Regional Tribalism

Sep 1st, 2006, in Society, by

A study says the system of devolving power to the regions, or regional autonomy, is spurring the advent of tribalism and disunity in the nation.

The study, carried out by Yapikka Yapikka (Civil Society Alliance for Democracy) over the period 2001-2005 in fifteen regencies and municipalities within the provinces of West Sumatra, Banten, North Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara, examined the issue of decentralisation of power from Jakarta to local governments. 1,800 people, from ordinary folk to “activists”, academics, local leaders and council members were surveyed.

Originally perceived as a method of improving accountability and the provision of public services regional autonomy is instead, as attested to in the study, seen as fueling the rise of ethnocentrism and tribalism in Indonesia. Eko Prasodjo, one of the researchers, told the Jakarta Post that the regional autonomy law gave too much authority to regencies.

We all know that the administrative borderline for regencies in the country was drawn based on an ethnicity fault line. And empowering regencies also means giving room for ethnocentrism to thrive.

One of the study’s conclusions noted:

Nepotism based on royal bloodlines, ethnicity and political affiliation have marred the recruitment, assignment and promotion for certain positions in the regions.

The study found that incumbent officials or those running for office resorted to the glorification of their, apparently, noble lineage to lend them some extra authority and appeal.

In certain regions, new royal titles were created to augment the powers of regent or mayors.

Another example of resurgent tribalism was frequent use of the terms putra asli (indigenous son) and laskar (militia).

Greater financial aid from the central government and revenue from natural resources were being diverted to fund local political activities, the report claimed. As part of the political wheeling and dealing from newly elected officials funds from the central government were being spent on expanding the bureaucracy, rather than improving services.

Although centralization has its own set of problems the researchers recommend returning to the provincial administration a more beefed-up regulatory and oversight role. Eko said that direct local elections for the post of governor and regent were the key to public control, and would ward off a return to the authoritarian New Order era.


March 25th 2007.

A new study says most Indonesians are willing to die to prevent separatism but at the same time are exhibiting stronger tendencies toward regionalism. lsi

Conducted by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) the poll confirms that regional autonomy, which started seven years ago predominantly to address the problem of separatism, has not solved the “problem” of regionalism.

Of 1,240 respondents from 33 provinces surveyed between March 5th and March 15th, these were the results:

  • More proud of? – ethnic group (26%) or Indonesia (74%).
  • Prepared to go to war to defend Indonesia? – Yes 78%, No 22%.
  • Allow secessions from Indonesia? – No 86%, Yes 14%.
  • Level of Indonesian-ness? – Strong 67%, Weak 33%.
  • Tolerant toward (Indonesian) migrant workers in your area? No 38%, Yes 62%.
  • Local people should be elected to local and provincial government positions? Yes 46.5%.
  • What is better, the existing regional autonomy system or the previous system? Now 64%, Previous 27%, Don’t Know 9%.
  • Do you support regional autonomy? Yes 73%, No 27%.

Anis Baswedan, a senior researcher at the LSI, said of the results:

The statistical analysis shows that the sense of local autonomy is not correlated to the sense of national unity.

The implication of nationalism should be reflected in people’s minds and in the state policy of equal opportunity. We have a problem with nationalism here because six out of 10 Indonesians are not tolerant toward their fellow citizens from other parts of the country.

Generally people felt there was no difference between the previous centralized system and local autonomy. This indicates that local autonomy has not reached the goals expected by the public.

3 Comments on “Regional Tribalism”

  1. Fanglong says:

    Are a being chief and being an owner the same ?
    Real diversity in non-fascist unity would be great !
    But look at Acheh, for instance ! Intricate !
    Please, no more “New Order”. It sounds so… mussolinian !

  2. Tomaculum says:

    1. People waiting simply for better life after the autonomy. And what is happened? Other matters are treated preferential, like “moral”, religion etc. Meanwhile the people are getting more and more hungry. And the same old song of corruption, collusion and nepotism is still being sung but in a little bit other way (“recover version”?).

    2. Tribalism exist already in the past and will further exist with or without autonomy. The problem is still the same: the unfair allocation of the national “money”. And recently the tribalism is used by some figures to stabilize their seats and many of them cover this misuse cleverly as religious matters.

    3. “Tolerant toward (Indonesian) migrant workers in your area? No 38%, Yes 62%.”
    This is also an old song. Look the antipathy between Sundanese and Javanese. And look how the rest of Indonesia looks down on their Papuan “brothers”.

    Solution? Unity through one religion?

  3. Ibuchat says:

    “Solution? Unity through one religion?”

    How would you propose getting everyone to adopt the one religion? Surely this would just cause even more hostility and resentment?

    Unfortunately people will always find a way to differentiate themselves from one another – if not on religious, then on some other grounds, eg, for being kampungan or OKB or whatever.

    Anyone else remember Jane Elliots’ Blue Eyed/Brown Eyed studies:

    I think the lesson from this is that it is the prejudice itself that needs to be attacked and dismantled, not the differences between us (which will always exist).

    I think this is probably true the world over, not just in Indonesia which to my mind has always seemed a remarkably tolerant society in lots of ways (not denying those divisions that Tomaculum mentions).

    How many other countries are there in the world that have as many different cultures/languages as Indonesia does?

    Sure it doesn’t always work perfectly but in general people from different ethnic/religious/cultural backgrounds seem to coexist a lot more harmoniously in Indonesia than they do in some other parts of the world (eg, the former Yugoslavia).

Comment on “Regional Tribalism”.

RSS feed

Copyright Indonesia Matters 2006-2023
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Contact