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State

Capital

Indonesia

Djakarta

Currency unit

Rupiah

Connections

Borders

East Timor

Genocide

Hegemony

Irian Jaya

Islam

Military

PNG

SEA

Terrorism

War 1

War 2

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

History

This is a state created by the European colonial powers, first the Portuguese, later the Dutch. As with the British in India the Dutch created the country from a collection of pre-existing states and cultures. The inhabitants speak Malayo-Polynesian languages. There is a Hindu-Buddhist culture on which Islam is to some extent superimposed. This culture is by no means homogenous. The pre-Hindu culture may also be represented. Not a lot is known about this but there are indications of an ancient culture.

Indian and Buddhist influences came to the islands about 2000 years ago at the same time as they opened up trading links with China. In the 9th to 13th centuries the main power was the kingdom of Srivijaya based on the Malayan peninsula which dominated Java and Sumatra as well as the peninsula. Then the Javan kingdom of Majapahit dominated the area until Islam came in the 13th century. It had spread everywhere except Bali by the end of the 15th cent. Islam came partly through the traveling Arab traders from Hadhramaut and from India (modern Bangladesh). Islam became well entrenched and the Majapahit kingdom came to an end. Bali retains a mainly Hindu culture, but even in the other islands the popular culture includes many rituals and beliefs which owe a lot to the Indian influence.

In the 16th century the Portuguese arrived (at the Moluccas in 1511) looking for the mildly hallucinogenic Nutmeg .

From the 17th century the Dutch controlled the whole area: Java, Sumatra, Moluccas, Sulawesi, Borneo (except for Portuguese Timor, two small colonies on the island, and northern Borneo ruled by the British). They ruled it as a colony similar to the British in India.

Japanese Occupation and Independence
In 1942 the Japanese invaded and occupied the area. They found the oil fields vital to fuel their war effort. They surrendered in 1945 and the Dutch tried to come back but there was then a war with Indonesian nationalists until Independence in 1949.

Soekarno became president. Irian Jaya (West New Guinea) was transferred by the Netherlands under UN supervision in 1969. The people of this area are different in culture from the mass of Indonesians and were not consulted. Soekarno called the conference at Bandung which launched the Non-aligned movement.

Soekarno was president from independence until Suharto took power in September 1965 in a coup believed to have been assisted by western powers - especially the United States - as part of anti-communist strategy for south east Asia. Following the coup there were massacres of communists - 600,000 according to some sources, more according to other sources. East Timor was annexed on the collapse of the Portugiese empire in 1975-76. However, the Timorese continued to resist rule by the Indonesian army and their independence was eventually recognised.

Javanese Empire?
Is the country likely to remain as one state? The forces of disintegration which operate in other parts of the world can be found in Indonesia too. As well as Timor, there are the Moluccas and West New Guinea (Irian Jaya). Before military rule began in 1965 there were proposals for a federation, as well as demands for secession. It is possible that as communications improve the different cultures may demand their own political entities and undo the colonial construction. Now that the essentially military government has been replaced by democracy it may be revealed as a Javanese Empire, resented by the people of most of the other islands. Already there is a long-lasting war with Aceh in north Sumatra, whose people were never completely conquered by the Dutch and never accepted either the Dutch colony or the independent Indonesia.

Languages

Bahasa Indonesia

(Close to Malay)

Various Malay dialects

Claims for 365 languages.

Melanesian langs.

(West Irian)

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Politics

The former government of president Suharto derived from a military coup, which was part of the Cold War, as the United States government believed the previous regime of Soekarno was not hostile enough to Communism. There was a large Communist Party. Thus Suharto's regime could be compared with those regimes in Brazil, Chile and numerous other states where strong military regimes, however brutal, were preferred by the US to democracies, as long as they killed communists.

Soeharto was overthrown by a students' uprising but was followed by a corrupt interim government of his associates. Then elections resulted in the coming to power of an aged and sick Muslim preacher, very popular with the Muslim community but who proved incompetent in office. When he resigned his vice president, the daughter of Soekarno came to office (1999).

The previous regime could best be classified as a veiled military oligarchy. The present is a sort of democracy but the central government is still weak and may not have the support of the military and seems powerless to prevent various civil wars, often between Christians and Muslims, and secessionist movements in some provinces, especially Aceh in Sumatra.

The collapse of the economy has also caused serious problems.

The former government of president Suharto derived from a military coup, which was part of the Cold War, as the United States government believed the previous regime of Soekarno was not hostile enough to Communism. There was a large Communist Party. Thus Suharto's regime could be compared with those regimes in Brazil, Chile and numerous other states where strong military regimes, however brutal, were preferred by the US to democracies, as long as they killed communists.

Soeharto was overthrown by a students' uprising but was followed by a corrupt interim government of his associates. Then elections resulted in the coming to power of an aged and sick Muslim preacher, very popular with the Muslim community but who proved incompetent in office. When he resigned his vice president, the daughter of Soekarno came to office (1999).

The previous regime could best be classified as a veiled military oligarchy. The present is a sort of democracy but the central government is still weak and may not have the support of the military and seems powerless to prevent various civil wars, often between Christians and Muslims, and secessionist movements in some provinces, especially Aceh in Sumatra.

The collapse of the economy has also caused serious problems.

Some commentators observe that the government in practice is controlled by Christians and westernised intellectuals, which explains to some extent the hostility of many Muslims to the present regime. An explosion at a tourist center in Bali in October 2002 was believed to have been assisted by Osama bin Laden's network of Muslim extremists. There are some similarities with the problems of Algeria.

New elections in 2004 resulted in the election of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He is the first to be elected by direct election (previous presidents were elected by the assembly).

Interesting reading

There is a witty article in this book about the craving for mildly hallucinogenic nutmeg that drove the Europeans to seek out its source: the Age of Discovery was a Drug craving.

David Quammen


The Boilerplate Rhino: Nature in the Eye of the Beholder



Die zwei Hörner des Rhinozeros. Kuriose und andere Geschichten vom Verhältnis des Menschen zur Natur

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Economics

The main foreign currency earner is oil. There is a modern industrial sector growing. Can it grow fast enough to absorb the growing population? The very corrupt, feudal style government may be a brake on development.

Member ASEAN.

In 1997 the economy collapsed with the currency losing its value against the dollar and mass unemployment. The cause seems to have been over-borrowing for non-productive projects, plus the corruption that extracted the profits into the pockets of the president Suharto, his family and friends.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

 Climate

Green/Ecology

Many crops such as bananas originated in this area and spread from there to Africa and other continents.

As the population rises, especially in densely populated Java, there is government pressure for people to migrate to the less inhabited islands of Sumatra and west New Guinea - although the soils are frequently less fertile.

The forests of Borneo and other islands are being cut and burned down causing soil destruction and lower rainfall. Foreign, especially Japanese, logging companies are pressing for more forest to be released. A serious uncontrolled fire on Borneo destroyed much of the remaining forest. As in Amazonia, the resulting land is not always suitable for agriculture. Oil Palm plantations are one reason for clearing the forest but they are not always successful. Abandoned plantations do not easily revert to forest. The population of wild Orangutans is at risk of extinction.

Indonesia is a good example of a country where the population increase destroys the means of life.

Some of the world's most destructive volcanoes are found in the area of Indonesia where tectonic plates meet and collide. As a result the area is liable to earthquakes and Tsunamis. Krakatoa, between Java and Sumatra, is believed to have exploded with climate changing consequences on several occasions. The 532 explosion may have separated the two islands and caused a long period of worldwide climate disturbance. (see Keys)

David Keys - Catastrophe (1999)




Als die Sonne erlosch

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

When the Suharto regime collapsed there were many political prisoners, some of whom had been in custody since the 1965 massacre of communists. Indonesia did not have a good record on human rights.

There is ethnic diversity among the large number of islands but there is a policy of imposing the Java culture on all the others, some of them very different: especially Irian Jaya.

A massacre of about 150 peaceful protesters occurred in November 1991 in East Timor which came to notice because it had been filmed, but was believed to one of many. Probably some 200,000 people were killed there since the invasion.

Seafarers believe that some of the pirates found off the coast belong to the "security" forces.

Under the more democratic regime rights have improved somewhat, but corruption in the police does not help.

Climate effects

The loss of the rain forests to fire and land clearance emits measurable amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, accelerating the global climate change.

Last revised 9/04/09


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