From “Sabang ‘till Merauke” is the name of a song dedicated to Indonesia’s many islands and its diversity. It’s numerous chain of islands contained in the thirty-two thousand miles dividing two oceans, the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Sabang is a small island just off the coast of Sumatra; Merauke is a small village near the border of Papua New Guinea. Indonesia’s 13,677 islands inhabited by 350 different ethnic groups, and more than 200 different languages. Consequently this part of the world gave many different cultures, traditions, and way of lives.
Despite this diversity, Indonesia today has a common bond that united them all into one nation, one language, and one people. Due to this diversity, conflicts are unavoidable. However, the people of Indonesia have been able to overcome their differences. The spirit of musyawarah (to deliberate or confer), mufakat (to agree), and gotong-royong (mutual assistance) that have been instilled by their fore-father have helped in achieving peace between the people’s groups. They have yet find this quality in any other nations of the world. The largest country, both in area and population, in Southeast Asia is the Republic of Indonesia.
It consists of 13,677 islands that cover 741,101 square miles (1,919,443 square kilometers) of land along the equator between the Indian and Pacific oceans. With a population of more than 210 million, it ranks as the world’s fourth most populous country. The nation is poor, with a low standard of living, even though it has many valuable natural resources. These include large onshore and offshore petroleum and natural gas deposits, huge tracts of tropical hardwood forests, and a variety of minerals, including tin, nickel, and copper. However, only about 10 percent of the land can be used for raising crops.
The islands of Indonesia, of which 6,044 are inhabited, spread out over about 3,200 miles (5,300 kilometers) from east to west, and 1,300 miles (2,100 kilometers) from north to south. The country’s total land and sea area are more than 3 million square miles (7. 7 million square kilometers). Despite the vast number of islands, five of them account for nearly 92 percent of the land area. These are Sumatra; Java; Celebes (Sulawesi); two thirds of Borneo (Kalimantan); and the western portion of New Guinea, Irian Jaya. Almost 95 percent of the people live on those main islands, and more than 62 percent make their homes n Java.
Under international law, the waters between the islands of an archipelago have not traditionally been regarded as part of a country’s territory. However, Indonesia claimed them as such, which led to international disagreements. The Law of the Sea Convention, approved by the United Nations in 1982, established the concept of archipelago waters, supporting Indonesia’s claim. From the start of its history, Indonesia was divided in various ways among a number of rulers. The Netherlands ruled the islands for nearly 350 years, until Indonesia declared its independence in 1945.
Sundas to the East of Java, of whom the Balinese are the most numerous. Among the non-Malay people of Indonesia are approximately 4 million Chinese. Many of them have adjusted to Indonesian ways, and most live in the larger cities and towns. The Chinese residents have, however, often been persecuted by the Malaysian majority. Dayaks inhabit the Borneo highlands, and small number of Papuan peoples of Melanesian origin lives in Irian Jaya. Indonesia developed an official national language because of the great variety of tongues spoken in the country.
All Indonesian schoolchildren are required to learn this language, called Bahasa Indonesia. It was developed from Trade Malay, one of the most widespread hybrid languages used by Indonesians. Bahasa Indonesia also contains elements borrowed from the ethnic languages, particularly Javanese. English is taught in the schools as well. Most Indonesians live in rural areas and are farmers, though they generally raise only enough food crops to feed their own families. About 78 percent of the population is classified as rural, and about 60 percent of the labor force works directly in agriculture.
The rest of the rural population earns a living through fishing, forestry, handicrafts, and the processing of agricultural products. The most common type of settlement, typified by the Javanese village, is a concentration of large thatched-roof houses on stilts. These villages, called kampungs, are surrounded by fruit trees and various kinds of palm trees, which contribute substantially to the family food supply. A kampung, normally provide shelter for about 500 persons and many of the structures blend into neighboring settlements. These appear to be towns of several thousand people, most of who are engaged in agriculture.
Rural population densities in these areas are extremely high, reaching 3,000 per square mile (1,160 per square kilometer) in parts of Java. Densities tend to be much less in the Outer Islands. Only about 22 percent of Indonesia’s population lives in cities, but the country has a number of large urban centers. The urban population growth of the 1960s and 1970s was more than twice as rapid as the total population growth. Indonesia has more than 30 cities with populations of over 100,000, and five with over a million; Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, and Semarang, all on Java; and Medan on Sumatra.
Jakarta, the nation’s capital, was developed by the Dutch as the commercial and administrative center of the islands, then called the Dutch East Indies; its population increased to more than 6. 5 million in the early 1980s. Many Indonesian cities reflect their colonial origins. Old colonial architecture, modern buildings, and kampung like areas stand next to one another. About 90 percent of the people are Muslims, but the intensity of their observance varies. The most ardent are the Acehnese of northern Sumatra, who converted to Islam at the end of the 13th century.
The Javanese are much less intense, and their culture reflects the influence of Buddhism and Hinduism, which originated in India and preceded the Muslim conquests. More than 2. 5 million Balinese practices Hinduism. Most of the hill peoples in Borneo and Irian Jaya, as well as in other remote areas, observe animist tribal religions. About 13 million believers in Christianity live throughout the country in the larger cities, especially in northern Celebes. Most of the Chinese follows Buddhism, Taoism, or Confucianism. The arts in Indonesia have their roots largely in the pre-Islamic cultures, especially of Java and Bali.
An oral tradition of storytelling, particularly of epic tales of Indian origin, continues to be important. Puppet shadow plays associated with the same themes are common in most rural areas. There also is a formal dance tradition, similarly based on themes and movements in the Indian manner. The dancing is accompanied by an orchestra, called a gamelan, consisting of such percussion instruments as drums, gongs, and xylophones, together with flutes and stringed instruments. Weaving is another high art, and each region has distinct patterns of largely cotton fabrics.
A fabric, called batik, created in Java, is particularly well known in other countries, and some is exported. Batik is an Indonesian word meaning “wax writing”–The process involves applying a mixture of beeswax and paraffin wax to specific proportions of the fabric using a curious Javanese instrument called a “Tinting”. The fabric is then dipped or panted with wet dyes, leaving the waxed areas impervious to the color. The designs and the color schemes are built up with successive waxing and dyeing. As this process is all done by hand, each piece is original and no two pieces are ever quite the same.
Some of the things made of batiks are: fabric beach wraps, beach squares, long scarves, Beach tops, Kaftans-long, waist coats, shirts scarf/caps, squinted (for your hair), cushions, tablecloth, place mats, and batik napkins. Creative artist has produce beautiful arts paintings using the same method A contemporary literature in Bahasa Indonesia has begun to appear. More than 60 percent of adults can read and write. This is a vast improvement since Indonesia became independent in 1945. The government has promoted education at all levels, and almost all children now receive some elementary-school education.
However, the dropout rate is high, particularly in rural areas, and the quality of instruction at all levels is poor. There are more than 20 million students in elementary school, but only about 4 million in high school. Each province has a university, and there are several hundred teacher-training institutes and private colleges. Only a few of the universities those in Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Bogor, and Yogyakarta are of high quality, however. As a multi-island country, Indonesia depends particularly on interisland shipping for commerce and communication.
The Dutch developed highly efficient shipping services to all the islands and ports, and the company that provided those services was nationalized by the Indonesian government in 1958. Since then, regular shipping services by more than 300 modern vessels have been sporadic and inefficient. Some of the demand for interisland transport has been met by thousands of small native craft. The major deep water ports are Tanjung Priok in the area of Jakarta, Surabaya, and Cilacap on Java; Belawan, Dumai, and Palembang on Sumatra; Balikpapan on Borneo; and Ujung Pandang (Makassar) on Celebes.
Overland transportation consists of an expanding highway system, chiefly on Java, of about 81,000 miles (130,000 kilometers), of which about half is paved. Recent road construction has been concentrated in the Outer Islands, principally on Sumatra. Railroads cover about 4,300 miles (6,900 kilometers), mainly on Java and Sumatra. A government airline serves most of the major cities. Postal service covers the entire country, and telegraph service is available in all the cities. Telephones are concentrated chiefly in the larger cities and in the areas that produce minerals for export.
Government radio broadcasts reach most of Indonesia, but television is available mainly on Java. Indonesia is a republic in which the president has the primary executive power and serves as leader of the legislature. The People’s Consultative Assembly, consisting of 920 members, is the nation’s highest authority according to the constitution, but the supremacy of the president is generally accepted. The president appoints the members of the assembly, which meets only once every five year, when it elects the president.
The House of People’s Representatives is composed of 460 members, of whom 360 are elected by the people to five-year terms and the remainder are appointed by the president. In theory presidential policies are subject to approval by the house, but it is actually a rubber-stamp parliament whose elected members represent primarily an alliance of special-interest groups. These groups are mobilized into the government party, called Golkar, and two other parties reflecting Muslim, Christian, and nationalist interests.
An extremist Muslim party and the Communist party are outlawed. The country is divided into 24 provinces, two special districts, and a metropolitan district, Jakarta, each with an appointed governor. The central government has 37 ministries, headed by military officers. Indonesia regards itself as one of the so-called unaligned nations. It helped organize and served as host for the Bandung Conference of 1955, which helped give identity to the concept of a Third World in international affairs.
Indonesia was also one of the organizers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967, designed to promote regional integrity and collective welfare in Southeast Asia. In the United Nations, Indonesia has consistently voted with the developing countries. Its relations with China have been strained since 1965. The year of a pro-Communist rebellion in Indonesia, and the two countries do not have formal diplomatic ties. Relations with neighboring Australia also were weakened by Indonesia’s occupation in 1976 of the eastern half of Timor, then a Portuguese colony.
Conclusion Indonesia is a rich country in resources and cultures. The people can be proud of being her citizens. As acknowledged earlier, there have yet a nation, where diversities are easily recognized, and ethnicity is the foundation of peace and harmony. Hope that this fourth largest country in the world, with much diversity within his own region will manage to continue to be bonded with the spirit of musyawarh, mufakat, and gotong-royong. Overcoming yet another challenge that will test the very fabric of Bhineka Tunggal Ika (Many but One or Unity in Diversity).