Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. It consists of
five major islands and about 30 smaller groups. The total number of islands,
according to the Indonesian Naval Hydro-Oceanographic office, is 17,508. The
archipelago is at the crossroads of two oceans, the Pacific Ocean and the
Indian Ocean, and bridges two continents, Asia and Australia. This strategic position
has always influenced the cultural, social, political, and economic life of the
territory of the Republic
of Indonesia stretches
from 6.08' north latitude to 11.15' south latitude. The Indonesian sea area is
four times greater than its land area, which is about 1.9 million sq km
(including an exclusive economic zone) and constitutes about 81% of the total
area of the country
five main islands are: Sumatra, which is about 473,606 sq km in size;
Java/Madura, the most densely populated islands, 132,107 sq km; two-thirds of the island
of Kalimantan measuring 539,460 sq km;
Sulawesi, 189,216 sq km; and Papua, 421,981 sq km, which is part of the world's
second largest island, New
Guinea. Indonesia's other islands are
smaller in size.
between these two shelves is the island group of Nusa Tenggara, Maluku and Sulawesi, where the sea depth reaches 15,000 feet.
Coastal plains have been developed around the islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Papua.
land area is generally covered by thick tropical rain forests, where fertile
soils are continuosly replenished by volcanic eruptions like those on the island of Java.
country is predominantly mountainous, with about 400 volcanoes, 100 of which
are active. Mountains higher than 9000 feet are found on the islands of Sumatra
(Mt. Leuser and Mt. Kerinci); Java (Mt Gede; Mt. Tangkubanperahu, Mt. Ciremai,
Mt. Kawi, Mt. Kelud, Mt. Semeru and Mt.Raung); Sulawesi (Mt. Lompobatang and
Mt. Rantekombala); Bali (Mt. Batur and Mt. Agung); Lombok (Mt. Rinjani) and
Sumbawa (Mt. Tambora). The highest mountain is the perpetually snow-capped
Mandala Top (15,300 feet) in the Jaya Wijaya mountain range of Papua.
rivers flow throughout the country. They serve as useful transportation
on certain islands, for example, the Musi, Batanghari, Indragiri and
rivers in Sumatra; the Kapuas, Barito, Mahakam and Rejang rivers in
Kalimantan; and the Memberamo and Digul rivers in Papua. On Java,
rivers are important for
irrigation purposes, including the
Bengawan Solo, Citarum and Brantas rivers.
number of islands are dotted with scenic lakes, like the Toba. Danau Toba, or Lake
Toba as we know it, is the largest
lake in Southeast Asia. It was created by the
eruption of a super volcano 75 thousand years ago. It is still surrounded by
the crater edge of that volcano, and in the middle of the lake, volcanic
activity created Samosir an island as big as Singapore.
famous lakes are Maninjau and Singkarak lakes on Sumatra; the Tempe,
Towuti, Sidenreng, Poso, Limboto, Tondano, and Matana lakes on Sulawesi; and the Paniai and Sentani lakes on Papua.
With an estimated population
of around 237 million people, Indonesia
is the world's fourth most populous country after China, India
and the United States,
and has the largest Muslim population in the
world. The work force (15-64 yrs of age)
is 65.4 percent of the total population and consists of 76,743,613 males and
A Diverse Nation
In its ethnic groups,
languages, culture, and religion, Indonesia is a very diverse nation.
This great diversity is reflected in the country's national motto Bhinneka
Tunggal Ika which means "Unity in Diversity."
- Ethnic Groups
There are about 500 ethnic groups in Indonesia
spread from Sabang (the northernmost tip of Sumatra)
to Merauke in Papua. The Javanese community is the largest number of Indonesia’s
total population, followed by Sundanese, Madurese, Minangkabau, Buginese, Batak
and Balinese. Other ethnic groups are among others, the Ambonese, Dayaks. Sasaks,
the Acehnese and Papuans.
Apart from the indigenous communities, other sub
communities of foreign descent are the Chinese, the Arabs and Indians.
There are more than 700 languages and dialects spoken in the archipelago. They
normally belong to the different ethnic groups of the population. Some of the
distinctly different local languages are: Acehnese, Batak, Sundanese, Javanese,
Sasak, Tetum of Timor, Dayak, Minahasa, Toraja, Buginese, Halmahera,
Ambonese, Ceramese, and several Irianese languages. To make the picture even
more colorful, these languages are also spoken in different dialects.
Bahasa Indonesia is the national language. It is similar to Malay and written
in Roman script based on European orthography. English is the most prevalent
foreign language. Also, some Dutch is still spoken and understood in the bigger
cities, while French is increasing in its popularity.
active history has encouraged the growth of many unique cultures. On Java, the
Javanese of Central and East Java are known
for having several layers of formality in their language. In Javanese, to speak
to an elder and then to a child is like speaking two different languages. The
Toraja of Sulawesi are famous for their elaborate funeral ceremonies. Often
several days long, these ceremonies bring the whole village together in a
feast, a procession, and a hillside burial. And the Minangkabau of Sumatra
still maintain a matrilineal society. Everything from houses to animals is
inherited from mother to daughter.
Today, the country maintains this cultural richness, even as it expands into
new areas. The traditional music of the gamelan and angklung
coexist with new dangdut and rock and roll! The ancient art of wayang
kulit, or shadow puppetry, complements the modern Indonesian film industry.
And, while the themes and story from historic epics like the Ramayana
persist, newer literature like that of the author Pramoedya Ananta Toer has
become an irrevocable part of Indonesian culture.
is home to the largest number of Muslims in the world, its constitution guarantees
religious rights to all people. At least six world religions find their adherents in Indonesia:
Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
Nevertheless, other faiths can be found, especially in isolated societies.
These religions, called traditional faiths, are also accepted. According to
recent counts, approximately 85 percent of the population are Muslim, 11 percent are Christian (Protestants
and Catholics), around 4 percent are Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, or traditional.
Historians believe that Indonesia was
linked with the Asian mainland during the Pleistocene period (four million BC).
This period was also related to the first appearance of the Hominids; what is
today called 'Java Man' inhabited Indonesia as early as two million
to 500,000 years ago. 'Java Man' is a short name for Pithecanthropus Erectus,
a human-like species whose fossilized remains were discovered by the scientist
Eugene Dubois on the island
Buddhist and Hindu Kingdoms
Much later, Indonesia
developed many well-organized kingdoms. Ruled by indigenous Rajas who embraced
the Hindu and Buddhist religions, these kingdoms grew very civilized. Today, this
time in history is called the period of Buddhist-Hindu Kingdoms. It lasted from
ancient history to the 15th century.
The first Buddhists arrived
in Indonesia from around 100
to 200 AD from India.
One of the most famous Buddhist kingdoms in Indonesian history is Sailendra
(750-850 AD). During this period, the famous Buddhist temple at Borobudur was built. The dynasty's replacement, the Hindu
kingdom of Mataram began the era of Hindu kingdoms.
The mightiest Hindu kingdom in Indonesia's
ancient history was the Majapahit Empire. Under the reign of King Hayam Wuruk
(1331-1364 AD), the empire enjoyed tributary relationships with territories as
far away as Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines.
Gujarati and Persian
merchants who embraced Islam started to visit Indonesia in the 13th century.
Along with trade, they introduced Islam to the Indonesian Hindus, particularly
in the coastal areas of Java. Islam then spread further east to the Bone and
Goa Sultanates in Sulawesi, Ternate and Tidore in the northern part of Maluku,
and the eastern part of Lombok. Besides those
areas, Islam also expanded into Banjarmasin, Palembang, Minangkabau,
Pasai, and Perlak.
European influence in Indonesia
began when the Portuguese, in search of
spices, landed in 1512. Both the Portuguese and the Spanish spread
Christianity in Indonesia.
Meanwhile, the Dutch established an organized merchant trade through the Dutch
East India Company (VOC) in 1602 to tap the rich spice territories. After the
seizure of Ambon in Maluku (1605) and Banda
Island (1623), the Dutch enjoyed a
trade monopoly in the "Spice Islands."
In 1814 the British came to Indonesia.
During the Napoleonic wars in Europe, when Holland
was occupied by France, Indonesia fell
under the rule of the British East India Company. After the fall of Napoleon,
the British and Dutch signed a convention in which they agreed that Dutch
colonial possession dating from 1803 onwards should be returned to the Dutch
administration in Batavia (present-day Jakarta). Thus, the
Indonesian archipelago once again became a Dutch possession in 1815.
Throughout the period of
colonization, Indonesians fought for their independence. This struggle, begun
in the 1600s, climaxed with a proclamation of independence in 1945, and
continued for a few years more.
World War II broke out,
the Japanese occupied the Dutch East Indies
after the surrender of the Dutch colonial army in March 1942. Three
later, on August 14, 1945, the Japanese surrendered to the Allied
Forces. To Indonesia's leaders, the power vacuum in Jakarta looked like
open window of opportunity to proclaim their independence. On 17 August
Indonesian national leaders Soekarno and Dr. Mohamad Hatta proclaimed
independence on behalf of the Indonesian people. The proclamation took
Jalan Pengangsaan Timur No.56, Jakarta,
and was heard by thousands of Indonesians nationwide through a secret
broadcast from a captured Japanese radio station, Jakarta Hoso Kyoku.
English translation of the proclamation was broadcast overseas soon
Indonesia is a republic, with
an elected legislature and a president. The nation's capital city is Jakarta. The Government of Indonesia is based on the
1945 Constitution, as amended in 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002. Article I of the
Constitution establishes a republican form of government that recognizes the
sovereignty of the people.
The Government of Indonesia is organized into seven organs
of the state and three branches of government.
- The People's Consultative Assembly (Majelis
- The Presidency
- The People's Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan
- The State Audit Board (Badan Pemeriksa Keuangan)
- The Supreme Court (Mahkamah Agung)
- The Constitutional
Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi)
- The Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan
Branches of Government
The executive branch of
government is headed by the president and vice president. The president is the
head of government, the chief of state, and the commander-in-chief of the armed
forces. Together with the vice president, he is elected for a five-year term
and can serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. The president appoints the
members of his cabinet, who are responsible for the Government's ministries.
The legislative branch is
based on the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), or Indonesia's
parliament. The MPR is made up of two bodies: the People's Representative
Council (DPR) and the Regional Representative Council (DPD). Together, these
groups have the power to pass laws, amend the Constitution, conduct formal
inquiries, oversee the state's budget, and dismiss the president and vice
president in accordance with the Constitution.
The People's Representative Council, or DPR, is made up of 550 representatives
elected by the people. The Regional Representative Council, or DPD, is made up
of four representatives from each province, as elected by the people. As of the
2004 election, there were 128 representatives in the DPD.
The Supreme Court is the
final court of appeals, and oversees all lower courts. These include general,
military, administrative, religious, and commercial courts. To safeguard its
impartiality, it is independent of the executive and legislative branches of
The two state organs not
under these three branches of government exist on their own. Both the State
Audit Board (BPK) and the Constitutional Court (MK) are independent government
organizations. The BPK ensures the responsible use of tax revenue throughout
the government. The MK makes final, binding decisions on the constitutionality
of laws and disputed election results.
Indonesia has 33 provinces (For more
information about the provinces, click here). Through a
process of decentralization, these provinces have been granted greater power.
In addition to decentralization, the provinces of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and
Papua also govern under a status of Special Autonomy.
Decentralization has given
both provinces and regencies (municipalities) greater authority. In fact, the
central government has retained control over just five areas: foreign affairs,
defense, justice, monetary policy, and religion. Local governments are
responsible for providing all other services.
As part of this ongoing
began a process of direct local elections in 2005. Prior to these direct
elections, citizens voted for political parties instead of candidates.
Indonesia's official coat of arms is
centered on the Garuda, an ancient, mythical bird from the country's
historical epics. Like the Bald Eagle in the United
States, the Garuda is often used to represent Indonesia.
A great deal of symbolism
runs through the Garuda. The eagle is a symbol of creative energy. Its
principal color, gold, symbolizes the greatness of the nation. The black color
represents nature. There are 17 feathers on each wing, 8 on the tail and 45 on
the neck. These numbers stand for the date Indonesia proclaimed its
independence: 17 August 1945. The shield symbolizes self-defense and protection
in struggle. The five symbols on the shield represent the state philosophy of Pancasila.
The motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika ("Unity in Diversity") is
enshrined on a banner held in the eagle's talons, signifying the unity of the
Indonesian people despite their diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
The Indonesian national flag
is called Sang Saka Merah Putih or "the red and white
treasure." As provided for in Article 35 of the 1945 Constitution, the
flag is made up of two colors, red on top of white. By law, its width must be
two-thirds of the length.
Like the country's coat of
arms, its flag is also symbolic. The flag's red stripe represents bravery, and
its white stripe stands for spirituality.
The National Anthem
The national anthem is called
Indonesia Raya, which means "Great Indonesia." The song was composed
by Wage Rudolf Supratman at the second All Indonesian Youth Congress in October
1928 in Batavia, now Jakarta. It was at this moment when
Indonesian youth of different ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural
backgrounds resolutely pledged allegiance to:
One native land, Indonesia;
One nation, the Indonesian nation;
One unifying language, the Indonesian language.
Pancasila is a creed that Indonesia's
first leader, President Sukarno, presented on June 1, 1945. To this day, it
remains the philosophical basis of the Indonesian state.
Pancasila is based on two Sanskrit
words: panca, or "five," and sila, which means
"principles." It stands for the five inseparable and interrelated
principles at the heart of Indonesia.
- Belief in the one and only God
- Just and civilized humanity
- The unity of Indonesia
- Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity
arising out of deliberations amongst representatives
- Social justice for the whole of the people of Indonesia
These are often generalized
to refer to religious devotion, humanitarianism, nationalism, consultative
democracy, and social justice.
* The information provided here is primarily taken from Indonesia
2002: an official handbook by the National Information Agency of the Republic of Indonesia