Pl Sc 1400 Indonesia # 1: Introduction and Background


A. Introduction
- Indonesia is an example of how efforts at political stability and economic growth can go wrong. The Main Features
- Firstly, Indonesia is an archipelago of over 13,600 (13,667) islands, with roughly 6,000 of them being inhabited. As a result the state faces a series of challenges very different from that of Singapore. Perhaps most importantly, there is little common identity among the residents of Indonesia, and separatist movements rage in Aceh and Irian Jaya. While East Timor has predominated in the news about Indonesian dissolution, it is a bit of a special case, in that it was annexed by Indonesia following the collapse of Portuguese rule in 1976 (invaded in 1975), and was essential under military occupation for nearly a quarter of a Century. Its referendum and subsequent movement toward formal independence may presage future territorial losses by the center, as many of the outer islands see themselves as being exploited by a government historically dominated by Javanese ensconced in the capital of Jakarta (more on this elite in a few moments). Java contains roughly 60% of Indonesia’s population in some of the most densely populated areas on earth, it and Bali are the two most populous components of Indonesia.
- Secondly, and this is a contributing factor in the push for decentralization, Indonesia is a treasure trove of natural resources, possessing oil gas, tin, rubber, timber and many others. However, as noted above, many of these are held in the outer (non-Javanese) islands, and there is a strong belief in places like Aceh and Irian Jaya that they are simply not receiving their fare share of the proceeds from the cultivation of these resources. This was especially true under the Suharto government, where his extended family and tight network of associates controlled many of Indonesia’s largest companies. A palatable whiff of corruption was in the air, this is one of the reasons that the country suffered so much during the Asian Flu, and why the reactions against the Suharto government were so strong. The succeeding administrations of B.J. Habibie (who succeeded Suharto in May 1998) and Abdurrahman Wahid (selected by the People’s Consultative Assembly in November 1999 and better known as Gus Dur) have attempted to clean up this image, but this has not been entirely successful, currently Megawati Sukarnoputri.
- Thirdly, Indonesia suffered seriously during the Asian Flu of 1997, and saw its GDP drop by nearly 14% in 1998. The clannish network surrounding Suharto and the incestuous relationship between government and business in the country reminded many of the outside investors of the first of the dominoes to fall, Thailand, only the problems in Indonesia seemed to be more acute. Accordingly there was a major collapse in the value of the Indonesian currency, the rupiah went from 2909.4 to the dollar in January of 1997 to 10,013.6 in January of 1998, in other words it was worth less than a third of its value one year earlier. For Indonesian firms who had large amounts of external debt (denominated in dollars) this suddenly meant that their loan repayments had more than tripled. Many of them were simply unable to cope (even with the IMF infusion of $43 billion of aid) and went bankrupt, this rippled throughout the economy and caused the precipitous decline. Since that time, the economy has enjoyed a slight recovery, 1999 GDP growth rates were 5.8%, still has not recovered to the levels prior to the 1997 crash, and the rupiah (as of Sept. 23, 2000) was trading at 8,800 to the dollar. At the present time, the estimates of the GDP per capita in Indonesia vary from $2500 to $3000, at purchasing power parity.
- Fourthly, Indonesia is mixture of ethnic groups, with a population of over 212 million, it is the fourth most populous country in the world. And, in an answer to a trivia question it is the most populous predominantly Muslim country. Yet, the ethnic divisions are a continual source of concern for Indonesia, during the political unrest of the past two years, the ethnic Chinese have been frequent targets for mob violence. They are seen as dominating the economy, even though they make up a very small % of the population (about 2%). This ethnic violence is one of the key problems confronting Indonesia (also Christian Muslim on the outer islands, will talk more about this later), and is frighteningly reminiscent of the mid 1960s, when an anti-communist pogrom (complicated, will talk more about it later) killed hundreds of thousands in the country, many of them ethnic Chinese. Exact estimates of the number of dead are not known, numbers given vary from 200 to 500 thousand. Anyway, the events of the last two years have raised concerns that this may repeat itself.
- Another facet of Indonesia that bears mention is the importance of the armed forces in the country, again this is not entirely unknown in the developing world (Indonesia is clearly a developing country) and harkens back to the chaos of the 1960s, when the government of Sukarno (post-independence leader and father of current VP)was engaged in both saber rattling with Malaysia and the suppression of an indigenous communist movement. The army plays a dominant role in the outer islands, it essentially ran East Timor, and has historically profited very handsomely from the extraction of resources from these areas. It should also be noted that the army occupies 75 of the 500 seats of the House of Representatives (they are appointed) and were credited as being the king makers (along with the additional 200 appointed members who, along with the House comprise the Consultative People’s Assembly which meet every 5 years to select the President, VP and outlines for national policy). The army has almost been the co-rulers of the state, in its territorial affairs office, it has structures in place (apart from the combat divisions) that mirror governments all the way down to the village level. Fragile civilian institutions. Gus Dur is attempting sweeping reforms of the military (who are hated in many of the outlying provinces), and nearly fell victim to a coup in January of 2000, after he said that General Wiranto (former head of the military)should resign his cabinet position over allegations of his involvement in the massacres in East Timor. Helpful steps have been taken to separate the military from civilian life, but the matter is certainly not settled (explain how Junior officers come to expect the perks they have seen their seniors enjoy). We will go into this in much more detail later.
- Finally, Indonesia has had a modified form of authoritarianism since the 1960s, but unlike, say, Singapore, Indonesia is not noted for its lack of corruption and its highly professional civil service – this is not intended to disparage Indonesia and its civil servants, but rather to point out exactly how exceptional Singapore is in this respect. In Indonesia, the reputation of the government is somewhat different, especially during the Sukarno era – the country became a byword for corruption and cronyism.
- So, when examining Indonesia, we see a largely populated archipelago facing dire economic, political and social challenges, rather different from our first two cases – both wealthy countries dealing with post-industrial problems, but Indonesia faces many of the challenges currently encountered by much of the developing world, dissolution of central authority, ethnic conflict, military involvement in the politcial sphere, economic uncertainty and difficult political challenges. In order to examine these challenges, we will first start with a brief (sure) overview of the country’s history.

B. History
1. Pre-Colonial Era

- Known as the “spice islands”, what is presently Indonesia has historically played a very important role in the world economy – early on, as the nickname suggests, for its exports of these commodities were the oil and diamonds for most of the last millenium. Mention the importance of pepper and other spices in the days before refrigeration.
- Ancient empire of Srivijaya (between 7th and 14th centuries), controlled the Western Indonesian Archipelago and southern Malaysia. Maritime trading empire that existed partly through Chinese protection (give them a brief bit on the tributary system). Records are rather sketchy, but it is believed that they built the largest ships in the world during the 7th century. Eventually conquered by a Javanese sultanate in the 14th century, early precursor of the conflict between the densely populated Java and the hinterlands of the area. Importance of the Arab traders and the spread of Islam, esp in the period prior to the European conquest. Yet, the Islam of Indonesia is a much different version than that which prevails in the middle east – explain how climate, etc. might influence a religion. Worth noting that Gus Dur, as well as being largely blind, is a muslim cleric attempting to run a secular state – explain how Islam still might be used as a means of protest.
- Initial colonial presence was by the Portuegese, who arrived in 1509, however, over the next century they would be pushed aside by the Dutch. The British arrived in the next century (1700s), but the Dutch were able to fend them off through the exchange of British holdings in Sumatra for Malacca and other concessions on the Malaysian peninsula (see notes on Singapore).
- The Dutch’s presence on Java was the centerpiece of their empire (esp after the loss of South Africa). Minimal presence on the outer islands until the 19th century.


2. Colonial Period
- To an even greater extent than the British, the Dutch administered their possessions as commercial concerns, profits took precedence over efforts at assimilation or social engineering (unlike the French). Profits were of intense concern to all of the European empire builders (mention the 3 G’s of imperialism), but they were paramount to the Dutch. As a result, whenever possible, the Dutch co-opted local princes and potentates and ruled through them rather than imposing direct rule. However, this is an old imperial story, the European country simply did not have the numbers to completely administer the colony, so locals had to be trained to provide rule in areas under direct Dutch control, and the students in schools run by the Dutch began to clamor for independence in the early part of the 20th century.
- Three main movements for independence in the first half of the century- the nationalists, trained by the dutch; the pan-islamic movement; and the Communists (mention Lenin and the toilers of the East), the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI). Through the 1920s and 1930s, the there was co-operation between the nationalists, the muslims (small group centered on Sumatra) and the communists. Had the common goal of independence, though differences certainly existed as to how development would occur following its realization, for the moment they could be put aside (again refer to the Soviet policy encouraging local comms to co-operate with other nationalist groups, hated by Trotsky but essential to Lenin’s idea of the weak links of capitalism. Of course, Trotsky was not relevant to Soviet policy by the latter part of the 1920s).


3. Occupation
- During the Japanese occupation, the communists were suppressed, but the nationalists were encouraged (Asia for the Asians). Japanese organized an Indonesian paramilitary force of some 200,000 men. Japanese also declared Indonesia to be independent on August 9, 1945, the day that the second atomic bomb was dropped.
- The Japanese, like the Dutch attempted to enforce their rule through the local elites, however, unlike the Dutch, who were generally conservative and primarily interested in the maintenance of the status quo, the Japanese endeavored to enliven the population and conducted ceaseless propaganda campaigns to gain the support of the Indonesian population for their own war effort. This meant that they were encouraging the local nationalists to speak out re the evils of colonialism, an opportunity that certainly did not exist under the Dutch. Established leaders like Sukarno and Mohammed Hatta gave their public support to the Japanese. This is not to suggest that the Japanese were altruists – far from it, they exported hundreds of thousands of Indonesian peasants to work in slave labour camps, but it was in their interests to allow the intellectuals some degree of latitude.
- Nationalists, led by Sukarno, proclaimed the Republic of Indonesia on Aug. 17. The older nationalists (those that had been active prior to the war), proclaimed the republic, set up a constitution, a cabinet and leadership with Sukarno as Pres. And Hatta as VP.
- Dutch were not overly enthusiastic about losing their colony so a five year campaign to take Indonesia back began in 1945. Though the Dutch, who had been exhausted by WWII and the German occupation, were not the first Europeans on site following the war. In September, British units began to land on Indonesia to support the Dutch officials who were attempting to restore the colonial rule. In fact, following the withdrawal of the Japanese there was a rapid disappearance of any real form of effective government for Indonesia. The British had neither the resources nor the interest (they had enough problems with Malaya and on the subcontinent), the Japanese were gone, the Dutch did not begin to send troops of their own until 1947, and the independence forces were too busy forming political parties to negotiate with the Dutch. For example, they had not even formed a military by 1947. Anyway, during this time, the dutch were largely restricted to the coastal regions of Java and Sumatra and the lightly populated islands of the archipelago.
- While the older nationalists like Sukarno and Hatta were urban elites with little connection to the peasants, a popular rising was emerging in Java and Sumatra. This was called the Pemuda (which translates as youth) movement. The participants in this movement were largely youths in their teens and twenties, who had been inspired by the Japanese to assert their independence from the Europeans. This movement took several forms: an army that harassed first the British and then the Dutch, and a popular militia that targetted minorities such as the Chinese and the Eurasians for looting and killing. While the Pemuda drew its members from most social classes, it was decidedly anti-foreigner. Explain a little on the positions of the Eurasians in the east.
- The older nationalists were able to exert some authority over the Pemuda, but this was shattered in 1948. After the Dutch had been able to muster together enough troops to retake much of Indonesia (began in 1947), they were able to arrest Sukarno and Hatta in December of 1948. Without the older nationalists urging for attaining independence through negotiations, the Pemuda conducted a year long guerilla campaign against the Dutch that resulted in their eventual withdrawal in December of 1949. As we shall see in a few moments, the Pemuda was also internally divided and would also split apart between the communists and the traditional nationalists in 1948.
- Peace conferences and military engagements characterized the next five years, until the Dutch (exhausted by WWII) granted their assent to Indonesian independence on Aug. 17, 1950, the fifth anniversary of the initial declaration.
- However, by this time, the nationalists and the communists had already broken apart and the two were engaged in battles. In 1948, following a directive from the Comintern, which ordered simultaneous risings throughout Asia (mention Malaysia and the Hukbalahaps in the Phillipines). Nationalists defeated the communists, but this would set the stage for two decades of enmity between the army and the communists.


4. Early Independence
- Initially led by Sukarno, named President for life, hero of the independence movement. Profligate libertine, who foreigners had to arrange women for during his visits, attempted to create a cult of personality in Indonesia. Period characterized by mis-spending and erratic rule.
- Sought to present himself as a liberator of the subjugated people’s of the world, important means of deflecting attention from the problems at home, the failure of his policies and of the general decline in the Indonesian economy since independence.
- Expulsion of the Dutch, the people who had previously dominated the economy.
- A few moments ago, I discussed the rising of 1948 and how this sowed bitter seeds between the military and the communists (not the entirity of the military, for some reason, the air force, as we shall soon see, became pro-communist). Sukarno played off these divisions, his personal appeal, as the hero of the revolution (do countries need national heroes, esp in a post independence environment?) was the strongest single factor assisting this process. Remember, Indonesia was, and remains, a very disparate country with a very tenuous grip on nationhood.


5. Rule of Sukarno
- General hostility toward the West out of the colonial era. Remember that for many of the colonials, capitalism equaled imperialism and Western domination.
- Important to keep the times in proper context. Remember that the two decades after World War Two saw the independence of most of the former colonies, each of whom was anxious to carve out an expanded role for itself in world affairs, anxious to demonstrate that they were no longer under Western control – insistent sovereignty. Sukarno sought to play on these feelings by hosting a conference at Bandung in 1955 that endeavored to promote unity among the former colonies (Afro-Asian Unity), at the conference he was largely upstaged by Nehru and Zhou Ehlai, but as the host he garnered a certain amount of attention.
- While the former colonies were seeking to expand their world roles, it is also worth remembering what else was happening at the time – containment and the coming Sino-Soviet split. So, you had the US, the USSR, and the PRC all competing for the hearts and minds of these nations, to say nothing of the former colonizers. In fact, two years later (1957), Suharto survived a coup attempt (most of the generals sat it out) that was partly sponsored by the CIA.
- Suharto appealed to the Soviet Union for assistance in the latter part of the 1950s and early 1960s. Hosted a visit from Nikita Khrushchev in 1960 (tell a little about K’s horror at the pomposity of Sukarno and his lifestyle. Excellent means for S to gain legitimacy at home, to present the hero of the revolution as a world player. For the Russians, Indonesia was strategically important – sitting 200 miles north of Australia and 12 miles south of Singapore and the all important southern control of the straits of Malacca and also important in the Soviet rivalry with China for control of the Asian revolutionary movements.
- Sukarno taunted the West, and attempted to play the powers off against each other.
- Sukarno was certainly not a fan of Western democracy. In fact, his criticisms of liberal democracy had begun shortly after the departure of the Dutch. In 1957, he pronounced: “I do not desire democratic liberalism. On the contrary I want a guided democracy.” He believed that democracies basically augmented conflict rather than solving problems and advocated a return to traditional Indonesian practices of MUSYAWARHARA, or deliberation. This idea, drawn from the traditional villages meant that deliberation took place until a consensus was reached. Central to this policy was a trusted village elder who would guide the process, and Sukarno intended to fill this role for the state. Thus, his idea of guided democracy was born. Of course, no elections were held during the period of guided democracy (which started in about 1957) and Sukarno lacked input from large sections of the population, so the degree to which this was actually deliberative, as opposed to the personal rule of Sukarno is rather scant.
- Through the early 1960s, Sukarno, who dissolved parliament and declared himself to be President for life, edged closer to the communists, to the extreme dissatisfaction of the military. By the middle part of the decade they were becoming increasingly prepared to countenance his removal. The generals who had sat out the coup attempt in 1957, were still reluctant to move. Through the first 16 years of Indonesian independence, the army had essentially stayed out of direct participation in political matters, but as their position in society came under increased challenge, they began to get restive. One of their real fears was that Sukarno would accede to the demands of the PKI that a people’s militia be formed from their ranks and issued weapons. The military viewed the emergence of a potential Indonesian SS with extreme derision.
- However, Sukarno and the his supporters forced their hands. On September 30, 1965, assassination squads of junior officers (allegedly communist) murdered six Indonesian generals. It is alleged that Sukarno condoned the plot, if not serving in a more active role in the process. When two of the senior generals (who were targets) survived, Sukarno fled to an Air Force base (where there was a greater affinity for the communists than in any of the other services.
- The army struck back, they were led by a junior general named Suharto. The air force base was taken, the generals of the air force were arrested and a deal was made with Sukarno. The military agreed to let him continue in his position of President (they presented it as having rescued Sukarno from these traitorous leftists), but only as a figurehead. Remember, at this time, Sukarno retained an enormous amount of personal prestige, and it served the military well to allow him to retain power for the time being.
- Was the military not concerned that Sukarno would revive his ties with the Communists? Not really, as one of the most frightening events in Indonesian history was about to end their influence on the archipelago. In October and November of 1965, a “spontaneous” rising occurred against communist elements in Indonesia, where all communists, potential communists, potential sympathizers and their families were wiped out. Estimates of the numbers killed in this pogrom vary wildly, from a couple of hundred thousand to over a million. Even now, the details are a little sketchy, but the synopsis, is, that goaded on by the army, local mobs across Indonesia (it seems to have been worst in Bali and Java) killed anyone suspected of having communist sympathies, usually using such instruments as axes, clubs and hoes. Women and children were slain, so that they could not one day take vengeance for their fallen fathers. Of course, this was an extremely unsystematic process, and it allowed the mobs to play out all sorts of local vendettas, the ethnic Chinese were a usual target. Horrifying event that still has ramifications for Indonesia and throughout the region. However, gets to the root of something we discussed with relation to Singapore – fragility of governments, communist influence, and precarious position of the ethnic Chinese. Justification for authoritarian governments across the region.


6. Sukarno: An Assessment
- While Sukarno was presented as the personal hero of Indonesian Independence, his rule contained some obvious, and related, problems.
- First, unlike Lee Kuan Yew, his ride on the Tiger was not a smooth one. His flirtation with the Communist Bloc (under the guise of the non-aligned movement) and the PKI did not do him any service in the long run. The military came to fear the communists and believed that they were poised to seize control of the state in 1965. Of course, there were grounds to their suspicions, as the murders of the senior officers will attest, but this was not something that they could countenance. Again, keep the time frame in context.
- Secondly, and on a related point, under Sukarno, the economy crumbled. His expropriations of first Dutch, then British property (Suharto would later offer restoration and compensation as a means of encouraging foreign investment) placed a black mark next to Indonesia’s name and Western investment dried up, his policies of confrontation with the West (see below) did nothing to help these matters. Much of the existing administrative and financial talent (European), was expelled from the country in the name of national development. Of course, there were few available to fill their positions. The latter part of his rule was characterized by shortages and hyper-inflation.
- Finally, his effort to present himself as a world leader of the non-aligned movement (in reality he had forged close relations with the Russians) might have played well at home, to a population that was filled with resentment at the way they had been treated during the colonial era, in international terms it was a problem. The army and the local nationalists were concerned about his flirtations with Moscow and Beijing, and the West was none too keen on his continued rule.
- In the end, his efforts to ride the tiger proved to be unsuccessful and Indonesia was left with Major General Suharto, who would rule until 1998.