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Shaddow Puppets (Wayang Kulit)

Islam arrived in Indonesia sometime during the 12th century and through assimilation supplanted Hinduism by the end of the 16th century in Java and Sumatra. Bali however remains overwhelmingly Hindu. In the eastern archipelago both Christian and Islamic proselytizing took place in the 16th and 17th centuries and currently there are large communities of both religions on these islands.

Beginning in 1602 the Dutch slowly established themselves as rulers of present-day Indonesia exploiting the weakness of the small kingdoms that had replaced that of Majapahit. The only exception was East Timor which remained under Portugal until 1975. During 300 years of Dutch rule the Dutch developed the Netherlands East Indies into one of the world's richest colonial possessions.

During the first decade of this century an Indonesian independence movement began and expanded rapidly particularly between the two World Wars. Its leaders came from a small group of young professionals and students some of whom had been educated in the Netherlands. Many including Indonesia's first president Sukarno were imprisoned for political activities.

The Japanese occupied Indonesia for 3 years during World War II and for their own purposes encouraged the nationalist movement. Many Indonesians took up positions in the civil administration that had been closed to all but token rulers under the Dutch. On August 17 1945 3 days after the Japanese surrender to the Allies a small group of Indonesians led by Sukarno -- the country's first truly national figure and first president (1945-1967) -- proclaimed independence and established the Republic of Indonesia. Dutch efforts to reestablish complete control met strong resistance. After 4 years of warfare and negotiations the Dutch transferred sovereignty to a federal Indonesian Government. In 1950 Indonesia became the 60th member of the United Nations.

Shortly after hostilities with the Dutch ended in 1949 Indonesia adopted a new constitution providing for a parliamentary system of government in which the executive was chosen by and made responsible to parliament. Parliament was divided among many political parties before and after the country's first nationwide election in 1955 and stable governmental coalitions were difficult to achieve.

At the time of independence the Dutch retained control over the western half of New Guinea known as Irian Jaya. Negotiations with the Dutch on the incorporation of West Irian into Indonesia failed and armed clashes broke out between Indonesian and Dutch troops in 1961. In August 1962 the two sides reached an agreement and Indonesia assumed administrative responsibility for Irian Jaya on May 1 1963. An Act of Free Choice held in Irian Jaya under UN supervision in 1969 confirmed the transfer of sovereignty to Indonesia.

From 1524 to 1975 East Timor was a Portuguese colony on the island of Timor separated from Australia's north coast by the Timor Sea. As a result of political events in Portugal Portuguese authorities abruptly withdrew from Timor in 1975 exacerbating power struggles among several Timorese political factions. An avowedly Marxist faction called "Fretilin" achieved military superiority. Fretilin's ascent in an area contiguous to Indonesian territory alarmed the Indonesian Government which regarded it as a threatening movement. Following appeals from some of Fretilin's Timorese opponents Indonesian military forces intervened in East Timor and overcame Fretilin's regular forces in 1975-1976. Small-scale guerrilla activity persists to this day. Indonesia declared East Timor its 27th province in 1976.

Unsuccessful rebellions on Sumatra Sulawesi and other islands beginning in 1958 plus a long succession of short-lived national governments weakened the parliamentary system. Consequently in 1959 when President Sukarno revived the 1945 constitution which gave broad presidential powers he met little resistance.

From 1956 to 1965 President Sukarno imposed an authoritarian regime under the label of "Guided Democracy." He also moved Indonesia's foreign policy toward nonalignment. Advocated by the leaders of other former colonies these nonaligned countries were founders of what became known as the Non-Aligned Movement. President Sukarno closely worked with Asian communist states and increasingly tilted toward the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in domestic affairs.

By 1965 the PKI controlled many of the mass organizations that Sukarno had established to mobilize support for his regime and with Sukarno's acquiescence embarked on a campaign to establish a "fifth armed force" by arming its supporters. Army leaders resisted this campaign. On October 1 1965 PKI sympathizers within the military including elements from Sukarno's palace guards occupied key locations in Jakarta and kidnapped and murdered six senior generals.

The army executed the coup plotters within a few days but unsettled conditions persisted through 1966. Violence swept throughout Indonesia. Rightist gangs killed tens of thousands of alleged communists in rural areas. Estimates of the number of deaths range between 160 000 and 500 000. The violence was especially brutal in Java and Bali. The emotions and fears of instability created by this crisis persist.

In the aftermath President Sukarno vainly attempted to restore his political position and shift the country back to its pre-October 1965 position. Although he remained president in March 1966 Sukarno had to transfer key political and military powers to General Soeharto the general who rallied the military to defeat the coup attempt. In March 1967 the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) named General Soeharto acting president. Sukarno ceased to be a political force and lived quietly until his death in 1970.

President Soeharto proclaimed a "New Order" in Indonesian politics and dramatically shifted foreign and domestic policies away from the course set in Sukarno's final years. The New Order established economic rehabilitation and development as its primary goals and pursued its policies through an administrative structure dominated by the military but with advice from Western-educated economic experts.

In 1968 the MPR formally selected Soeharto to a full 5-year term as President and he was reelected to additional 5-year terms in 1973 1978 1983 1988 and 1993. In the midst of a severe drought dropping world petroleum prices regional financial instability and increasing social unrest Soeharto was again re-elected as President in March 1998.

A plummeting rupiah soaring inflation massive capital flight widespread corruption and nepotism continued to exacerbate Indonesia's economic and political turmoil. In a series of demonstrations led first by students the Indonesian people called for President Soeharto's resignation. Widespread civil unrest rioting and public pressure led Soeharto to resign in May 1998. Upon his resignation Soeharto handed power to his handpicked Vice President B.J. Habibie.

President Habibie quickly distanced himself from his predecessor's authoritarian "New Order" regime. He moved quickly to assemble a cabinet with a strong economic team; released a number of prominent political dissidents; initiated an investigation into those responsible for the rioting and looting; and lifted controls on the press political parties and labor unions. Habibie pledged to rewrite the political laws and hold elections. A preliminary timeline calls for parliamentary elections in mid-1999 followed by Parliament's selection of a President in December 1999.

A potted history

c700,000-200,000 BC Fossils discovered in 1891 of the so-called 'Java Man' near the village of Trinil prove that Indonesia played host to early Homo erectus

3000-500 BC Successive waves of migrants arrived from China and Tonkin

1st century AD Indonesia comes under influence of Indian trade and culture, paving the way for a succession of Indianised kingdoms

8th-10th century The Buddhists Sailendra Dynasty established in Central Java, one of the greatest and most powerful kingdoms

778-856  construction of the magnificent Borobudur temple by the Sailendras

8th-11th century  The Hindu Sanjaya dynasty holds power in parts of Central and East Java, building the famous Prambanan temples

1222-1292 King Angrok establishes the Singasari dynasty which rules in East Java and the Malay Peninsula

1292  The first European, Marco Polo, sets foot in Indonesia when he visits Sumatra

1292-1478  Rise of the powerful Hindu empire of Majapahit, which dominates most of Indonesia as well as parts of neighbouring Malaysia

1343 Javanese colony established in Bali

1400  Islam first introduced to Indonesia. By the end of the 16th century it has largely replaced Hinduism and Buddhism as the dominent religion

1522 Trading posts are established by the Portuguese in the Spice Islands and at Sunda Kelapa to control the lucrative spice trade

1528  Foundation of Jakarta, known as Jayakarta

1572-1757  The last great Javanese kingdom of Mataram holds sway around Yogyakarta and Surakarta

1619 The Dutch East India Comapny takes Jayakarta by force and renames the town Batavia. Gradually establishing trading posts through out Java

1628-29  Sultan Agung, the most famous ruler of Mataram, attacks Batavia but fails to defeat the Dutch

1811  The British take control of Batavia following the Napoleonic wars

1816  The British, under Lieutenant Governer Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, are ousted by the Dutch

1825 A failed revolt leads to Prince Diponegoro, son of the Sultan of Yogyakarta, being exiled to Sulawesi

1894 The Dutch military victorious on Lombok

1906  Dutch troops land at Sanur beach on Bali, the pricely families of Badung and Tabanan refuse to surrender and more than 4,000 of them commit mass suicide

1911  he Dutch establish control over all Inonesian islands except East Timor and North Borneo

1914-1918  World War 1- growing Nationalist sentiment takes hold in Indonesia

1927  Foundation of the Patai Nasional Indonesia, a political party aimed at securing independance

1942-45  The Japanese occupy Indonesia. Initially they are welcomed as liberators. Later the people turned against them

1945  Indonesia proclaims its independance, but the dutch refuse to accept the declaration.  Yogyakarta declared capitol of the founding republic

1948  The Dutch capture Yogyakarta, prompting a guerrilla campaign in rural areas

1949  The Dutch are ordered to with draw from Indonesia by the UN and a new republic is officially proclaimed. Soekarno became first president of the newly formed Republic of Indonesia

1950-65  Ecconomic and social problems are compounded by domestic unrest and growing support for the Communists

1965 6 Army generals are murdered in an attempted take over which was blamed on the Communist party. General Suharto, chief of the army strategic reserve command, takes control

1967-8  Soekarno is placed under house arrest and Suharto is inaugurated as president. Thousands of alledged communists are killed through out the country, esp on Bali.

1970-1980 Growing ecconomic prosperity brought about by rising oil prices leads to corruption on a scale almost unparalleled. Continuing unrest in outlying areas

1989-92  Suharto liberalises foreign investment regulations and presides over a period of rapid growth. Western observers herald the beginnings of a new ecconomic giant

1991  Massacre in East Timor

1993-97 Golkar, the state party, wins 6th consecutive victory, gaining 68% of the vote with Suharto reappointed as president

1998  May riots in Jakarta results in president Suharto's ressignation Vice President Habibie takes over





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