Saturday, June 8, 2013

Letters: Indonesia: Nation or state

Letters: Indonesia: Nation or state 

Jakarta Post | Fri, 01/15/2010 12:45 PM | Opinion 

I would like to comment on the proposal to name Abdurrahman Wahid and Soeharto national heroes. Indeed, one could argue that both earned the title of “national hero” of Indonesia. 

There is only one big problem. To be a national hero, one should be part of a nation and herein lies the fundamental problem: Indonesia is de facto a state, but, historically and anthropologically, no nation. 

It never was and it never will be a nation. In Deutsch’s book about nation building we read that even some Latin American nations still were not nations after 100 years of independence. 

And, mind you, they were less splintered geographically and anthropologically than present Indonesia is. Tristam Pascal Moeliono from Parahyangan University came to the same conclusion in his article in one of Holland’s biggest newspapers De Volkskrant (Oct. 20, 1999) titled: “Indonesia a state but no nation”. 

He saw, among others, a Javanese-dominated Indonesia and the sense of being discriminated against and neglected from the smaller nations outside Java. So the forthcoming celebration of 65 years of Indonesian independence in August visually, verbally and so on will seem OK, but deep down at its roots, Indonesia is an artificial and forcefully constructed “nation-state”. 

So was the Donau monarchy, so were the intentions of Napoleon and Adolf Hitler, so is India, so is China. The key word here is “being forced to unite”. The United States and Europe are the best examples of how to create a true nation state out of so many people: democratically, voluntarily and through negotiation. 

Indonesians should really review their concept of musyawarah (a process of deliberation and compromise, which will usually end up in a unanimous consensus and become binding to the community). 

A more appropriate title for Wahid and Soeharto would be Javanese national heroes pahlawan bangsa jawa, for they helped in Javanizing the whole archipelago from Sabang to Merauke. 

A true, safe musyawarah and referendum on the voluntary and democratic transformation of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia into the United States of Indonesia is the challenge I would like to put to the Javanese political and military elite in Jakarta. 

Malesi Iralo Pata 

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