Indonesia, a Nation in Transition

Although hundreds of ethnic groups have been know as the indigenous of Indonesia for hundreds and thousands of years, Indonesia did not exist in its present form until the turn of the 20th century.

Of the so-called natives of Indonesia, archaeologists have speculated that the first people to populate Indonesia migrated from mainland China some 1,000 years ago and inhabited a stretch of islands along the equator, later known as Nusantara.

Over the centuries they built and refined their statecraft in the form of kingdoms and principalities. Sharing similar characteristics with other Southeast Asian kingdoms, these Nusantara kingdoms based their conception of state more on people than on space or territory. But intercourse with the western world changed the course of history in Nusantara.

In 1511, the Portuguese conquered Malacca, located on the Malay peninsula, which was then still an inseparable part of Nusantara. The Dutch followed in 1512 and landed on Banten shore in Java. At first, the Dutch came more as traders under the trading umbrella of the Royal East Indies Company (Vereniging Oost Indische Compagnie, VOC). For the next two centuries, the Dutch conducted business with the natives, although in many cases the trade was not on equal terms. Often, trade was accompanied by violent pacification processes.

Then the VOC went bankrupt and the Dutch government took over the business in Nusantara (called the East Indies by the Dutch). Starting from about the mid-seventh century and lasting until the arrival of the Japanese in 1942, was the “real colonization” called “high colonialism” in literature. The period was disrupted briefly when the British took over colonial rule in 1811 to 1814. Among other things that the natives learned from colonization was statecraft based on territorial conception rather than on people.

In the early 20th century, the natives of Nusantara learned that as diverse as their ethnicities were, they could imagine themselves as a unified community. A nationalism had grown in a process that Benedict Anderson, a doyen of Indonesian studies, calls an “imagined community”. During the first half of 20th century Nusantara, its people built an imaginary nation called Indonesia — the name itself was borrowed from the West. By the end of the 1930s, it was clear that the end of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia was only a matter of time.

During World War II, 1942-1945, the Japanese occupied Indonesia. Although short-lived, the occupation enabled Indonesians to arm themselves for the very first time. Shortly after Japan’s defeat in WWII, Sukarno and Hatta proclaimed Indonesia an independent state, and they became the founding fathers of the new country. The largest archipelago in the world, with over 17,000 islands — only 3,000 of which are inhabited — has emerged into a new Indonesia.

When the Dutch returned and tried to reestablish colonial rule, armed Indonesians resisted. The Dutch were forced to recognize an independent Indonesia in 1949.

The new Indonesia adopted a federal system of governance for a short time. But for a longer period, within a five-year span (1950-1955), leaders of the new country were eager to adopt a liberal system of government. Although there is no proof that the system ruined the economy, it was clear that the elite’s political stability was shaky. The longest serving prime minister was only two years in office.

The government then held a general election in 1955, the first and only democratic general election Indonesia ever had. But feeling that the country was still unstable two years after the election, president Sukarno, backed by the Army, declared the 1950 Provisional Constitution void and reintroduced the 1945 Constitution. The latter provided an ample opportunity for Sukarno, popularly known as Bung Karno (Comrade Sukarno), to balance three political powers — the Indonesian Communist Party, the Army and himself.

In the first half of the 1960s, Bung Karno leaned toward the left. On domestic politics, he was trying hard to balance the communists and the Army; on the international stage he was establishing himself as leader of a new world, free from Cold War antagonism. But economic decline and mounting conflicts, especially between communists and noncommunists, the latter of which was backed by the Army, caused him to lose control over the situation.

On Sept. 30, 1965, an abortive coup occurred. There are two conflicting versions of events surrounding the attempted coup. The official Army version insists that the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was behind the coup attempt, while the communist version asserts that the coup was an internal matter of the Army. In fact, several members of PKI’s central bureau were involved, as well as many Army officers and personnel.

The abortive coup cost Indonesia dearly. It took the lives of seven high-ranking Army generals, followed by a pogrom of communists — a moderate estimate ranges between 300 thousand and 500 thousand alleged members of PKI. Soeharto, who then was a major general and commander of the Army Strategic Reserves Command, took over leadership and deposed Bung Karno from his presidential seat.

In 1966, Soeharto received a letter known as the March 11 Letter of Instruction which reportedly transferred state power from Sukarno to him.

In 1967, Soeharto unseated Sukarno as president in the special session of the Provisional People’s Consultative Assembly (MPRS).

Consolidating his power under a new regime called the New Order, Soeharto launched a “regime cleansing” against the Old Order.

Together with Hamengkubuwono IX, the sultan of Yogyakarta, and Adam Malik — the three were known as the triumvirate — Soeharto divided the tasks for economic and political reconstruction. Sultan Hamengkubuwono was assigned to lead efforts for economic recovery, Adam Malik was assigned to redirect Indonesia’s foreign policy toward the West, and Soeharto himself was “assigned” to rebuild the lamentable domestic politics.

Soeharto was determined to change Indonesia’s course, from its emphasis on politics to prioritizing economic development. He set up the trilogy of development: political stability, economic growth and equality.

To gain political legitimacy, perceived as a prerequisite to economic growth, the government conducted a general election in 1971. The election, however, was far from democratic. Soeharto introduced the “floating mass” concept that banned political parties from operating at village level.

From the 1971 election and throughout the New Order period, the Functional Group (Golongan Karya, or Golkar) served as Soeharto’s main political machinery. Golkar legally operated not as a political party, although in fact it was a party. Golkar ran in the 1971 elections against 10 other political parties — including PKI and Masyumi which were two of the four biggest parties in 1955 but which had been out of political scene — and won 62 percent of the vote.

In 1974, Soeharto forced all political parties to merge into three: Golkar, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). Again, legally speaking Golkar was not a political party. Five more elections were conducted every five years. During those years, Soeharto tightly controlled politics; not even the slightest room was available for opposition.

There were several cases of serious opposition during the New Order regime. The first came rather as a blow in 1974, when students protested against Japanese investments. Added by political rivalry between Gen. Soemitro and Maj. Gen. Ali Moertopo, student protests in Jakarta turned into riots. The movement ended with the removal of Soemitro from his powerful position as deputy commander of the Armed Forces and chief of staff of the Operation Command for the Restoration of Security and Order (Kopkamtib).

The second serious opposition movement came in 1978. Again it came from students, who protested Soeharto’s bid for a second term in office, which would be decided upon by the People’s Consultative Assembly in its General Session in March 1978.

Several retired Army officers backed the students, while factionalism was apparent within the Armed Forces. Soeharto moved fast to crush the movement. Hundreds of opposition and student leaders were arrested, dozens of newspapers and magazines were closed down. The movement lost its momentum, and after that Soeharto enjoyed an incontestable position.

If Golkar served as Soeharto’s main political machinery, the Army functioned as guardian of the state. And since the state was personalized around Soeharto alone, the Army also served to protect him. Under its dual function role doctrine — the doctrine argues that the duties of a professional Indonesian Armed Forces includes attending to nonmilitary business, especially if it has to do with politics — the military intervened in almost all sectors of public life. At its peak, the number of military personnel serving in nonmilitary affairs reached over 40,000. Later, history witnessed excesses of the doctrine.

Some businesspeople, many of whom were of Chinese descent, enjoyed state protection and sometimes two-digit economic growth; some grew to become tycoons and magnates. The privileges that these businesspeople enjoyed sparked resentment from other communities. As a result, racial tension grew.

But Chinese businesspeople were not the only ones to enjoy state protection and preference. Some indigenous businesspeople also enjoyed similar privileges. In general, what Kunio Yoshihara calls “ersatz capitalism”, or pseudocapitalism, grew. Those “capitalists” were not real capitalists.

Then the financial crisis came. It first hit in mid-1997, and many believe it was a direct result of Thailand’s economic crisis. The crisis worsen with the scheduling of the People’s Consultative Assembly’s General Session in March 1998, with the main agenda being to “elect” a “new” national leadership. It eventually turned into a political crisis too. But Soeharto was determined to run for his seventh consecutive five-year term in office. Supported by his political machine, Soeharto, as expected, became president again.

The economic and political crises made the political climate like a house of cards. Lacking sensitivity, Soeharto filled his new Cabinet with cronies, and appointed one of his daughters minister of social affairs. Less than two months after the formation of the new Cabinet, political tension mounted to an unbearable level. On May 12, four Trisakti University students were shot dead following a peaceful demonstration.

The shootings immediately sparked the emotions of the masses. To the majority of people, the New Order regime had become soulless. Within a week, Indonesia experienced one of its most tumultuous periods in history. For three days, from May 13 through to May 15, six of the country’s largest cities were hit by massive riots, probably the largest riots in Indonesia’s history. Days later, hundreds of thousand students and members of the public poured into the streets. Chanting and demanding total reform, thousands marched to the legislative building in Jakarta and occupied it for several days

This forced Soeharto to step down. Instead of returning the presidential mandate to the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) he gave the mandate to vice president B.J. Habibie. The new president is weak, but his weakness is one of his strengths. Everyone close to him feels that they can use him, and thus balancing the power is everyone’s interest. The government scheduled another general election on June 7, 1999, only two years after the last election.

Forty-eight political parties, instead of three, competed for 462 seats in the House of Representatives, with the remaining 38 seats going to the military. The election was the first democratic poll since 1965, and the results should have a long-term effect on domestic political stability. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) won a majority in the House (DPR) with 35 percent of seats, followed by Golkar, the United Development Party (PPP), the National Awakening Party (PKB), the Crescent and Stars Party (PBB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN).

Despite its position as a simple majority party, PDI Perjuangan lost the political battle to install chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri as president. In a tight race against a strategic coalition of Golkar and the Axis Force, a coalition of various Islamic parties, PDI Perjuangan also lost the strategic posts of speakers of the House and People’s Consultative Assembly. After losing out on the presidency, Megawati was elected as vice president.

— Last updated: May 25, 2001

Taken From “The Jakarta Post”

United Indonesia Cabinet





President : Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Vice President : Jusuf Kalla
Coordinating Ministers
1. Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs : Adm. (ret) Widodo A.S.
2. Coordinating Minister for the Economy : Boediono
3. Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare : Aburizal Bakrie
4. Home Minister : Mardiyanto
5. Foreign Minister : Hassan Wirayuda
6. Defense Minister : Juwono Sudarsono
7. Finance Minister : Sri Mulyani Indrawati
8. Religious Affairs Minister : M. Maftuh Basyuni
9. Agriculture Minister : Anton Apriyantono
10. Education Minister : Bambang Soedibyo
11. Health Minister : Siti Fadilah Supari
12. Social Services Minister : Bachtiar Chamsyah
13. Transportation Minister : Jusman Syafii Djamal
14. Manpower and Transmigration Minister : Erman Suparno
15. Industry Minister : Fahmi Idris
16. Trade Minister : Mari E. Pangestu
17. Energy and Mineral Resources Minister : Purnomo Yusgiantoro
18. Justice and Human Rights Minister : Andi Mattalata
19. Public Housing Minister : Muhammad Yusuf Asy’ari
20. Forestry Minister : M.S. Ka’ban
21. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister : Freddy Numberi
22. Public Works Minister : Joko Kirmanto
23. Culture and Tourism Minister : Jero Wacik
24. Information and Communication Minister : Muhammad Nuh
State Ministers
23. State Minister of Culture and Tourism : Jero Wacik
25. State Minister for Women Empowerment : Meutia Farida Hatta Swasono
26. State Minister for Administrative Reforms : Taufik Effendi
27. State Minister for State Enterprises : Sofyan A. Djalil
28. State Minister of National Development Planning/National Development Planning Board chairman : Paskah Suzetta
29. State Minister for Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises : Suryadarma
30. State Minister for the Environment : Rachmat Nadi Witoelar Kartaadipoetra
31. State Minister Research and Technology : Kusmayanto Kadiman
32. State Minister for Information and Communication : Muhammad Nuh
32. State Minister for Development of Disadvantaged Regions : Muhammad Lukman Edy
33. State Minister of Youth and Sports Affairs : Adyaksa Dault
34. State Secretary : Hatta Radjasa
35. Cabinet Secretary : Sudi Silalahi
36. People’s Consultatives Speaker : Hidayat Nurwahid
37. House of Representatives Speaker : Agung Laksono
38. Attorney General : Hendarman Supandji
39. Supreme Court Chief Justice : Bagir Manan
40. Constitutional Court president : Jimly Asshidiqie
41. Bank Indonesia Governor : Burhanuddin Abdullah
42. TNI Chief : Marshal Djoko Suyanto

Growing internationalism in Indonesian education

Simon Marcus Gower ,  Contributor ,  Jakarta   |  Wed, 08/27/2008 10:29 AM  |  Supplement

Education is an area of human development that is seemingly forever the subject of debate, discussion and even outright conflict and enmity about what works and what does not. Theories are developed and either accepted or sometimes discredited. Policies and practices are applied that may or may not meet with success.

One thing that largely remains constant, though, to all this debate, discussion, theorizing and practicing is the pursuit of a better, more suitable way of educating. Times change and so too, then, do educational needs. One only needs to think of technological development to recognize this.

What was effective and standard practice in teaching and learning yesteryear may now be simultaneously irrelevant and ineffectual and so redundant. Times have significantly changed in and for Indonesia and its education provision, although it sadly has to be admitted that many, many schools across Indonesia are effectively lagging behind the times.

But changes have certainly come, continue to be arrived at and indeed are sought. A particularly significant change is the manner in which schools and schooling is being internationalized. This leads to changes in practices, procedures and philosophy.

This is perhaps most directly and obviously represented by the significant number of both international and national plus schools that have come into existence relatively recently.

Such schools, although significantly residing in the private sector, are creating a more internationalized context for education right here within Indonesia. Indonesian teachers, education administrators and indeed students and their parents are gaining exposure to and experience of international models of education.

But this internationalization of education is not solely limited to such private sector schools. Public sector schools too are now offering international courses of study leading to international qualifications. Public schools have increasing participation in and delivery of international curricula.

These schools are offering programs such as the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (or IGCSE) which is sourced from Cambridge in the United Kingdom and so, as Indonesian schools, have to develop the capacity and capability to actually deliver such programs.

This very directly and explicitly means that Indonesian schools now have to examine and pursue international standards of education and this is no small task and challenge.

From the provision of adequate and acceptable facilities such as science laboratories and suites of computers through to possessing a sufficiently trained and qualified staff of teachers, the challenge that accompanies becoming international can be onerous but it is a good onus.

Also, accompanying educational change to become international is the challenge of bilingual education. As the majority of international programs of education utilize English as their medium of instruction and general response from students, there is a need to develop greater competencies in the English language.

This means that Indonesian students genuinely do need to develop a level of working and practical bilingualism. The kinds of tasks and activities that they will be required to perform and achieve in international programs of education demand higher level skills and abilities within the language.

Conversational English is simply not sufficient here. Students need to have the ability to listen and take copious notes, write essays and exam answers in flowing and articulate prose, make presentations and speak intelligibly and intelligently to show and communicate their thoughts.

All of these higher level language skills can prove challenging but the good news is that there are clear signs that Indonesian students are coping with these language challenges. It seems that with the growth in international and national plus schools, many more Indonesian students are attaining higher levels of proficiency and acumen to handle academic tasks in English.

Students can, then, be seen to be “growing into” the more international context for education to be encountered within Indonesian borders. The same may also be said for a number of teachers within Indonesia, and the more teachers that can benefit from such international exposure the better.

For teachers as well as students, international programs of education can set a different tone and a different manner in which education is both managed and delivered. Perhaps one of the most striking differences can be the ways in which students are assessed and indeed challenged to perform.

The idea of students being relatively passive “receivers” of education that is largely diluted down into information and facts that require memorization is largely cast out within international programs of education.

This represents significant change in educational philosophy and goals. The student, in this context, is viewed and indeed required to be much more of a participant in his or her own education. Quite robotic and relatively thoughtless following of the textbook and/or teacher is not the goal.

Students are required to be much more active and thoughtful. Their ability to analyze, interpret, challenge, critique and generally show originality and independence of thought is much the more desired outcome.

This too imposes requirements of teaching staff. They cannot be the impassive, distant and disdainful mere imparters of quite static information, as perhaps they have previously been. They too must be learners.

This may not always be a comfortable notion for a person who somewhat proudly may claim the title of “teacher” but the role of the teacher too is a changing one as educational change and adaptation occurs.

Naturally, the teacher needs to hold a sound knowledge of his/her subject but the teacher must also be an inquiring and inquisitive spirit. The teacher in this context needs to be a person that has a curiosity and a thirst for new knowledge.

There may be cultural influences and traditional ways of thinking about the role of the teacher and education generally but for educational change and development to occur and prove beneficial, cultural and traditional predilections need to be overcome.

Indonesian education is showing clear signs of change and Indonesian people often show a willingness to adapt and respond to new ways. These are things that need to be accepted and promoted. Those that resist change and cannot contemplate adaptation are consigning themselves and others to irrelevance and incapacity.