Another anecdote from Barry Edge this one concerning a bizarre incident en route to a holiday…
Barry Edge writes….
It’s May 1978: our luggage was packed and labelled; our passports and air tickets in hand; and our taxi out front ready to drive us the short journey to Perth Airport. Yes, finally we were heading out on our well planned holiday in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Well planned that is with the exception of that incident at Djakarta Airport.
“And don’t you point that gun at me!”
When we arrived at Perth Airport we were informed by a Malaysian Airlines representative that our plane’s refuelling in Djakarta would be just that – a refuelling. The original schedule of a half day sightseeing by coach and a light lunch had been cancelled due to student unrest flowing onto the streets requiring a high military presence.
Our ‘plane taxied and stopped well short of the Djakarta Airport transit area and waiting on the tarmac were two lines of soldiers stretching back to the airport lounge…
It seemed that Suharto’s previously good relationship with the student movement had well and truly soured due to increasing authoritarianism and a corruption regime. Not for the first time had the legitimacy of Suharto’s presidency been challenge by the students, but by May 1978 it was getting very ugly and the safety of tourists could not be guaranteed.
Our ‘plane taxied and stopped well short of the Djakarta Airport transit area and waiting on the tarmac were two lines of soldiers stretching back to the airport lounge. Our instructions were to walk between the soldiers to the restricted zone whilst our ‘plane was being refuelled. Also, because the entire airport was in ‘lockdown’ refreshments and/or duty free shopping were not available.
Before entering the restricted zone we were subject to a pat-down which, in the great scheme of things, was seen as a small impediment knowing we would soon be basking in holiday delights. Trouble was, the zealous officials were a tad too personal and several passengers muttering quiet disapproval.
When it came to our turn Ann, my wife, was standing in front of me, but unlike those who only muttered their disapproval she clearly made it known that the officials’ behaviour was contemptible and refused to be pat-searched in such an aggressive manner. Before I could intercede a soldier approached with rifle raised.
What happened next simply beggared belief.
My wife was not refusing outright to the pat-down – just that it be done with a little dignity, and whilst explaining her feelings to the officials’ up stepped the soldier with raised rifle. Now her focus was on the soldier. Eyeballing him she exclaimed… “And don’t you point that gun at me!” simultaneously pushing the rifle to one side. Next we knew we were being marched away from the other passengers and told to sit in a small alcove.
Ann was still venting her disapproval when a senior army officer came by to admonish her for disrespecting their hospitality. Somehow my hand on Ann’s arm seemed to temper further outbursts.
With the announcement our ‘plane was ready to board the other passengers were escorted from the restricted zone whilst we remained under the watchful eyes of two guards. Over in the far corner of the transit lounge we could see one of the cabin crew of our ‘plane talking to the senior army officer who had called by earlier to talk to Ann.
What were they talking about we wondered?
After looking in our direction they walked away. It goes without saying our nerves were tested to the limit.
About thirty minutes later we too were escorted to our ‘plane. The two guards kept a safe distance – their rifles still raised. Back on board the cabin crew came by to see if we were okay. We most certainly were okay – once our ‘plane was airborne for Kuala Lumpur.
Was it a lucky escape? Or was serendipity watching over us? Or was it all down to the conversation between the Malaysian Airlines cabin crew member and the senior army officer?
We believed it was all down to Malaysian Airlines because, you see, Ann had been the winner of an all expense paid holiday for two of six days, seven nights in Kuala Lumpur, Penang & Singapore courtesy Malaysian Airlines (MAS) and our local Belmont shopping Forum.
Whatever it was there was no Djakarta stopover when returning home to Perth.
See you later…
September 14, 2018