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

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