Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Nation Rebuilding: Exploring Indonesia

For quite a while, this blogger have been reading up, researching and contemplating on the subject of nation-building

The term is interchangeably used with state building; the process of creation, consolidation, stabilisation and sustainable development of states.

Often than not, local government-linked media used the nation-building term to describe state capacity building in acquisition of technologies, mobilisation of resources, and allocation of resources to productive and welfare enhancing sectors. (Refer in here on UN Research Institute for Social Development).

Malaysia is in the back of our mind. More so, the need for nation rebuilding after the disasterous decision by voters to ouster BN. 

Coupled with the devastation from the Covid-19 pandemic, it resulted in massive cost on the local economy and continued political instability. Despite having the third PM within this term, an analyst viewed him as only good till GE15

The discouraging view and developments from Indonesia got us distracted. 

For one, mainstream and social media is inundated by positive and encouraging policy and economic news from "seberang". Secondly, Indonesia is leading effort to "confront" China on 9-dash line and Spratly Island

The increase international status of Indonesia vis-a-vis Malaysia can be seen from the action of Cambodian PM Hun Sen, Chairman of ASEAN to complain to Jokowi on the verbal diplomatic misbehaviour of Malaysia's Foreign Minister recently.    

Together with the announcement of a grandiose Nusantara for their new capital at Palangkaraya, Kalimantan, it made us curious to explore on Indonesia beyond reviewing President Jokowi Widodo (read one on  Council for Foreign Relation here) and his reform agenda (One from CSIS here) but to its nation-building process.    

In the heart of it is Pancasila, the state ideology, put together earlier than our Rukunegara, which the Indonesian emphasis is to promote diversity, democrasy, and nationalism. 

The state constitution safeguard religious freedom and diversity, thus their more liberal and diverse approaches in the practise of Islam. 

Nevertheless, there are occurence of incidences years ago which caught foreign media attention. And, the end of the political career and incidence surrounding Jokowi's potential "running mate", Ah Hok is another significant event.        

The rebuilding of Indonesia by Jokowi after its devastation under the corrupt Suharto regime came after few Presidents. 

A similar occurence to Malaysia, albeit at a fast forward mode with Mahathir regime as the common denominator. Unfortunately, he reappeared as 7th Prime Minister briefly to speed up the devastation. 

Coming back to subject of nation-building or rebuilding, the predominant Malays of Malaysia, and Javanese, Minangkabau, Malays and Indonesian ethnicities are considered as "bangsa serumpun". 

However, division of territories between the colonial English and Dutch led to a different nation-building foundation. 

An extract from an academic paper published by IDEAS entitled "Unity in Diversity? Ethnicity, Migration, and Nation Building in Indonesia" provide the base to explore the foundation of Indonesia's  nation-building process: 

2 Background: Nation Building and the Transmigration Program

With a population of more than 250 million, Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country. It is also among the world’s most diverse. According to the 2010 Population Census, Indonesia is home to more than 1,200 self-identified ethnic groups living on roughly 6,000 islands. By far, the Javanese are the largest ethnic group, constituting 40.1 percent of the population, followed by the Sundanese with 15.5 percent (Ananta et al., 2013). Both groups originate from the Inner Island of Java. Each of the next thirteen largest ethnic groups comprise between 1.2 and 3.7 percent of the country’s population. Nationally, Indonesia’s index of ethnolinguistic fractionalization (Easterly and Levine, 1997), ELF, constructed using 2000 Population Census data, is around 0.7.

Despite this vast diversity, most Indonesians live in ethnically homogeneous communities. Of the more than 60,000 urban and rural villages in Indonesia, the median village has an ELF of 0.05.7 This means that in half of Indonesia’s villages, there is no more than a five percent chance that two randomly chosen individuals would belong to different ethnicities. The combination of significant national diversity and local homogeneity presented Indonesia’s political leaders with the problem of nation building from the earliest stages of the country’s struggle for independence. This section details the problem of nation building as it relates to the Transmigration program.

2.1 Indonesia’s Nation Building Challenges

For most of its history, the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago were governed by a collection of independent kingdoms (kerajaan), many of which were isolated from one another, separated by immense waterways and dense vegetation.8 The absence of a common ruler, together with geographic isolation, enabled the persistence of many different cultures, religious practices, and languages throughout the region. After establishing their first outpost in Indonesia in 1603, it took centuries for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to govern the disparate peoples scattered across the archipelago under one common rule. Ironically, this unification was achieved partly through a divide-and-rule policy that pitted one kingdom against another. As such, by the end of the nineteenth century, the peoples of Indonesia had little shared history, apart from their experiences with Dutch colonialism.

Movement towards the recognition of a shared national identity began in the early twentieth century. The push toward political unity culminated in the Second Youth Congress in 1928, where regional organizations of young intellectuals from across the archipelago pledged to create “satu nusa, satu bangsa, satu bahasa” (one fatherland, one nation, one language). Nation building has been a priority among Indonesia’s political leaders ever since. National unity is one of the five key principles of Pancasila, the state ideology, while “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (Unity in Diversity) is the state motto inscribed on its coat of arms. Indeed, as noted by Feith (1962/2007, p. 34), nation building “was probably the central goal which the nationalist leaders believed should and would be realized with the attainment of independence.”

After Indonesia declared independence in 1945, for at least a decade, political and military tensions across the archipelago threatened to derail nation building efforts. Tensions often grew out of opposition to the increasing concentration of power in the capital, Jakarta, which many associated with a growing dominance of the the Javanese (Bertrand, 2004; Feith, 1962/2007). These frustrations often coincided with rising ethnic sentiment, and anti-Javanese sentiments from the Outer Islands would surface from time to time (see, e.g., Ananta et al., 2004; Mulder, 1996; Thornton, 1972). After General Suharto rose to the presidency—following the 1966 military coup and political crisis—and consolidated power, some of these regional threats began to subside.

One important nation building instrument that, in retrospect, anticipated some of these challenges was the choice of Bahasa Indonesia as a national language. Of the nearly 700 languages currently spoken in Indonesia, almost all belong to the Austronesian language family, but many are very different from one another, and the differences are particularly large across the Inner–Outer Island divide. Bahasa Indonesia, or Indonesian, is a modified version of Malay that originated along the eastern coast of Sumatra (and peninsular Malaysia) but had been used as a trading language in the archipelago for centuries. Prior to its recognition as the national language at the 1928 Youth Congress, Malay was only spoken as the native language by 5 percent of the population living under Dutch colonial authority, whereas nearly 40 percent spoke Javanese. By unanimously choosing a minority language, the delegates of the congress avoided the resistance of non-Javanese ethnic groups and signaled their commitment to political unity. Its status as the national language was cemented in the 1945 Constitution.

Subsequent policies leveraged the national language for broader nation building efforts. Indonesian was established as the language for official communication and was incorporated in the national curriculum (Nababan, 1991; Suryadinata, 1988; Wright, 2016). Along with the expansion of access to education, this policy helped to spread the adoption of the national language. Given its vast diversity, Indonesia’s national language policy is often considered an exemplary success. Today, many view Indonesian as “a symbol of national unity identification” rather than simply an official language used in politics or business (Sneddon, 2003), and as one early observer argued, “the more [the Indonesian people] learned to express themselves in Indonesian, the more conscious they became of the ties which linked them” (Alisjahbana, 1962). However, despite nearly universal knowledge of Indonesian and its widespread use in formal communication and media, less than 20 percent of households use it as the primary language at home (based on the 2010 Census).

2.2 Transmigration and Nation Building

Another important element of Indonesia’s nation building effort was the Transmigration program. Designed to alleviate population pressures, the program subsidized the relocation of agricultural households from rural Java/Bali (transmigrants) to newly created rural settlements in the Outer Islands. Historically, Transmigration began during the Dutch colonial period and was revived after independence. However, it received a major overhaul in the third and fourth Five-Year Development periods (or Pelita) from 1979–1988 under Suharto (see below).

During this period, planners envisioned the program as a vehicle for nation building by fostering interactions between the country’s diverse but segregated ethnic groups (Hoey, 2003; Kebschull, 1986; MacAndrews, 1978; World Bank, 1988). In speeches and policy documents, government officials allude to the program’s role in enhancing interethnic cooperation. For instance, in 1985, the Minister of Transmigration, stated “By way of transmigration, we will try to ... integrate all the ethnic groups into one nation, the Indonesian nation. The different ethnic groups will in the long run disappear because of integration and there will be one kind of man, Indonesian.” (Hoey, 2003).

However, the program stoked suspicions of a “Javanization” agenda in the Outer Islands (see, e.g., Hoshour, 1997; Mangunrai, 1977). Echoing some of the sentiments from the early days of independence, there were questions of whether Transmigration was a vehicle for cultural imperialism over Outer Island cultures or a way for Suharto’s government to solidify power in frontier regions (see e.g., Aspinall, 2008; Charras and Pain, 1993; Levang, 1995). Their concerns reflect the unease among indigenous, “sons of the soil” minority ethnic groups experiencing rapid immigration of majority ethnic groups from the political and economic center of the country. Locally, the Inner–Outer cleavage tends to be the most salient division, and in Transmigration areas, natives often refer to transmigrants as pendatang or newcomers.

The pdf version of the full paper with the footnotes, charts and tables is available on Boston University website here

Since the paper was a study on Transmigration, it is relevant to know the conclusion of the study. A mass transmigration of people will happen as soon as the greenfield new capital of Indonesia in East Kalimantan is completely ready by 2024. 

8 Discussion

We used a large-scale population resettlement program in Indonesia to identify the impact of diversity on nation building. Our findings suggest that the program caused a large increase in local diversity, which led to a change in preferences for intermarriage and the use of the national language at home. Exploiting rich policy-induced variation in diversity across nearly 900 newly established communities, we show how key socialization decisions change as relative group sizes vary. Mixing leads to a weaker attachment to own-group identity and greater adoption of the national identity. The availability of a neutral national language helps to bridge intergroup cleavages amidst the sharp demographic changes associated with this episode of mass immigration, even as majority groups moved into minority regions.

Our findings provide some of the first evidence that the Transmigration program—once the world’s largest resettlement scheme—had positive impacts on interethnic relations. In addition to greater mixing in the marriage market and use of the national language, exposure to the program also led to increased tolerance for other ethnic groups both as neighbors and as leaders. While our findings seemingly contradict longstanding views of the program among activists and social scientists, the results are consistent with a recent reappraisal of the program by Barter and Cotˆ e´ (2015) who argue that the state-sponsored Transmigration communities were not associated with the salient conflicts between Inner and Outer Islanders that erupted in the late 1990s. Their extensive fieldwork and revisionist account complement our results and provide a strong counterpoint to claims that the program was a quintessential example of how state-sponsored migration can stoke “sons of the soil” conflict.

Beyond Indonesia, the greater interethnic integration that we identify is important given that recent work by Ashraf and Galor (2013) and Alesina et al. (2016a) documents potential economic benefits of diversity that may go unrealized if sociocultural concerns preclude efforts to foster greater diversity (Borjas, 2016). Indeed, our findings suggest that the link between (longstanding) ethnic diversity and conflict (see Esteban et al., 2012) may be amenable to policy. Our findings underscore the importance of a shared national identity to unite diverse groups and a common national language that can coordinate and connect multiple groups. Important avenues for future research include studies of other aspects of nation building policies. Should governments promote the use of a national language used by the majority group or a national language that is more neutral? Also, what are the implications for other outcomes such as voting, civic capital, and public good provision?

From a policy perspective, the changes in marriage and language use that we observe have important implications for nation building given the social spillovers across generations. It is precisely the sort of intergenerational multipliers that we saw in the IFLS results in Section 4.2 that can help sustain high levels of local diversity over time. Although small, these mixed communities may in turn matter for aggregate policy outcomes in light of recent work linking ethnic segregation to adverse political and economic outcomes even after accounting for differences in diversity at higher levels of aggregation. Moreover, even though the early settlers in Transmigration communities constituted a relatively small share of Indonesia’s population, it is possible that their impacts on subsequent social and cultural development in these formerly frontier areas were quite sizable in the long-run.

Resettlement programs are already found in many countries, and they are growing in importance globally as climate change, infrastructure development, and conflict continue to displace millions (see Bazzi et al., 2016, for a discussion). Our findings may offer guidance on the potential conditions in which ethnic diversity, as influenced by resettlement programs, can be harnessed for improved social outcomes. Important directions for future research include further investigation on the role of spatial segregation of settlers, the relative sizes of migrants and natives, the role of language in accelerating integration, and the importance of ethnic (in)equality in access to resources.


Since economic implication was touched in passing at the end of the paper, it is worth noting that the Malaysian-side of the Pan Borneo highway is supposed to be completed in 2023 and compliment development in Kalimantan. 

The unpromoted original plan by Dato Najib included development in the energy sector for gas pipeline link and electricity export to Kalimantan. Post-phonement, political witch hunting and contract cancellation and review in the last three years may have delayed its scheduled completion.  

The Trans Borneo Highway to link the interior of Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan will be completed in 10 years time, said then Works Minister Baru Bian in January 2020

In a private audience with Tun Pehin Seri Abdul Taib Mahmud in his last years as Chief Minister, he envisioned SCORE will need Engineers that could be more than West Malaysia could produce. 

It could mean transmigration from West Malaysia to East Malaysia too.      

Before that to happen, Malaysia, specifically West Malaysia, need to untangle its current messy political, economic and social situation.

Need to put in place a national leadership with the clear mind, honesty and integrity to first rid of the past bad habits of corruption and abuse of power linked to political funding and civil service abuses. 

Sabah and Sarawak could play a role to impose their political will by forcing on their counterpart for political stability in West Malaysia in order to benefit from the Nusantara gold rush.  

Secondly and subsequently, the leadership need to lead and appoint qualified, and competent administrators and technocrats with the honesty and integrity to start with. 

Both Indonesia has started doing. However, it is not within sight yet in Malaysia. Only hope it will happen. 

In the meanwhile, Malaysia is neither the destination for FDI and foreign labours. Malaysian professionals, including Malays are migrating abroad for employment in the hordes, including to Indonesia. Within 10 to 15 years, Malaysian labours could be kuli (labourer) in Indonesia. 

A reverse to what happened in the past and happening in significantly declined number today.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

“DAP ingin memuji rakyat Malaysia kerana bersatu sebagai satu negara untuk menjaga dan membantu antara satu sama lain bagi mengatasi bencana tersebut.

“DAP berharap kerajaan Persekutuan berhenti mengabaikan aspirasi masyarakat Cina.”

“Sebagai penyumbang penting kepada pendapatan negara, masyarakat Cina mahu kerajaan menghormati kepelbagaian, menghargai kerja keras dan bersikap adil dengan memastikan sekolah dan golongan miskin dibantu tanpa mengira kaum dan agama.

Kaum Cina penyumbang judi online terbesar dinegara ini.. Melayu jugak jadi kaki judi..

Kaum Cina penyumbang bapak ayam terbesar negara ini. Melayu jugak yang rebah

Kaum Cina juga kuat menyimbang rasuah terbesar di negara ini... abis pemimpin Melayu kaki rasuah

Kaum Cina juga bapak pengedar dadah di negara. Bapak pengedar dadah lesap.. Melayu jugak yang jadi zombie dadah.

Kaum Cina juga manipulate paling besar..Melayu jugak bodo bangang kena tipu..

“Kesanggupan rakyat Malaysia tanpa mengira kaum, agama atau latar belakang untuk membantu antara satu sama lain memberi harapan kepada kita bahawa ada masa depan untuk semua orang di negara kita,” katanya dalam perutusan Tahun Baru Cina hari ini.

Kaum Cina tak hebat mana pun cuma Melayu saja yang terkinja kinja menghina bangsa sendiri..Tanya Tun Mahathir bila Tun ada kuasa Taikun Cina di bela Melayu kena maki hamun. Pulau Batu Putih pun Tun boleh beri sambil gentel telo labuhnya pada anak Cina Lee Kwan Yew untuk Singapura

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