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National figure and historian Des Alwi Abubakar

National figure and historian Des Alwi Abubakar died on Friday, aged 82. His family said he died in his sleep at his home in Permata Hijau, South Jakarta, at 5 a.m. Des had heart bypass surgery three weeks ago. Born in Banda Naira, Maluku, on Nov. 17, 1927, Des was a vocal advocate for the development of Banda Naira, a group of small volcanic islands in Maluku, as a tourist destination. The islands had a much darker past, being in colonial times a place of exile for pro-independence activists.

Des is also considered one of the country’s pre-eminent historians, documenting the history of Indonesian independence through film and documents. He learned his skills from national figures sent to Banda Naira by the Dutch, including Sukarno and Muhammad Hatta, who went on to become the country’s first president and vice president respectively. Central Maluku councilor Lutfi Sanaky said Des deserved to be declared a national hero “for the services he rendered as a historical and cultural figure.”

“He has worked for the betterment of the nation since the time of President Sukarno,” he said. “He was active in fighting for the nation’s freedom and served as a diplomat in Switzerland, the Philippines and Hong Kong, as well as ambassador to Malaysia. As a councilor for Maluku, we feel a great loss.” Des was awarded the Mahaputra Pratama medal in 2000, and he received two other medals.

Prayers were held at his Jakarta home on Friday and his body was then flown to Ambon. Prayers will be held at the Maluku Council in Ambon this morning, before his body is flown to Banda Naira, where he will be buried, according to his wishes. He is survived by his four children and five grandchildren.

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