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Konfrontasi (Confrontation)

Ahmed Sukarno was the first president of independent Indonesia. He exhibited a growing authoritarianism, dissolving the elected parliament in 1959 and proclaiming himself presidentfor life in 1963. By 1963 an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy included a geo-political vision of a unified island nation which included both the Philippine islands and the former British colonial territories of Malaysia.

The international scene was, for Sukarno, a gigantic stage upon which a dramatic confrontation between (as he termed them) the New Emerging Forces and Old Established Forces was played out in the manner of the wayang contest between the virtuous Pandawas and the evil Kurawas. With the assistance and support of the PKI, Sukarno attempted to forge a "Jakarta-Phnom Penh-Beijing-Hanoi- Py'ngyang axis" in order to combat Neocolonialism, Colonialism, and Imperialism (Nekolim). Although the Soviet Union was a major supplier of arms and economic aid, relations with China through official and PKI channels were growing close, particularly in 1964-65.

Continued Dutch occupation of West New Guinea led to a break in diplomatic relations between Jakarta and The Hague in 1960. In December of that year, Sukarno established a special military unit, the Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad), also known as the Mandala Command, based in Ujungpandang, to "recover" the territory. Full-scale war, however, was averted when a compromise was worked out under United States auspices in which West New Guinea was first turned over to UN and then to Indonesian administration. The UN replaced the Dutch on October 1, 1962, and in May 1963, Indonesian authority was established. The so-called Act of Free Choice, a UN sanctioned and -monitored referendum to discover whether the population, mostly Papuans living in tribal communities, wanted to join the republic, was held in 1969. Community leaders representing the various sectors of society were chosen by consensus at local level meetings and then met among themselves at the village, district, and provincial levels to discuss affiliation. Only these community leaders could vote and they approved incorporation unanimously. Criticism of the process by foreign observers and suspicions of pressure on the voting leaders threw its legitimacy into question.

Hostility to Malaysia, which was established on September 16, 1963, as a union of states of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore, and the North Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak, sprang from Sukarno's belief that it would function as a base from which Nekolim forces could subvert the Indonesian revolution. Malaysia's conservative prime minister, Tengku Abdul Rahman, had agreed to the continued basing of British armed forces in the country, and Sukarno could not forget that the government of independent Malaya had given assistance to the PRRI rebels in 1958. In the wake of Malaysia's creation, a wave of anti-Malaysian and anti-British demonstrations broke out, resulting in the burning of the British embassy. PKI union workers seized British plantations and other enterprises, which were then turned over to the government.

Despite the SABAH CLAIM from the Philippines and KONFRONTASI (ganyang Malaysia "CRUSH MALAYSIA" CAMPAIGN) launched by Indonesia, on 16 September 1963 MALAYSIA was formed. The declaration of the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963 was followed by street protests and the burning of British and Malayan embassies in Jakarta.

On September 23, 1963, Sukarno, who had proclaimed himself President-for-Life, declared that Indonesia must "gobble Malaysia raw." Military units infiltrated Malaysian territory but were intercepted before they could establish contact with local dissidents. This action -- known as Confrontation (Konfrontasi) -- soon involved Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. While Indonesia failed to prevent the formation of Malysia, it managed to "internationalize" the Malaysia issue and thereby threaten to abort the plan. The Indonesian military attempted two raids on West Malaysia during the second half of 1964.

The British feared that Konfrontasi might frustrate their "grand design" to decolonise in the Borneo territories. Also, fears of Konfrontasiescalating into a hot war forced the British to maintain and even increase their militarypresence in the region, leading to further accusations of Malaysia being a neo-colonialist plot. From 1963 to 1966, the United Kingdom, supporting Malaysia and Brunei, combined both war and diplomacy to counter Sukarno's policy of Konfrontasi. Within this foreign policy, British and otherCommonwealth forces, the Australians and New Zealanders, conducted a series of low-visibility penetrations of the Indonesian border on Borneo, referred to as CLARET operations, as part of a wider program of special operations. Their purpose was to conduct preemptive, offensive combat operations against Indonesian bases. While the USA ceased all aid in June 1964, the Australian government continued its aid to Indonesia, despite hostilities between Australian and Indonesian forces in Malaysia during 1964-65.

Greg Poulgrain [Greg Poulgrain, The Genesis of Konfrontasi: Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, 1945-1965 (Bathurst: Crawford House, 1998] argued that confrontation with Indonesia was deliberately provoked to facilitate the inclusion of Sarawek in Malaysia and to bring down Sukarno. At the crux of this policy was the Brunei revolt of December 1962. The Brunei Revolt provided ample sparks for Indonesia to declare publicly its opposition to Malaysia, citing the excuse that the Malaysia plan did not have the support of the peoples of Borneo. That the revolt was successfully quelled by the British added fuel to the Indonesian charge. The British suspected Indonesian complicity in the revolt. In examining the political situation of Brunei before the instigation and the reactions of Indonesia at the time, Greg Poulgrain aimed to vindicate the role of Brunei's A.M. Azahari, who had anticipated a federation of the three Borneo states headed by the Sultan of Brunei as constitutional monarch.

When the UN General Assembly elected Malaysia as a nonpermanent member of the Security Council in December 1964, Sukarno took Indonesia out of the world body and promised the establishment of a new international organization, the Conference of New Emerging Forces (Conefo), a fitting end, perhaps, for 1964, which Sukarno had called "A Year of Living Dangerously."

Relations between the military and the President deteriorated in 1965 partly due to Konfrontasi, or confrontation with the new nation of Malaysia over the ownership of North Kalimantan. It was his attempt to infuse communist ideology into the military structure that contributed to the split between President Sukarno and the military. The military witnessed the spiraling inflation, the growing influence of the PKI and the general disintegration of the state. Factions within the military saw themselves as the only hope for the nation from an out-of-control dictator. Everything came to a head on 30 September 1965 with the 'aborted coup' attempt. Army General Suharto assumed power with President Sukarno still occupying the position of president.

Then in 1966, Suharto forced President Sukarno to relinquish power and assumed the presidency. A connection between the Sukarno and Suharto eras was the ambition to build a unitary state whose territories would extend "from Sabang [an island northwest of Sumatra, also known as Pulau We] to Merauke [a town in southeastern Irian Jaya]." Although territorial claims against Malaysia were dropped in 1966, the western half of the island of New Guinea and East Timor, formerly Portuguese Timor, were incorporated into the republic. This expansion, however, stirred international criticism, particularly from Australia.

Malaysia became a prosperous country with a GDP per capita of around US$12,700 in 2006, almost three times Indonesia's GDP per capita of only $4,616 in the same year. Malaysia's human development index (HDI) of 0.805 (61st in the world) was much higher than Indonesia's, 0.711 (108th).

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:28:25 ZULU