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. 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. Indonesia Raya ("Greater Indonesia") is also the name of the Indonesian national anthem.
Development of idea in colonial era
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, British Borneo and the Dutch East Indies were once united, to a degree, under native empires such as Srivijaya, Majapahit, the Malacca Sultanate, Johor-Riau Sultanate and various other sultanates in Borneo island.
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 Batavia (today Jakarta) by Indonesian nationalist youth activists proclaiming three ideals; one motherland, one nation, and support one unifying language.
World War II
During World War II advocates of Greater Indonesia collaborated with the Japanese against the British and the Dutch. The co-operation was based on the understanding that Japan would unite the Dutch East Indies, Malaya and Borneo and grant them independence. It was understood that under a unified Japanese occupation of these areas, the formation of Greater Indonesia was possible.
In January 1942, Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM) requested the Japanese to grant Malaya the independence the Japanese had promised earlier. This was the first request for Malayan independence by a Malaya-wide political body. The request however was turned down. The Japanese authorities instead disbanded Kesatuan Melayu Muda and established the Pembela Tanah Ayer (also known as the Malai Giyu Gun or by its Malay acronym PETA) militia in its stead.
In July 1945 the KRIS (Kesatuan Rakyat Indonesia Semenanjung) or Indonesian Peninsular People Union, that later the name would be changed 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.
On 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. 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'.
However, on 15 August 1945 Emperor Hirohito declared the surrender of Japanese Empire through radio broadcast. Promptly, Sukarno and Hatta proclaimed Indonesian Republic independence on 17 August 1945. Accused as collaborator, on 19 August Ibrahim Yaacob flew in Japanese military aeroplane 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 surrender of Japan in August 1945, former Kesatuan Melayu Muda cadres formed the nucleus of the emerging political movements like the Malay Nationalist Party, Angkatan Pemuda Insaf, and Angkatan Wanita Sedar. With the fall of Japanese power in August 1945, and its key advocates are accused as traitors and Japanese collaborators in Malaya, the ideas of the union between the peninsula with Indonesia were faded and almost forgotten in Malay peninsula.
On the other hand, 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
After the end of World War II, the idea of Greater Indonesia was little heard until more than ten years later. In the late 1950s, Sukarno strongly opposed the British decolonisation initiative involving the formation of the Federation of Malaysia that would comprise 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 aimed at establishing neo-imperialism and neo-colonialism in Southeast Asia, and also at containing 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 by a desire to unite the Malay Peninsula and the whole island of Borneo under Indonesian rule and to complete the previously abandoned idea of Greater Indonesia.
In late 1965, the failed 30 September Movement coup attempt caused Sukarno to fall from power and General Suharto to seize power in Indonesia. Because of this internal conflict, Indonesia lost its desire to continue its hostile 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 recognised two days later. With this treaty, Indonesia and Malaysia officially agreed to be two separate national entities that mutually recognised each other's existence and sovereignty.
After the Indonesia-Malaysia 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. As the largest nation in Southeast Asia, Indonesia seems to be satisfied on channelling its regional ambition through assuming leadership role among ASEAN countries.
On the other side, Malaysia was struggling on national building and facing problems regarding the national format alternatives; between leftist republic fighter and rightist traditional royalist. The remnants of Kesatuan Melayu Muda — the advocate of unification with Indonesia, which had been fighting for the independence for Malaya, aspired for the formation of Greater Indonesia or Greater Malay, to join the republic and encourage to overthrow the monarchy. However, at that time majority of Malays supported the traditional institution of the Malay rulers (Malay Kingship) and Islam as national ideology; which led to the prominence of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which fought to uphold the traditional institution of the Malay Rulers and the special status of Islam.
The national unity issues in Malaysia also has been aggravated with inter-racial tensions, especially between Malay majority with Chinese and Hindu Indian minority, the problem that plagued Malaysian politics up until now. 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 the 1960s. By the end of the 1960s, UMNO gained domination in Malaysian politics, while their rival, the advocate of the republic and the union with Greater Indonesia, are stigmatised as leftists, communists or even traitors. 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, taking their own path of national systems; 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.
- Kesatuan Melayu Muda, political movement in Malaya fought for the unification with Indonesia
- Sang Saka Malaya, the Kesatuan Melayu Muda movement flag in Malaysia
- Maphilindo, another irredentist concept, including the Philippines
- Indonesia–Malaysia relations, the issues facing the bilateral relations between Indonesia and Malaysia
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