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The unitary state: ‘A modern form of colonialism’

Between May and July 1950, the federal Republic and the Republic of Indonesia in Yogyakarta formed a joint committee to work on a constitutional text for the unitary state. The two ministerial cabinets approved a draft, but their respective parliaments did not ratify it. Reiterating the ‘temporary’ character of the 1945 Constitution, this document did not provide a timeline for elections; it appointed Soekarno president of the new Unitary State of Indonesia (Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia), and it retained the Yogyakarta Republic’s majority in parliament. After reshuffling the Pasoendan cabinet, warranted by the local leadership’s alleged involvement in the Westerling case, the supporters of the Yogya- karta Republic eventually outnumbered pro-federation representatives by 20 members.[1]

The unitary state was declared on 17 August 1950, marking the quinquennium of Soekarno’s proclamation of independence, and thus symbolically casting this Unitary Republic in the legacy of the Yogyakarta Republic. Soekarno’s ‘Bersatu kembali’ speech, celebrating the birth of the unitary state, prompted a direct answer from the Islamic state. The proclamation of a unitary state was a heavy blow to the Darul Islam as Kartosuwiryo and his colleagues still aspired to establish an Islamic state, at the very least in West Java, with its authority recognized within the federal structure. The fact that Kartosuwiryo continued to hold on to this goal is evidenced by the Darul Islam’s attempt to make a connection with Wiranatakoesoema and the 1948 Masyumi congress.

The Nil’s information office in Pekalongan replied to Soek- arno’s speech by stating that the unitary Republic was ‘a modern form of colonialism’, both political and economic. According to the NII, this transformation was in opposition to the principles of the 1945-49 revolution, the very revolution that Soekarno pointed to as the kernel of this new state. Hence, ‘it is impossible for the Islamic guerrilla to surrender its weapons’, because doing so would be the greatest betrayal to the Indonesian people.[2]

  • [1] Feith, The decline, pp. 46-99.
  • [2] ‘Sambutan seruan PR Bung Karno (Presiden) pd. tg. 17 August 1950 tentang: “BersatuKembali” jg. disiarkan oleh Kementerian Penerangan RI’, Jawatan Penerangan NII daerahPekalongan, RIS no. 131, ANRI.
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