Time Photo Essay Suharto Indonesia

I first read about the cancellation of a panel I was speaking on at the Ubud Writers and Readers festival in a news story. That day had been tense as panel organizers from the Herb Feith Foundation warned me that our panels could be cancelled due to police pressure on the festival. I was to host a panel of young activists writing on Bali and the legacy of the 1965 massacre.

I have researched and written about the events of 1965 for almost 10 years. Born in Indonesia, I myself had no knowledge about the killings until I started university in 1991 in Australia.  In a way, this quest for knowledge has spurred me on to research and write about this past in conjunction with researchers based in Indonesia.

On September 30, 1965, a group of soldiers and officers calling itself the Thirtieth September Movement kidnapped and killed seven high ranking army men, including the Armed Forces Chief Ahmad Yani, in Jakarta. The army blamed this event on the Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI, and under Major General Suharto led a violent suppression campaign against the Left. This massacre claimed half a million lives, including an estimated 80,000 or 5 percent of the population in Bali.

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Under Suharto’s New Order regime, discussion of the massacre was banned. Books by leftist author Pramoedya Ananta Toer were banned. Those caught circulating the books were imprisoned. A 1966 parliamentary decree bans Marxism-Leninism, the PKI, and other leftist organizations. This decree, which then-President and Islamic cleric Abdurrahman Wahid discussed repealing in 2000, has been selectively used to censor discussions about the violence, in the guise of prohibiting the spread of communism.

It has never been easy to discuss, but since 1998 books, memoirs, and seminars about 1965 have by and large escaped censorship. This is remarkable when compared to the New Order regime. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the killings, however, and perhaps that is what makes 2015 unique in terms of the heightened attempts to censor discussion about 1965.  Ironically the rise in censorship occurs under the presidency of Joko Widodo, whose election campaign mobilized the largest number of civil society activists and volunteers. We are yet to hear the president express his views on the bans.

The Ubud festival ban occurred during a troubling fortnight in which Lentera, an Indonesian language magazine published at the Christian university in Central Java, was also banned for discussing 1965. A Swedish citizen of Indonesian background, 77-year-old Tom Iljas, was deported on October 16 for visiting his father’s grave in West Sumatra. Iljas was accused of trying to make a film about the massacre.

This year there have been public events and seminars in Australia, the Netherlands, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Indonesia itself on 1965. The Frankfurt Book Fair profiled authors such as Laksmi Pamuntjak and Leila Chudori, whose recent works have 1965 as their centerpiece. The authorities’ fear seems to have spiked recently as a result of the increasing spotlight on 1965. There is evidence, though, that censorship no longer works as it did under the New Order.

The student magazine, Lentera (Lantern) ran an edition titled “Salatiga Red City” which discussed the anti-communist pogroms in the area, including the location of the killings and the impact on the university. Three students from the magazine were interrogated on October 16 and copies of the magazine were destroyed. Thanks to social media however, the magazine has been shared repeatedly on the internet in PDF format, to the extent that its Dropbox link ceased working and they resorted to Google Drive. The students also published a statement maintaining their right to publish little known facts about the slaughter in the area.

Iljas, meanwhile, was arrested on October 10 for allegedly filming without a permit. Authorities were concerned — Iljas’ father’s grave happens to be a mass grave with others, as his father was a victim of the 1965 purges. Iljas was a leftist who chose exile over returning to New Order Indonesia. Within hours of his arrest, Iljas’ case was shared throughout social media, though that did not stop his deportation.

A statement protesting all three cases, including Ubud, was circulated via Twitter and Facebook on October 24. Within a day, more than 150 people from all over the world had signed on. Censorship is becoming more difficult these days. The Monash University Press books to be discussed at the Ubud festival are available in English translation as free electronic books.

The police intimidation of the festival has turned the international spotlight to the massacres. The Ubud Writers’ Festival should have defended its freedom of programming, and in turn the democratic space opened up since the fall of the Suharto regime and our ability to speak at the festival. We need to continue to speak out against the violent or intimidatory suppression of freedom of expression in Indonesia. However thanks to social media and growing transnational activism on this past, Jokowi’s administration cannot bury 1965 as the Suharto regime had.

Dr. Vannessa Hearman is lecturer in Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney.

Sukarno (born Kusno Sosrodihardjo; Javanese: ꦯꦸꦏꦂꦤ; 6 June 1901 – 21 June 1970)[2] was the first President of Indonesia, serving in office from 1945 to 1967.

Sukarno was the leader of his country's struggle for Independence from the Netherlands. He was a prominent leader of Indonesia's nationalist movement during the Dutch colonial period, and spent over a decade under Dutch detention until released by the invading Japanese forces. Sukarno and his fellow nationalists collaborated to garner support for the Japanese war effort from the population, in exchange for Japanese aid in spreading nationalist ideas. Upon Japanese surrender, Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta declared Indonesian independence on 17 August 1945, and Sukarno was appointed as first president. He led Indonesians in resisting Dutch re-colonization efforts via diplomatic and military means until the Dutch acknowledgement of Indonesian independence in 1949. Author Pramoedya Ananta Toer once wrote "Sukarno was the only Asian leader of the modern era able to unify people of such differing ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds without shedding a drop of blood."[3]

After a chaotic period of parliamentary democracy, Sukarno established an autocratic system called "Guided Democracy" in 1957 that successfully ended the instability and rebellions which were threatening the survival of the diverse and fractious country. The early 1960s saw Sukarno veering Indonesia to the left by providing support and protection to the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) to the irritation of the military and Islamists. He also embarked on a series of aggressive foreign policies under the rubric of anti-imperialism, with aid from the Soviet Union and China. The 30 September Movement (1965) led to the destruction of the PKI and his replacement in 1967 by one of his generals, Suharto (see Transition to the New Order), and he remained under house arrest until his death.


The spelling Soekarno, based on Dutch orthography, is still frequently used, mainly because he signed his name in the old spelling. Sukarno himself insisted on a "u", not "oe", but said that he had been told in school to use the Dutch style. He said that it was too difficult to change his signature, so still wrote it with an "oe".[4] Official Indonesian presidential decrees from the period 1947–1968, however, printed his name using the 1947 spelling. The Soekarno–Hatta International Airport which serves near Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, still uses the Dutch spelling.

Indonesians also remember him as Bung Karno (Brother/Comrade Karno) or Pak Karno ("Mr. Karno").[5] Like many Javanese people, he had only one name.[6] According to author Pramoedya Ananta Toer in several interviews, "bung" is an affectionate title meaning "friend" creatively used to be an alternative way of addressing person in equal manner, as an opposite word of old-form "tuan", "mas" or "bang".

He is sometimes referred to in foreign accounts as "Achmad Sukarno", or some variation thereof. The fictitious first name may have been added by western journalists confused over someone with just a single name, or by Indonesian supporters of independence to attract support from Muslim countries.[6]


The son of a Javanese primary school teacher, an aristocrat named Raden Soekemi Sosrodihardjo, and his HinduBalinese wife from the Brahmin varna named Ida Ayu Nyoman Rai from Buleleng regency, Sukarno was born at Jalan Pandean IV/40, Soerabaia (now known as Surabaya), East Java, in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).[7][8] He was originally named Kusno Sosrodiharjo[9]Javanese pronunciation: [kʊsnɔ]. Following Javanese custom, he was renamed after surviving a childhood illness. After graduating from a native primary school in 1912, he was sent to the Europeesche Lagere School (a Dutch primary school) in Mojokerto. Subsequently, in 1916, Sukarno went to a Hogere Burgerschool (a Dutch type higher level secondary school) in Surabaya, where he met Tjokroaminoto, a nationalist and founder of Sarekat Islam. In 1920, Sukarno married Tjokroaminoto's daughter Siti Oetari. In 1921, he began to study civil engineering (with focusing on architecture) at the Technische Hoogeschool te Bandoeng (Bandoeng Institute of Technology), where he obtained an Ingenieur degree (abbreviated as "Ir.", a Dutch type engineer's degree) in 1926. During his study in Bandung, Sukarno became romantically involved with Inggit Garnasih, the wife of Sanoesi, the owner of the boarding house where he lived as a student. Inggit was 13 years older than Sukarno. In March 1923, Sukarno divorced Siti Oetari to marry Inggit (who also divorced her husband Sanoesi). Sukarno later divorced Inggit and married Fatmawati.

After graduation in 1926, Sukarno and his university friend Anwari established the architectural firm Sukarno & Anwari in Bandung, which provided planning and contractor services. Among Sukarno's architectural works are the renovated building of the Preanger Hotel (1929), where he acted as assistant to famous Dutch architect Charles Prosper Wolff Schoemaker. Sukarno also designed many private houses on today's Jalan Gatot Subroto, Jalan Palasari, and Jalan Dewi Sartika in Bandung. Later on, as president, Sukarno remained engaged in architecture, designing the Proclamation Monument and adjacent Gedung Pola in Jakarta; the Youth Monument (Tugu Muda) in Semarang; the Alun-alun Monument in Malang; the Heroes' Monument in Surabaya; and also the new city of Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan.

Atypically even among the country's small educated elite, Sukarno was fluent in several languages. In addition to the Javanese language of his childhood, he was a master of Sundanese, Balinese and of Indonesian, and was especially strong in Dutch. He was also quite comfortable in German, English, French, Arabic, and Japanese, all of which were taught at his HBS. He was helped by his photographic memory and precocious mind.[10]

In his studies, Sukarno was "intensely modern," both in architecture and in politics. He despised both the traditional Javanese feudalism, which he considered "backward" and to blame for the fall of the country under Dutch occupation and exploitation, and the imperialism practised by Western countries, which he termed as "exploitation of humans by other humans" (exploitation de l'homme par l'homme). He blamed this for the deep poverty and low levels of education of Indonesian people under the Dutch. To promote nationalistic pride amongst Indonesians, Sukarno interpreted these ideas in his dress, in his urban planning for the capital (eventually Jakarta), and in his socialist politics, though he did not extend his taste for modern art to pop music; he had Koes Bersaudara imprisoned for their allegedly decadent lyrics despite his own reputation for womanising. For Sukarno, modernity was blind to race, neat and elegant in style, and anti-imperialist.[11]

Independence struggle[edit]

See also: Dutch Ethical Policy and Indonesian National Revival

Sukarno was first exposed to nationalist ideas while living under Oemar Said Tjokroaminoto. Later, while a student in Bandung, he immersed himself in European, American, Nationalist, communist, and religious political philosophy, eventually developing his own political ideology of Indonesian-style socialist self-sufficiency. He began styling his ideas as Marhaenism, named after Marhaen, an Indonesian peasant he met in southern Bandung area, who owned his little plot of land and worked on it himself, producing sufficient income to support his family. In university, Sukarno began organising a study club for Indonesian students, the Algemeene Studieclub, in opposition to the established student clubs dominated by Dutch students.

On 4 July 1927, Sukarno with his friends from the Algemeene Studieclub established a pro-independence party, Partai Nasional Indonesia (PNI), of which Sukarno was elected the first leader. The party advocated independence for Indonesia, and opposed imperialism and capitalism because it opined that both systems worsened the life of Indonesian people. The party also advocated secularism and unity amongst the many different ethnicities in the Dutch East Indies, to establish a united Indonesia. Sukarno also hoped that Japan would commence a war against the western powers and that Java could then gain its independence with Japan's aid. Coming soon after the disintegration of Sarekat Islam in the early 1920s and the crushing of Partai Komunis Indonesia after their failed rebellion of 1926, PNI began to attract a large number of followers, particularly among the new university-educated youths eager for larger freedoms and opportunities denied to them in the racist and constrictive political system of Dutch colonialism.[12]

PNI activities came to the attention of the colonial government, and Sukarno's speeches and meetings were often infiltrated and disrupted by agents of the colonial secret police (Politieke Inlichtingen Dienst/PID). Eventually, Sukarno and other key PNI leaders were arrested on 29 December 1929 by Dutch colonial authorities in a series of raids throughout Java. Sukarno himself was arrested while on a visit to Yogyakarta. During his trial at the Bandung Landraad courthouse from August to December 1930, Sukarno made a series of long political speeches attacking colonialism and imperialism, titled Indonesia Menggoegat (Indonesia Accuses).

In December 1930, Sukarno was sentenced to four years in prison, which were served in Sukamiskin prison in Bandung. His speech, however, received wide coverage by the press, and due to strong pressure from the liberal elements in both Netherlands and Dutch East Indies, Sukarno was released early on 31 December 1931. By this time, he had become a popular hero widely known throughout Indonesia.

However, during his imprisonment, PNI had been splintered by oppression of colonial authorities and internal dissension. The original PNI was disbanded by the Dutch, and its former members formed two different parties; the Partai Indonesia (Partindo) under Sukarno's associate Sartono who were promoting mass agitation, and the Pendidikan Nasional Indonesia (PNI Baroe) under Mohammad Hatta and Soetan Sjahrir, two nationalists who recently returned from studies in the Netherlands, and who were promoting a long-term strategy of providing modern education to the uneducated Indonesian populace to develop an intellectual elite able to offer effective resistance to Dutch rule. After attempting to reconcile the two parties to establish one united nationalist front, Sukarno chose to become the head of Partindo on 28 July 1932. Partindo had maintained its alignment with Sukarno's own strategy of immediate mass agitation, and Sukarno disagreed with Hatta's long-term cadre-based struggle. Hatta himself believed Indonesian independence would not occur within his lifetime, while Sukarno believed Hatta's strategy ignored the fact that politics can only make real changes through formation and utilisation of force (machtsvorming en machtsaanwending).[12]

During this period, to support himself and the party financially, Sukarno returned to architecture, opening the bureau of Soekarno & Rooseno. He also wrote articles for the party's newspaper, Fikiran Ra'jat. While based in Bandung, Sukarno travelled extensively throughout Java to establish contacts with other nationalists. His activities attracted further attention by the Dutch PID. In mid-1933, Sukarno published a series of writings titled Mentjapai Indonesia Merdeka ("To Attain Independent Indonesia"). For this writing, he was arrested by Dutch police while visiting fellow nationalist Mohammad Hoesni Thamrin in Jakarta on 1 August 1933.

This time, to prevent providing Sukarno with a platform to make political speeches, the hardline governor-general JonkheerBonifacius Cornelis de Jonge utilised his emergency powers to send Sukarno to internal exile without trial. In 1934, Sukarno was shipped, along with his family (including Inggit Garnasih), to the remote town of Ende, on the island of Flores. During his time in Flores, he utilised his limited freedom of movement to establish a children's theatre. Among its members was future politician Frans Seda. Due to an outbreak of malaria in Flores, the Dutch authorities decided to move Sukarno and his family to Bencoolen (now Bengkulu) on western coast of Sumatra, in February 1938.

In Bengkulu, Sukarno became acquainted with Hassan Din, the local head of Muhammadiyah organisation, and he was allowed to teach religious teachings at a local school owned by the Muhammadiyah. One of his students was 15-year-old Fatmawati, daughter of Hassan Din. He became romantically involved with Fatmawati, which he justified by stating the inability of Inggit Garnasih to produce children during their almost 20-year marriage. Sukarno was still in Bengkulu exile when the Japanese invaded the archipelago in 1942.

World War II and the Japanese occupation[edit]

See also: Japanese occupation of Indonesia

In early 1929, during the Indonesian National Revival, Sukarno and fellow Indonesian nationalist leader Mohammad Hatta (later Vice President), first foresaw a Pacific War and the opportunity that a Japanese advance on Indonesia might present for the Indonesian independence cause.[13] In February 1942 Imperial Japan invaded the Dutch East Indies quickly defeating Dutch forces who marched, bussed and trucked Sukarno and his entourage three hundred kilometres from Bengkulu to Padang, Sumatra. They intended keeping him prisoner and shipping him to Australia, but abruptly abandoned him to save themselves upon the impending approach of Japanese forces on Padang.[14]

The Japanese had their own files on Sukarno and the Japanese commander in Sumatra approached him with respect, wanting to use him to organise and pacify the Indonesians. Sukarno on the other hand wanted to use the Japanese to gain independence for Indonesia: "The Lord be praised, God showed me the way; in that valley of the Ngarai I said: Yes, Independent Indonesia can only be achieved with Dai Nippon...For the first time in all my life, I saw myself in the mirror of Asia."[15] In July 1942, Sukarno was sent back to Jakarta, where he re-united with other nationalist leaders recently released by the Japanese, including Mohammad Hatta. There, he met the Japanese commander General Hitoshi Imamura, who asked Sukarno and other nationalists to galvanise support from Indonesian populace to aid Japanese war effort.

Sukarno was willing to support the Japanese, in exchange for a platform for himself to spread nationalist ideas to the mass population. The Japanese, on the other hand, needed Indonesia's manpower and natural resources to help its war effort. The Japanese recruited millions of people, particularly from Java, to be forced labor called "romusha" in Japanese. They were forced to build railways, airfields, and other facilities for the Japanese within Indonesia and as far away as Burma. Additionally, the Japanese requisitioned rice and other food produced by Indonesian peasants to supply their own troops, while forcing the peasantry to cultivate castor oil plants to be used as aviation fuel and lubricants.[16]

To gain cooperation from Indonesian population and to prevent resistance to these measures, the Japanese put Sukarno as head of Tiga-A mass organisation movement. In March 1943, the Japanese formed a new organisation called Poesat Tenaga Rakjat (POETERA/ Center of People's Power) under Sukarno, Hatta, Ki Hadjar Dewantara, and KH Mas Mansjoer. The aim of these organisations were to galvanise popular support for recruitment of romusha forced labor, requisitioning of food products, and to promote pro-Japanese and anti-Western sentiments amongst Indonesians. Sukarno coined the term, Amerika kita setrika, Inggris kita linggis ("Let's iron America, and bludgeon the British") to promote anti-Allied sentiments. In later years, Sukarno was lastingly ashamed of his role with the romusha. Additionally, food requisitioning by the Japanese caused widespread famine in Java which killed more than one million people in 1944–1945. In his view, these were necessary sacrifices to be made to allow for future independence of Indonesia.[17] He also was involved with the formation of Pembela Tanah Air (PETA) and Heiho (Indonesian volunteer army troops) via speeches broadcast on the Japanese radio and loud speaker networks across Java and Sumatra. By mid-1945 these units numbered around two million, and were preparing to defeat any Allied forces sent to re-take Java.

In the meantime, Sukarno eventually divorced Inggit, who refused to accept her husband's wish for polygamy. She was provided with a house in Bandung and a pension for the rest of her life. In 1943, he married Fatmawati. They lived in a house in Jalan Pegangsaan Timur No. 56, confiscated from its previous Dutch owners and presented to Sukarno by the Japanese. This house would later be the venue of the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence in 1945.

On 10 November 1943 Sukarno and Hatta were sent on a seventeen-day tour of Japan, where they were decorated by the Emperor Hirohito and wined and dined in the house of Prime Minister Hideki Tojo in Tokyo. On 7 September 1944, with the war going badly for the Japanese, Prime Minister Kuniaki Koiso promised independence for Indonesia, although no date was set.[18] This announcement was seen, according to the U.S. official history, as immense vindication for Sukarno's apparent collaboration with the Japanese.[19] The U.S. at the time considered Sukarno one of the "foremost collaborationist leaders."[20]

On 29 April 1945, with the fall of Philippines to American hands, the Japanese allowed for the establishment of the Investigating Committee for Preparatory Work for Independence (BPUPK), a quasi-legislature consisting of 67 representatives from most ethnic groups in Indonesia. Sukarno was appointed as head of the BPUPK and was tasked to lead discussions to prepare the basis of a future Indonesian state. To provide a common and acceptable platform to unite the various squabbling factions in the BPUPK, Sukarno formulated his ideological thinking developed for the past twenty years into five principles. On 1 June 1945, he introduced these five principles, known as pancasila, during the joint session of the BPUPK held in the former Volksraad Building (now called Gedung Pancasila).

Pancasila as presented by Sukarno during the BPUPK speech, consisted of five common principles which Sukarno saw as commonly shared by all Indonesians:

  1. Nationalism, whereby a united Indonesian state would stretch from Sabang to Merauke, encompassing all former Dutch East Indies
  2. Internationalism, meaning Indonesia is to appreciate human rights and contribute to world peace, and should not fall into chauvinistic fascism such as displayed by Nazis with their belief in the racial superiority of Aryans
  3. Democracy, which Sukarno believed has always been in the blood of Indonesians through the practice of consensus-seeking (musyawarah untuk mufakat), an Indonesian-style democracy different from Western-style liberalism
  4. Social justice, a form of populist socialism in economics with Marxist-style opposition to free capitalism. Social justice also intended to provide equal share of the economy to all Indonesians, as opposed to the complete economic domination by the Dutch and Chinese during the colonial period
  5. Belief in God, whereby all religions are treated equally and have religious freedom. Sukarno saw Indonesians as spiritual and religious people, but in essence tolerant towards differing religious beliefs

On 22 June, the Islamic and nationalist elements of the BPUPK created a small committee of nine, which formulated Sukarno's ideas into the five-point Pancasila, in a document known as the Jakarta Charter:

  1. Belief in one and only Almighty God with obligation for Muslims to adhere to Islamic law
  2. Civilised and just humanity
  3. Unity of Indonesia
  4. Democracy through inner wisdom and representative consensus-building
  5. Social justice for all Indonesians

Due to pressure from the Islamic element, the first principle mentioned the obligation for Muslims to practice Islamic law (sharia). However, the final Sila as contained in the 1945 Constitution which was put into effect on 18 August 1945, excluded the reference to Islamic law for sake of national unity. The elimination of sharia was done by Mohammad Hatta based upon a request by Christian representative Alexander Andries Maramis, and after consultation with moderate Islamic representatives Teuku Mohammad Hassan, Kasman Singodimedjo, and Ki Bagoes Hadikoesoemo.[21]

On 7 August 1945, the Japanese allowed the formation of a smaller Preparatory Committee for Indonesian Independence (PPKI), a 21-person committee tasked with creating the specific governmental structure of the future Indonesian state. On 9 August, the top leaders of PPKI (Sukarno, Hatta, and KRT Radjiman Wediodiningrat), were summoned by Commander-in-Chief of Japan's Southern Expeditionary Forces, Field Marshal Hisaichi Terauchi, to Da Lat, 100 km from Saigon. Field Marshal Terauchi gave Sukarno the freedom to proceed with preparation for Indonesian independence, free of Japanese interference. After much wining and dining, Sukarno's entourage was flown back to Jakarta on 14 August. Unbeknownst to the guests, atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Japanese were preparing for surrender.

The following day, on 15 August, the Japanese declared their acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration terms, and unconditionally surrendered to the Allies. On the afternoon of that day, Sukarno received this information from leaders of youth groups and members of PETA Chairul Saleh, Soekarni, and Wikana, who had been listening to Western radio broadcasts. They urged Sukarno to declare Indonesian independence immediately, while the Japanese were in confusion and before the arrival of Allied forces. Faced with this quick turn of events, Sukarno procrastinated. He feared bloodbath due to hostile response from the Japanese to such a move, and was concerned with prospects of future Allied retribution.

At early morning on 16 August, the three youth leaders, impatient with Sukarno's indecision, kidnapped him from his house and brought him to a small house in Rengasdengklok, Karawang, owned by a Chinese family and occupied by PETA. There they gained Sukarno's commitment to declare independence the next day. That night, the youths drove Sukarno back to the house of Admiral Tadashi Maeda, the Japanese naval liaison officer in the Menteng area of Jakarta, who sympathised with Indonesian independence. There, he and his assistant Sajoeti Melik prepared the text of the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence.

War leader[edit]

See also: Indonesian National Revolution and Liberal democracy period in Indonesia

In the early morning of 17 August 1945, Sukarno returned to his house at Jalan Pegangsaan Timur No. 56, where he was joined by Mohammad Hatta. Throughout the morning, impromptu leaflets printed by PETA and youth elements informed the population of the impending proclamation. Finally, at 10 am, Sukarno and Hatta stepped to the front porch, where Sukarno declared the independence of the Republic of Indonesia in front of a crowd of 500 people. This most historic of buildings had, however, been ordered to be demolished by Sukarno himself, without any apparent reason.[22]

On the following day, 18 August, PPKI declared the basic governmental structure of the new Republic of Indonesia:

  1. Appointing Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta as President and Vice-President and their cabinet.
  2. Putting into effect the 1945 Indonesian constitution, which by this time excluded any reference to Islamic law.
  3. Setting a Central Indonesian National Committee (Komite Nasional Indonesia Poesat/KNIP) to assist the president prior to election of a parliament.

Sukarno's vision for the 1945 Indonesian constitution comprised the Pancasila (five principles). Sukarno's political philosophy was mainly a fusion of elements of Marxism, nationalism and Islam. This is reflected in a proposition of his version of Pancasila he proposed to the Investigating Committee for Preparatory Work for Independence (BPUPK) in a speech on 1 June 1945.[21]

Sukarno argued that all of the principles of the nation could be summarized in the phrase gotong royong.[23] The Indonesian parliament, founded on the basis of this original (and subsequently revised) constitution, proved all but ungovernable. This was due to irreconcilable differences between various social, political, religious and ethnic factions.[24]

In the days following the Proclamation, the news of Indonesian independence was spread by radio, newspaper, leaflets, and word of mouth despite attempts by the Japanese soldiers to suppress the news. On 19 September, Sukarno addressed a crowd of one million people at the Ikada Field of Jakarta (now part of Merdeka Square) to commemorate one month of independence, indicating the strong level of popular support for the new republic, at least on Java and Sumatra. In these two islands, the Sukarno government quickly established governmental control while the remaining Japanese mostly retreated to their barracks awaiting arrival of Allied forces. This period was marked by constant attacks by armed groups on Europeans, Chinese, Christians, native aristocracy and anyone who were perceived to oppose Indonesian independence. The most serious cases were the Social Revolutions in Aceh and North Sumatra, where large numbers of Acehnese and Malay aristocrats were killed by Islamic groups (in Aceh) and communist-led mobs (in North Sumatra), and the "Three Regions Affair" in northwestern coast of Central Java where large numbers of Europeans, Chinese, and native aristocrats were butchered by mobs. These bloody incidences continued until late 1945 to early 1946, and begin to peter-out as Republican authorities begin to exert and consolidate control.

Sukarno's government initially postponed the formation of a national army, for fear of antagonizing the Allied occupation forces and their doubt over whether they would have been able to form an adequate military apparatus to maintain control of seized territory. The members of various militia groups formed during Japanese occupation such as the disbanded PETA and Heiho, at that time were encouraged to join the BKR—Badan Keamanan Rakjat (The People's Security Organization)—itself a subordinate of the "War Victims Assistance Organization". It was only in October 1945 that the BKR was reformed into the TKR—Tentara Keamanan Rakjat (The People's Security Army) in response to the increasing Allied and Dutch presence in Indonesia. The TKR armed themselves mostly by attacking Japanese troops and confiscating their weapons.

Due to the sudden transfer of Java and Sumatra from General Douglas MacArthur's American-controlled Southwest Pacific Command to Lord Louis Mountbatten's British-controlled Southeast Asian Command, the first Allied soldiers (1st Battalion of Seaforth Highlanders) did not arrive in Jakarta until late September 1945. British forces began to occupy major Indonesian cities in October 1945. The commander of the British 23rd Division, Lieutenant General Sir Philip Christison, set up command in the former governor-general's palace in Jakarta. Christison stated his intentions were to free all Allied prisoners-of-war, and to allow the return of Indonesia to its pre-war status, as a colony of Netherlands. The Republican government were willing to cooperate with the release and repatriation of Allied civilian and military POWs, setting-up the Committee for the Repatriation of Japanese and Allied Prisoners of Wars and Internees (Panitia Oeroesan Pengangkoetan Djepang dan APWI/POPDA) for this purpose. POPDA, in cooperation with the British, repatriated more than 70,000 Japanese and Allied POWs and internees by the end of 1946. However, due to the relative weakness of the military of the Republic of Indonesia, Sukarno sought independence by gaining international recognition for his new country rather than engage in battle with British and Dutch military forces.

Sukarno was aware that his history as a Japanese collaborator and his leadership in the Japanese-approved PUTERA during the Occupation would make the Western countries distrustful of him. To help gain international recognition as well as to accommodate domestic demands for representation, Sukarno "allowed" the formation of a parliamentary system of government, whereby a prime minister controlled day-to-day affairs of the government, while Sukarno as president remained as figurehead. The prime minister and his cabinet would be responsible to the Central Indonesian National Committee instead of the president. On 14 November 1945, Sukarno appointed Sutan Sjahrir as first prime minister; he was a European-educated politician who was never involved with the Japanese occupation authorities.

In late 1945 Dutch administrators who led the Dutch East Indies government-in-exile and soldiers who had fought the Japanese began to return under the name of Netherlands Indies Civil Administration (NICA), with the protection of the British. They were led by Hubertus Johannes van Mook, a colonial administrator who had evacuated to Brisbane, Australia. Dutch soldiers who had been POWs under the Japanese were released and rearmed. Shooting between these Dutch soldiers and police supporting the new Republican government Indonesian and civilians soon developed. This soon escalated to armed conflict between the newly constituted Republican forces aided by a myriad of pro-independence mobs and the Dutch and British forces. On 10 November, a full-scale battle broke out in Surabaya between the British Indian 49th Infantry Brigade and the indigenous Indonesian population. The Indians were supported by air and naval forces. Some 300 Indian soldiers were killed (including their commander Brigadier Aubertin Walter Sothern Mallaby) along with thousands of Indonesians. Shootouts broke out with alarming regularity in Jakarta, including an attempted assassination of Prime Minister Sjahrir by Dutch gunmen. To avoid this menace, Sukarno and majority of his government left for the safety of Yogyakarta on 4 January 1946. There, the Republican government received protection and full support from Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX. Yogyakarta would remain as the Republic's capital until the end of the war in 1949. Sjahrir remained in Jakarta to conduct negotiations with the British.[25]

The initial series of battles in late 1945 and early 1946 left the British in control of major port cities on Java and Sumatra. During the Japanese occupation, the Outer Islands (excluding Java and Sumatra) were occupied by the Japanese Navy (Kaigun), who did not allow for political mobilization of the islanders. Consequently, there were little Republican activity in these islands post-proclamation. Australian and Dutch forces were able to quickly take control of these islands without much fighting by end of 1945 (excluding the resistance of I Gusti Ngurah Rai in Bali, the insurgency in South Sulawesi, and fighting in Hulu Sungai area of South Kalimantan). Meanwhile, the hinterland areas of Java and Sumatra remained under Republican control.

Eager to pull its soldiers out of Indonesia, the British allowed for large-scale infusion of Dutch forces into the country throughout 1946. By November 1946, all British soldiers had been withdrawn from Indonesia. They were replaced with more than 150,000 Dutch soldiers. The British sent Lord Archibald Clark Kerr, 1st Baron Inverchapel and Miles Lampson, 1st Baron Killearn to bring the Dutch and Indonesians to the negotiating table. The result of these negotiations was the Linggadjati Agreement signed in November 1946, where the Dutch acknowledged de facto Republican sovereignty over Java, Sumatra, and Madura. In exchange, the Republicans were willing to discuss a future Commonwealth-like United Kingdom of Netherlands and Indonesia.

Sukarno's decision to negotiate with the Dutch was met with strong opposition by various Indonesian factions. Tan Malaka, a communist politician, organised these groups into a united front called the Persatoean Perdjoangan (PP). PP offered a "Minimum Program" which called for complete independence, nationalisation of all foreign properties, and rejection of all negotiations until all foreign troops are withdrawn. These programmes received widespread popular support, including from armed forces commander General Sudirman. On 4 July 1946, military units linked with PP kidnapped Prime Minister Sjahrir who was visiting Yogyakarta. Sjahrir was leading the negotiation with the Dutch. Sukarno, after successfully influencing Sudirman, managed to secure the release of Sjahrir and the arrest of Tan Malaka and other PP leaders. Disapproval of Linggadjati terms within the KNIP led Sukarno to issue a decree doubling KNIP membership by including many pro-agreement appointed members. As consequence, KNIP ratified the Linggadjati Agreement in March 1947.[26]

On 21 July 1947, the Linggadjati Agreement was broken by the Dutch, who launched Operatie Product, a massive military invasion into Republican-held territories. Although the newly reconstituted TNI was unable to offer significant military resistance, the blatant violation by the Dutch of an internationally brokered agreement outraged world opinion. International pressure forced the Dutch to halt their invasion force in August 1947. Sjahrir, who has been replaced as prime minister by Amir Sjarifuddin, flew to New York City to appeal Indonesian case in front of United Nations. UN Security Council issued a resolution calling for immediate ceasefire, and appointed a Good Offices Committee (GOC) to oversee the ceasefire. The GOC, based in Jakarta, consisted of delegations from Australia (led by Richard Kirby, chosen by Indonesia), Belgium (led by Paul van Zeeland, chosen by Netherlands), and United States (led by Frank Porter Graham, neutral).

The Republic was now under strong Dutch military stranglehold, with the Dutch military occupying West Java, and the northern coast of Central Java and East Java, along with the key productive areas of Sumatra. Additionally, the Dutch navy blockaded Republican areas from supplies of vital food, medicine, and weapons. As a consequence, Prime Minister Amir Sjarifuddin has little choice but to sign the Renville Agreement on 17 January 1948, which acknowledged Dutch control over areas taken during Operatie Product, while the Republicans pledged to withdraw all forces that remained on the other side of the ceasefire line ("Van Mook Line"). Meanwhile, the Dutch begin to organize puppet states in the areas under their occupation, to counter Republican influence utilising ethnic diversity of Indonesia.

The signing of highly disadvantageous Renville Agreement caused even greater instability within the Republican political structure. In Dutch-occupied West Java, Darul Islamguerrillas under Sekarmadji Maridjan Kartosuwirjo maintained their anti-Dutch resistance and repealed any loyalty to the Republic; they caused a bloody insurgency in West Java and other areas in the first decades of independence. Prime Minister Sjarifuddin, who signed the agreement, was forced to resign in January 1948, and was replaced by Mohammad Hatta. Hatta cabinet's policy of rationalising the armed forces by demobilising large numbers of armed groups that proliferated the Republican areas, also caused severe disaffection. Leftist political elements, led by resurgent Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) under Musso took advantage of public disaffections by launching rebellion in Madiun, East Java, on 18 September 1948. Bloody fighting continued during late-September until end of October 1948, when the last communist bands were defeated and Musso shot dead. The communists had overestimated their potential to oppose the strong appeal of Sukarno amongst the population.

On 19 December 1948, to take advantage of the Republic's weak position following the communist rebellion, the Dutch launched Operatie Kraai, a second military invasion designed to crush the Republic once and for all. The invasion was initiated with an airborne assault on Republican capital Yogyakarta. Sukarno ordered the armed forces under Sudirman to launch guerilla campaign in the countryside, while he and other key leaders such as Hatta and Sjahrir allowed themselves to be taken prisoner by the Dutch. To ensure continuity of government, Sukarno sent a telegram to Sjafruddin Prawiranegara, providing him the mandate to lead an Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia (PDRI), based on the unoccupied hinterlands of West Sumatra, a position he kept until Sukarno was released in June 1949. The Dutch sent Sukarno and other captured Republican leaders to captivity in Prapat, in Dutch-occupied part of North Sumatra and later to the island of Bangka.

The second Dutch invasion caused even more international outrage. The United States, impressed by Indonesia's ability to defeat the 1948 communist challenge without outside help, threatened to cut off Marshall Aid funds to the Netherlands if military operations in Indonesia continued. TNI did not disintegrate and continued to wage guerilla resistance against the Dutch, most notably the assault on Dutch-held Yogyakarta led by Lieutenant-ColonelSuharto on 1 March 1949. Consequently, the Dutch were forced to sign the Roem-van Roijen Agreement on 7 May 1949. According to this treaty, the Dutch released the Republican leadership and returned the area surrounding Yogyakarta to Republican control in June 1949. This was followed by the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference held in The Hague which led to the complete transfer of sovereignty by the Queen Juliana of the Netherlands to Indonesia, on 27 December 1949. On that day, Sukarno flew from Yogyakarta to Jakarta, making a triumphant speech at the steps of the governor-general's palace, immediately renamed the Merdeka Palace ("Independence Palace").


At this time, as part of a compromise with the Dutch, Indonesia adopted a new federal constitution that made the country a federal state called the Republik Indonesia Serikat (Republic of United States of Indonesia), consisting of the Republic of Indonesia whose borders were determined by the "Van Mook Line", along with the six states and nine autonomous territories created by the Dutch. During the first half of 1950, these states gradually dissolved themselves as the Dutch military that previously propped them up was withdrawn. In August 1950, with the last state – the State of East Indonesia – dissolving itself, Sukarno declared a Unitary Republic of Indonesia based on the newly formulated provisional constitution of 1950. Both the Federal Constitution of 1949 and the Provisional Constitution of 1950 were parliamentary in nature, where executive authority laid with the prime minister, and which—on paper—limited presidential power. However, even with his formally reduced role, he commanded a good deal of moral authority as Father of the Nation.

The first years of parliamentary democracy proved to be very unstable for Indonesia. Cabinets fell in rapid succession due to the acute differences between the various political parties within the newly appointed parliament (Dewan Perwakilan Rakjat/DPR). There was severe disagreements on future path of Indonesian state, between nationalists who wanted a secular state (led by Partai Nasional Indonesia first established by Sukarno), the Islamists who wanted an Islamic state (led by Masyumi Party), and the communists who wanted a communist state (led by PKI, only allowed to operate again in 1951). On the economic front, there was severe dissatisfaction with continuing economic domination by large Dutch corporations and the ethnic-Chinese.

The Darul Islam rebels under Kartosuwirjo in West Java refused to acknowledge Sukarno's authority and declared a NII (Negara Islam Indonesia – Islamic State of Indonesia) in August 1949. Rebellions in support of Darul Islam also broke out in South Sulawesi in 1951, and in Aceh in 1953. Meanwhile, pro-federalism members of the disbanded KNIL launched failed rebellion in Bandung (APRA rebellion of 1950), in Makassar in 1950, and in Ambon (Republic of South Maluku revolt of 1950).[27]

Additionally, the military was torn by hostilities between officers originating from the colonial-era KNIL, who wished for a small and elite professional military, and the overwhelming majority of soldiers who started their careers in the Japanese-formed PETA, who were afraid of being discharged and were more known for nationalist-zeal over professionalism.

On 17 October 1952, the leaders of the former-KNIL faction, Army Chief Colonel Abdul Haris Nasution and Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Tahi Bonar Simatupang mobilized their troops in a show of force. Protesting against attempts by the DPR to interfere in military business on behalf of the former-PETA faction of the military, Nasution and Simatupang had their troops surround the Merdeka Palace and point their tank turrets at the building. Their demand to Sukarno was that the current DPR be dismissed. For this cause, Nasution and Simatupang also mobilized civilian protesters. Sukarno came out of the palace and convinced both the soldiers and the civilians to go home. Nasution and Simatupang were later dismissed. Nasution, however, would be re-appointed as Army Chief after reconciling with Sukarno in 1955.

In 1954, Sukarno married Hartini, a 30-year-old widow from Salatiga, whom he met during a reception. His third wife, Fatmawati was outraged by this fourth marriage. She left Sukarno and their children, although they never officially divorced. Fatmawati no longer took up the duties as First Lady, a role subsequently filled by Hartini.

Sukarno with fellow defendants and attorneys during his trial in Bandung, 1930.
1966 ABC report examining Sukarno's alliance between imperial Japan and the Indonesian nationalist movement
Sukarno, accompanied by Mohammad Hatta (right), declaring the independence of Indonesia.
Sukarno addressing the KNIP (parliament) in Malang, March 1947
Sukarno's return to Yogyakarta in June 1949
News footage of Sukarno's inauguration as president
Sukarno's inauguration as president (17 December 1949, commentary in Dutch)


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