A quick glance at Indonesia-Malaysia

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Muhammadiyah University – Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Coming from Malaysia, the two neighbors are incredibly different. Indonesia, richer in ancient cultures, larger in territory, an archipelago of thousands of islands, has GDP/capita 3,500 and Malaysia 11,500; three times+ more. Products of brutal Western colonialism, Dutch for Indonesia, English for Malaya, which became Malaysia. Exploited, robbed, impoverished. Both hoped that World War II, fought for democracy-human rights, would end that in 1945, but got wars to keep colonialism instead–till 1949 and 1957, respectively.

Both had been occupied for 3 1/2 years by Japan going south to beat the US-imposed boycott, heading for oil resources in Indonesia (Malaysian oil not yet discovered). There was a difference: Indonesia’s future leader, Soekarno and his no. 2 Mohammad Hatta had lived in Japan, made friends and met the Dutch returning to “their” colony fighting as a free country – no such freedom in Malaya.

So, why the difference? It is almost like a social experiment.

The key is the local Chinese minority, in Malaysia used by the English against the Malay majority, as exploited workers in the tin mines, and as capitalists with their gangs in Penang and Singapore; in Indonesia also in the army and in the PKI, Indonesian Communist Party, the largest outside the Soviet bloc. Hard working, well organized, clever with money, they attracted much of the same hatred and violence as Jews in Germany and Armenians in Turkey – both ending with genocides.

So also in Indonesia, the massacre of 1965-66; planned by US think tanks and the CIA with the Indonesian government. Standard CIA tactic: rumors of imminent coup from the left, perhaps organizing some–the coup against Gorbachev 1991–and then a massive, well prepared, coup from the right. Half a million or so killed, General Suharto in power for three decades, giving USA the free access to the economy they wanted. Pillaging started and lasted; like under Yeltsin in Russia.

Riots came in 1969 to Malaysia, but the reaction was totally different: the New Economic Policy. Forty percent of Muslim Malays lived in misery, 35 percent of the economy was in English, and 20 percent in local Chinese hands. Majority Chinese from Singapore had left in 1965 and now Malaysia has a GDP/cap 55,200 by far no. 1 in ASEAN – some are still in the 1,000s.

The Malaysian government did not turn on the Chinese but lifted the bottom Malays up by positive discrimination – like across race and gender faultlines elsewhere. Read More »