Posts made in April, 2014

The Mystery of Syodancho Soeprijadi

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Mystery of Syodancho Soeprijadi

Starting in late-1943 a series of American naval victories decisively turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. Saipan fell to U.S. forces in July 1944, breaching the Japanese Marianas defense line and leaving open seas to Japan and Southeast Asia. By September, the Allies had captured Morotai and other islands in northern Maluku. By late-1944, Allied bombers targeted Japanese military facilities in Surabaya and other Indonesian cities on an almost nightly basis, continuing through the Japanese surrender. American and Filipino troops captured Manila on March 3, 1945. Tokyo was subjected to devastating fire-bombing raids. The American 10th Army landed on Okinawa April 1. Forces under Admiral Mountbatten captured Mandalay on March 20 and Rangoon on May 3. In Europe, Germany surrendered on May 8. Even to ordinary Indonesians, it was clear Japan was losing the war. During the conflict’s closing months, the Japanese imposed increasingly severe conditions on the population. Japanese appropriation of supplies and a failed rice crop exacerbated the already dire domestic economic situation. The public suffered from severe shortages, uncontrolled inflation, unemployment, official corruption, forced labor conscription, disease and famine. Anti-Japanese sentiments flared as Tokyo’s military setbacks signaled the final stage in the global conflict. The Japanese losses and increasing privation emboldened Indonesians to rebel against the blatant Japanese cruelty, abuse and racism. Starving peasants revolted in West Java, Aceh, North Sulawesi and West Borneo. Between early-1944 and early-1945, Japanese forces ruthlessly suppressed uprisings led by local Muslim leaders at Tasikmalaya, Indramayu and Singaparna in West Java. The most significant civilian revolt took place in the staunchly Islamic town of Tasikmalaya from late-February through early-March 1944. Over several days, Japanese troops brutally crushed the rebellion led by local Muslim leader Kyai Haji Zaenal Mustofa. Several hundred Indonesians died; Mustofa and twenty-three others were summarily executed. The Japanese were similarly brutal in crushing uprisings in Pontianak, West Kalimantan (where more than 1,600 were reportedly killed) and on Biak Island in Dutch New Guinea led by tribal leader Lucas Rumkorem (in which over 8,000 Papuans died).[1] Soeprijadi, a platoon leader (syodancho) in the Blitar, East Java Peta battalion, was only twenty-one years old when he led his men in an uprising against the Japanese in mid-February 1945. Trained as an intelligence officer, Soeprijadi’s smoldering resentment toward the Japanese had apparently started during his indoctrination at the Seinendojo training course in Bogor (Buitzenzorg) during 1943.[2] Soeprijadi and other officers from the Blitar battalion had been in contact with (and apparently received encouragement from) the East Java underground resistance movement. Angry at the demeaning treatment they and their men had received, Soeprijadi, about a dozen fellow officers and 300 men attacked the local telephone bureau and a hotel where Japanese officers lodged, killing several Japanese before fleeing to the countryside. With help from neighboring Peta battalions, the Japanese systematically rounded up the mutineers. They court-martialed sixty-eight men and beheaded six of them, compelling Sukarno and other nationalist leaders to attend the tribunal to demonstrate their support for the harsh justice.[3] The official account maintains Soeprijadi and his cohorts had planned the mutiny for at least eight months. At...

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Sukarno’s Pancasila, Nasakom and Marhaenism Concepts

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Sukarno’s Pancasila, Nasakom and Marhaenism Concepts

Sukarno claimed his mother was Balinese royalty. His father came from the aristocratic priyayi class with blood ties to the East Java Kediri and Central Java Surakarta Mangkunegara sultanates. As a young man, Sukarno boarded with Omar Said Tjokroaminoto – head of Sarekat Islam, the Islamic trade union founded in 1912 – his father’s friend. Tjokroaminoto’s house was the center for the anti-colonial movement in Surabaya. An outspoken critic of the Dutch, he was actively involved in the labor movement and, in a typically Javanese manner, embraced Islamic, nationalist and socialist ideals. In that environment, young Sukarno was exposed to wide ranging political thinking and many prominent nationalists, including communists like Alimin and Musso, and doctrinaire Islamists like Sekarmadji Maridjan Kartosuwirjo, another of Tjokroaminoto’s foster sons who later started the Darul Islam rebellion. Ironically, soldiers killed Musso in September1948 after Sukarno ordered the Army to crush the Madiun communist uprising and in 1963 Sukarno signed the execution order for Darul Islam leader Kartosuwirjo. A voracious reader, Sukarno mastered Dutch, English and developed a working knowledge in several other European languages although he never left Indonesia during his youth. He earned an engineering degree from the Dutch-administered MULO (Meer Uitgebreid Lager Onderwijs, More Extended Lower Education) Bandung Technical College and worked several years as an architect. Like his benefactor, Tjokroaminoto, Sukarno drew upon and freely mixed secular western, Islamic and Hindu-Buddhist concepts. He was influenced by western ideas but sought to recast them into Indonesian form. Indeed, Sukarno was obsessed by the overarching Javanese belief in “oneness,” that “all things are one.” [1] He advocated an Asian paternalistic “big family” model of government that was benevolent, humanist and socialist, while unquestionably authoritarian. He preferred to rely on functional groups (for instance, workers, farmers, fishermen and soldiers) to represent the national interests, rather than self-interested and “small-minded” political parties. Sukarno understood the multi-ethnic, multi-religious Indonesian society’s fundamentally unstable nature and, like later national leaders, was obsessed with the challenge of how to maintain national unity in such a diverse and far-flung archipelagic state. Sukarno’s Pancasila – five principles: belief in one God, a just and civilized humanity, national unity, democracy through representative consultation, and social justice – intended to unify society by reconciling the fundamental differences between nationalism and religion, and ultimately became the basis for Indonesia’s enduring state philosophy. Others have claimed the idea was their own but Sukarno was first to articulate a coherent Pancasila concept during his speech on June 1, 1945 before the Japanese-sponsored Investigatory Body for Preparatory Work for Indonesian Independence (Badan Penyelidik Usaha Persiapan Kemerdekaan Indonesia, BPUPKI). And Sukarno was the driving force behind incorporating Pancasila into the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution. The awakening of Indonesian nationalism in the early-twentieth-century paralleled the Russian Revolution and growth of an international communist movement. Marxist-communist ideas influenced not only colonial politics but the nascent nationalist movement. Thus, from the independence movement’s early years through the traumatic events on October 1, 1965, when Indonesian Army leaders were assassinated, Indonesians almost universally acclaimed socialism as the most appropriate form of government. Whether they considered themselves communist or anti-communist, most...

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Hizbu’llah, the Army of God

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Japanese empowered Sukarno’s urban-based, secular nationalist movement but were cautious not to offend the Islamic community. Unlike the Dutch, who generally suppressed Muslim interests, the Japanese recognized the extensive influence traditional Islamic leaders and teachers, the ulama and kyai, exerted in Java’s rural areas. “The Japanese saw the Islamic leadership as an excellent means of mobilizing the peasant mass without having to make political concessions demanded by the nationalists. The scepter of a holy war preached by the rural ulama, which had haunted the Dutch more profoundly than nationalism itself, seemed to the early Japanese planners more easily to divert against the West.”[1] In response to appeals from Indonesian Muslim leaders, the Japanese 16th Army sanctioned the creation of Masjumi (Council of Indonesian Muslim Associations) in October 1943. Carefully controlling the new Muslim council, the Japanese brought its leaders to Jakarta for training and indoctrination. Masjumi created a united front comprising modernist (santri) and syncretic (abangan) believers, although the Japanese conspicuously favored santri leaders. As a consequence, the modernist Muhammadiyah Islamic association dominated Masjumi from the start. To assuage Muslim objections to the abundance of secular, nationalist military and paramilitary organizations – more particularly, in response to a personal appeal from Gatot Mangkupradja – starting in December 1944 – two months after inaugurating the Peta homeland defender organization and just eight months before Tokyo’s final capitulation – the Japanese allowed Masjumi chapters to form their own militias, referred to as Hizbu’llah (Army of God) units. The Islamic community reacted enthusiastically. Pesantren schools formed dozens of Hizbu’llah units on Java and Madura, drawing on their santri students (Muslim acolytes in this context). The Japanese established a national Hizbu’llah headquarters in Jakarta under Kyai Haji Masykur as supreme commander and Zainal Arifin as military commander. Masjumi and the formation of Muslim militias fueled the rivalry between secular nationalists and Islamic forces within society. The Japanese originally intended the Hizbu’llah militias to be a reserve force for Peta. However, Muslim leaders viewed their Hizbu’llah units as separate and distinct from their more secular Peta counterparts. Some Muslim Peta officers were assigned to help train the Hizbu’llah laskar (irregular militia forces) but the Japanese strictly segregated the Hizbu’llah and Peta units. Unlike Peta, Muslim organizations provided most funds needed to clothe, equip and feed their volunteers. Like Masjumi, modernist Muslims dominated the Hizbu’llah organization. Like Sukarno’s Barisan Pelopor, the youthful Hizbu’llah militias were mostly armed with sharpened bamboo poles. Although the Japanese provided minimal equipment and training to the religious forces, the creation of Hizbu’llah established a precedent for independent Muslim military units. Following the Japanese surrender, Hizbu’llah units sought to preserve their separate identity and resisted integration with regular forces. By then there were around 38,000 Hizbu’llah members – roughly the same as the combined strength of the admittedly better-trained and armed Peta force of sixty-nine battalions. After the Independence Proclamation, Muslim youth rushed to join Hizbu’llah units. By November 1945, three months after the proclamation, Masjumi had started forming Sabili’llah (Way of God) home guard auxiliaries (mostly comprising older volunteers) in an effort to regularize and solidify control over the...

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The Religion of Java

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Scholars have classified the tolerant mixture of Islamic and pre-Islamic Buddhist, Hindu and animist beliefs practiced by Javanese peasants and the urban working class in Central and East Java as abangan Islam, although members of the Javanese community tend to prefer the term kejawen (also referred to as kebatinan or kepercayaan). Abangan melds many seemingly incompatible traditions and is sometimes characterized as nominal, folk, popular or a “Hinduized” form of Islam. The late Professor Clifford Geertz went so far as to label abangan as the “Religion of Java” and considered it separate and distinct from traditional, orthodox or modernist (santri) Islam. “Although it spread—peacefully for the most part—through almost all of Indonesia in a space of three hundred years and completely dominated Java except for a few pagan pockets by the end of the sixteenth century, Indonesian Islam, cut off from its centers of orthodoxy at Mecca and Cairo, vegetated, another meandering tropical growth on an already overcrowded religious landscape. Buddhist mystic practices got Arabic names, Hindu Radjas suffered a change of title to become Moslem Sultans, and the common people called some of their wood spirits jinns; but little else changed.”[1] Complicating matters, Professor Geertz classified the Javanese aristocratic class, the priyayi, with its emphasis on refinement and social harmony, as separate and distinct from the abangan class. “The abangans are Java’s peasantry, the prijajis are its gentry.”[2] Originally represented by traders, upper class Javanese and most of the Muslim population of the outer islands, santri Muslims adhered more strictly to shari’a Islamic beliefs and rituals. Most santri Muslims abide by Islam’s Five Pillars – confession of faith, five daily prayers, fasting, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and zakat (the religious tax) – whereas most abangan Muslims did not perform the daily prayers prescribed by Islamic law or even bother to fast during the Ramadan holy month. Despite Islam’s prevalence in Indonesia, the abangan–santri split has traditionally divided the Muslim community and neutralized its political clout. From the beginning, the chiefly urban-based modernists had more university graduates, professionals, managers, technocrats and businessmen compared to the large but mainly rural abangan movement – giving them a significant political and bureaucratic advantage. Indeed, the Nahdlatul Ulama was established in 1926 to defend the pesantren-based syncretic Islamic tradition in the Javanese countryside against the growing influence from modernist Muslim organizations like Muhammadiyah. Both major Muslim mass social organizations, the modernist Muhammadiyah and the Javanese abangan Nahdlatul Ulama, joined to the Japanese-sanctioned Masjumi (Council of Indonesian Muslim Associations) coalition, although the modernist component dominated. Masjumi became a political party after the August 1945 Independence Proclamation. The Nahdlatul Ulama withdrew in protest in August 1952 to form its own abangan party because virtually all government posts the party acquired were awarded to modernists. When Soeharto forced the Nahdlatul Ulama to merge with other Islamic parties in the United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan, or PPP) during January 1973, it was again dominated by the modernists even though the thirty-five million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama provided the party with the most votes. Again, in December 1984 the Nahdlatul Ulama under Abdurrahman Wahid withdrew from the modernist-dominated PPP...

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Peta, the Homeland Defenders

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Peta, the Homeland Defenders

By late-1943, with the war going badly, the generals at 16th Army Headquarters debated whether to conscript Javanese youth for the war effort. In accordance with Japanese wishes, during September Sukarno, Hatta and fellow nationalist leaders unenthusiastically endorsed a conscription program. Indonesian National Party official Raden Gatot Mangkupradja published a letter in the Bandung Tjahaja newspaper objecting to compulsory conscription. Mangkupradja was a committed nationalist with close ties to Japanese officers. The dreaded Kempetai Military Police picked him up after the offending article appeared. Defending himself to the High Command, Mangkupradja argued a voluntary recruitment program would succeed if structured as a homeland defense force. At risk to his own life, he gave skeptical Japanese officers a personal guarantee – allegedly written in his own blood – that Indonesian youth would eagerly volunteer for such a force.[1] In truth, many Japanese officers sympathized with Mangkupradja and his assurance proved accurate. Thousands of young men answered newspaper advertisements to sign up for the Volunteer Army of Homeland Defenders (Sukarela Tentara Pembela Tanah-Air), later shortened to Homeland Defenders, or Peta. Yogyakarta Sultan Hamengku Buwono IX and both Surakarta royal houses enthusiastically supported efforts to recruit and establish the homeland defense force. Gatot Mangkupradja worked closely with Japanese officers to organize the Peta training program and establish a central training center in the West Java hill station of Bogor (Buitzenzorg). He was granted battalion commander (diadancho) rank although he did not directly command troops. A devout member of the modernist Muhammadiyah Islamic society, Gatot Mangkupradja was later influential in convincing Japanese authorities to allow Muslim leaders to form Hizbu’llah (Army of God) militias. The Allies arrested Mangkupradja and imprisoned him as a Japanese collaborator after the war. Following his release in June 1947, Mangkupradja took a position on Amir Sjarifuddin’s Army Political Education (Pendidikan Politik Tentara, Pepolit) staff in Yogyakarta. He was involved in managing the irregular laskar forces during the Revolution, later serving as Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) Secretary General and a Member of Parliament.[2] Initially established under the Giyugun banner, the Japanese 16th Army raised the first thirty-five Javanese Peta battalions during October 1943, adding twenty more in August 1944 and another eleven in November 1944 – for a total of sixty-six geographically-based Peta battalions on Java. Three more battalions were formed on Bali during June 1944. The Peta units were patterned after a standard Japanese infantry battalion, with only half the normal strength – initially between 500 and 700 men in most units. Officers were issued samurai swords (katana), while noncommissioned officers carried the short blade (wakizashi). Peta troops wore old Colonial Army uniforms with Japanese rank insignia. Officers wore high black leather jackboots, enlisted men canvas shoes with leggings. Most units were armed with captured Dutch weapons. Nationalist leaders remained skeptical toward the new military organization. “There was no memory at that time of an Asian nation winning its freedom by force, and apparently few if any among the Indonesian nationalist politicians planned for any armed action for the nationalist cause. The Japanese proposal to create Indonesian armed forces, was, therefore, accepted by these men with mixed feelings,...

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