East Timor Independence
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All of this was understood by Indonesia's "foreign friends", who also knew how to bring the terror to an end, but preferred evasive and ambiguous reactions that the Indonesian generals could easily interpret as a "green light" to carry out their work.
The sordid history must be viewed against the background of US-
Indonesia relations in the postwar era. The rich resources of the archipelago, and its critical strategic location, guaranteed it a central role in US global planning. These factors lie behind US efforts 40 years ago to dismantle Indonesia, perceived as too independent and too democratic
- even permitting participation of the poor peasants. These factors account for western support for the regime of killers and torturers who emerged from the 1965 coup.
Their achievements were seen as a vindication of Washington's wars in
Indochina, motivated in large part by concerns that the "virus" of independent nationalism might "infect" Indonesia, to use Kissinger-like rhetoric.
The recent convulsions inside Indonesia - with its people finally
crying for freedom and democracy - and the Nobel Peace Prize of 1996 -
shared between Bishop Belo, a dominican supporting the Maubere people in
Dili, and Jose Ramos Horta, a politician and activist who represents the
Resistance historic leader, Xanana Gusmao, imprisioned in Indonesia for a
20-year sentence - have brought a new hope to the fight of this martyr people. Also, economic crisis hitting south-east Asia has shaken the dictatorship in Jakarta more than ever. The winds of change blowing throughout Indonesia started to hit East Timor...
Introduction to Indonesia
Indonesia is the country with the more of Muslims in the world which
means 87 per cent of 180 million habitants. Nevertheless, the major part of
the declared Muslims mix their faith in Allah with animistic or Hindu-
Buddhist beliefs. These are reminiscences of the Indian colonization that would be interrupted with the penetration of Islam in the 16th century, generally superficial and incomplete.
Due to the insular configuration, composed by 13 677 islands, 3 000
inhabited, and with an approximate extension of 1/8 the perimeter of Earth,
Indonesia faces problems of national unity. Being the fifth most populous nation, 2/3 are concentrated in only the fifth larger island, Java, where the density is one of the highest. The solution passes inevitably by birth control and transmigration to territories such as Papua New Guinea, recently East Timor but also in between with the evident purpose of dissolving local cultures in the predominant Javanese which is only one amongst 360 tribal and ethno-linguistic groups and more than 250 different languages and dialects.
The Dutch colonial domain had been massively based in Java, with the
rest of the archipelago had developed very unequally. From the rigid
Islamic areas of North Sumatra to the tribes of Borneo or the Christian islands of the east, a variety of economic and social systems experienced very distinct problems for their progress.
Independence of Indonesia and Sukarno
At the time of Indonesia's proclamation of independence in 1945,
President Sukarno defined an ideological base for the state -- the "Panca sila" (meaning "five virtues") -- to be followed by all citizens and sworn by the social organizations. Main principles imposed were the adoption of
Indonesian "Bahasa" language and the acceptance of one among five religions
-- Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism and Buddhism -- forbidding the animist cults and other traditional practices. Thus "Panca sila" was assumed as an instrument of governmental control and a mean to javanize the diverse cultures.
But not without much internal opposition. Illuded with the possibility
of the creation of an official Islamic state, when Suharto reached to
power, Communist administrators and Islamic movements supported the
Revolution, but what they didn't expect was the minor concessions offered, and once annihilated the Communist Party, an “important preoccupation of the government has been to control, domesticate or destroy the most orthodox and active Muslim factions” (Prof. A. Barbedo de Magalhгes, Oporto
University). Since then they oftenly erupt in riots against the military aristocracy, basically syncretic in matter of religion.
Besides reaffirming the "Panca sila", in 1982 Suharto introduced the
Law of the Associations which would fasten the strain on political, religious and social associations as it increased the powers of the administration to dismiss or impute directors to the aggregations, to destroy or agglutinate them in others more vast and controlled by the militaries.
Social and Political instability is patent in public insurrections in favor of democracy, which in September of 1984 culminated with the killing of 60 Muslims and imprisonment of important personalities such as of former governors that defied an inquiry to the incident.
Neo-colonialism in Indonesia? Many authors mention that Sukarno had a dream: the formation of a great Indonesia comprising the totality of the ancient Dutch East Indies, inclusive the non-Indonesian population. For this reason had he renounced to the federate structures initially conceived for the creation of the United States of Indonesia -- thus betraying the agreement with the Dutch for the transfer of sovereignty --, in favor of an unitary constitution, although still provisional. The new direction was taken in August of 1950, three months after an unilateral declaration of independence by the South Moluccas.
The first elections, free and democratic in fact, would be held in
1955, but disputed by more or less 170 parties! Their differences naturally brought difficulties to the functioning of the parliamentary democracy. On one hand, between the exponents of pre-Islamic syncretism of the "Nahdatul
Ulama" (NU) and the orthodox Moslems of the "Masyumi", which's vital strength came from the outside -- West Sumatra and North Celebes besides
Occidental Java (Sundanese ethnic origin). On the other hand, between the
Nationalist Party (PNI) and the Communist Party (PKI), based in Java, and these with the Moslems.
The inefficiency of the administration, which passed through seven governments since 1949 to '57, and the rivalry engaged by the parties alone, in contrast with the heroism of the Revolution of August 17th, after all, the concentration of decision and power in Java as restrictor of the economic, social and cultural development aroused at the end tension in the exterior islands.
In February of 1957, Sukarno criticized the Western liberal democracy
because unadapted to Indonesian particularity. He interfered more in the
constitutional processes and appeals to his concept of "Guided Democracy", founded on indigenous procedures: the important questions should be decided
through prolonged deliberations ("musyawarah") in order to obtain consensus
("mukafat"). This was the practice in the village and the same model ought to be adopted for the nation. Sukarno proposed a government formed by the four main parties and a national council represented by parties and functional groups in which, under the guidance of the president (himself), consensus would express itself.
In spite of the charisma gained by Sukarno as father of the country and mentor of the principle "unity in diversity", he was unable to avoid the proclamations of the martial law in March of 1957 as a response to the regional dissidences which reached their peak.
At the end of the year a further set-back was brought by the defeat of
a motion for the renewal of negotiations concerning the destiny of West New
Guinea. In a series of direct actions across the country, Dutch property was seized with the Indonesian government taking over. In the beginning of
1958 West Sumatra claimed for the constitution of a new central government under the leadership of Hatta, a moderate and historic figure of the
Revolution, from the start vice-president of Sukarno up until two years ago when he resigned because disagreeing with his policy. Ignored the appeal of the Sumatrese a new revolutionary government was formed, supported by leaders of the Masyumi Party, including the ex-Prime Ministers Natsir
(September 1950 -- March '51) and Harahap (August '55 -- March '56). The military commandant of the North Celebes joined the initiative, yet most striking was CIA's assistance with armament including aircrafts.
Suppression of the revolt was nevertheless soon accomplished, and with
the regions undermined, the parties discredited and the prestige of the
victorious army elevated, Sukarno resumed the idea of Guided Democracy in
partnership with the military. Meanwhile, the army chief of staff A.
Nasution had committed himself to the thought that the return to the revolutionary constitution of 1945 (presidential-type) would offer the best means for implementing the principles of deliberation, consensus and functional representation. Sukarno urged this course in a speech to the
Constituent Assembly, elected in 1955 to draft a permanent constitution.
Despite failing the approval of the necessary two-thirds for majority, he introduced it through a presidential decree of dubious legality.
Indonesia's domestic as well as foreign diplomacy is difficult to
conceive in terms other than in the context of neo-colonialism. It
certainly is incompatible with the spirit of the Afro-Asian Conference of
Bandung held in Java, in 1955. Among twenty nine countries consensus was reached in order to condemn colonialism “in all it's forms of manifestation”. As it seems, imperialism isn't condemnable so long the territories comes from an ancient colony. Like the annexation of the
Moluccan islands (1950-52) and in 1969 the also former Dutch West New
Guinea, long pretended. The last was integrated after an Act of Free Choice sanctioned by UN. In truth, many journalists and observers would consider the process orchestrated but it had already been sealed. Today it is remembered as perhaps the most unfortunate episode UN's history.
In both regions, as well as in other islands of the Pacific, population claim Melanesian ancestrality, not identifying themselves with
Indonesia, predominantly Malaysian.
The country has always been tormented by regional rebellions. From the
perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalist movements, even in Java (where in the
district of Acheh, a Moslem state practically subsisted between 1948 and
1962), Sumatra and Celebes as we've seen but also Kalimantan, to those involving Christian groups as in the South Moluccas. Still in 1984 the
Movement for the Liberation of Papua erupted in attacks against the main cities of the territory, hoisting their flag in the capital opposite to the
The power of Sukarno depended along the years of the preservation of
the equilibrium between the army and the Communist Party (PKI). The period
assisted to the crescent popularity of the communists due to the consistent
protection moved by the President in face of the incursions of the
militaries. he opposed to the prohibitions of congresses and editorials, banished political organizations patronized by the military to blacken the
PKI, placing some of their militants in political posts. Many analysts think that Sukarno was preparing the path for the rise of the communists to the power. Others say that his action intended to assure a the permanently threatened equilibrium
The coup of Suharto and the military. On the night of September 30,
1965, a group of subaltern officials based at Halim Air Base attempted a coup d'йtat to anticipate what they alleged to be the take-over of a pro-
Western council of generals. But by following morning the Strategic Reserve of the Army Forces (KOSTRAD), commanded by Suharto, had concluded a successful counter-attack. For specialist Benedict Anderson, of Cornell
University, it seems odd that Suharto, who would gather the reins of power into his hands, hadn't been aimed at by the "30th of September Movement" which assassinated six army generals (while a seventh, A. Nasution, escaped).
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