Oleh: Rudy | September 8, 2007

Indonesia Nation-State Formation

The rationale for local decentralization in Indonesia is to be found far back in history. There were serious political reasons to carry out a far-reaching political decentralization that would involve the devolution to the local governments of powers to design and implement policies on matters that were of their own interest. The first was the need to find a solution to an old problem that Indonesia is not, and never was, a homogeneous country.


The ancient states of the archipelago are known from the records, mostly often written in Chinese, and of inscriptions and monuments, like those in central Java. The work of historians has recalled the kingdom of Sri Vijaya, which seems to have centered in the regions of Palembang from the late eighth-century. States also emerged in Java, the greatest of which was to be the Majapahit Empire, which flourished in the fifteenth century CE (Tarling, 1998). Until the early twentieth century, Indonesia was formed by a set of kingdoms and independent regions. Some of these kingdoms had their own political and economic institutions, which were very different, from one another (Ricklefs, 2001). Local units existed as a political community governing themselves before the creation of the Indonesian state. The Dutch during their 350 years of colonization, as well as Japanese during their 3 years of occupation, acknowledged those local units and allowed them to continue self-governance (Schiller, 1955).


The regions and villages played and important part in the colonial era struggling against colonialism. One example is Aceh, which lies in the northernmost province on the island of Sumatra and the first part of modern Indonesia to have societies organized along Islamic lines, which probably began in the late 13th century. By the 16th century the Sultanate of Aceh controlled a substantial portion of Sumatra and parts of Malaya. Conquered only with great difficulty by the Dutch in the late 19th century, Aceh remained under more or less military control until the Japanese invasion in 1942. The Dutch never were able to regain a foothold in Aceh and many Acehnese fought against the Dutch near the city of Medan and raised money for the nationalist cause (Reid, 1979).


At the same time, when Diponegoro (the early nineteenth-century leader of the Java War against the Dutch), Tuanku Imam Bonjol (leader of early nineteenth-century Paderi War in Minangkabau regions in West Sumatra), Teuku Umar (a local ruler who at times led opposition to Dutch expansion into Aceh) and others fought in those days, there did not yet exist, there was not yet any hint of, any feeling of being Indonesia (Alisjahbana, 1977). Diponegoro fought for the land of Java, even then we cannot really say for the whole Land of Java. Tuanku Imam Bonjol fought for the Minangkabau, Teuku Umar for Aceh and others fought for their own region or local community. Even Javanese army at that time under Sentot Alibasjah became parts of Dutch army and fought against Aceh.


The emergence of the idea of Indonesia was held in early twentieth century. The first three decades of the twentieth century witnessed a new territorial definition of Indonesia and the proclamation of a fresh colonial policy. The key developments of this period were the emergence of novel ideas of organization and the arrival of more sophisticated definition of identity. The former involved new forms of leadership and the latter involved a deeper analysis of the religious, social, political and economic environment. Ethic policy of colonial brought the impact on the rose of intellectual in Indonesia. Ideas of nation state from Europe were spread through education and organization.


The idea of emancipating Indonesian through the education was encouraged from an early stage by the journal Bintang Hindia (Star of Indies), first published in Netherlands in 1902. The Journal was distributed in Indonesia and was very widely read among the Indonesian elite before it ceased publication in 1906. The first modern organization was born under the name Budi Utomo in 1908. Budi Utomo primarily was organization for Javanese priyayi, an elite class of Javanese. It officially defined its area of interest as including the peoples of Java and Madura, thus reflecting the administrative unions of these two islands and including Sundanese and Madurese whose cultures were related to the Javanese (Ricklefs, 2001).


More active and significant organizations were soon formed. Some of them were religious, cultural and educational, some political, and several both. These organizations functioned at lower levels of the society and for the first time built links between villagers and new elite. The lesser priyayi class was important in several of these movements, but this was different branch of the lesser priyayi from the one who was active in Budi Utomo. Whereas Budi Utomo members were largely making their careers in government services, those who led more activist movements were almost entirely those who had gone through Dutch school but had then resigned or been dismissed from government jobs.


The idea of national Indonesian identity devoid of specific religious or local ties had even begun so widely accepted among the elite, and was being supported by developments in the cultural field. A new literature was growing, based upon the Malay language, which had been used for centuries as a lingua franca in the archipelago and was therefore essentially neutral in ethnic terms (Ricklefs, 2001). As this literature developed, Indonesian intellectuals stopped calling the language Malay and instead referred to it as the Indonesian language (Bahasa Indonesia). The linguistic vehicle of national unity was thereby born.


The important stage of Indonesia Nation State formation was in 1928, when the cultural and political trend towards Indonesian unity were formally joined at a Youth Congress held in Batavia. In its ‘Youth Pledge’ (Sumpah Pemuda) the congress adopted three ideals: one fatherland, Indonesia; one nation, Indonesia; and one language, Bahasa Indonesia. Beside that, the writer, W.R. Soepratman, introduced national anthem of Indonesia Raya for the first time. In celebration of the congress, Muhammad Yamin wrote a collection of poems, which were published in 1929 under the title Indonesia tumpah darahku (‘Indonesia, Land of my Birth’) (Ricklefs, 2001). These reflected the self-conscious conviction among young intellectuals that they were Indonesian first, and only Minangkabau, Batak, Javanese, Christian, Muslim or whatever.


The youth pledge marked the process from region ethnic to Indonesia nation, considering that the congress participants were came from the regions all over archipelago-from west to east archipelago. Padmo Wahjono wrote in his book Negara Republik Indonesia that Indonesia Nation had been emerged and existed in this stage (Wahjono, 1986). Indonesia nation at this period time had been laid for the foundation of the Indonesia State, which was achieved by the Declaration of Independence in 1945.


Modern constitution around the world in many aspects influenced Indonesia Founding Fathers who drafted the 1945 Constitution. It is reflected from their idea of constitutionalism in the Investigating Committee for Preparatory Work for Indonesian Independence (BPUPKI) meeting and Preparatory Committee for Indonesian Independence (PPKI) meeting. Besides that, they sometimes refer their idea taking examples and based on the former modern constitution especially Germany Constitution. In the Investigating Committee meeting, Yamin referred to United States Constitution, took examples of Russian Constitution. He also mentioned Weimar Constitution of Germany to be followed as the modern constitution, which guaranteed the citizen welfare (Bahar, Kusuma and Hudawati, eds, 1995). Even though Soepomo had his own idea of genuine Indonesian Constitution based on integrality idea, he kept referring to many modern constitutions for his argument.


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