Indonesia: Searching For The Ratu Adil
In the 1966 Italian film ‘The Battle of Algeries, the insurgent leader Ben M'Hidi is having a conversation with one of his foot soldiers named Ali. During this scene Ben M’Hidi makes an observation that was true of many nationalist movements for self-determination during the 20th century by stating “It's hard to start a revolution. Even harder to continue it, and hardest of all to win it. But, it's only afterwards, when we have won, that the true difficulties begin. In short, Ali, there's still much to do. “ (Pontecorvo, 1966). Ben M’hidi’s words have rung true of a great many of the national revolutions as the world moved from an imperial world ...view middle of the document...
At the turn of the 20th century a movement began in Holland promoting the idea that the Dutch had a moral responsibility to the indigenous population of the Dutch East Indies. In 1901, Abraham Kuijper, leader of the Calvinist Christian Democrat party, took power in Holland. This new government, with the support of the Queen, began putting forward a new policy towards the Dutch East Indies. This policy would focus on bringing progress and prosperity to the indigenous peoples on the region, as a way of making reparations for their exploitation, and paying their ‘debt of honor’ (Keat Gin Ooi, 2004, p.490). That year the Dutch Ethical Policy, as it was known, became the official policy of colonial government in Indonesia.
This new ethical policy did not coincide with a lessening of control over the archipelago. Instead it created a greater sense of “white man’s burden” among the Dutch, who were more motivated to expand direct colonial rule and take control from the remaining independent local rulers in an effort to civilize the people (Kratoska, 2001, p.176). In the 19th century Dutch rule was confined largely to Java, with outposts at significant trading posts on the islands of Sumatra, the Moluccas, and Borneo. During the period from 1901 to 1920, through conquest or treaty, Dutch rule was expanded over the entire archipelago.
While Dutch control was expanding, another force was also developing as a result of the new Ethical Policy. Dutch investments into education had been developing a class of educated Indonesian elites. This class would be the foundation for an Indonesian National Awakening, where for the first time a national consciousness as "Indonesians" began to come into existence. In 1908 the first indigenous political group was formed by students from Batavia and Yogyakarta, named Budi Utomo (Kratoska, 2001, p. 238). Other nationalist and anti- colonial political movements followed, as well as internationalist ones such as the Communist Party of Indonesia (Partai Komunis Indonesia), which was actually lead by a Dutch Socialist named Henk Sneevliet (IISH, nd).
The most significant national movements began to arise out of the island of Java. This island had at one time been home to a large empire known as the Majapahit, who at its peak ruled over much of the archipelago. In the 10th century a Javanese Hindu king of Widarba, named Ratu Joyaboyo had a prophecy that “The Javanese would be ruled by a whites for 3 centuries and by yellow dwarfs for the life span of a maize plant prior to the return of the Ratu Adil [divine king]” (Suresh 2011). While there is no shortage of prophecies from Indonesia, a land known for a culture of mysticism, this one has a special significance. In the period from 1925 to 1950, this prophecy came true.
The national awakening in Indonesia that was building in the early 20th century, propelled forward by an elite class of educated intellectuals, had begun articulating a new national consciousness and...