Friday, August 27, 2010

Indonesia and Malaysia Today (Part 2)

In the last few weeks, the media have been reporting about the arrest of 7 Malaysian fishermen by officers of the Indonesian Maritime and Fishery Ministry (KKP), and 3 KPP officers by the Malaysian Police.

Although the governments of both countries have settled the case amicably i.e. by releasing the arrested persons, however some politicians and social activists in Indonesia were not satisfied and therefore reacted by demonstrating harshly and childishly every day in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta.

This situation reminded me of an article (below) that I once read on the blog of Rima Fauzi, an Indonesian Singer/songwriter living in Brussels, Belgium.

Indonesia vs. Malaysia: Why are Indonesians easily provoked?


As a people, Indonesians have become more and more hot-headed by the minute. It is actually something to be ashamed of as hot-headedness is one of the typical signs of being uneducated (thus not being able to keep one’s cool).

Not only are we getting more hot-headed, it seems that we are also falling deeper into ignorance. Which is a shame, because there should be no more excuses for one to be stupid and ignorant seeing as there is almost no restriction on the information flow into the country, nor is there a shortage of ways for a person to educate one’s self auto-didactically (by ways of internet, television, books etc).

We have also become a nation that is stubbornly disrespectful to other nations; people who are different to us; and also our own culture. And by our culture I mean our indigenous culture, not the one you see nowadays in Indonesia or Indonesian television which is full of telenovelas, gossip shows and rich people/celebrities sporting their hedonistic lives on national television for everybody to drool over.

The upside of being this way is none, while the downsides are many. By being hot-headed and ignorant, we often miss simple truths and even more often this trait will make it easy for us to be provoked by the smallest of things. The most recent issue that has taken Indonesia like a storm is how our Malay brothers and sisters from Malaysia are “thieves” of our so-called culture.

While it may come as a surprise to some Indonesians, we should all acknowledge that many Malaysians have Indonesian ancestors, whether from Sumatra, Kalimantan or Java. Even the great Malaysian actor/comedian P Ramlee’s ancestry can be traced back to Aceh, where his father is from.

And let’s not forget the Malaysian students who went to Indonesia five or six decades ago to study, many of which ended up marrying Indonesians who they brought back to Malaysia and produced Malaysian-Indonesian off-springs with.

So basically what I’m saying is as it is apparent that Indonesia is made up of people with Chinese/Indian/ Dutch/Portuguese/Arab/Polynasian/Aborigine ancestry, the same goes for Malaysia. The difference is that in addition to the Malay, Chinese and Indian ancestries that the Malaysians have, Indonesian ancestry is also in the mix, hence the many similarities in our foods, clothing materials, music, etc.

Yet we accuse them of stealing this and that, from our culture to our cuisine. While in fact we are both originally Malay people (the race of which people from the northernmost part of Thailand and people from the Philippines also belong to) sharing many of the same culture and cuisine traits that it’s a little absurd (not to mention difficult) to claim which is whose first to be stolen by the other second.

Personally, instead of calling Malaysia thieves, I think we should ‘steal’ something from them. You all know how in the 60s and 70s we were much more progressed and advanced than them that they sent many of their students to study in Indonesia and hired many teachers and lecturers to teach their younger generation in Malaysia. What I don’t get is why it’s the other way around now, six decades later.

We all know Malaysians aren’t perfect and neither are we, but I do salute their determination and ability to turn up trumps, as today it’s us who send our kids to study in Malaysia; it’s us who are less progressed and are less advanced (technology and economy wise), and it’s us who are lagging behind. I think we should learn from them and ‘steal’ their tips and tricks in pulling a 180 from being blah to hurrah!

After the lengthy explanation above on the origins of both nations and all my positive observation about Malaysia, you may:
a. hate me, or
b. think, “Ok, so we share many traits with Malaysia, but it still doesn’t explain them using the Balinese pendet dance, because Unlike Kalimantan, Sumatra and Java, Bali is very specific and unique, that their culture is not found anywhere but Bali.”

For those of you who chose ‘a’ I will advise you to take a number and wait in line. For those who opted ‘b’ Ok, point well taken. But the thing is, the recent debacle over the Pendet dance that we claimed to have been used by the Malaysian government in an advertisement they have made to promote their country, an issue that turned countless Indonesians angry, with our Minister of Tourism hastily sending a letter to his Malaysian counterpart, demanding the ad campaign be removed, is a more complicated than it seemed.

Turns out, the whole thing was a misunderstanding and a BIG mistake on our part. And let me emphasize on the BIG MISTAKE. Apparently out of the 250 million or so people living in the beautiful archipelago we call Indonesia, none of us did our homework thoroughly before blasting bullets to the so-called ‘enemy of the state’ a.k.a, Malaysia because,
  1. The advertisement wasn’t made by the Malaysian government or anybody in Malaysia,
  2. The ‘advertisement’ isn’t even an advertisement to promote their country as we have made to believe,
  3. The ‘advertisement’ was an ad created by the Asian Discovery channel to promote one of their TV shows. The TV station have acknowledged their mistake and apologized for it, after where some embarrassed Indonesians re-directed their anger at, what with Discovery channel being owned by the usual suspects and all (and by usual suspects I mean Americans and Jews – who most Indonesians believe are the evil culprits who monopolize all information flow in the world *yawns* thus are TRUE ‘enemy of the state’ as opposed to Malaysians because at the end of the day, we are all a big beige/brown nation sharing the same culture, language and religion)
Yet after knowing that this parade of anger and belligerence towards our Malaysian peers is baseless, did we apologize to them and acknowledge the truth publicly? No. We just swept the truth under the rug and continued calling Malaysia names. Basically we remained shameless and stubborn bullies, as always.

Some people went as far as protesting in front of the Malaysian Embassy over their ‘unauthorized use of the Pendet dance’ in their ‘mysterious advertisement’ and a small radical group even performed ‘raids’ on Malaysians on the streets of Jakarta, against stern warnings from the Indonesian Police Force. Why the Indonesian media blew the accusations out of proportion which created havoc but didn’t really publish the truth after they found out (with the exception of The Jakarta Globe), is beyond me.

But as I wrote in one of my older posts, the Indonesian media is as responsible to many of the things happening in our country as the Indonesian people themselves (who are easily provoked by these so-called ‘news’ and then usually go run amok like a drunken bull before getting all their facts and figures straight).
Now as if that’s not embarrassing enough, our resurfaced accusations of Malaysians using one of our folk songs called Terang Bulan and turning it into their National Anthem has really put us in a shit-hole.

Leading Indonesian musician and artist, Remy Sylado, as quoted by The Jakarta Globe, said the so-called Indonesian song “Terang Bulan” (“Moonlight”) was actually an adaptation of “La Rosalie,” which was composed in the 19th century by Pierre-Jean de Beranger of Francey.
Citing a Dutch historical text on national anthems, Sylado said the song became popular in the former French colony of the Seychelles and arrived in the Malay archipelago at the turn of the 20th century, where it was eventually used as the basis for Malaysia’s anthem, “Negaraku” (“My Country”).

With this new finding, Malaysians can easily accuse us as thieves ourselves. The question remains, Who’s the thief now? Who stole what from who? And, Who is the thief first?

Why are we that easy to provoke, especially when it comes to matters of religion and the relationship of Indonesia and Malaysia? Weren’t we at one point ONE people? Why do we keep on blasting Malaysians for ‘stealing’ our cultural heritage but don’t do much to promote it ourselves? Why do we get angry when a country ‘steals’ our cultural heritage but feel at ease about stealing other people’s culture? (This is in relation to the fact that the Indonesian ‘indigenous’ culture is actually heavily influenced by the Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Aborigines, European, Portuguese, other South East Asian countries, etc.)

Now as a person and a member of our nation we must all ask ourselves. Why are we easily provoked?
We should stop this silliness and learn to contain our emotions. Most importantly, true to the saying that those who live in a glass house should not throw stones, we should be aware of our own weaknesses, of the things that we ‘stole’ before accusing other people of ‘stealing’ anything.

Think about it, maybe the truest ‘culture’ we have now is corruption, collusion and nepotism. And that’s not even something to be proud about.


ASPeMusik said...

The sad joke

what would we say to children and grandchildren ??

Kiwi Riverman's Blogesphere said...

Thought provoking, honest and a mature analysis of your society.

Be careful my friend! Sometimes people cannot abide the truth.


Edwin's Personal Blog said...

so sorry with those neverending disputes. we're neighbours with things in common anyway...

colson said...

It goes without saying Rima's article was/is a wonderful example of a critical but sound analysis, common sense and writer's talent.

Crucial however is this question she asks: "Why are we easily provoked?". It is a question which has been puzzling me for quite a while now also.

The answer may partly be "the yellow press" or "populist politicians". However in my opinion by far more interesting is what the other part(s) of the explanation could be.

H. Nizam said...

I wish that I can also say that
the post is just a sad joke.
Anyway I appreciate your comment,

Thank you for reminding me about the consequence of talking about the truth.

Differences among neighbors
are normal, therefore should
be settled amicably, and avoid violence, emotional acts.

Rima's article was/is really good
that last year I have asked for her permission to wholly quote on my blog on she approved, but I only posted it yesterday.

Yari NK said...

Harry, I think it is only a small fraction of Indonesian people who are easily provoked. But that small fraction is widely covered by the media so as if it gave the impression that most Indonesians are easily provoked. The only bunch of people who is easily provoked are the politicians who seek popularity as we have all known for so long.

So, I think the article is a bit hyperbolic, as you can see with your very own eyes, Harry, that you, me, your family, your friends, your neighbours are not easily provoked by the news. Cheers! :)

H. Nizam said...

Hi Yari,
I agree that only few Indonesians, especially certain politicians and their supporters, who speak much louder than others, were provoked by the news.
Nevertheless, let's be positive and consider Rima's article as a wake up call for us as silent majority

rima fauzi said...

I strongly think that the majority of Indonesians are easily provoked. This might be the result of decades of oppression by Soeharto in which people were not able to speak up, and once they get the chance, they lash out every chance they get, they get angry every way they can and they attack without thinking.
This can be therapeutic and might be good for a year or two, just for everybody to get their frustrations out of their systems. But the thing is, it's been prolonged, MUCH longer than it should, this has been a big problem for years, 12 years to be exact.
Gone is the Indonesia well known for its people's tolerance, politeness, welcoming attitude and in general our good and wholesome eastern values.
The Indonesia we know today cannot be separated from anarchy, intolerance, terrorism, radicalism, easily provoked and angry mob.
The saddest thing is that there are a lot of Indonesian who think that everything is all hunky dory and lovely in Indonesia. That is what scares me the most, people who are in self denial.
Yet I cannot lose hope and faith that someday my country and its people will go back to the way they were, beautiful, friendly and tolerant..

Harry, thanks for posting my article on your site, much appreciated! :)

H. Nizam said...

Hi Rima,
Thank you very much for your clear comment.
Actually only few Indonesians who were easily provoked. The problem is that every time a sensitive issue arise, politicians would take advantage of the situations. Moreover, the news media would do everything they can to 'blow' the issue so that people would want to read/watch/listen to their report. The government would benefit from high profile issues that would distract the attention of Indonesian who are mostly poor and lowly educated from their problems such as : rapidly increasing prices of basic commodities, electricity etc.
The oppositions would make these issues as basis for attacking govt policies.
While the people would not get anything except that they don't have to think about their own real problems.

Yari NK said...

I strongly think that the majority of Indonesians are easily provoked. This might be the result of decades of oppression by Soeharto in which people were not able to speak up, and once they get the chance, they lash out every chance they get, they get angry every way they can and they attack without thinking.

Did you do the research firsthand or you just did an armchair research I wonder... ?? ;)

rima fauzi said...

Harry: And what is a few? From firsthand experiences in life when I was still living in Indonesia, from online debates in various forum and from what I read in Indonesian newspapers it is clear that we as a nation are more easily provoked than before. And like you said, politicians or some 'oknum tidak bertanggung jawab' are benefiting from this, more often, they are the ones who are doing all the provocations in the first place.

Yari: One doesn't have to do a research, just keep his eyes open and read the news, observe and think. I lived in Indonesia for almost 20 years, and I follow what is happening there even now that I am thousands of miles away, and there is often news on how in this village or in that town or in this city people people are provoked and took matters or law into their own hands.
And remember when this Indonesia-Malaysia thing first came out and about? countless Indonesians lashed out whether by protests on the streets, sweeping Malaysian nationals and also online. JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE SAID THAT THEY USED A BALI DANCE IN THEIR AD. It wasn't even and Ad made by Malaysians. Nobody did their homework, but used their 'otot' first. That is what we must stop doing, being hotheaded and easily provoked. We must be a nation of rational people who think first carefully and do our due diligence and then, only if necessary, we can lash out or attack.
Maybe I am wrong, but this is my 2 cents.

H. Nizam said...

For professional reporters, direct investigation is the rule of the thumb. But for most bloggers, who are amateur, it is different. Observation would suffice.

A 'few' people in Indonesia is not small, let's say 10% would mean 25 million people (out of 250 mio).
But they are very vocal, thus most heard, therefore people think that they're dominant.
Further, politicians are using them to support their selfish agenda. So does our sensation loving news media.

The important thing right now is to make the silent majority aware about what are really important for them.

Yari NK said...


One doesn't have to do a research, just keep his eyes open and read the news, observe and think..


Yes it is true to a certain degree, however rough observation unfortunately is not free from bias, and it is not as accurate as thorough research especially in a case like this to decide on the share of the Indonesians being easily provoked.

I did not say your armchair analysis is entirely worthless, some of it I admit is eye-opener. But the remark upon "the majority of Indonesians being easily provoked" that I don't agree on.

However, it doesn't matter anymore, it is revealed that it is just your personal opinion not carried out on a thorough research. That's all I need to know because that's all it takes to draw a line between a fact and a personal opinion. Cut and dried. Cheers! :)

Yari NK said...


Harry, sorry I did not notice your remark directed at me. How reckless I am. LOL.

I agree with you Harry and indeed there is nothing wrong with armchair analysis, most bloggers do it, and so do I. However, if we would like to present a more crucial conclusion like "the majority of Indonesians are easily provoked" that requires data, it must be done in a more careful way because we do not want to mislead the readers, don't we??

H. Nizam said...

Although I believe that only few people in Indonesia are easily provoked, however we should consider Rima's mature, intelligent and critical analysis if we want to be respected as a nation.

Mr.CandY said...


H. Nizam said...

Mr CandY,
Thank you for dropping by.