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  • 7/9/2003


The world's largest archipelago, Indonesia achieved independence from the Netherlands in 1949. Current issues include: alleviating widespread poverty, implementing IMF-mandated reforms of the banking sector, effecting a transition to a popularly-elected government after four decades of authoritarianism, addressing charges of cronyism and corruption, holding the military and police accountable for human rights violations, and resolving growing separatist pressures in Aceh and Irian Jaya. On 30 August 1999 a provincial referendum for independence was overwhelmingly approved by the people of Timor Timur. Concurrence followed by Indonesia's national legislature, and the nameEast Timor was provisionally adopted. On 20 May 2002, East Timor was internationally recognized as an independent state.



Southeastern Asia, archipelago between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean

Geographic coordinates

: 5 00 S, 120 00 E

Area: Total: 1,919,440 sq km; water: 93,000 sq km;land: 1,826,440 sq km


: Tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands

Coastline:54,716 km



: 231,328,092 (July 2002 est.)

Sex ratio: At birth: NA ;under 15 years: NA;15-64 years: NA ;65 years and over: NA ;total population: NA

Nationality: Noun: Indonesian(s);adjective: Indonesian

Ethnic groups

: Javanese 45%, Sundanese 14%, Madurese 7.5%, coastal Malays 7.5%, other 26%

Languages: Bahasa Indonesia (official, modified form of Malay), English, Dutch, local dialects, the most widely spoken of which is Javanese


Indonesia, a vast polyglot nation, faces severe economic development problems, stemming from secessionist movements and the low level of security in the regions, the lack of reliable legal recourse in contract disputes, corruption, and weaknesses in the banking system, and strained relations with the IMF. Investor confidence will remain low and few new jobs will be created under these circumstances. In November 2001, Indonesia agreed with the IMF on a series of economic reforms in 2002, thus enabling further IMF disbursements. Keys to future growth remain internal reform, the build-up of the confidence of international donors and investors, and a strong comeback in the global economy.


:Petroleum and natural gas; textiles, apparel, and footwear; mining, cement, chemical fertilizers, plywood; rubber; food; tourism


Country name

Conventional long form: Republic of Indonesia
conventional short form: Indonesia
local long form: Republik Indonesia
former: Netherlands East Indies; Dutch East Indies
local short form: Indonesia

Government type

: Republic

Administrative divisions:27 provinces (propinsi-propinsi, singular - propinsi), 2 special regions* (daerah-daerah istimewa, singular - daerah istimewa), and 1 special capital city district** (daerah khusus ibukota); Aceh*, Bali, Banten, Bengkulu, Gorontalo, Jakarta Raya**, Jambi, Jawa Barat, Jawa Tengah, Jawa Timur, Kalimantan Barat, Kalimantan Selatan, Kalimantan Tengah, Kalimantan Timur, Kepulauan Bangka Belitung, Lampung, Maluku, Maluku Utara, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Papua, Riau, Sulawesi Selatan, Sulawesi Tengah, Sulawesi Tenggara, Sulawesi Utara, Sumatera Barat, Sumatera Selatan, Sumatera Utara, Yogyakarta*; note - with the implementation of decentralization on 1 January 2001, the 357 districts (regencies) have become the key administrative units responsible for providing most government services


following the 30 August 1999 provincial referendum for independence which was overwhelmingly approved by the people of Timor Timur and the October 1999 concurrence of Indonesia's national legislature, the name East Timor was adopted as a provisional name for the political entity formerly known as Propinsi Timor Timur; East Timor gained its formal independence on 20 May 2002



Independence:17 August 1945 (proclaimed independence; on 27 December 1949, Indonesia became legally independent from the Netherlands)

Legal system: Based on Roman-Dutch law, substantially modified by indigenous concepts and by new criminal procedures code; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Executive branch: chief of state: President MEGAWATI Sukarnoputri (since 23 July 2001) and Vice President Hamzah HAZ (since 26 July 2001); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President MEGAWATI Sukarnoputri (since 23 July 2001) and Vice President Hamzah HAZ (since 26 July 2001); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president and vice president elected separately by the People's Consultative Assembly or MPR for five-year terms; selection of president last held 23 July 2001); selection of vice president last held 26 July 2001; next election to be held NA 2004; in accordance with constitutional changes, the election of the president and vice president will be by direct vote of the citizenry


the People's Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat or MPR) includes the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat or DPR) plus 195 indirectly selected members; it meets every five years to elect the president and vice president and to approve broad outlines of national policy and also has yearly meetings to consider constitutional and legislative changes; constitutional amendments adopted in 2001 and 2002 provide for the MPR to be restructured in 2004 and to consist entirely of popularly-elected members who will be in the DPR and the new House of Regional Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah or DPD); the MPR will no longer formulate national policy
election results: MEGAWATI Sukarnoputri elected president, receiving 591 votes in favor (91 abstentions); Hamzah HAZ elected vice president, receiving 340 votes in favor (237 against)


Telephones - main lines in use:

5,588,310 (1998)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 678, FM 43, shortwave 82 (1998)


31.5 million (1997)

Television broadcast stations:

41 (1999)


13.75 million (1997)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):

24 (2000)

Internet users :

4.4 million (2002)



Total: 6,458 km;narrow gauge: 5,961 km 1.067-m gauge (101 km electrified; 101 km double-track); 497 km 0.750-m gauge (2001)


Total: 342,700 km; paved: 158,670 km; unpaved: 184,030 km (1997)


21,579 km total


490 (2001)


Islam was the dominant religion by far in Indonesia, with the greatest number of religious adherents: around 143 million people or 86.9 percent of the population in 1985, which when adjusted for 1992 estimates represents between 160 million and 170 million adherents. This high percentage of Muslims made Indonesia the largest Islamic country in the world in the early 1990s. Within the nation, most provinces and islands had majority populations of Islamic adherents (ranging from just above 50 percent in Kalimantan Barat and Maluku provinces to as much as 97.8 percent in the Special Region of Aceh).

Although Christianity - Roman Catholicism and Protestantism - was the most rapidly growing religion in Indonesia in the 1980s, its numbers were small compared to Islam (9 percent of the population compared to 86.9 percent Muslim in 1985). Christianity had a long history in the islands, with Portuguese Jesuits and Dominicans operating in the Malukus, southern Sulawesi, and Timor in the sixteenth century. When the Dutch defeated Portugal in 1605, however, Catholic missionaries were expelled and the Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church was virtually the only Christian influence in the region for 300 years.


Most people on the Indonesian island of Bali follow the Hindu faith, although the religion is practiced quite differently from that in India - its country of origin. Balinese Hinduism spills into everyday life, and worship extends beyond the temple. Small Hindu shrines featuring offerings of incense, flowers and fruit can be seen in the corner of most businesses, restaurants and houses on the island.


Buddhism has few followers in Indonesia, and most that still practice the faith in the archipelago are of Chinese descent. It was a strong religion before the introduction of Islam and ruled the courts in both Sumatra and Java. Central Java's Barabudur temple, which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is a Buddhist temple.


It is generally believed that the earliest inhabitants of the Indonesian archipelago originated inIndia orBurma. In 1890, fossils of Java man (Homo erectus), some 500,000 years old, were found in east Java. Later migrants ('Malays') came from southernChina and Indochina, and they began populating the archipelago around 3000 BC. Powerful groups such as the Buddhist Srivijaya Empire and the Hindu Mataram kingdom appeared in Java andSumatra towards the end of the 7th century. The last important kingdom to remain Hindu was the Majapahit, which was founded in the 13th century. The subsequent spread of Islam into the archipelago in the 14th century forced the Majapahits to retreat toBali in the 15th century.
By this time, a strong Muslim empire had developed with its centre at Melaka (Malacca) on theMalay Peninsula. Its influence was short-lived and it fell to the Portuguese in 1511. The Dutch displaced the Portuguese and began making inroads into Indonesia. The Dutch East India Company based inBatavia (Jakarta) dominated the spice trade and took control of Java by the mid 18th century, when its power was already in decline. The Dutch took control in the early 19th century and by the early 20th century; the entire archipelago - including Aceh andBali - was under their control.
Burgeoning nationalism combined with Japanese occupation of the archipelago during WWII served to weaken Dutch resolve, and it finally transferred sovereignty to the new Indonesian republic in 1949. Achmed Soekarno, the foremost proponent of self-rule since the early 1920s, became President. In 1957, after a rudderless period of parliamentary democracy, Soekarno overthrew the parliament, declared martial law, and initiated a more authoritarian style of government, which he euphemistically dubbed 'Guided Democracy'. Once in the driving seat, Soekarno, like many like-minded military strongmen, set about consolidating his power through monument-building and socializing the economy, a move that paradoxically opened up a huge divide between the haves and have-nots and left much of the population teetering on the edge of starvation. Rebellions broke out inSumatra and Sulewesi, Malaysia and Indonesia came perilously close to an all-out confrontation and instability was the general order of the day. Things came to a head in 1965, the eponymous Year of Living Dangerously, when an attempted coup (purportedly by a Communist group) threatened Soekarno's hold on power.
Soekarno won that particular battle but lost the war when the man responsible for putting the coup down, General Soeharto, wrested presidential power from him in 1966. Soeharto started off with a nice line in political reconstruction, but the promises of economic reform and greater government transparency quickly degenerated into much of the same-old same-old. Nepotism, cronyism and grandiose spending, coupled with the brutal massacre of East Timorese nationalists in Dilli in 1975, proved that much of the talk was mere rhetoric. By March 1998 Soeharto was out of touch with the people and, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, awarded himself only five more years in office. He never made his own benchmark and by the end of May that year he was out of office and the vice-president, Jusuf Habibie, was installed.
Habibie, never popular to begin with, mouthed the same promises of reform and even appeared willing to consider independence for East Timor, but it was all too little too late. The uncompromising stance byEast Timor set off a chain reaction and sectarian violence, student protests and increased demands for independence spread like wild fire throughAmbon, Kalimantan and Irian Jaya. Rogue militia groups, widely thought to be controlled and equipped by the Indonesian miltiary, rampaged throughEast Timor after it overwhelmingly voted for independence in 1999; local police forces and parts of the army were sent in to quash other rebellions; protesting students were killed in the streets and the whole country went to hell in a hand basket.
After much fiddle-faddle and talk of international protocol, the UN and Australia got involved in the melee: the UN sent in a token number of troops to express disapproval of Indonesia's methods, while Australia sent a sizable contingent of their army intoEast Timor. Indonesia was outraged at what they considered an act of aggression and unwanted meddling in their domestic affairs, and there were tense standoffs during many of the high-level powwows between the big cheeses. Subtle threats and counter threats were made, but none eventuated. When the dust finally settled East Timor had been granted independent rule over the smoking ruins of its own country; Habibie was out; Mr Abdurrahman Wahid, the first democratically elected president was in; General Wiranto, head of the Indonesian army, had been dismissed; the rogue milita groups had melted back into the streets of Jakarta; the rupiah was still in critical condition; and relations between Indonesia and Australia were still snippety and tense, but marginally improved.
On23 July 2001, the People's Consultative Assembly sacked President Wahid and elected Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri in his place. With Indonesia at the forefront of numerous crisies - the 'War on Terrorism', Ache, West Papua and the October 2002 Bali attacks to name but a few, Megawati has a huge job ahead of her.

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