Posted by: mensab | October 2, 2008

Indonesia: From Birth of a New Nation to a New Region

Sixty-three years ago, Indonesia gained its independence from the Dutch authority. It was to mark the birth of a new nation, rebuilding it with its own peoples’ creative minds and determined hands, according to its own design, identity, and aspiration. Nationalism was at its peak. The pride of being Indonesian and of all that was Indonesian reverberated in the bones and marrows of those who waited, struggled, and won for the newly-independent nation. That was sixty-three years ago. 


After sixty-three years, is Indonesia getting closer to the design that the proponents of independent Indonesia have imagined? Does the nation’s current situation have a tinge of their aspiration? Have the peoples become more Indonesian or less? These questions are necessary to rethink and reflect on the direction of the country. But it is likewise necessary to consider who we are, historically and culturally, if we want to discern what our place in this globalizing world is.


Indonesia is composed of multiethnic and multireligious population. The mosaic of the country is rooted in the variety of food and languages, diversity of performing arts and customs, wealth of heritage and history, and archipelagic landscape. There is so much to be proud of in the country. And that pride is entrenched in the hearts and minds of Indonesians and expressed in their daily lives.


Remember sixty-three years ago. Indonesia should never be the same as it was.


This year saw the declaration of Kosovo as an independent country. Kosovars who are mainly ethnic Albanians and Muslims celebrated frantically the historic moment of separation from Serbia, a predominantly Christian country. The new republic of Kosovo promised to embrace everyone in Kosovo regardless of their ethnicity and religion. Nationalism drove the peoples of both Kosovo and Serbia on the streets; one celebrating, the other protesting.


Imagine Kosovo sixty-three years from now.


Certainly, Kosovo will be part of the European Union. And most likely, Serbia will also join the EU. Nationalism which drove these two countries to go at each other will be replaced by regionalism which is a key in dealing with the challenges of the globalizing world.


Indonesia is a founding member of ASEAN which has a binding Charter for all member-states to ratify to be integrated more into one dynamic community. Sadly, Indonesia has yet to ratify the ASEAN Charter, along with the Philippines and Thailand. The ASEAN Charter is gearing up the Southeast Asian regional organization towards a rule-based association.


Timor Leste which gained independence from Indonesia in 1999 has expressed its desire to join ASEAN. Both countries have a hostile past of each other. Both will be integrated into one regional organization, one vision, one identity, and one community working for peace, stability and prosperity for the peoples of ASEAN which recently celebrated its 41st founding anniversary.


In the celebration of ASEAN’s anniversary, the current Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, mentioned that the world is excited about the prospects of ASEAN with the Charter at hand. The prospects present a region that can stand and take care of its own affairs effectively and peacefully. That means, “one region less a problem to the world,” he said.


As the host country of ASEAN Secretariat and a third of the region’s population, Indonesia is vital to the process of attaining the vibrant prospect of ASEAN. Thus, Indonesia’s independence must move its design, identity and aspiration towards working with its neighbors, its partners for peace, stability and prosperity in the region. It has to take the lead in the integration bid when other ASEAN members are facing their own internal and political problems.


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