Japanese Occupation Affect Nationalism in Indonesia

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4. Assess the impact of the Japanese Occupation on nationalism in Indonesia

“Nationalism” is generally defined as the increasing desire in people to determine their identity, existence and destiny for themselves. For the Netherland Indies, nationalism movement can be traced back to around 1900, which finally led and gave rise to a new nation, Indonesia. Nonetheless, it is important to acknowledge that nationalism movement existed prior to the Japanese occupation and therefore should not be consider a turning point that altered the entire landscape of nationalist movement in Indonesia. In addition, the Japanese’s brutality and cruelty could have potentially hindered the progress of nationalism, as they were primary driven by their self-interest in war efforts. This paper will attempt to argue how the Japanese Occupation acts as a catalyst that sped up nationalist movement led by pre-war nationalist leaders in Indonesia, eventually paving the way for its independence.

In the initial stage of the occupation, the Japanese was determined to exploit the resources and not make any political concessions to Indonesian nationalism. The first attempt at such mass propaganda without major Indonesian nationalist leaders turned out to be a comprehensive failure. From its launch in March 1942, the Triple A movement that consist of the slogan that Japan as the leader of Asia, the protector of Asia, and the light of Asia, did not gather much support from the local. In general, the Triple A movement did not achieve its objective as few Indonesian Nationalist leaders were involved and the propaganda was too heavy-handed even in those days of early occupation for the locals to take it seriously. Therefore, it was only because the Japanese needed the help of the locals to aid war efforts that led them to give political concessions to nationalist leaders. Having failed to get anywhere by making no concession to nationalism and with increasing new doubts among the Japanese about the outcome of the war, the Putera --- Centre of People’s Power (Pusat Tenaga Rakjat) was formed in March 1943. The Japanese selected nationalist leaders who had been imprisoned or ignored by the Dutch. They were resigned to the fact if they were to rally the masses of Java, the Japanese would have to use the leading figures of pre-war nationalist movement such as Sukarno and Hatta.

The Japanese implementation of a simplified Malay language, Bahasa Indonesia, to replace the 250 languages and dialects used in the Netherland Indies it became the main lingua franca which significant in fostering a common national identityWhen they first took control of Indonesia, the Japanese decided to ban the use of Dutch language with immediate effect. Throughout the country, the locals started to see themselves as true modern nations rather than a mixture of rival religions, languages, cultures and races. This greatly galvanise nationalist effort, as it was easier to reach out to masses comparer to before under the Dutch rule.

Under the Japanese Occupation, political boards were formed and nationalism was encouraged by the new regime as the Japanese mobilized the whole population for the war effort. The Japanese utilized Sukarno, along with the other nationalists, in order to unite the Japanese and Indonesian causes. While the Japanese military authorities were wary of giving Indonesians too much license, they recognize that they could not maintain their position by force alone. Hence, The Japanese give positions of responsibility to nationalist leaders like Sukarno and Hatta who had previously been imprisoned by the Dutch, and afforded the nationalist movement new scope for development (Vickers, 2005).

Even though the original intention behind this move was to achieve Japanese war aims, such opportunity was never allowed under the Dutch Colonial rule. Therefore, Sukarno who was enlisted by the Japanese to help them govern the country seized every opportunity to...
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