpetuate a cover-up of a failed Japanese experiment that resulted in the deaths of some 900 Indonesian forced laborers. The experiment was the testing of a tetanus vaccine. The wide-scale experiment was performed on the 900 Indonesians to test whether the vaccine was safe before it would be administered to Japanese troops.

Mochtar was one of Indonesia's greatest scientists and was held in such high regard that he became head of the Eijkman Institute of Medical Research. Mochtar and his associates were working on medical research that was also looking at the possibility of creating and administering a tetanus vaccine. However, it is clear that the vaccine that poisoned the Indonesian forced laborers was the Japanese one. This is where the story takes a tragic turn for Mochtar and his staff.

In an attempt to cover-up the incident the Japanese quickly blamed Mochtar and the Eijkman Institute. The Japanese arrested all of the Eijkman staff in October 1944. The staff were tortured and mistreated. However, as quickly as they had been arrested, the staff of the Eijkman were released. Mochtar though continued to be held. Mochtar was subsequently beheaded, his body crushed by a steamroller, and his remains tossed into a communal grave.

Research conducted by a clinical research scientist from Oxford University, Kevin Baird, has found that Mochtar had taken the blame for the failed experiment on the proviso that the Japanese released all of his staff.

Achmad Mochtar deserves to be recognised for his sacrifices.

He was a martyr in the true sense of the word, he was a patriot, and a true Indonesian.

Maybe the president, the parliament and those in high public office in Indonesia could learn a thing or two from the sacrifices of Achmad Mochtar.

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