Separatist Hysteria

Jul 23rd, 2007, in News, Opinion, by

Ross asks whether Indonesia needs a federal system, amid the separatist hysteria of late.

Is it not time that Indonesia stopped refusing to contemplate a federal system just because the Dutch once tried to impose it?
With so many cultures, languages and traditions, a bit like Switzerland only more so, it makes little sense to maintain sternly centralised arrangements, and the demented over-reaction to the RMS flag, with one poor ‘separatist’ lost overboard while being taken away in handcuffs, makes observers ask what it is the ruling class is so scared of.

In Canada, Quebeckers have had several referenda on independence and so far abhorred the prospect, albeit narrowly. In the UK, a separatist is leader of the provincial Scottish Parliament, Welsh separatists too are free to call for break-away, and the other ‘junior partner’ in the Kingdom, Ulster, has had several polls in which the loyal British majority have overwhelmingly rejected being removed from Queen and Country.

Why not risk the self-determination that Indonesia upholds at the UN, often rather misguidedly, for example in its recent support for Argentina’s expansionist imperialism against the completely British population of the Falklands.

Papua’s first ‘referenda’ -the so-called Act of Free Choice – was a charade and should be re-staged without coercion or fiddling. All Papuans, but arguably not the transmigrasi colonists, should get a vote, not just 1200 stooges like the last time.

Similarly with Maluku. Everybody keeps saying the RMS is just a handful of old men, but if that’s the case, let all the people, young and old, decide. If the claim is true, independence will be utterly rejected.

Like most expats, I like Indonesia and wish it well, but the paranoia of the establishment, their constant repetition of the NKRI mantra, is bothersome.

9 Comments on “Separatist Hysteria”

  1. Falcon says:

    I strongly believe that Indonesian are smart however have insufficient of them and politically immature yet to fully understand the full definition of federalism. Indonesia should remain as NKRI but the idea of federalism is a long way.

  2. Shorty says:

    I’m with you ross. a properly constituted federal system could solve many of Indonesia’s current problems.

    There may be a drive towards ”independence” in certain provinces, but I think is more a desire for greater regional autonomy , identity and self expression.

    Realistically, no province with maybe the exception of java could be self sustaining.

    Federalism works well – look at australia, canada and the usa.

    ”Unity in diversity” implies tolerance and acceptance.

    If each province could go about it’s own business mindful and tolerant of others…………….

    If each province recognized the need and strength of unity……….

    If you are secure in your identity outside challenges or contrary opinion is immaterial.

  3. Odinius says:

    Federalism is a MUCH better solution than regional autonomy. In Yugoslavia, which was technically federal but with very different arrangements for each area, virtually everyone became upset at what they saw as special treatment for others. The lesson here is that everyone should be treated equally under the law. This goes for regions as well as individuals. If Aceh, Papua, Yogya and maybe soon Bali get devolution, so should everyone. If they don’t, it’s inevitable that people in some region or another will become upset about it…perhaps enough to start a separatist movement.

  4. Haven’t we been here before.

    The United States of Indonesia was a federal state which comprised of 16 states. In 1950 the states gradually dissolved and were replaced by what we have today (through Bung Karno’s proclamation on 17 August 1950).

    Not many Indonesians remember the federal states and as a result their flags still seem to cause controversy.


  5. WP says:

    The current centralized government is simply not working anymore. Its governing instruments are awfully ineffective. It cannot be fixed as long as there is no political commitment to do so, and such a political commitment is not going to happen given the current state of Indonesian politics in Jakarta.

    So yes I agree: by letting the provinces to go on their own way at least we give them a fresh chance to go for a better future.

    But so far this is the economical dimension of it.

    The political dimension of this is actually far more complicated. Indonesia is a big region with lots of population. You do not want this region to turn into anarchy, which is a real risk if we dismantle the central power. You will have a real risk of lots of local conflicts, e.g. between the moslem majority East Java and non-moslem majority Bali. Such a conflict can escalate, only this time you don’t have a central government that can interverne.

    Another difficult issue is who will control the army?? Can you trust their loyalty?

    If a little revolution to end Suharto’s reign already ends up in this much mess, I’m not sure I want to speculate on how much we’ll get from the disolvement of our Central.

    But then again… as a nation, Indonesia has perhaps nothing to lose now…

  6. KSJ says:

    I think being a federal country like USA or several European countries is really good for Indonesia. Indonesia is huge, centralized government system is unable to control the vast Indonesia (Soeharto-era has proved it). Let local provinces (states) manage their own autonomy but respecting federal laws and values which unite all states. It will enhance prosperity in every corner of the country, not only Java or Jakarta. It will work, as it works in the countries I said above.

  7. WP says:

    It will enhance prosperity in every corner of the country, not only Java or Jakarta. It will work, as it works in the countries I said above.

    That’s a big assumption. It could instead slip into ethnic or religious war. Given the maturity of Indonesian ‘leaders’ at the moment, this is quite probable.

  8. KSJ says:

    Dear WP,
    As far as I know Indonesian political system hasn’t changed into federalism yet and ethnich clashes and religious wars had occurred. I don’t get the point from your argument. Maturity of Indonesian leaders? What were trying to say? Sounds non-sense to me.

  9. Asulo says:

    Good comment Ross.

    I would like to see a federal state with the opportunity to separate regions by referenda. Indonesia was very close to grant Maluku autonomy in 1999 together with Aceh in order to bring peace and stability to Indonesia as a whole. But the plans were never worked out and disappeared into the trashcan.



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