Although we celebrate Indonesian Independence Day as 17 August, 1945, it would be wrong to say that from that day Indonesia was 'free'. Before we could fly our 'merah-putih' flag high above our heads, we had to fight, kill, be killed. Destruction ravaged Indonesia. It took 5 long years for Independence to feel real.
Here is the story of Indonesia's struggle for independence.
17 August, 1945
Sukarno-Hatta sign the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence: Japan, who occupied Indonesia during the Second World War, surrendered to the Allies on August 1945. Indonesia took advantage of the situation and declared independence 2 days later.
18 August, 1945
Immediately after Indonesia's proclamation of independence began the Indonesian War of Independence - an armed conflict and between the country and their old colonialists, the Dutch Empire.
End of September, 1945
British forces descend upon Indonesia to secure their victory over the Japanese and hold down before the Dutch were ready to return with military power (Britain and Netherlands were allies).
The period between Japanese surrender and Dutch return was called the Bersiap (get ready) period - during which the British occupied and fought Republican Indonesians. Many of the Republicans were non-military who fought with bamboo sticks and stolen Japanese rifles.
Warfare begins. As part of the Japanese surrender agreement, they were to surrender Indonesia to the Allies. By this point, the Republican Army already had power which the Japanese had to fight back for in order to give to the British.
Indonesia resists the British, and after several incidents The Battle of Surabaya began. This was the largest battle in the revolution and became a symbol for Indonesian nationalism. Today the remembrance of this day is celebrated as 'Hari Pahlawan' (Heroes' Day).
"As long as the Indonesian bulls, the youth of Indonesia, have red blood that can make a piece of white cloth red and white, we will never surrender. Friends, fellow fighters, especially the youth of Indonesia, we will fight on, we will expel the colonialists from our Indonesian land that we love... " - Sutomo, Military Leader
January - December, 1946
Known as the final 'phase' of the Bersiap period. Bloody and violent, the phase was a mix of a fight for independence, civil war, religious conflict & social revolution.
During this period, many civilians are killed by Republicans and 'pemuda' for being European, Indo (mixed race), aristocracy or against their cause. It was murder and massacre on both sides.
24 March, 1946
As fighting continued, the British forced Indonesian Republican fighters out of Bandung. As an act of defiance, the Republicans blew up warehouses of ammunition which burnt the whole south-side of Bandung down. This was known as the Bandung Sea of Fire.
Nationalists sang 'Halo-halo Bandung' as they they left the firey destruction.
21 July - 4 August, 1947
Operation Product- a Dutch offensive against the Indonesian Republic- was pushed. Fighting continued and so did massacres, including the Rawagede massacres when the Dutch army mercilessly killed 431 villagers because they would not give up the location of an independence fighter.
17 January, 1948
With growing international pressure from the UN, another ceasefire agreement was signed called the Renville Agreement. After 12 months, Indonesian forces continued to fight which lead to Operation Kraii by the Dutch, who captured Yogyakarta and Sukarno in December 1948.
27 December, 1949
A year later, with too much international pressure, the Dutch were forced to transfer power to Indonesia, which then became the Republic of the United States of Indonesia. Finally ending the conflict between nationalists and Dutch.
The Republic of the United States of Indonesia (red):-
17 August 1950
Finally- five-years after proclamation, after non-republic states begin to accept the Republic, Sukarno proclaims a unitary state…
The Republic of Indonesia is born.
Sukarno: "Soldiers beat a path for me to the topmost step of the big white palace. There I raised both hands high. A stillness swept over the millions. "Alhamdulillah – Thank God," I cried. "We are free"
Over 100,000 armed Indonesians and an estimated number of 100,000 civilians were killed during the fight for independence in these 5 years.
Blood was spilled, 'tanah tumpah darahku'.
As we celebrate Independence Day in Indonesia we must not take this freedom for granted. Thousands died so that we, today, could be free. So, whilst we celebrate let us also think about how we can make this country great and strive for a better future for Indonesia. Merdeka!