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A Historical Overview on the State of Emergency and Martial Law in Indonesia

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The Politics of Securitization in Democratic Indonesia
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In Chap. 2, I have outlined securitization as a process inherently involved in the context of emergency and exceptionality. As the gist of all security debates is about survival in times of emergency, the nature of security consequently calls for exceptionality. My definition of exceptionality is that the designation of a referent object of an existential threat to security concurrently occurs with the use of extraordinary measure. Mostly, if not always, the use of an extraordinary measure is equal to the use of the state’s coercive instruments. Hence, emergency relates to the threatening situation, and exceptionality relates to the use of extraordinary measure. The hallmark of an emergency situation is the imposition of martial law. Martial law, to quote Dyzenhaus, “has clear analogs in declarations of states of emergency, in legislative delegations of authority of virtually unlimited scope to the executive to deal with threats to national security, and in assertions of inherent jurisdiction by the executive to respond as it sees fit to such threat” (Dyzenhaus 2009: 2). In other words, the establishment of emergency power with the declaration of martial law brings a state of exceptionality and suspension of normal rules and norms (Lazar 2009: 3). With this background, one important question related to the study at hand is thus: how do the two processes of emergency and exceptionality take place in the Indonesian state?

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  1. 1.

    The members of Stadswacht generally came from the local Dutch government. They were incorporated into the colonial army and responsible for guarding local neighborhoods. The members of Landwacht were also incorporated into the army and their task was to guard the Dutch plantations. The members of Vrijwillige Oefenkorpsen generally came from retired soldiers and their responsibility was to guard vital and strategic objects. The formation of VAUBEC was aimed at supplying drivers for military services such as marine, Stadswacht, Landwacht, and luchtbeschermingsdients (LBD, office of air defense). The colonial government formed CORO and KMA to train some native Indonesians to become military officers. Through the Deviezen Ordonantie and Deviezen Verordening , the Dutch de Javasche Bank managed to completely secure their gold and foreign exchange before the Japanese arrival. They succeeded in shipping the gold to Australia and South Africa. Also, via the Netherlands Purchasing Commission in Washington, DC, the Dutch managed to transfer their foreign exchange reserves to the USA.

  2. 2.

    For instance, the Japanese occupational government passed a law on the oversight of announcement and information offices. Under this law, every announcement had to receive an approval from the Japanese and a press union (Simbun Kai); all Dutch -owned press companies were banned.

  3. 3.

    For example, the Japanese formed the Center People’s Power (Pusat Tenaga Rakyat, Putera), the Defender of Motherland (Pembela Tanah Air, PETA), the Auxiliary Forces (Heiho), and a semi-military youth corps (Seinendan).

  4. 4.

    According to Anderson, the trigger of this uprising was more an intra-military dispute rather than a communist revolt. Therefore, it is more appropriate to refer to it as the Madiun Event 1948 (1976: 53).

  5. 5.

    The agreement, however, did not incorporate the Dutch part of Papua into Indonesia’s territory. The following events showed that this was one of the major obstacles to domestically consolidating the government power and legitimacy for more than one decade.

  6. 6.

    These regional commanders were specifically, Col. Ahmad Husein in Central Sumatra, Col. Maludin Simbolon in North Sumatera, Lieut. Col. Barlian in South Sumatera, and Lieut. Col. Herman N. Ventje Sumual in North Sulawesi.

  7. 7.

    The government formed this committee with the issuance of Presidential Instruction (Keppres) No. 79/1954. The member of the committee included Lieut. Col. Widya (Ministry of Defense), Lieut. Col. A. Bustomi and Basarudin (Army Headquarter), Sudrajat (Ministry of Justice), Suhartono (Attorney General), and Agus Basuki (National Police). See, Haryono (2008: 46).

  8. 8.

    On 27 May 1964, Tunku Abdul Rahman publicly expressed his idea to incorporate the territories of Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo, Brunei, and Malaya into one entity called the Federation of Malaysia. Jakarta regarded the Malaysia project as a manifestation of Western neo-colonialism in its backyard. Sukarno and his aides started labeling Malaysia as an “illegitimate neo-colonial creation supported by an Anglophile leadership” (Liow 2005: 97–100).

  9. 9.

    PKI came in fourth in the 1955’s general election. However, it never succeeded in putting its members in any key government positions. One benefit PKI did receive from the election result was that it managed to maintain its uncorrupted credibility with the masses. Even A.H. Nasution admitted that, “it was true that PKI was not yet involved in the government and [thus was] clean. PKI could boast of itself at the time” (Nasution 1985: 25). Furthermore, during the implementation of emergency status the authority had no reason to entirely ban PKI. PKI had always spouted off nationalistic rhetoric which was in line with the government’s effort to curb the regional revolts and the Papua issue. On the other hand, the military image was on the decline among the masses, especially due to corruption cases involving its officers in the nationalized foreign companies. Sukarno was extremely popular among the people; therefore both PKI and the military needed to be close to the president. Being fully aware of this situation, Sukarno recklessly managed the army–PKI conflict in order to maintain his position (Crouch 1986: 44).

  10. 10.

    The military used the acronym of Gestapu for this event. Gestapu stands for Gerakan September Tiga Puluh, (30th September Movement) with clear allusion to the Gestapo of Nazi Germany. In the following period, the government used the term G30S/PKI (Gerakan 30 September/PKI, 30th September Movement/PKI). This became the government’s official version concerning the tragedy, despite many scholarly publications which opposed it. On this issue, I agree with Ricklefs’s observation that “[t]he intricacies of the political scene … and the suspect nature of much of the evidence, make it unlikely that the full truth will ever be known. It seems improbable that there was a single mastermind controlling all the events, and interpretations which attempt to explain events solely in terms PKI, army, Sukarno or Suharto plot must be treated with caution“ (Ricklefs 2001: 338).

  11. 11.

    Among others, the Indonesian Students’ Action Front (Kesatuan Aksi Mahasiswa Indonesia, KAMI), with its core elements consisting of Islamic, Catholic, and the former Indonesian Socialists Party’s (Partai Sosialis Indonesian , PSI) youth groups; the Indonesian Youth and Students’ Action Front (Kesatuan Aksi Pelajar Pemuda Indonesia, KAPPI); and the Indonesian Graduates’ Action Front (Kesatuan Aksi Sarjana Indonesia, KASI).

  12. 12.

    The bureaucracy overhaul also included the placement of military officers as regional leaders. In 1968, seventeen out of twenty-five governor posts were filled with military officers. By 1968, more than half of all positions of mayors and municipality regents were filled with military officers. A massive reorganization also took place within the military institution, which lasted until 1970. In August 1967, Suharto abolished the ministries for four military branches and placed the commander of the armed forces directly under the president (Ricklefs 2001: 356). Between 1969 and 1970, he replaced all commanders of military branches with chief of staff positions and all regional garrison commanders started reporting to the department of defense and security. In October 1970, he lowered the retirement age for soldiers to forty-eight years which forced eighty-six generals to retire from their service (ibid: 359). Thus, the demobilization of the Indonesian armed forces went into effect and the authority over the forces was perfectly centralized.

  13. 13.

    Among others, between 1966 and 1967, Indonesia abolished its politics of confrontation and soon officially reopened diplomatic relations with Malaysia, rejoined the UN after having resigned in 1963, and froze relationships with communist countries like China and the then Soviet Union. In February 1966, the Indonesian ambassador to the PRC received an order to return home but he refused. He eventually received political asylum from Beijing.

  14. 14.

    Pancasila or Five Principles are the official state principles of Indonesia. Those principles are: (1) belief in God; (2) just and civilized humanitarianism; (3) the unity of Indonesia; (4) people led by wise policies arrived at through a process of consultation and consensus; (5) social justice for all the Indonesian people. In 1967, the MPR S declared Pancasila as the sole state ideology. In 1978, the New Order government introduced obligatory courses on Guidelines for the Implementation of Pancasila (Pedoman Penghayatan dan Pengalaman Pancasila, P4) for the state bureaucracy, schools and universities, workplaces, and many other places (Morfit 1981).

  15. 15.

    The disappointed groups regarding this incorporation established the Papua Independence Organization (OPM, Organisasi Papua Merdeka), which is still active at the time of writing.

  16. 16.

    Partai Golongan Karya (Functional Groups Party, Golkar ) is one of the political parties in Indonesia. The history of Golkar began on 20 October 1964 when the Army formed a Joint Secretariat of Functional Groups (Sekretariat Bersama Golongan Karya, Sekber Golkar). The initial objective of the formation of Sekber Golkar was to create a coordinating organization for various social and professional organizations (e.g. youth, state employees, teachers, labor organizations, etc.) in order to block the increasing growth of the PKI ’s influence. After the MPR appointed Suharto as the president in 1968, Suharto reorganized Sekber Golkar to become his electoral machine. For this purpose, the joint secretariat was renamed Golkar in 1970 and became an organization which was officially not a party, but still participated in elections. In all elections during the New Order era (1971, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, and 1997), Golkar always won with landslide victories. Hence, together with the military, Golkar was the main supporter of Suharto’s New Order regime. Soon after Suharto’s departure in 1998, Golkar officially changed into a normal political party and remains one of the largest Indonesian political parties until today (Ricklefs 2001: 334, 360).


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Kurniawan, Y. (2018). A Historical Overview on the State of Emergency and Martial Law in Indonesia. In: The Politics of Securitization in Democratic Indonesia . Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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