Tag Archives: Colonialism

Op-Ed: The Armed Forces, Capital, and Politics

Kompas Daily Op-Ed: The Armed Forces, Capital, and Politics

By Danang Widoyoko, October 11, 2017

KOMPAS – Many observers believe Indonesian National Armed Forces Commander General Gatot Nurmantyo has started campaigning for election. Some believe specifically that Gatot has started mobilizing support from political parties and Islamic organizations. Some think that flaming fears of a revival of the Indonesian Communist Party, and mobilizing the public to watch the film “G30S/PKI”, are part of efforts to build support for boosting his popularity and electability. There have even been many calls for him to resign as commander of the armed forces.
Gatot’s maneuvering has been seen by many observers as in reality representing not just his own ambition. Gatot’s action is viewed as representing the disappointment and frustration of the Indonesian Armed Forces and, in particular, the Indonesian Army which has lost both its role and access to material resources. In the context of an understanding of the history of capital formation in Indonesia it is very important to develop a policy for creating a professional armed force and its financial implications.

Domestic Capital

In his classic study Indonesia: The Rise of Capital (1986), Richard Robison demonstrated how the New Order regime generated domestic capital. He described four major sectors of domestic capital formation: Chinese conglomerates, indigenous conglomerates, state capital and state-owned enterprises (BUMN) and military businesses.
With support, facilities, and protection, these four sectors of domestic capital grew large and produced conglomerates in various parts of the economy. However, the 1997 economic crisis and the subsequent topping from power of the New Order meant that domestic capital faced a difficult situation. Reforms by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut all the facilities and protection for domestic capital.
Since then, policies of privatization and liberalization opened the door to international capital which has come to compete with domestic capital. In practice, that period represented a difficult time for domestic capital.
In their book Reorganizing Power in Indonesia (2004), Robison and Vedi Hadiz described the rise of an oligarchy. Rather than being sidelined, political and economic elites in fact grew stronger in the wake of the reforms.
Then, what about the development of domestic capital? According to Christian Chua in his book Chinese Big Business in Indonesia (2009), democracy and decentralization, in fact, facilitated the expansion of the Chinese conglomerates. With the large financial resources they possessed, the role of these conglomerates became important in the political system which has come to be characterized by the practice of money politics.
The second sector of capital, indigenous capital, was also able to prosper, not only in the economy but also in politics. In 2007, Forbes magazine crowned Aburizal Bakrie the richest person in Indonesia. Having once led the Golkar Party, Bakrie is possibly presently having difficulty with the burden of debt in his business group. Even so, he continues to rank among Indonesia’s richest people and is an influential figure inside the Golkar Party. Another example is the businessman Jusuf Kalla, current Indonesia’s Vice President.
The third sector of capital, state-owned enterprises, is presently rising to dominance again in a variety of sectors of the economy. President Joko Widodo’s focus on infrastructure development has positioned state-owned enterprises as important players. Capital injection and infrastructure development have made the state-owned enterprises increasingly large. Previously, the program of reform of state-owned enterprises that was supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) succeeded in restructuring the state-owned enterprises. In semester I 2017, the total assets of state-owned enterprises reached Rp 6,694 trillion (US$498 mil) (Kompas.com 30/8/2017) or almost 50 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Then what about the fourth sector of domestic capital, military businesses? In contrast to the other three areas of domestic capital, military businesses are currently in a slump. Public Law 34/2004 concerning the Indonesian National Armed Forces strongly prohibited the military from operating businesses and instructed the Armed Forces to surrender business entities to the state. To date, it is not clear what progress has been made in the process of surrendering these military businesses. However, I suspect the majority of these businesses either operate at a loss or have been taken over by their business partners.
Another factor that has caused the decline in military businesses is the firm separation of the function of defense from that of security. The military has not only withdrawn from business, but also in relation to security which has now become the task of the police. The withdrawal of the Armed Forces from the task of security has closed off access for the military to informal and illegal sources of funds connected to protection and security.
Aside from the decline of the military businesses, the military has now also lost access to material resources through political positions. The generation of General Gatot Nurmantyo is the generation that prior to joining the Armed Forces expected that on retiring they would occupy important positions within the bureaucracy, parliament or regional government.
In a democratic political landscape, these positions are only obtained through stiff competition among politicians. The military, of course, has had difficulty competing with these politicians who have been developing capabilities and networks developed in fact during their days as university students.

Professional Military

In relation to the maneuver of General Gatot currently under scrutiny, there are two important points for discussion. Firstly, with the withdrawal of the Armed Forces from parliament and the closing of military businesses, the military has generally returned to barracks. However, it is now, in fact, civilian politicians who have been “inviting” the Armed Forces to jump the fence out of the barracks and to back into politics.
Secondly, returning to barracks and becoming a professional military requires funds. Without calculating this cost, the invitation from politicians who are inviting General Gatot, and later also other generals, will continue to be repeated. For this reason, the formulation of what kind of professional military is needed, and how much is needed to fund it, is a pressing issue.
Making the Armed Forces into a professional military requires a significant amount of money, however, it is very important for the future of politics and democracy in Indonesia.


Source: Artikel Opini: Tentara, Modal, dan Politik, Kompas Daily 11 October 2017 with an English version published as Soldiers, Capital, and Politics. Tempo reporting on the issue. j danang widoyoko celoteh di awan blog


Novel: Ain’t No Night Fair By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 1

The letter wouldn’t have upset me so badly if only I hadn’t just sent my own letter before it arrived. My letter contained what I can only describe as something that was going to be very unpleasant to read. The letter I received read like this:

Blora, 17 December 1949

My beloved child!

There is no more profound joy in this world than the deep happiness felt by a father who has his child returned to him, his first born child, the child who carries all his swelling pride and honor, the child who for so long has been denied contact with normal society and been separated from the ordinary life of decent human beings.

My child!

I can imagine the suffering in your soul. I can picture how you suffered in that cramped space because I experienced that myself during the rebellion of the Socialist Youth militia, when I was moved between three prisons in two weeks. From that time until now, every single night, I have begged the Almighty for safety and happiness for our family, and for our future generations. I pray He will forgive our family’s sins.

Yes, that was the start of the letter I received after I’d been out of jail for two weeks. With me sending such an angry letter, and with me receiving this reply, well, tears just welled up in my eyes. And I promised myself, I wouldn’t be so disrespectful.

I never had any idea my father had been held prisoner by the communists too. Then six months later there arrived another letter from Blora. This time it wasn’t from my father but from my uncle.

If you can, please come home to Blora for a couple of days. Your father isn’t well. At first it was malaria and a cough. Then he also developed hemorrhoids and finally they figured out, he’s got tuberculosis. Your father’s in the hospital now and he’s already vomited blood four times.

To start with I was in shock reading the letter. My chest felt tight. Then I couldn’t say anything. In my mind, I could see, first, my father, and then, the money. Where would I find the money to go home? And this is what sent me wandering the streets of Jakarta, hunting for my friends, and for debt.

It was hot, and the tens of thousands of cars sprayed dust all over your perspiring body. And it was dust that contained a mixture of all sorts of things – dried snot, horse shit, bits of car tire, pieces of bike and pedicab tire, and probably also some of my own bike tires which the day before had sped along the same streets I was riding along now. And the dust mixture stuck with your own perspiration like glue to your body. I couldn’t help swearing just a little, to myself.

Yes, if only I owned a car. If only, I said, then none of this would have happened. At that moment I also thought, people who do own cars certainly cause a lot of trouble for those who don’t. And they don’t even know it.

Approximately half an hour after the sunset prayer time I had succeeded in acquiring the debt. If that decent friend hadn’t been able to hold out the money while saying “You can use this money for the time being.” I have no doubt I would have become a bigger wreck than before. The angry letter I had sent first made me rigid with the feeling that I had done something terribly wrong. And to make that go away, I had a duty to visit my sick father. That’s what my heart told me.

In the violet darkness and the sun setting in the reddening west, my bike sped along the small streets close to the president’s palace. The palace. It was bathed in the rays of electric lights. Who would have known how many hundreds of watts it used. I didn’t know. In my estimation, I just guessed the palace’s electricity couldn’t be anything below five kilowatts. And if anyone had believed that it didn’t have enough electricity, someone only needed to pick up the phone and the palace would receive more.

After all the President was a practical person, not like those people struggling to eke out a living every day along the side of the road. If you weren’t the president, and nor a minister, and you wanted to get forty or fifty more watts of electricity, you had to have the courage to pay off someone with two- or three-hundred rupiah. This was really very impractical. And if those in the palace wanted to go out and visit A, or B, everything was ready – airplane, car, cigarettes, and the dough. And to get to Blora I had to first rush all over Jakarta, and acquire some debt. Living like that was really very impractical.

And if you became president and your mother became sick, or, take your father, or take, any other member of your close family, then tomorrow, or the day after that, you would already be able to visit them. Then suppose you were a low-level civil servant on a wage only just sufficient to breathe on, even asking for leave to visit someone sick would be difficult. After all, it makes those two-bit office bosses feel big if they can hand down some dictate that stops their officials from doing something.

All of this was just getting me worked up. Democracy is one truly beautiful system. You’re allowed to become president. You’re allowed to choose whatever job you like. You have the same rights as anyone else. And democracy means you don’t have to bow or scrape to the president or a minister or any other lord or noble. Truly. This is one of democracy’s victories. And you’re allowed to do whatever else takes your fancy, just as long as it stays within the limits of the law. But if you ain’t got no money, you’re screwed. You can’t move an inch. In a democratic country, you are allowed to buy whatever goods you like. But if you haven’t got any money you’re only allowed to look at the things you want. This is also a sort of win for democracy.

All of this filled my heaving chest as I pedaled along with the borrowed money in my pocket. And, yes, debt too was a good thing, a kind deed even, when a person was caught in a difficult place.

Debt! President! Minister! Lords! And sickness! Cars! Sweat and horse-shit dust! My heart cried out.

(Continued)

Ain't No Night Fair Cover Illustration By DA Peransi
Ain’t No Night Fair Cover Illustration By D.A. Peransi

Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

For more background on DA Peransi see Indonesian Visual Art Archive.

Ambition

By Muhammad Yamin

Night has fallen, cool and still
The breeze is so gentle and soft;
The ocean heaves, murmuring quietly
The smooth surface glistening and glinting.

Outstretched hands reach into the night air
Unsteadily withdrawn, by a heart without joy
Because of the “wish”, remembered so often
So brilliantly, beyond words.

Every star shines brightly
This body of mine is finally aware
The longed for is reaching through nobility.

Who can doubt, who can not believe
That we are guided always
By God, the Lord so rich?

On the Indian Ocean, June 1921

Gezicht over Tandjong Priok, de haven van Batavia
Gezicht over Tandjong Priok, de haven van Batavia  Deze foto is genomen vanaf het spoorwegstation van de Staatsspoorwegen (SS) in de haven Tandjong Priok bij Batavia (Jakarta). Rechts is de “Eerste Binnenhaven” te zien.

The Ambition (Tjita-Tjita) was first published in Indonesian in the Dutch-language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, June 1921. It was republished in Pane, Armijn (ed), Sandjak-Sandjak Muda Mr. Muhammad Yamin [The Young Poems of Mr. Muhammad Yamin], Firma Rada, Djakarta, 1954, p. 6.

Other background that may of interest includes: Abdullah, Taufik. and Cornell University. Modern Indonesia Project.  Schools and politics : the Kaum Muda movement in West Sumatra (1927-1933) / Taufik Abdullah  Cornell Modern Indonesia Project, Cornell University Ithaca, N.Y  1971  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7822864-schools-and-politics; Yamin, Muhammad. Tan Malacca, Bapak Republik Indonesia: Riwajat-politik Seorang Pengandjoer Revolusionér Jang Berfikir, Berdjoeang Dan Menderita Membentoek Negara Republik Indonesia. Djakarta: Berita Indonesia, 1946. Print.

“Framing Asia” – The next monthly film screening and discussion during the Leiden Asia Year – KITLV

‘Framing Asia’ is a monthly film screening and discussion on Asia during the Leiden Asia Year. We are very pleased to invite you to the fifth edition of  ‘Framing Asia’. You are welcome to join us on Wednesday 7 June at 19.30 h at Lipsius 028. This edition will screen three films centered around the theme ‘Decolonization and Revolution: Veterans and Re-enactments’.

Libera Me (30 min)

Martin van den Oever & Jos Janssen

Libera Me is a transnational approach to the colonial war between Indonesia and the Netherlands. With personal reflections of some veterans of war from both sides a concentrated circular and shared history of 30 minutes is constructed, merging and reconciling both perspectives. We meander between past and present and between two nations that came to be further apart than they already were.

Looking Back Now (18 min)

Marjolein van Pagee

A sequence of videos made between 2013-2015 that show the people that Van Pagee interviewed, all related to memories of the Indonesian independence war in East-Java and Madura. In this 18 minute video-compilation, we will see the people behind the portraits of photo-project ‘Kembang Kuning – Yellow Flower’. Stories about war and destruction are usually sad, yet, the compilation ends with a video that will make you laugh for sure.

The Feel of History (29 min)

Lise Zurne

Each year, a historical society called the Komunitas Djokjakarta 1945 reenacts one of the last battles with the Dutch colonizers of 1949 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Following their preparations, this film seeks to portray this community and its main members. By focusing on the material culture of re-enactment, one learns how these re-enactors create a spectacular and romanticized re-presentation of the past that allows them to temporarily be the war heroes that they worship so much.

All filmmakers will be present to enter a discussion with Bart Luttikhuis. Bart Luttikhuis is a researcher at KITLV in late colonial history and the history of decolonization, with a particular empirical focus on early to mid-twentieth century Indonesia.

Date: Wednesday 7 June 2017

Time: 19.30 h

Location: Leiden University, Lipsius Building, room 028

More information: www.kitlv.nl/framing-asia

Traveling Images: Photographs from colonial Indonesia and the Meaning of Colonial Space around 1900 – Leiden Southeast Asia Seminar

Traveling Images: Photographs from colonial Indonesia and the Meaning of Colonial Space around 1900  By Sophie Junge

Leiden Asia Year
Leiden Asia Year

Images from the Dutch East Indies have been legitimizing Dutch colonial activity since the 17th century. Especially 19th century-photography was used to repress indigenous populations and to demonstrate Dutch authority on the archipelago. Nevertheless, it was not photography but the reproduction of photographic images that made the colony a place to be seen. Throughout the 19th century only few local studios took pictures of the Dutch East Indies and even fewer photo albums traveled back to the Netherlands in the luggage of retired colonial staff to stay in the private space of the family. It was not until the introduction of mass-reproduced images around 1900 that the visibility of the colony drastically increased.

The seminar examines the medial and trans-colonial circulation of printed photographic images on picture postcards, in illustrated magazines and travel guidebooks that reached broad audiences within the colony and beyond its borders. These images, often produced by a transnational network of photo studios, printers and publishers, give insight in the meaning of colonial space and the meaning of the photographic image around 1900. In extending postcolonial research on representations of indigenous “Others”, the paper argues that photographs of colonial space could only be understood in specific visual or textual framings, which combined existing photographic imagery with European postcard designs, Art Nouveau decorations and/or textual information. The paper analyses representations of colonial space to find out more about the creation of a specific canon of images, the reception of colonialism in the beginning of the 20th century and its meaning in terms of Dutch national identity.

Dr. Sophie Junge works at the Centre for Studies in the Theory and History of Photography at the Institute of Art History of the University of Zürich. Currently, she is also affiliated at Leiden University as a research fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation to prepare a Postdoc project on photographic images from the Dutch East Indies after 1900. Her book Art Against AIDS. Nan Goldin’s Exhibition Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing has been published in 2016.

Date: Thursday 11 May 2017

Time: 15.30 h – 17.00 h

Venue: KITLV, room 138, Reuvensplaats 2, Leiden

Please register if you wish to attend: kitlv@kitlv.nl

Source: Traveling Images: Photographs from colonial Indonesia and the Meaning of Colonial Space around 1900