A Historical Glimpse on Indonesia
The first known hominid inhabitant of Indonesia was the so-called "Java Man", or Homo erectus, who lived here half a million years ago. Some 60,000 years ago, the ancestors of the present-day Papuans move eastward through these islands, eventually reaching New Guinea and Australia some 30-40,000 years ago. Much later, in about the fourth millennium B.C., they were followed by the ancestors of the modern-day Malays, Javanese and other Malayo-Polynesian groups who now make up the bulk of Indonesia's population.
Trade contracts with India, China and the mainland of Southeast Asia brought outside cultural and religious influences to Indonesia. One of the first Indianized empires, known to us now as Sriwijaya, was located on the coast of Sumatra around the strategic straits of Malacca, serving as the hub of a trading network that reached to many parts of the archipelago more than a thousand years ago.
On neighboring Java, large kingdoms of the interior of the island erected scores of exquisite of religious monuments, such as Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. The last and most powerful of these early Hindu-Javanese kingdoms, the 14th century Majapahit Empire, once controlled and influenced much of what is now known as Indonesia, maintaining contacts with trading outposts as far away as the west coast of Papua New Guinea.
Indian Muslim traders began spreading Islam in Indonesia in the eighth and ninth centuries. By the time Marco Polo visited North Sumatra at the end of the 13th century, the first Islamic states were already established there. Soon afterwards, rulers on Java's north coast adopted the new creed and conquered the Hindu-based Majapahit Empire in the Javanese hinterland. The faith gradually spread throughout archipelago, and Indonesia is today the world's largest Islamic nation.
Indonesia's abundant spices first brought Portuguese merchants to the key trading port of Malacca in 1511. Prized for their flavor, spices such as cloves, nutmeg and mace were also believed to cure everything from the plague to venereal disease, and were literally worth their weight in gold. The Dutch eventually wrested control of the spice trade from Portuguese, and the tenacious Dutch East India Company (known by initials VOC) established a spice monopoly which lasted well into the 18th century. During the 19th century, the Dutch began sugar and coffee cultivation on Java, which was soon providing three-fourths of the world supply of coffee.
By the turn of the 20th century, nationalist stirring, brought about by nearly three centuries of oppressive colonial rule, began to challenge the Dutch presence in Indonesia. A four-year guerilla war led by nationalists against the Dutch on Java after World War II, along with successful diplomatic maneuverings abroad, helped bring about independence. The Republic of Indonesia, officially proclaimed on August 17th, 1945, gained sovereignty four years later.
Then vice president Megawati assumed the presidency in July 2001 after incumbent president Wahid was impeached by a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), the country's highest law making body.
During the first two decades of independence, the republic was dominated by the charismatic figure of Sukarno, one of the early nationalists who had been imprisoned by the Dutch. General (ret.) Soeharto eased Sukarno from power in 1967. Indonesia's economy was sustained throughout the 1970's, almost exclusively by oil export.
The Asian financial crisis, which broke out in mid-1997, paralyzed the Indonesian economy with the rupiah losing 80% of its value against the US dollar at the peak of the turmoil.
On May 21, 1998, Soeharto resigned after 32 years in power and was replaced by B.J. Habibie following bloody violence and riots. Indonesia held its first democratic election in October 1999, which put Abdurrahman 'Gus Dur' Wahid in the role of president.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, also known by his initials SBY, won over voters in Indonesia's first democratic elections in 2004 and reelected again in 2009. He leads the country with his image as a man of integrity, a strong communicator and firm leader in times of crisis.
Under Suharto, Indonesia had experienced solid economic growth in tandem with an autocratic political system. Then came the Asian economic crisis which brought a temporary end to high economic growth and perhaps a permanent end to dictatorship. Instead it has moved solidly into the ranks of genuine democracies, defined for the purposes of this essay as nations where the people can and do change their government through peaceful, popular elections. Indonesia has also recovered respectable if not stellar economic growth.
So far, Indonesia has achieved all the democratic stability. Most importantly, Indonesia is socially stable, strongly committed to combating terrorism, militarily calm and is increasingly itself giving voice to democratic values in its own foreign policy, and in its natural leadership of ASEAN policy.
Indonesia is the largest archipelagic state in the world that has 17,508 islands, situated between 6 degrees northern latitude and 11 degrees southern latitude and spreading from 97 degrees to 141 degrees eastern longitude and it is located between two continents – Asia and Australia/Oceania. This strategic position greatly influences the country’s culture, social, politics and economy.
Stretching along 3,977 miles between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, Indonesia has a total area of 1.9 million square miles including the ocean waters. The five large islands of Indonesia are: Sumatera covering 473.606 square km, Java with 132.107 square km, Kalimantan (the third largest island in the world) with an area of 539.460 square km, Sulawesi with 189.216 square km, and Papua with an area of 421.981 square km.
The islands of Indonesia were formed in the Miocene age (12 million years BC); Palaeocene age (70 million years BC); Eocene age (30 million years BC); Oligacene age (25 million years BC). As people from Asia started to migrate, it is believed that Indonesia existed since the Pleistocene age (4 million years BC). The islands have a great effect on the change of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plate. The Australian plate changes slowly with an upward movement into the small plates of the Pacific plate that moves southward. Between these lines, the islands of Indonesia are stretched out.
This makes Indonesia as one of the most changing geological area in the world. There are 400 volcanic mountains – which 100 of them are active- that dot the islands of Indonesia. Every day Indonesia experiences three vibrations, at least one earthquake a day and one volcanic eruption in a year.
The population of Indonesia can be divided into two major groups: in the western region most of the people are from the Malay ethnicity while in the eastern region there are the Papuans originating from the Melanesian Islands. Indonesia also recognizes specific ethnic groups that come from a certain province/area and have specific language for example the Javanese from Central or East Java, the Sundanese from West Java or the Batak ethnicity from North Sumatra.
In addition, there are also minority ethnicities derived from Chinese, Indian and Arabic descendents. These people travelled as merchants through trade exchange since the 8th century BC and migrated to Indonesia. Approximately 3% of the population is from Chinese ethnicity, although the exact percentage is not known as the last ethnicity census was held in the 1930s.
Islam is the major religion of 85.2% of the population, designating Indonesia as the largest Moslem country in the world. The remaining population consists of Protestants (8.9%); Catholics (3%); Hindus (1.8%); Buddhists (0.8%) and other religion (0.3%).
Many Indonesians speak their ethnic language as their mother tongue. However, the Indonesian language is the official language and it is taught at all schools and most Indonesians are proficient in using the language for communication.
Indonesian Culture; Arts and Traditions
Indonesia is culturally rich. Indonesian art and culture are intertwined with religion and age-old traditions from the time of early migrants with Western thoughts brought by Portuguese traders and Dutch colonists. The basic principles which guide life include the concepts of mutual assistance or "gotong royong" and consultations or "musyawarah" to arrive at a consensus or "mufakat" Derived from rural life, this system is still very much in use in community life throughout the country.
Though the legal system is based on the old Dutch penal code, social life as well as the rites of passage are founded on customary or "adat" law which differs from area to area. "Adat" law has a binding impact on Indonesian life and it may be concluded that this law has been instrumental in maintaining equal rights for women in the community. Religious influences on the community are variously evident from island to island.
Intertwined with religion and age-old traditions from the time of early migrants the art and culture of Indonesia is rich in itself with Western thoughts brought by Portuguese traders and Dutch colonists. The art and culture of Indonesia has been shaped around its hundreds of ethnic groups, each with cultural differences that have shifted over the centuries. Modern-day Indonesian culture is a fusion of cultural aspects from Arabic, Chinese, Malay and European sources. Indonesian art and culture has also been influenced from the ancient trading routes between the Far East and the Middle East leading to many cultural practices being strongly influenced by a multitude of religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Islam.
The official language of Indonesia is 'Indonesian' or 'Bahasa Indonesia'. It's universally taught in schools and is spoken by nearly every Indonesian in business, politics, national media, education and academia. The Indonesians also speak several hundreds of local languages like 'bahasa daerah' as their first language. Javanese is also widely used besides other Papuan or Austronesian languages in a region of just 2.7 million people.
Religion: The government of Indonesia officially recognizes only six religions, viz Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Confucianism. The largest religious group in Indonesia is Islam with almost 86% of Indonesians being Muslims. Indonesia is also the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world.
Indonesia has created many internationally famous celebrated authors. There has also been a long tradition, particularly among ethnically Malay populations, of impromptu, interactive, verbal composition of poetry referred to as the 'pantun'. Pramoedya Ananta Toer, a well-known author won the Magsaysay Award and was considered for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Chairil Anwar was also an important figure in the literature world and a member of the Generation 45 group of authors who were active in the Indonesian independence movement.
Home to hundreds of forms of music, it plays an important role in Indonesia's art and culture. Traces of its origin can be made to the islands of Java, Sumatra and Bali. 'Gamelan' is the traditional music from Central- and East Java and Bali. Another very popular style of music is 'Dangdut' which is accompanied with free dance style. This style first came up in the 1970s and is quite useful in political campaigns. Other forms of music include the Keroncong with its roots in Portugal, the soft Sasando music from West Timor and Degung and Angklung from West Java, which is played with bamboo instruments.
The traditional dances depict episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata from India. Traditional Javanese and Balinese tinge is also seen in the dance forms of Indonesian art and culture. The highly stylized dances of the courts of Yogyakarta and Surakarta are some of the popular variations. Mythological events of Indonesia are also depicted.
Drama and Theatre
The Javanese and Balinese shadow puppet theatre shows 'wayang kulit' displaying several mythological events. A traditional folk theatre, Randai of the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, is performed during ceremonies and festivals. Music, singing, dance, drama and the silat martial art are all incorporated together and are based on the stories of the legend.
Indonesian culture, especially its architecture has been to a great extent dominated and influenced by the Indian, although European influences have also been particularly strong since the nineteenth century. Traditional buildings in Indonesia are built on stilts with oversized saddle roofs which have been the home of the Batak and the Toraja. The Torajan use the buffalo horns, stacked one above another in front of the house as an indication of status. Scenes from the Ramayana adorn the outer walls in different colors. However, Chinese, Arab, and European architectural influences have also been quite significant in Indonesian architecture.
Indonesians distinctive cuisine has been derived from centuries with the influence of the Chinese, European, Middle Eastern and the Indians. The staple food of most Indonesian dishes is rice served with meat and vegetables. Flavors of Vietnamese and Thai food can also be got from the cuisine of Indonesia. Spices, notably chili, and coconut milk are fundamental ingredients in most of the dishes, especially fish and chicken.
The arts of Indonesia are many, especially Indonesian paintings which are unique works of art. The intricate and expressive Balinese paintings are quite famous and often express natural scenes and themes from the traditional dances. A long-standing tradition of sculpture can also be seen in the art and culture of Indonesia, some dating back to the Bronze and Iron Ages. Examples of sculpture illustrating the story of the life of Buddha can be seen in the temples of the 8th and the 10th century. Indonesia's art and culture is also famous for their unique batik, ikat and songket cloth which is even popular today.
Unlike some countries art forms in Indonesia are not only based on folklore, as many were developed in the courts of former kingdoms such as in Bali, where they are part of religious ceremonies. The famous dance dramas of Java and Bali are derived from Hindu mythology and often feature fragments from the Ramayana and Mahabharata Hindu epics.
Highly stylized in movement and costume, dances and the "wayang" drama are accompanied by a full "gamelan" orchestra comprising xylophones, drums, gongs, and in some cases string instruments and flutes. Bamboo xylophones are used in North Sulawesi and the bamboo "angklung" instruments of West Java are well- known for their unique tinkling notes which can be adapted to any melody.
The "Wayang kulit" (leather puppets) of Java is performed with leather puppets held by the puppeteer, who narates the story of one of the famous episodes of the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata or the Ramayana. It is performed against a white screen while a lantern in the background casts the shadows of the characters on the screen, visible from the other side where the spectators are seated.
The "Wayang Golek" (wooden puppets) of West Java is based on the same concept. The crafts of Indonesia vary in both medium and art form. As a whole the people are artistic by nature and express themselves on canvas, wood, metals, clay and stone. The batik process of waxing and dyeing originated in Java centuries ago and classic designs have been modified with modern trends in both pattern and technology. There are several centres of Batik in Java, the major ones being Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Pekalongan and Cirebon.
Batik is also being produced in some other areas as in Bali where local designs are incorporated. Other provinces produce hand-woven cloths of gold and silver threads, silks or cottons with intricate designs. Painting are numerous all over the country, both traditional and contemporary, woodcarvings for ornamentation and furniture, silverwork and engraving form Yogyakarta and Sumatra, filgree from South Sulawesi and Bali with different styles of clay, sandstone and wood sculptures. These are but a few of the handicrafts found in Indonesia.
The political system of Indonesia is a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic. Indonesia is a unitary state with power concentrated in the national government. In the Indonesian government, the powers is vested in the executive, which is exercised by the government, legislative power is vested in both the government and the two People's Representative Councils and the judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
The Constitutional System
The Indonesian constitution was first written in July and August 1945 at the end of World War II but it was abolished by the Federal Constitution of 1949 and the Provisional Constitution of 1950. Finally on 5th July 1959 the constitution was restored.
The President of Indonesia is both head of state and head of government and of a multi-party system. He is also the commander-in-chief of the Indonesian armed forces, and responsible for domestic governance, policy-making and foreign affairs. The president and vice president are both selected by the vote of the citizens for a term of five years. Previously prior to 2004 they were elected by the People's Consultative Assembly. Its also the president who heads the United Indonesia Cabinet or the 'Kabinet Indonesia Bersatu' and elects the council of ministers.
In the political system of Indonesia the highest representative body at national level is the People's Consultative Assembly or the 'Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat' (MPR). MPR also has the power to impeach the President. It has two lower houses or chambers, viz the People's Representative Council or the 'Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat' (DPR) and the Regional Representatives Council or the 'Dewan Perwakilan Daerah' (DPD). The DPR has 550 members, elected for a five year term by proportional representation in multi-member constituencies and the DPD has 168 members. All legislation is passed by the legislative body DPR which also monitors the executive branch. After the 2004 election the MPR became a bicameral parliament, with the DPD as its second chamber in an effort to increase regional representation.
The highest level of judicial branch in Indonesia is the Supreme Court or the 'Mahkamah Agung'. The president appoints the judges of the Supreme Court. Besides Indonesia has a different court for different matters. All civil disputes appear first before a State Court before being heard in the High Court. There's the Commercial Court to handle bankruptcy and insolvency; a State Administrative Court to hear administrative law cases against the government; a Constitutional Court to hear disputes concerning legality of law products, dissolution of political parties, general elections and the scope of authority of a state institution; and a Religious Court to deal with specific religious cases.
The Political Party
The main political parties of Indonesia are the Democratic Party (PD ) the Functional Groups Party (Golkar), Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDIP), and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
Indonesia consists of 33 provinces, 4 of which have special status) including a special capital region. Each of these provinces has its own political legislature and is headed by a governor.
Modern Political Culture
the major components of Indonesia's modern political culture were derived from two central goals of the New Order government: stability and development. If authority in the Suharto era was based on ABRI's coercive support, the government's legitimacy rested on its success in achieving sociopolitical stability and economic development. Indonesian political culture in the early 1990s primarily reflected nontraditional, nonethnic, and secular values. Urban centered, truly national in its scope, and more materialistically focused, Indonesia's politics in the 1990s were influenced by both domestic and international developments.
Like Islam, Indonesia's modern political culture was not monolithic. In the early 1990s, there was a variety of subcultures: bureaucratic, military, intellectual, commercial, literary, and artistic, each with its own criteria for judging politics, but all directed to the successful operation of the modern political system. Perhaps the two most important modern subcultures were the military and the intellectuals.
It was the military subculture that set the tone for the first two decades of the Suharto government, both in terms of its ethos and in the direct participation of military officers at all levels of government and administration. Although increasingly professional in a technical sense, ABRI never lost its conception of itself as the embodiment of the national spirit, standing above the social, ethnic, and religious divisions of the country as a unifying institution.
The concerns of academics, writers, and other intellectuals in the early 1990s were different and they were more likely to be influenced by Western political values. It was from these circles that the pressure for democratization came. Their outlet was not political parties but cause-oriented nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), workshops, seminars, rallies, and, occasionally, demonstrations. The government undertook a major effort to subsume all of Indonesia's political cultures, with their different and often incompatible criteria for legitimacy, into a national political culture, an Indonesian culture based on the values set forth in the Pancasila.
Indonesia has achieved remarkable economic development success over decade and until the first half of 1990s was among the best performing East Asian economies, having growth rate of 7.1% between 1985 and 1995.
In the face of financial crisis in the mid of 1997, the Indonesian economic growth moved very low, even reached minus 13.13 % in 1998. Purchasing power parity of Indonesian people set back by ten years and its per capita income decreased to US$ 467 in 1998, while a condition before crisis (1996) stood at US$ 1,141. A huge depreciation Rupiah against US dollar furthermore has also brought some difficulties to Indonesian economy, such as the increasing of burden of debt payment in foreign currency and the interest rate as well as the escalation of cost of production due to the higher prices of imported goods for production process.
In order to overcome the economy problems, the Indonesian government has taken the economic recovery program which has brought some positive result and development. Several years after its program, Indonesian economic indicators demonstrated a positive result as reflected in economic growth (GDP) which was rose 4.7% annually during 2001 – 2005 and GDP per capita increased 17% annually during the same period or increased from US$ 675 in 2001 to 1,267 in 2005.
Meanwhile, an inflation rate could be maintained in moderate level and stood at 8.42% annually during 2001 – 2004, even it stood at 5.06% in 2003. Nevertheless, due to a significant rise of petroleum price in 2005, Indonesia could not continue its momentum and the inflation rate reached 17.11%. In 2006, however, the government would strive to keep inflation rate in moderate level at 7 – 8 %.
On the fiscal front, with revenues expanding more rapidly than expenditures despite a heavy fuel subsidy burden, the Government improved its fiscal performance in 2004. Revenues increased to 20.3% of GDP from 16.4% in 2003, while expenditures came in marginally higher at 21.6%, up from 18.0% in 2003. The deficit was contained at 1.3% of GDP. The Government met its 2004 bond issuance target of Rp 32.3 trillion, including $1 billion in sovereign bonds sold in March. Bond issues were oversubscribed by two to four times, with most buyers from the banking sector and pension funds. Remaining financing needs were met through external sources and privatization.
The Agriculture and manufacturing sectors have been the largest contributor to domestic economic growth. However it grew moderately as compared to transportation, construction, and trade sector which increased in significant amount. The contribution of manufacturing sector to the GDP appeared declining from 31% in 2001 to 28% in 2005. The contribution of agriculture sector has been declining from 23% in 1989 to a level of 14% in 2005.
The Indonesian economy became apparently consumption-driven as its contribution to the GDP keeps on increasing steadily during the last 5 years. In 2000, the government spending was 6.5% of GDP while in 2004, it was around 7.8%.The private sector’s contribution itself has been 9 times of the government spending during the same period. On the contrary, the contribution of export revenues declined from 41% of the GDP in 2000 to a level of 30% in 2004 and
Indonesia has abundant natural resources outside Java including crude oil, natural gas, tin, copper and gold. Despite being the second largest exporter of natural gas, Indonesia recently has become a net importer of crude oil. The agriculture products of Indonesia include rice, tea, coffee, spices and rubber.
The major trade partners of Indonesia are Japan, the United States of America and neighboring countries namely Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.
In general, Indonesian economy has moved on the right track. It was also supported by the Government's commitments to bring back macroeconomic stability coupled with higher economic growth, improve investment climate and provide competitive and transparency. It is predicted that economic growth in the next five years could reach its target 6.6% and inflation rate could be maintained in moderate level (7.5%), as well as a stability of exchange rate and balance of budget. Furthermore, instead of economic growth, Indonesia will emphasize more on national growth, which covers economic welfare, national integrity, improvement of competitiveness, peaceful and self-confidence as national identity.
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Indonesia has 33 provinces (including 2 Special Territories of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and Yogyakarta) and one Special Capital Region of Jakarta (DKI). East Timor was once part of Indonesia, but then through a referendum in 1999, East Timor became the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.
Provinces in Indonesia
Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam | North Sumatera | West Sumatera | Bengkulu | Riau | Riau Islands | Jambi | South Sumatera | Lampung | Bangka Belitung Islands
Jakarta | West Java | Banten | Central Java | Yogyakarta Special Territory | East Java
West Kalimantan | Central Kalimantan | South Kalimantan | East Kalimantan
Bali | West Tenggara Barat | East Nusa Tenggara
West Sulawesi | North Sulawesi | Central Sulawesi | South Sulawesi | South East Sulawesi | Gorontalo
Maluku and Papua Islands
Maluku | North Maluku | West Papua | Papua