On Monday, August 17th, Indonesia will be celebrating a quarter of a century of independence.?
On Monday, August 17th, Indonesia will be celebrating a quarter of a century of independence. This vast country, of about 3,000 islands and a hundred million people, was proclaimed an independent republic by the nationalist leaders Dr. Sukarno and Dr. Hatta at the end of the Second World War. Before the war, it had been a Dutch colony; from 1942 to 1945, it was occupied by Japan.
After prolonged negotiations, the Netherlands recognised the new Republic at the end of 1949, with Dr. Sukarno as its first President. Dutch New Guinea (which later became West Irian) was excepted from this agreement and its status was to be regulated later. No agreement was reached until 1962, when, through the good offices of the United Nations, the territory was transferred to United Nations administration for nine months, and then top Indonesia.
Indonesia was strongly opposed to the setting up of Malaysia in 1963, and carried out Persistent guerrilla warfare along the border of the two countries in Borneo. There were anti-British demonstrations in Djakarta, the Indonesian capital, in which the Embassy was stoned and the British Ambassador's car was set on fire. Indonesia withdrew from the United Nations for a time in protest against Malaysia's election to the Security Council; and President Sukarno announced that he would crush Malaysia "before the cock crew" on the first day of 1965. The confrontation was ended in 1966.
Internally, President Sukarno abolished the federal system in 1950, and set up a unitary state. The 1945 constitution was reinstated in 1959. Then, in 1960, the President took powers to control or dissolve political parties, and set up a mass organisation, the National Front.
A Communist attempt to overthrow the Government is September and October 1965 was suppressed by the army. About 80,000 Communists are said to have been killed.
Student demonstrations in 1966 led to a reorganisation of the Government. The military commanders, under the leadership of General Suharto, took over executive power, through President Sukarno remained as Head of State for another year. He handed over all hips powers to General Suharto in February 1967, and died in June 1970.
In the last few years, under General Suharto, Indonesia has been struggling to pay off a vast burden of foreign debt, and rising prices have led to a certain amount of unrest. But the country has returned to a more active part in international affairs. It restored diplomatic relation with Malaysia and Singapore, rejoined the United Nations, played a leading part in the formation of the Association of South East Asian Nations, and in May 1970 was host to a meeting of Asian and Pacific nations called to discuss the military crisis in Cambodia.