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The Birth of the Republic

The War of independence
Diplomacy and Fighting
The Indonesian Question in the United Nations
World Recognition and Indonesia's Sovereignty
The Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia
Challenges to " Unitary State"
The Asian-African Conference

The Republic of Indonesia first saw light on August 17, 1945, when its independence was proclaimed just days after the Japanese surrender to the Allies. Pancasila became the ideological and philosophical basis of the Republic, and on August 18, 1945 the Constitution was adopted as the basic law of the country. Following the provisions of the Constitution, the country is headed by a President who is also the Chief Executive. He is assisted by a Vice-President and a cabinet of ministers.

The sovereignty of the people rests with the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). Hence, the President is accountable to the MPR. The legislative power is vested in the House of Representatives (DPR). Other institutions of the state are the Supreme Court, the Supreme Advisory Council and the Supreme Audit Board. Soekarno became the first President and Chief Executive, and Mohammad Hatta, the first Vice-President of the Republic. On September 5, 1945 the first cabinet was formed.

The War of Independence

The infant republic was soon faced with military threats to its very existence. British troops landed in Indonesia as a contingent of the Allied Forces to disarm the Japanese. Dutch troops also seized this opportunity to land in the country, but for a different purpose, - namely, to regain control of the former East Indies. At the beginning they were assisted by British troops under General Christison, a fact later admitted by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Commander of the Allied Forces in Southeast Asia based in Myanmar. In fact, the British troops were officially only assigned to the task of repatriating Allied prisoners of war and internees.

On November 10, 1945, fierce fighting broke out between British troops and Indonesian freedom fighters in which the British lost Brigadier Mallaby. As a result, the British turned to all-out combat from the sea, air and land. The newly recruited army of the Republic soon realized the superiority of the British forces and withdrew from urban battles. They subsequently formed guerrilla units and fought together with armed groups of the people.

Under the pretext of representing the Allied Forces, the Dutch sent in more troops to attack Indonesian strongholds. Between 1945 and 1949 they undertook two military actions.

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Diplomacy and Fighting

Meanwhile, on November 11, 1945, Vice-President Hatta issued a manifesto that outlined the basic policy of the new Republic. It was a policy of good neighborhood and peace 22 with the rest of the world. On November 14 of the same year, the newly appointed Prime Minister, Sutan Syahrir, introduced a parliamentary system, with party representation, in the Republic. On December 22, Sutan Syahrir announced Indonesia's acceptance of the British proposal to disarm and confine to internment camps 25,000 Japanese troops throughout the country. This task was successfully carried out by TNI, the Indonesian National Army.

Repatriation of the Japanese troops began on April 28, 1946.Because fighting with Dutch troops continued, the seat of the Republican Government was moved from Jakarta to Yogyakarta on January 4, 1946.

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The Indonesian Question in the United Nations

The war in Indonesia posed a threat to international peace and security. In the spirit of article 24 of the United Nations' Charter, the question of Indonesia was officially brought before the Security Council by Jacob Malik of the Soviet Unions. Soon afterwards, on February 10, 1946, the first official meeting of Indonesian and Dutch representatives took place under the chairmanship of Sir Archibald Clark Kerr.

But the freedom fight continued and Dutch military aggressions met with stiff resistance from Indonesian troops. The Indonesian Government conducted a diplomatic offensive against the Dutch. With the good offices of Lord Killearn of Great Britain, Indonesian and Dutch representatives met at Linggarjati in West Java. The negotiations resulted in the de facto recognition by the Dutch of lndonesia's sovereignty over Java, Sumatra and Madura. The Linggarjati Agreement was initiated on November 1946 and signed on March 25, 1947.

But the agreement was a violation of Indonesia's independence proclamation of August 17, 19A5, which implied sovereignty over the whole territory of the Republic. As such, it met with the widespread disapproval of the people. Hence, guerrilla fighting continued, bringing heavy pressure on Dutch troops. In July 1947 the Dutch launched a military offensive to reinforce their urban bases and to intensify their attacks on guerrilla strongholds. The offensive was, however, put to end by the signing of the Renville Agreement on January 17, 1948. The negotiation was initiated by India and Australia and took place under the auspices of the UN Security Council.

It was during these critical moments that the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) stabbed the newly- proclaimed Republic of Indonesia in the back by declaring the formation of the "Indonesian People's Republic" in Madiun, East Java. Muso led an attempt to overthrow the Government, but this was quickly stamped out and he was killed. In violation of the Renville agreement, on December 19, 1948, the Dutch launched their second military aggression. They invaded the Republic capital of Yogyakarta, arrested President Soekarno, Vice-President Mohammad Hatta and other leaders, and detained them on the island of Bangka, off the east coast of Sumatra. A caretaker Government, with headquarters in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, was set up under Syafruddin Prawiranegara.

On the initiative of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru of India, a meeting of 19 nations was convened in New Delhi that produced a resolution for submission to the United Nations, pressing for total Dutch surrender of sovereignty to the Republic of Indonesia by January 1, 1950. It also pressed for the release of all Indonesian detainees and the return of territories seized during the military actions. On January 28, 1949, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution to establish a cease-fire, the release of Republican leaders and their Yogyakarta.

The Dutch, however, were adamant and continued to occupy the city of Yogyakarta in ignorance of the Republican Government and the National Army. They deliberately issued a false statement to the world that the Government and the army of the Republic of Indonesia no longer existed.

To prove that the Dutch claim was a mere fabrication, Lieutenant Colonel Soeharto, led an all-out attack on the Dutch troops in Yogyakarta on March 1, 1949, and occupied the city for several hours. This offensive is recorded in lndonesia's history as "the first of March all-out attack" to show to the world at the time that the Republic and its military were not dead. Consequently, on May 7, 1949, an agreement was signed by Mohammad Roem of Indonesia and Van Rooyen of the Netherlands, to end hostilities, restore the Republican Government in Yogyakarta, and to hold further negotiations at a round table conference under the auspices of the United Nations.
World Recognition and Indonesia's Sovereignty

The Round Table conference was opened in The Hague on August 23, 1949, under the auspices of the UN. It was concluded on November 2 with an agreement that Holland was to recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia. On December 27, 1949 the Dutch East Indies ceased to exist. It now became the sovereign Federal Republic of Indonesia with a federal constitution. The constitution, inter alia, provided for a parliamentary system in which the cabinet was responsible to Parliament. The question of sovereignty over Irian Jaya, formerly West New Guinea, was suspended for further negotiations between Indonesia and the Netherlands. This issue remained a perpetual source of conflict between the two countries for more than 13 years. On September 28, 1950, Indonesia became a member of the United Nations.

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World Recognition and Indonesia's Sovereignty

The Round Table conference was opened in The Hague on August 23, 1949, under the auspices of the UN. It was concluded on November 2 with an agreement that Holland was to recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia. On December 27, 1949 the Dutch East Indies ceased to exist. It now became the sovereign Federal Republic of Indonesia with a federal constitution. The constitution, inter alia, provided for a parliamentary system in which the cabinet was responsible to Parliament. The question of sovereignty over Irian Jaya, formerly West New Guinea, was suspended for further negotiations between Indonesia and the Netherlands. This issue remained a perpetual source of conflict between the two countries for more than 13 years. On September 28, 1950, Indonesia became a member of the United Nations.

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The Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia

On August 17, 1950 the Unitary State of the Republic on Indonesia, as originally proclaimed, was restored. However, the liberal democratic system of government was retained whereby the cabinet would be accountable to the House of Representatives. This was a source of political instability with frequent changes in government.

In the absence of a stable government, it was utterly impossible for a newly independent state to embark on any development program. With the return of the unitary state, the President once again assumed the duties of Chief Executive and the Mandatory of the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly. He is assisted by a Vice-President and a cabinet of his own choosing. The Executive is not responsible to the House of Representatives.

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Challenges to " Unitary State"

The philosophy behind the Unitary State was that a pluralistic country like Indonesia could only be independent and strong if it was firmly united and integrated. This was obviously the answer to the Dutch colonial practice of divide and rule. Hence, the national motto was "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" as referred to earlier. However, no sooner was the Unitary State re-established then it had to face numerous armed rebellions. The Darul Islam rebels under Kartosuwiryo terrorized the countryside of West Java in their move to establish an Islamic State. It took years to stamp them out. Then there was the terrorist APRA band of former Dutch army captain Turco Westerling, which claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people.

Outside Java, demobilized ex-colonial arm men who remained loyal to the Dutch crown, staged a revolt and proclaimed what they called "the Republic of South Maluku". In South Sulawesi an ex-colonial army officer, Andi Aziz, also rebelled. In Kalimantan lbnu Hadjar lead another armed revolt. Sumatra could also account for a number of separatist movements. And, to complete the list, the Indonesian Communist Party again staged an abortive coup under the name of 30th September movement, when they kidnapped and killed six of the country's top army generals in the early hours of October 1, 1965.

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The Asian-African Conference

President Soekarno had to his credit the holding of the Asian-African Conference in Bandung, West Java, from April 1 8 to 24, 1955. The initiative was taken by Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The conference was attended by delegates from 24 Asian and African countries. The purpose of the meeting was to promote closer and amiable cooperation in the economic, cultural and political fields. The resolution adopted became known as the "Dasa Sila", or "The Ten Principles," of Bandung. It strives for world peace, respect for one another's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and for non-interference in each other's internal affairs. The resolution also seeks to uphold the human rights principles of the United Nations.

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