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Palm Oil Ambassador, The Persistent Figure (Article 2)

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Palm Oil Ambassador, The Persistent Figure (Article 2)

InfoSAWIT, JAKARTA – When he was studying in Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), some lecturers assigned Derom Bangun as their assistant, such as, majoring pharmacy. At the time, Bangun’s life stories was not so good. His family in his hometown was decreasing in economy. He had to be clever to manage his own finance. From the third year, Bangun did not get money from his parents at all. Luckily, he got scholarship from Robert Kennedy and shell palm oil company. In 1963 Bangun got Rp. 2.500 each month from Robert Kennedy, United States of America’s Attorney. From shell company, he got Rp. 4.000 per bulan in 1964 until he graduated.

Besides, Derom looked for the other chances to get research projects. He regularly did coordination with his lecturers.

In 1963, when ITB did cooperation with Department of Basic and Mining Industry, Bangun and his friend, Ho Kie Liang were offered to be the researchers to make sulfate magnesium and accomplished field work in Madura at PN Garam.

After being to months in field work practices, they got back to Bandung to formulate report. They got enough research fund for their daily meals, at least, for a half month.

Their field work practices in Madura continued to others.

Bangun was asked for to lay hand on aluminum factory research in Bintan Islan. It was sponsored by Department of Basic and Mining Industry which the Minister was Chairul Saleh.

According to the government, Indonesia was lack of sulfate aluminum materials at the period. ITP got the assignment to investigate the possibility if it could take advantages on the rests of sulfate in BIntan Islan to be re-processed to be sulfate alumninum for the needs in paper factories. The project was coordinated by his lecturer, Tjiook Tiaw Kien that studied the lecturer at the last semester who was specialized in industrial chemicals. Some coffins of tail aluminum in Bintan Island were sent to Bandung to be studied further. They discussed three location candidates for the project, such as, Bangun next to Belawan, Kuala Tanjung, and Tanjung Balai, Asahan. In the end, aluminum smelting factory was constructed in Kuala Tanjung.

After the project was running for four months, it was substituted. The government thought, it had to substitute it. They thought, the more important one was to use asphalt as the roof for houses. The research was about to get construction materials which were cheap and qualified because at the time Indonesia needed materials for houses. Some asphalt coffins were sent to ITB to get more research for roof housing needs. Tjiook Tiaw Kien led the project. He delivered chances for Bangun to do asphalt research with extraction process by using hexane solvent as the material.

Bangun also designed the tools (equipment), laboratory to check if the asphalt could be used for housing roof or not.

After eight months of research, Bangun finally got the factory design to process the asphalt. He wrote the report and presented his research before the lecturers, the officials in the department and Public Work Department. He got it well and Bangun got good scores.

When he did essay for the final test, Bangun discussed the theme about asphalt process factory design for housing roof. Tjiook Tiauw Kien did develop Bangun’s essay writing. To get the right time for graduation, Bangun wrote the concept of essay by his own hand and asked for a library officer to re-type his hand – writing at this boarding house. The typewriter with the brand – Underwood, was sent from Berastagi.

His essay was tested on 29 September 1966. Some other lecturers tested his and Bangun passed the tests and got his title engineer in chemicals.


Persistent when working at PT Socfindo

After having his title as engineer, Bangun got back to his hometown. He started working at PPN ex Socfin (now PT Socfindo) as the second tekniker.

He persistenty worked, for instance, he had to send a 27 ton – steam boiler with the brand Vickers Hoskins from Belawan Port to be used in Bangun Bandar and Lae Butar factory in South Aceh. After working day and night, the steam boiler was successfully installed at the factory and was ready to use.

With his persistency, Bangun massively contthousandted to the company where he worked at. His career ran smoothly from the second tekniker, technology staff at the headquarter, head of technical, head of technic and technology, and finally as directors’ advisor.


Pesistent to the girl in his dream about

For his persistency, Bangun also successfully married the girl of his dream, Jendamita beru Sembiring, when at the time, she was the idol at her campus (student of Faculty of Economy, Universitas Sumatera Utara). Many male students were interested in dating her. To approach her, Bangun offered beru Sembiring ‘Statistic subject’ that she was difficult to understand about. What he did paid off. After a while, beru Sembiring finally liked him. After proposing her, the two got married on 16 June 1968. The couple got two sons and one daughter.


Persistent to develop (a) companies

The good palm oil plantation business climate made Bangun want to develop one.

When developing one of his, Bangun faced many challenges, such as, plantation topography, condition, social, and fund issues. His persistency made him successful to develop palm oil plantation company and factory consultant service company. From just one, it became three plantation companies.


Persistent to fight for palm oil interests

After working for about twenty-two years, Bangun resigned from the companies. He actualized himself by joing palm oil profession organizations.

In the organization, Bangun massively played his roles to make palm oil as the mainstay commodity in Indonesia and in the world.

For his love and knowing the massive advantages from palm oil, Bangun has dreamed to welfare many people from palm oil. He persistently fights for palm oil interests. Here are some samples about his persistency to fight for palm oil interests.

By the late of 1999, there was big disturbing issue in palm oil exports to Europe. Palm oil from Indonesia was polluted by diesel when being exported from Belawan Port, North Sumatera. The pollution was revealed when being examined in Rotterdam Port. It was broadcasted. Palm oil from Indonesia in Netherland would get blacklists. Each exporter company got claim documents from importer(s) in Netherland. Every importer was asked for the compensation from the pollution. Palm oil shipping to Europe from Belawan Port had to stop temporarily since it was found. It clearly delivered losses for the country.

Jusuf Kalla, Minister of Industry and Trade (who became the vice president), asked for Bangun, related officials, and other stakeholders to go to Den Haag and Rotterdarm to get the solution on the problem. It was the first time in palm oil export history in Indonesia.

As the Chairman of Indonesian Palm Oil Association (IPOA), Bangun was leading the groups and as the speaker. The negotiation with Europe (Fediol) did not well. In the beginning, Europe persistently should deliver back every ounce of palm oil. If it was not, the image of Indonesia in the global trade would fall into pieces. Palm oil producers would massively get losses. His persistency and solution delivered, made some palm oil (products) from Indonesia not be sent back.

When being the Chairman of AVOC, Bangun persistently proposed a change International Code of Practiceon palm kernel oil in the United Nations assembly called ‘Codex Alimentarius Commission’ in London and Rome. If it was implemented, it would be a loss for warm countries including Indonesia. Derom as the representation of IPOA, successfully changed the regulation. Palm kernel oil should not be warmed before shipping it because the temperature would be the same with room temperature.

Besides, when being the Chairman of IPOA, Bangun was one delegation of Indonesia who successfully struggled for the regulation about beta carotene substance in palm oil that would be exported to India. The changing regulation delivered positive impacts to escalate palm oil exports from Indonesia to India.

Bangun was always in the front page to counter palm oil negative issues by having diplomacy, advocacy, and scientific publication. The negative campaigns or writings about palm oil, got subsided slowly.

His persistency to fight for palm oil interests was appreciated by many figures. Prof. DR. Bungaran Saragih, Minister of Agriculture in 2001-2004 said,”............ Not many men in Indonesia as Derom Bangun who persistently and consistently fights for palm oil interests in this country and other countries.........”

Suswono, Minister of Agriculture in 2000-2014 told,“......... Derom Bangun is persistent, tenacious, smart and it is worth imitated for those working in agricultural sectors particularly and for every one of us.......”

Persistency is the character to be imitated from a figure ‘Palm Oil Ambassador’. To be successful in any sector, it needs persistency.

(Source: Derom Bangun: Memoar “Duta Besar” Sawit Indonesia, 2010 dan Derom Bangun: Pemikiran, Karya dan Pencapaian, 2023).

By: Maruli Pardamean/Palm oil practitioner and writer