(Outline of a lecture presented in the Winter Lecture Series 1995 on Wednesday, August 16, 1995 at the AIA-CSEAS Monash Asia Institute in Melbourne Australia).
Before discussing the contemporary challenges, allow me first to crack the basic nut, by raising the basic question to expose the basic contradictions in what has been taken for granted during the last 50 years: is "Indonesia" indeed the rightful heir of the Dutch East Indies colony ? Or, is Indonesia actually a 'brand-new' nation-state, which has liberated itself completely from the Dutch -- as well as the Japanese -- colonial yoke ?
If the answer is that Indonesia is indeed the rightful heir of the Dutch East Indies colony, then logically:
(a) Indonesia's history as an independent nation should be seen as beginning on December 27, 1949, after the Dutch government "legally" passed its sovereignty to the newborn United Republic of Indonesia (RIS), not on August 17, 1945, when only a handful of Indonesians -- under protection of the Japanese occupation army -- proclaimed their independence;
(b) Indonesia should constrain itself to the Dutch East Indies borders, and not violate those borders as happened in the case of the annexation of East Timor;
(c) Indonesia should inherit all the Dutch colonial laws, including all the regressive laws to repress opposition and criticism of the regime, such as the haatzaai artikelen (the Hate-sowing acts) as well as the laws against 'insulting the authorities,' with a possible sentence of six years imprisonment for anybody who was accused of insulting the King or Queen (1) as well as the progressive Hindrance Ordinance (Hinder Ordonantie) of 1926, which provide the right of citizens to veto projects that are going to be built in their neighbourhood and are considered to be harmful for their well being -- a form of direct democracy;
(d) Indonesia should consist of a three-tier society, with the "brown" rulers who replaced the "white" rulers on the top, using "Foreign Orientals" and other non-indigenous and non-Indonesians as intermediaries to deal with the masses of the native peoples;
(e) Indonesia should continue the Dutch's discriminative religious policy, using religion to divide and rule the colonized, as the Dutch did by favoring the Christians while discriminating against the Muslims;
(f) Indonesia should limit its economy towards the production of raw materials to export to the industrialized countries, including the Netherlands, while mainly importing industrial, or processed goods, from those countries, leading eventually to a "dual economy".
(g) Indonesia should continue the Dutch policy of destroying the maritime powers outside Java (2), and concentrate development on the two major strongholds of the Dutch empire, namely Java and Sumatra (with the exception of Aceh);
(h) Indonesia should continue the Dutch policy of concentating the state's power in Jakarta (formerly, Batavia) in a unitarian state system (with the exception of Van Mook's federalistic system constructed hastily during the Japanese occupation in WWII), which is indirectly ruled by the faraway metropole (the Netherlands).(3)
Now, if the answer is that Indonesia is a 'brand-new' nation-state, which has liberated itself completely from the Dutch as well as the Japanese colonial yokes, then logically a different kind of "Indonesia" can be constructed,
(a) Indonesia's independence began on August 17, 1945, regardless of the consent of the Dutch colonial powers or the international community, which by that time was still dominated by the Western powers which came out as victors of World War II;
- as a consequence of glorifying its own August 17, 1945 unilateral declaration of independence (UDI), Indonesia can also accept November 28, 1975 as the UDI and the beginning of the Democratic Republic of East Timor;
- as another consequence of accepting Indonesia's own UDI is that Indonesia's support for the December 8, 1962 independence declaration of the "United North Kalimantan Republic" by Azahari's Partai Rakyat Brunei (PRB) really makes sense and hence the spirit of the aborted Brunei revolution is worth pursuing now; (4)
(b) the territorial borders of the Indonesian Republic does not necessarily have to coincide with the Dutch East Indies territorial borders. This does not mean, though, that the entire archipelago or region will become fair game for Indonesia's expansionism, but that those borders can continuously be re-negotiated and determined in accordance with the wishes of the people who live within those borders, based on the universally recognized right of self-determination; e.g.
- the West Papuan people did not determine for themselves whether they wanted to join the Dutch East Indies, but were incorporated in that colony only based on the Tidore sultanate's claim that they were Tidore's subjects, and were therby consequently claimed to be Indonesian citizens after Indonesia's declaration of independence; hence, they have the right to determine their own political future, a right denied to them in the 1969 so-called "Act of Free Choice" which the UN General Assembly accepted at that time. (5)
- the aspirations of the Acehnese people, who historically supported the Java-based independence struggle and later joined the Indonesian Republic on specific conditions, but who are currently opting for their own independence (6), should not be violently repressed; the Aceh people can also be allowed to determine their wishes through a UN-supervised referendum;
(c) Indonesia should critically screen all colonial laws, adopting the progressive ones while throwing the regresive ones overboard, using the people's welfare and not the ruler's interests as its main criteria of selection; (7)
(d&e) Indonesia should abolish all forms of discrimination based on racial, religion, gender, or political conviction, e.g.:
- Indonesia should not favor one particular ethnic, religious or professional group to the presidential seat and other important bureaucratic and military posts, while discriminating other ethnic, religious, or professional groups; (8)
- the "brown" rulers should not exploit the masses of their own race by using economic intermediaries from different races;
- Indonesia should not discriminate one religion over another, or even on set of belief systems (e.g. the monotheistic Semitic religions) vis a vis other belief systems, including polytheist Hindu and other natural religions, non-theist Buddhism, as well as atheism; (9)
- Indonesia should not deprive anybody from the political, economic, and cultural arenas based on their present or past political convictions;
(f) Indonesia should develop all sectors of the economy with equal attention both the industrial as well as the agricultural sectors;
(g) Indonesia should re-install the maritime powers outside Java, and not sacrifice them on behalf of favoring the agriculture powers in Java;
(h) Indonesia should seriously lay the groundwork of a federalistic state and devolve the power from the old capital (Jakarta) towards the regions, and also devolve power from the new metropole (the CGI, especially the USA/World Bank, Japan and Germany) to a genuinely elected parliament. (10)
If we still have serious disagreements on all those eight points, we have to ask ourselves, what are then the substantive differences between the "colonial" Dutch East Indies and the "independent" Indonesia? Or is Indonesia only a "new society" in an "old state" ? Or in a more popular language, old wine in a new bottle ?
This leads us then into the contemporary challenges, which are the legacy as well as the "hang-overs" of the 1945-1950 independence struggle:
(I). Defining who we are as a nation-state: is Indonesia a continuation of the former East Indies Dutch colony, a completely new nation-state in the making, or a newborn Java-based empire (Majapahit, or Mataram)?
(II). Defining whom do we consist of as citizens of that nation-state: are we a multiracial and multicultural agglomeration of peoples ? Or are we a single people (satu bangsa) undergoing a process of homogenization under a dominant culture, a dominant religion, and a dominant state philosophy ?
(III). Defining the means with which we rule ourselves: are we going to allow ourselves to be ruled continuously by a homogenizing and self-serving elite, which glorify the supremacy of the armed resistance in the independence struggle to legitimize civilian domination by the military as well as to justify the collusion of the former freedom fighters with their Chinese gun-runners ? Or, do we have to create a completely new Government ethos?
If the latter is the case then we have to demystify the glorification of the ksatria -- or warrior -- culture that is believed to have kept us intact as a nation from various external threats, by exploring other contributing factors which have lead us to (political) independence, as well as exploring other strands in the independence struggle which did not make it.
For instance, we have to explore the "100% merdeka" strand of Tan Malaka, which aimed at political independence from a "foreign" power with the liberation of the people from their own political and economic oppressors, who had been the agents of Dutch colonialism. We also have to explore the more peaceful means of liberating the masses from poverty and isolation from the global community through education, health and economic efforts, which were endeavoured by Muhammadiyah, Taman Siswa, and other civilian organizations. In the mean time, we also have to explore and appreciate the independence fighters on the diplomatic front, and not continuously blame them for yielding too easily to the Dutch demands, as we often read from the literature written by contemporary dwi-fungsi aplogists for the Indonesian regime.
Now, if we do not glorify the armed resistance in the independence struggle, and see their role as important as the peaceful resistance through economic and diplomatic means, then we should also terminate the collusion of business and politics, the "illegitimate child" (anak haram) of the armed guerilla struggle, (11) especially since it deprives the majority of the Indonesian and East Timorese peoples from the full benefits of the Indonesian revolution.
My answers to those questions are probably already obvious for those who are aware of my political trajectory under the New Order regime, having experienced major shifts in the nation's political culture, and having personally grown up -- biologically as well as intellectually -- in Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Irian Jaya, the Netherlands, the USA, and currently in Australia.
First of all, I do not see Indonesia as the rightful heir and thereby a continuation of the Dutch East Indies, nor as a newborn Java-based empire. Indonesia is becoming, as well as will become, what its peoples wanted it to become, even if that means a reformulation of the old Dutch East Indies borders -- which have already been violated -- with the consent of most Indonesian intellectuals, since 1975.
Secondly, the Indonesian society as I see it, should not be seen as a single people, but as an agglomeration of peoples, consisting of different races, different ethno-linguistic groups, different historical heritages, different religious and political convictions, who all strive for the right to be treated as citizens with equal rights before the law. Hence, the 1945 constitutional limitation that only "indigenous" Indonesians could become president should be abolished. Likewise, standard practices or the current predominant belief that only Muslim Javanese military males could even be considered as candidates for the presidency, should also be abolished.
Thirdly, Indonesia's citizens and residents should have the right to be ruled by a civilian government, with maximum protection against the collusion between business (private) and public interests, a government which is accountable to the citizens through periodical elections as well as through unperiodical referenda in matters which effect the public welfare.
Finally, as a way of conclusion, allow me to paraphrase from Albert Memmi's classic (12), which I think it quite appropriate to vcelebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Indonesia's attempt to become an independent nation-state:
. . .colonization materially kills the colonized. It also kills him or her spiritually. Colonization distorts relationships, destroys or petrifies institutions, and corrupts men and women, both colonizers and colonized. To live, the colonized needs to do away with colonization. To become a man or woman, he or she must do away with the colonized being that he or she has become. If the European must annihilate the colonizer within himself or herself, the colonized must also rise above his or her colonized being.
So the question arises then: after fifty years, have we as Indonesians risen above our colonized being, or have we bcome colonizers ourselves ? Not only colonizers of another people who did not share the same historical heritage as us, but also as colonizers of our own peoples ?
Fremantle, August 15, 1995
(1) In fact, these are the legal instruments which the "New Order" is actually using more and more to crack down on dissidents from all walks of life in Indonesia, recently -- trade unionists, journalists, academics, etcetera.
(2) There is a strong pro-Java & Sumatra bias in the Anglophone Indonesian historiography, especially the focus on the era of the Indonesian modern independence struggle. One tends to forget, that the Makassarese of Gowa were only pacified, through the Bongaya treaty, in 1905. Apart from Eastern Indonesia, the independence struggle carried out in Kalimantan has also been overlooked by many Anglophone historians. This bias is probably caused by the fact that many of the East Indonesian and Kalimantan independence fighters, such as Kahar Muzakkar, Andi Mattalata, Sam Ratulangie and his daughter, Zus Ratulangie, and Tjilik Riwut, began their struggle from the bases in Java, due to the colonial centralistic state in Java, before eventually moving to their places of origin. The late Tjilik Riwut commanded the Air Force and Navy units which attacked the Dutch military posts in South and Central Kalimantan. because of his close connections with Sukarno, who was also an admirer of the Air Force, he was later appointed as the first governor of Central Kalimantan, one of the three Dayak governors before a series of Javanese governors ruled Central Kalimantan, until now.
(3) We should not forget that during the BPKI debates, some of the founding fathers of the Indonesian Republic also opted for a federalistic state, namely Mohammad Hatta and GSSJ (Sam) Ratulangie. They were overruled by the majority of the BPKI members, which were obviously so much obsessed with unity, that they feared federalistic state would certainly work in favour of the Dutch divide and rule tactics.
(4) Currently, democracy stirs have already become stronger in this Malay Muslim monarchy, which Azahari and his Partai Ra'yat Brunei wanted to reform in the early 1960s. However, PRB is still banned and recently its former executive secretary, Haji Zaini Haji Ahmad, has been detained. Hence, another light needs to be put on this aborted revolution, instead of putting PRB -- and especially its former chairperson and founder, Azahari -- simply as a "puppet" of Sukarno's expansionistic dreams to take over the former British colonies of Northern Borneo. For a better picture of this aborted revolution and its aspirations, see Zaini Haji Ahmad's book, Partai Rakyat Brunei: The People's Party of Brunei, Selected Documents/Dokumen Terpilih. Kuala Lumpur: Insan; Graham Saunders, 1994. A history of Brunei. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press; Bill Tarrant, "Reform hopes rise as democracy stirs in Brunei", The Australian, May 26, 1995; and
(5) When the report on the "Act of Free Choice" was debated in the UN in November 1969, it was approved by 84 UN members, with 30 abstentions, most of them from Africa and the Caribbean. Support for Indonesia came mainly from the Western countries, which could not wait to invest in West Papua's wealthy natural resources, and from Arabic countries, which wanted Indonesia's support in their confrontation with Israel over the Palestinian people's right to self-determination. For a detailed report about the way the "Act of Free Choice" was carried out, and how it was approved in the UN, see Robin Osborne, 1985, Indonesia's secret war: The guerilla struggle in Irian Jaya. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, pp.40-52; and George J. Aditjondro, 1993. Bintang kejora di tengah kegelapan malam: Penggelapan nasionalisme orang Irian dalam historiografi Indonesia. Paper presented at a seminar on Indonesian nationalism in the wake of the 21st Century, organized by Yayasan Bina Darma at the Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga, June 2-5, 1993.
(6) See Tim Kell, 1995. The roots of Acehnese rebellion, 1989-1992. Ithaca: Cornell Modern Indonesia Project.
(7) Currently in Indonesia, the regressive colonial laws are being glorified by the regime, while the progressive Hinder Ordinance is often overruled by the new environmental regulations which take away the power from the citizens and the local communities and hand it over to the bureaucrats and their professional consultants, thereby favoring "expert-ocracy" over democracy.
(8) With the increasing power of the government-supported Islamic Scholars Association (ICMI), there seems to emerge a strong favoritism for the promotion of Muslim bureaucrats, which is seen by some Muslim politicians and academics as the right political 'correction' to the late General Ali Murtopo's favouritism for right wing Christians -- especially Catholics -- during the first decade of the New Order. Apart from that, there is also a strong favouritism for Javanese or Java-born bureaucrats and military officials, and on top of that, there is also a disproportional number of military or retired military personnel in the civil service.
(9) Indonesia's compulsory and restrictive religious policy has caused numerous unpleasant side effects. Because of the monotheist emphasis (in accordance with the first principle of the Panca Sila), Hinduism, a polytheist religion, has become molded into a monotheist religion, and under the Semitic influence of Christianity and Islam as well as under the economic pressure of modern life, have become a centralized religion and uprooted from their Bali environment. Many local or tribal religions, have to survive as a sect of Hinduism, for instance the Dayak Kaharingan religion and the Torajanese Aluk To Dolo. Meanwhile, in East Timor, many believers in the tribal religions were forced to adopt one of the four religions (Islam, Christianity, Hindu and Buddha) officially recognized by the Indonesian state, and chose Christianity. In addition, followers of Kong Hu Cu, which is a non-theist religion, have opted for Buddhism or Christianity. Finally the prohibition against atheism has triggered the 'free fight' battle for those atheist souls between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia as well as between Protestants and Catholics in East Timor (NTT), with all its unpleasant side effects.
(10) Even the current parliament, which already consists of persons screened by the security apparatus for their loyalty to the state philosophy Pancasila and the 1945 constitution, has practically no say in the approval of Indonesia's foreign debts, which has already been pre-arranged by the executive arm of the government. This is a violation of Article 23 of the 1945 Constitution, which emphasizes that the difference between a fascist state and a democratic state is in the right of the people through their parliament to determine their government's budgets. This shows how in reality the Indonesian government is not accountable to its own people, but to the people of its creditor nations -- mainly the USA, Japan, Germany -- which through their parliaments can determine the direction and quality of the loans and grants to finance Indonesia's development plans. This is a form of neo-colonialism one could say.
(11) Two of the richest Chinese tycoons in Indonesia, Liem Sioe Liong (Sudono Salim), and Eka Tjipta Widjaja were the gunrunners of the guerilla troops in Central Java and South Sulawesi,respectivelty (see Sori Ersa Siregar & Kencana Tirta Widya, 1989. Liem Sioe Liong:Dari Futching ke mancanegara. Jakarta: Pustaka Merdeka, pp. 24-32). Twenty years later, one of the younger Chinese tycoons, Robby Sumampouw, supplied the Indonesian troops which invaded East Timor in 1975, under the command of Benny Murdani and his two deputy commanders, Dading Kalbuadi and Sahala Rajagukguk. Currently, the three retired generals still act as the protectors of Robby Sumampouw's Batara Indra Group, which has its extensive business operations in East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Christmas Island (see George J. Aditjondro, 1994. In the shadow of Mount Ramelau: The impact of the occupation of East Timor. Lediden:Indoc, pp. 58-62, 88-89). Hence, the business and military connections in Indonesia are as old as the republic, and has become the basis of the formation of Indonesia's current oligarchy, which is very deeply entrenched in the Indonesian economy.
(12) Albert Memmi. The colonizer and the colonized. 1990 Earthscan Publications edition (Original French edition, 1957). London, p. 217.