Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The National Awakening Day-Is it 20th May or 16th October ?

For 101 years, Boedi Utomo has been regarded as The pioneer of Nationalist movement in Indonesia that lead to the Independence of Indonesia on 17th of August 1945. Thus its founding day on 20th of May is widely celebrated as The National Awakening Day (of Indonesian Nationalist Movement). However it becomes many people concern regarding on whether they were the first nationalist organization. On the other hand, the nature of Boedi Oetomo itself promote another question on whether it was really a nationalist movement after all?

As you already know, Boedi Utomo was founded on 20th of May 1908 by Dr Sutomo and his friends from School of Medicine STOVIA. Raden T Tirtokusumo, The regent of Karangayar , was elected as the first chief until 1911 and then he was succeeded by Arjo Noto Dirojo, a Prince from Pakualaman Palace. The first Congress of Boedi Oetomo on July 1908 described the nature of the the organization as :
  • Focus in education, training and ethic
  • Provides and collects scholarship (studie fonds)
  • Apolitical
  • Accepts member from Java and Madura only

The First Boedi Oetomo Congress on July 1908 (Source : Lowensteyn.com)

Savitri Prasisti Scherer wrote in her (well looks like a woman name for me :P) thesis in 1975 at Cornell University about the main idea behind the foundation of Boedi Oetomo. She described the confrontation (or feeling of inequality to be precised) occured in Java between two upper classes, i.e. Noblemen versus intellectuals (notably medical doctors). Learning the situation, Dr Sutomo found the organization in order to give confidence or feeling of equality to his doctor colleagues in front of the noblemen of Java. Furthermore Suwarno, the secretary of Boedi Oetomo in Batavia Branch issued a writing to explain the objective behind the founding of Boedi Oetomo, the objective turned out to be the pioneer of Java Unity (Algemeene Javaansche Bond)

After learning the nature of Boedi Oetomo and the objective of its founding, many people question the wisdom behind the appointment of 20th of May as The National Awakening Day. Especially if there was another organization that were founded before 1908 and showed the nature of a pioneer of Indonesian nationalist movement. The organization is Sarekat Dagang Islam which was founded 3 years before Boedi Oetomo on 16th of October 1905 and later evolved to Sarekat Islam on 1911.

In his book “Syarikat Islam Bukan Budi Utomo: Meluruskan Sejarah Pergerakan Bangsa", KH Firdaus AN revealed the inclusiveness of Syarikat Islam by pointing out the multirace leadership of Syarikat Islam that consisted of Hj Samanhudi, HOS Tjokroaminoto (both are Javanese), Abdoel Moeis, Agus Salim (both are West Sumatranese) and AM Sangaji (Ambonese). However, the nature of the organization itself is quite interesting. Initially, the organization was cautious to confront the Dutch Colonial Government, as stated by Tjokroaminoto himself at the first Sarekat Islam Congress in 1913

First Sarekat Islam Congress in 1913 (Source : Lowensteyn.com)
"We are loyal toward the Government; we are satisfied with the Dutch Government; it is not true that we want to fight; he who says so or thinks so, is not sane, we don't want to fight, a thousand times, NO! The Sarekat Islam is not a political party; it is not a party that wants revolution, as many think."
However, as the time went by and the strength of Sarekat Islam grew to 800.000 members, (other source only mentions around 300.000 members) in 1917-1918 they began openly critical to the Dutch Colonial Government and became a non-cooperative movement.

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself, ABBA said :D So after more than 60 years since it was first celebrated on 20th of May 1948, will we repeat it again after this year?
Only time will tell...

Reference and Further Reading

Boedi Oetomo, Syarikat Islam dan Kebangkitan Nasional
Seabad Boedi Oetomo-Tepatkah 20 Mei Jadi Harkitnas?
Seratus tahun Boedi Oetomo
Kenapa Menggugat Boedi Oetomo?
The Sarekat Islam by Peter Lowensteyn
Kebangkitan Nasional atau Kebangkitan Elit Jawa?
Read more!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Dream of Great Nusantara

Imagine a large country in South East Asia that combine the area of present Indonesia, Malaysia ,Singapore and the southern provinces of Thailand. The country also has full jurisdiction over strait of Malacca, one of the busiest oil choke points in the world. It seems like a purely daydream in present situation. However at one time, there were efforts to establish the dream.

It was started when The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 and The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 were signed. The treaties officially divided the Nusantara or the Malay world into Malaya Peninsular which was ruled by Great Britain, The Dutch East Indies (later become Indonesia) which was ruled by The Netherlands and southern Thailand provinces. The treaty itself only involved The Netherlands, Great Britain and Siamese Kingdom without any support from the Malay as the indigenous community. Moreover, although there was a dividing line between the communities from both areas, they shared many similarities in term of languages, cultures and religion.

Time went by and nationalism start to grow at both areas. Indonesia experienced it first at 1900`s, marked by Sarekat Dagang Islam which later evolved to Sarekat Islam (sorry, I believe Budi Utomo didn`t promote national awakening of Indonesia :D) and reached its peak at 1920`s with the emergence of Sukarno as the de facto nationalist leader. Most Indonesian nationalists promoted the Independence of Indonesia through non cooperation way and was considered radical by the Dutch colonial government. Their acts inspired many students at Malaya Peninsular, especially the students at Sultan Idris Training College (SITC) who was dubbed as The birthplace of Malay Nationalism. The students, led by Ibrahim Yaacob, began subscribing to Indonesian periodicals like the Fikiran Rakyat (’People’s Thought’) and they even individually joined Sukarno’s Nationalist Party (Partai Nasional Indonesia, PNI) in secret. Since then, they became the nucleus of non aristocrat intellectuals with strong anti British tendency and also critical to their upper class British educated counterparts

Later on, in conjuction with their strong anti colonialist sentiment, they began to write and speak about the need to free people of Nusantara (in this context only refer to Indonesia and Malaya peninsula) from colonialism and re-unite them under the banner of a unitary political entity of `Greater Malay`. Some other sources refer the union to 'Greater Indonesia', however I prefer `Greater Nusantara' which seems neutral compare to the previous two terms :D. Other than Ibrahim Yaacob and his coleagues, the Indonesian and Malay student at Al Azhar University Cairo also voiced the same idea through their journals, "Seruan Azhar" and "Pilihan Timoer".

Ibrahim Yaakob and his colleagues pursue the idea of Greater Nusantara through Kesatuan Melayu Muda which was found at 1938, then KRIS (Kesatuan Rakyat Indonesia Semenanjung) after KMM was disbanded by the Japanese and finally later through PKMM (Partai Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya) after the WW II over. One of their effort was to let the Indonesian nationalist knew about their plan. It was not widely known in Indonesia that upon completing their journey to meet Admiral Terauchi in Dalat, Sukarno-Hatta stopped at Taiping, Perak and met with Ibrahim Yaakob. In his book, "Sekitar Malaya Merdeka", he described the meeting as followed :

In their talks, Soekarno who accompanied Hatta shook Ibrahim’s hand and said: “Let’s create one motherland for those of Indonesian stock.” Ibrahim Yaacob replied: “We Malays will faithfully create the motherland by uniting Malaya with an independent Indonesia (Translated by Soh Byungkuk)

After Indonesia declared their Independence at 17th August 1945, the dream of union was near to become reality when the British introduced The Malaya Union proposal at 10 October 1945. The sentiment against the idea was so strong and forced the Malay community to consider PKMM idea of Greater Nusantara. But the idea finally vanished after the proposal of Malaya federation was accepted by the British and it received the final blow after British captured the key leaders of PKMM due to The Malayan Emergency in 1948.

What went wrong that cause the strugle of Greater Nusantara ended as a failure?
Hmm.. I guess I`ll put it in my next writing.. :P

References and further reading
The Broken Dream of Malaya Raya by Farish A Noor
Ideals Without Heat: Indonesia Raya and The Strugle for Independence in Malaya (1920-1948) by Soh Byungkuk
Soekarno-Ibrahim in Taiping by Rosihan Anwar
William Roff, 1967, The Origins of Malay Nationalism, New Haven: Yale University Press

Read more!