On 15 August 1945, everybody was surprised when they learned from the radio that Emperor Hirohito had declared the Japanese unconditional surrender. Sjahrir, who was used to clandestinely monitor the global situation through the Brisbane radio broadcast by the Dutch Indian Government in Exile, contacted Hatta urging for immediate independence proclamation. He was known as strongly opposed to any political action taken under the Japanese supervision.
His underground groups in the regional areas had been alerted to declare the independence on due time if Jakarta failed to do so. However, when his colleagues in Jakarta actively participated on the preparation for independence on 17 August, Sjahrir missed the event as he kept himself away from them who had joint Angkatan Baru (New Generation) led by B.M. Diah, fearing the steps they took would end in anarchy.
Tan Malaka, another prominent underground activist, had long forecasted that Japan could survive in the World War II only for a very short time. Under the disguised name Hussein, Tan Malaka went around delivering speeches in Banten areas convincing his young colleagues that the independence should be fought and not donated by Japan.
“We were not collaborators”, he said: “However, the independence would be better to be proclaimed by Soekarno-Hatta on behalf of the nation.” His Banten colleagues strongly supported his standpoints and after having a consolidation meeting in Rangkasbitung on 9 August, they escorted him to Pandeglang railway station to convey his political strategy to Angkatan Baru in Jakarta.
Tan Malaka’s idea was in line with that of Angkatan Baru but frontally opposed to that of the old generations grouped in Gerakan Rakyat Baru (New People’s Movement). The youngster accused the latter as hesitant, proponent of the Japanese occupation, and unable to free their mind that the Indonesian independence required support and blessing from Japanese authority.
Most of the Angkatan Baru members were impatient and nervous fearing that Indonesia would lose the momentum. As Japan had surrendered, Indonesia should not miss the opportunity to proclaim their independence, otherwise, they would have no legitimate basis to fight against the Dutch claim to get hold of their ex-colony.
It’s now or never! They had no choice but to kidnap Soekarno-Hatta out of Jakarta keeping them free from the Japanese scrutiny. At the dawn of 16 August, they brought them to Rengasdengklok, east of Jakarta, in the hope that Soekarno-Hatta would be willing to proclaim the independence but nothing happened.
In the evening, however, against the intention of the Japanese military administration, Admiral Maeda guaranteed Soekarno-Hatta that he would care for them from Japanese Army and Kempetai threat. Back to Jakarta late at night, Hatta failed to arrange a meeting to discuss about the proclamation declaration in Des Indes hotel where most of the PPKI members stayed. Fortunately, under Soebardjo demand Maeda agreed to facilitate and make his house available for such a meeting.
After having discussed the latest situation in Maeda’s house, Soekarno and Hatta went to meet Major General Nishimura, a high rank officer in Japanese military administration (Gunseikan). The latter underlined Tokyo position to stick to the status quo and declined to support the declaration of the Indonesian independence. Hatta lost his temper and openly challenged him that they would continue to act unilaterally to achieve the independence. “We will show you how to act as it should be as a samurai”, he said emotionally.
Soebardjo invited around 50 people who had been waiting for Soekarno-Hatta in Maeda’s house, some of them were members of PPKI (such as Ahmad Soebardjo, Prof. Soepomo, Otto Iskandardinata, Iwa Koesoema Soemantri) and the rest were from Angkatan Baru (among others B.M. Diah, Sukarni, Chaerul Saleh, Wikana and Sayuti Melik). As Tokyo wanted to maintain the status quo, Soekarno-Hatta were now aware that it was impossible to stay with their original plan to work under the flag of the Preparatory Committee for Indonesian Independence (PPKI).
After briefly reported the outcome he got from Nishimura, Soekarno assisted by Hatta and Soebardjo drafted the proclamation text. They had only several hours left as they all agreed to proclaim the independence at 10 o’clock. Soekarno discussed and revised the draft according to the advice he got from all who were present there. Everybody was exhausted. When the whole process was finalized, the time showed 3.30 a.m.
At the day break, having learned that Ikada Square was encircled and guarded by Japanese soldiers, the plan to declare the independence at that site was changed to 56, Pegangsaan Street, then Soekarno’s residence. It was ironic that all the prominent figures from Angkatan Baru, who had actively participated on the preparation of the proclamation, just missed the momentous event simply because they were unaware of such an abrupt change.