What is Indonesia

Tom O'Lincoln red_sites at eudoramail.com
Sun Aug 18 17:45:30 MDT 2002

Interesting clippings, Lou.

Indonesia is a construct of course, yet a reasonably
successful one until the crisis, and even reasonably
successful one in the "core" areas right up to the

Of course Yugoslavia looked reasonably successful when
I was there in the sixties, yet economic crisis drove
the rulers to play the card of ethnic division and it
came apart. Many thought the same might happen to
Indonesia, including me.

Suharto's backers tried to play this card in 1998 and
achieved short term race riots but little long term
effect. There are some areas however where it's been
effective, for example Ambon/Maluku. East Timor
and West Papua are different - these were secessionist
movements that preceded the crisis and were opposed by
the sinister forces in Jakarta.

Aceh is in between. The secessionist movement there
was quite marginal until the crisis. Even after that
most Acehnese still opposed secession until they
found that post-Suharto Governments went right on
murdering and torturing them them.

The article refers vaguely to common ethnicity between
Malaysian Malays and Indonesians. This sort of true.
Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia are both based on
Malay, there is Islam etc. But there have also been
long years of separate development and there is a large
non-Malay minority in Malaysia. There would be a sense
of kinship between specific groups on opposite sides
of the Malacca Straits I guess, but the Malays on the
straits are a minority group within Indonesia. Most
Indonesians are not actually Malays -- the largest
grouping is Javanese.

Anyway so far Indonesia has held together. I have met
members of many ethnic groups, and they generally
tended to identify as Indonesian, though there are
exceptions as noted above.

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