Greater Indonesia

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Map of Greater Indonesia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and East Timor

Greater Indonesia, or in Indonesian and Malaysian, Indonesia Raya or Melayu Raya, was a political concept that sought to bring the so-called Malay race together by uniting the British territories of Malaya and Borneo with the Dutch East Indies.[1] It was espoused by students and graduates of Sultan Idris Training College for Malay Teachers in the late 1920s, and individuals from Sumatra and Java including Muhammad Yamin and Sukarno in the 1950s.[1] Indonesia Raya ("Greater Indonesia") is also the name of the Indonesian national anthem.

Development of idea in colonial era[edit]

The Pan-Malay union was based on understandings on similarities in race, shared language, religion and culture among ethnic groups in Maritime Southeast Asia. The ancient concept of Alam Melayu or Nusantara advocates an historical awareness that the territory of British Malaya, Northern Borneo and the Dutch East Indies were once united, to a degree, under native empires such as Srivijaya, Majapahit, the Malacca Sultanate and Johor-Riau Sultanate.

At the end of the 1920s, the idea to form a new independent nation grew among the people of Dutch East Indies, especially among educated pribumi (native Indonesian). While in the Malay peninsula, the idea of Greater Malay was proposed. In the Dutch East Indies, the activist youth of Indonesian nationalists were more interested in forming an independent Indonesia. In 1928 the Youth Pledge was declared in Jakarta by Indonesian nationalist youth activists proclaiming three ideals; one motherland, one nation, and support one unifying language.[2]

The Malay nationalist Kesatuan Melayu Muda group, founded in 1938 by Ibrahim Hj Yaacob, was one of the more notable entities that embraced the concept as part of its goals.[3]

World War II[edit]

During World War II advocates of Greater Indonesia collaborated with the Japanese against the British and the Dutch.[4] The cooperation was based on the understanding that Japan would unite the Dutch East Indies, Malaya and Borneo and grant them independence.[4] It was understood that under a unified Japanese occupation of these areas, the formation of Greater Indonesia was possible.[4] On July 1945 the KRIS (Kesatuan Rakyat Indonesia Semenanjung) or Indonesian Peninsular People Union, that later the name would be change to "Kekuatan Rakyat Indonesia Istimewa" (Special Indonesian People Force) was formed in British Malaya under the leadership of Ibrahim Yaacob and Dr. Burhanuddin Al-Hemy with the aim to achieve independence from Great Britain and union with Republic of Indonesia. This plan has been consulted with Sukarno and Hatta.[5]

In 12 August 1945, Ibrahim Yaacob met with Sukarno, Hatta and Dr. Radjiman in Taiping, Perak. Sukarno transited in Taiping airport on his flight back from Saigon back to Jakarta. Previously Sukarno was summoned by Field Marshal Hisaichi Terauchi in Dalat to discuss about the Indonesian independence and to receive direct statement from Terauchi that Japanese Empire permitted the independence of Indonesia.[6] During this meeting Yaacob expressed his intention to unite Malay Peninsula into independent Indonesia. It was in this short conference that Sukarno, flanked by Hatta, shook hands with Ibrahim Yaacob and said, 'Let us form one single Motherland for all the sons of Indonesia.'[7]

However in 15 August 1945 Emperor Hirohito declared the surrender of Japanese Empire through radio broadcast. Indonesian Republic proclaimed its independence in 17 August 1945. Accused as collaborator, in 19 August Ibrahim Yaacob flew in Japanese military airplane to Jakarta. Yaacob sought refuge in Jakarta with his wife Mariatun Haji Siraj, his in-law Onan Haji Siraj and Hassan Manan. Ibrahim Yaacob that fought for the unity of Malay Peninsula into Indonesia then resides in Jakarta until his death in 1979. With the fall of Japanese power in August 1945 all the ideas of the union between peninsula with Indonesia were decayed and never heard again in Malay peninsula ever since.[5]

After the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence, through armed battles in Indonesian National Revolution between 1945–1949, The Republic of Indonesia finally gained recognition of sovereignty from the Netherlands during Dutch–Indonesian Round Table Conference in 1949. While across the straits after Japanese occupation the Malay Peninsula were practically under Great Britain control.

Confrontation and the Greater Indonesia ideal[edit]

After the end of World War II, the idea of Greater Indonesia was never heard again, until more than ten years later. In late 1950s Sukarno strongly opposed the British decolonization initiative through the formation of Malaysia that would include the Malay Peninsula and North Borneo. That hostile political stance led to the Indonesia–Malaysia Confrontation in the early 1960s that was manifested in an undeclared war with small scale transborder battles and military infiltration in Borneo. Sukarno accused the new nation of Malaysia of being a British puppet state to reestablish so-called neo-imperialism and neo-colonialism in Southeast Asia, and also to contain Indonesian ambition to be the regional hegemonic power. However it was also suggested that Sukarno's campaign against the formation of Malaysia was actually motivated to unite Malay Peninsula and the whole island of Borneo under Indonesian rule and to complete the previously disbanded idea of Greater Indonesia.

In late 1965, the failed 30 September Movement coup attempt caused Sukarno to fall from power and the rise of General Suharto to seize power in Indonesia. Because of this domestic conflict, Indonesia lost its desire to continue their policy against Malaysia, and therefore the war ended. On 28 May 1966, a conference held in Bangkok secured an agreement between the Federation of Malaysia and Republic of Indonesia to resolve the conflict. The violence ended in June, and the peace deal was signed on 11 August and officially recognized two days later. With this peace deal, Indonesia and Malaysia officially agreed to be two separate national entities that mutually recognized each other's existence and sovereignty.

After the peace deal, Indonesia was occupied with its own domestic problems building its economy while tried to maintain its unity as a diverse and plural nation, as a result, during the reign of Suharto freedom and democracy were sacrificed in the name of national stability and unity. In 1975 Indonesia annexed the former Portuguese colony of East Timor that finally achieved independence from Indonesia in 1999. Indonesia suffered various problems ranging from economic crisis, separatist movements in Aceh and Papua, to the problem of terrorism. Indonesia is more interested in defining itself as Indonesian by trying to develop national character building, to define themselves as pluralist nation encapsulated in Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity) under Pancasila as national ideology with territorial claim only spanned from Sabang in Aceh to Merauke in Papua.[8] As the largest nation in Southeast Asia, Indonesia seems to be satisfied on channeling its regional ambition through assuming leadership role among ASEAN countries.

On the other side, Malaysia is struggling on nation building and facing problems in inter-racial relations, especially between Malay majority with Chinese and Hindu Indian minority, the problem that plagued Malaysian politics up until now.[9] The racial issue and the disagreement on citizenship and privileged issues between Bumiputra and Chinese and Indian Malaysian is the very problems that has caused the separation of Singapore from Malaysia back in 1960s. In North Borneo, the Brunei royals chose not to follow Sarawak and Sabah on forming the Malaysia and remained under Great Britain protection until 1984. With each parties kept busy and being occupied in their own problems, the ideal of a grand union that united the whole so-called Malay race under one great national entity called Greater Malay or Greater Indonesia has finally faded away, ceased to exist and remain irredentist.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McIntyre, Angus (1973). "The 'Greater Indonesia' Idea of Nationalism in Malaysia and Indonesia.". Modern Asian Studies 7 (1): 75–83. doi:10.1017/S0026749X0000439X. 
  2. ^ Sumpah Pemuda
  3. ^ Page 208-209 Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menengah Sejarah Tingkatan 2. Zainal Abidin bin Abdul Wahid; Khoo, Kay Kim; Muhd Yusof bin Ibrahim; Singh, D.S. Ranjit (1994). Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. ISBN 983-62-1009-1
  4. ^ a b c Graham, Brown (February 2005). "The Formation and Management of Political Identities: Indonesia and Malaysia Compared" (PDF). Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity, CRISE, University of Oxford. 
  5. ^ a b Reinventing Indonesia: menemukan kembali masa depan bangsa
  6. ^ Terobosan Sukarno dalam Perundingan Linggarjati
  7. ^ Joseph Chin Yong Liow The Politics of Indonesia-Malaysia Relations: One Kin, Two Nations
  8. ^ Sekretariat Negara
  9. ^ Time: Facing Malaysia's Racial Issues