Thursday, April 13, 2006

Unity in Diversity? An Indon Worry!

In my previous posting War of the Dogs I mentioned that West Papua should never have been, in the first place, incorporated into Indonesia. The inhabitants are Melanisians, completely different in ethnicity and culture from the Indonesian Malays.

But alas, the USA allowed its Cold War fears and, to a lesser extent, business interests to gravitate towards Sukarno's megalomaniac aspiration, forcing the Dutch to surrender its colony to Indonesia.

However, having being absorbed already into Indonesia, other countries must respect the Republic’s sovereignty over West Papua.

Australia has behaved badly in this regard. It allowed 42 West Papuans into Australia as refugees. This has serious diplomatic implications, alluding to Australia's support of a West Papuan independence movement. While that might not have been the actual case as far as the Australian government is concerned, unfortunately Indonesia sees it as such, also knowing that there are many non-government Aussie supporters of an independent West Papua.

Indonesia naturally views it as another thin wedge into its fragmenting nation, with East Timor already lost, Aceh rather iffy, an aggressive Iban nationalistic movement in Kalimantan, and Sulawesi racked by religious warfare.

Australia has also behaved with unmitigated double standards, locking out refugees from Afghanistan and the Middle East, while admitting West Papuans. This seeming inconsistency has aroused Indonesian suspicion that Australia may be up to monkey tricks. It recalls it ambassador as a sign of utmost displeasure against Australia.

John Howard is now in serious damage control, and has taken an embarrassing back flip to his earlier decision to admit the West Papuans. He now announces that any new West Papuans will be treated like other refugees and send to a holding island away from Australia, Nauru.

Australia has underestimated Indonesia’s fear of the latter’s unity. While the Republic’s motto may be Binneka Tunggal Ika or Unity in Diversity [probably borrowed from the USA’s E Pluribus UnumOut of Many, One] it is made up of so many native ethnic groups that the government worries about its fragile cohesiveness and potential fragmentation.


  1. Ktemoc sayang,

    Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is not a new concept. You shouldn't even say that it was "probably borrowed from the USA’s E Pluribus Unum".

    "The concept of BHINNEKA TUNGGAL IKA is not new to Indonesian history. It can be traced back to the time of the construction of Borobudur, when the Sailendra dynasty ruled on the plains of Central Java in the eighth and ninth centuries. Two hundred years later, in the Brantas Valley in East Java, King Airlangga built a united kingdom based on this same principle."

  2. "But alas, the USA allowed its Cold War fears and, to a lesser extent, business interests to gravitate towards Sukarno's megalomaniac aspiration, forcing the Dutch to surrender its colony to Indonesia."

    Ahhh so its all the USA's fault is it? What was ASEAN and the UN doing again?

  3. If, "Australia has also behaved with unmitigated double standards, locking out refugees from Afghanistan and the Middle East", I wonder who were involved in the recent riots at the beach in Oz - the Jews ?

    It's happened in Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan, Korea, Phillipines, Thailand, East Europe, Cuba, Africa, the list goes on. Surely these can't all be because of the Aussies.

    The Indons must realize that if you don't at least try to treat every province in your country as equally and fairly as possible, there are bound to be those who will seek greener pastures elsewhere.

  4. My dear Nizam,

    I stand correctly, though in mitigation I did say it was "probably borrowed ...".

    Thanks for pointing this out to me - one continues to be educated. In a returned favour may I post for you the following:

    Rwâneka dhâtu winuwus Buddha Wiswa,
    Bhinnêki rakwa ring apan kena parwanosen,
    Mangka ng Jinatwa kalawan Siwatatwa tunggal,
    Bhinnêka tunggal ika tan hana dharma mangrwa.

    kakawin Sutasoma (canto 139, stanza 5) by Mpu Prapañca (circa 14th Century)


    It is said that the well-known Buddha and Shiva are two different substances.
    They are indeed different, yet how is it possible to recognise their difference in a glance,
    since the truth of Jina (Buddha) and the truth of Shiva is one.
    They are indeed different, but they are of the same kind, as there is no duality in Truth.

  5. Anonymous,

    ASEAN did not exist then! It came into being only 5 years later, and after Konfrantasi.

    See extract of

    Indonesia threatened with an invasion, after full mobilisation of its army, by August 15, 1962, after receiving military help from the Soviet Union. Under strong pressure of the United States government (under the Kennedy administration) the Dutch, who were prepared to resist an Indonesian attack, attended diplomatic talks. On October 1, 1962, the Dutch handed over the territory to a temporary UN administration (UNTEA). On May 1, 1963, Indonesia took control. The territory was renamed West Irian and then Irian Jaya.

    Also, see


    Behind the scenes, the United States forced the Netherlands to surrender West New Guinea to Indonesia in August under terms negotiated in New York and specified in a document known as the "New York Agreement". The Australian government, which previously had been a firm supporter of the Papuan independence, also reversed its policy. (See US Foreign Relations, 1961-63, Vol XXIII, Southeast Asia and US President letter)

    The agreement, ratified in the UN on September 21, 1962, stipulated that authority would transfer to a United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) on October 1, and that UNTEA would hand the territory to Indonesia on May 1, 1963, until such time as a UN-conducted "Act of Free Choice" could determine the will of the people.

    As I mentioned, West Papua should NOT have been handed to Indonesia in the 1st place, but that's more than 40 years ago - it's now part of Indonesia

  6. Now, on to you, my dear peterp,

    You missed the entire point of my posting - it's NOT about locking out the Middle East refugees - we need to look at the picture in the context of West Papua. it's about the Aus govt's inconsistency in its refugee policy. By already averring to the world that Aus would lock out such illegal arrivals until they have been properly processed to determine their refugee status, what would the Indons think then when the Aus govt didn't apply that official policy/process to West Papuans?

    Therefore it's hardly surprising that the Indons viewed the Aussie govt's inconsistency as highly suspicious and supportive of an insurgent movement for independence from Indonesia, thus suspiciously reflecting possible Aus' undermining of Indon sovereignty.

    Incidently, what happened at Cronulla Beach were perpetrated by Aussie-born people [Lebanese Aussies], so don't blame or demonise genuine refugees.

  7. Dear ktemoc,
    I think you're too harsh on the Aussies, because they were NOT inconsistent.
    There were 43 of them in the group including 7 children and 1 was NOT granted Temp. Protection Visa. Fact is they arrived in January and were held in detention until checks were made.

    Read it all here

    As for the riots, you're generalizing when you say that it was Aussie-born Lebanese.


  8. peterp
    the riots at Cronulla beach was triggered by Lebanese Aussies when they went to bash up lifeguards there - in Aus, bashing beach lifeguards would be akin to beating up nuns from the order of Mother Teresa. That's what caused the riots.

    So the Aus had redneck Leb Aussies beating lifeguards, which brought retaliation from rednecks from the other side, instigated in large part by neo-Nazi groups, followed by Leb Aus redneck attacks in turn, and the vicious cycle went on its terrible spin.

    On the other point, the Aus PM has now declared he would go back to SOP for all those who claim refugee status, without any further special concession for West Papuans. There are strong Aus supporters of West Papua independence (including some Christian and leftwing groups) that had pressured the Aus govt to permit those rebels to seek sanctuary here.

    I think it's undiplomatic for the Aus govt to get involved with an insurgent movement in a friendly neighbour, unless Australia doesn't give two hoots about its relationship with Indonesia.