Country of the World Indonesia

About the country Indonesia, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.




Lay of the Land: Indonesia is an archipelago covering most of the East Indies, a huge chain of 13,677 islands, more than 6,000 of which are inhabited. The islands extend for about 3,000 mi. along the equator, dividing the Pacific Ocean from the Indian Ocean and providing stepping-stones between Southeast Asia and northern Australia. Except for coastal plains and river valleys, most of Indonesia is mountainous. It has 400 volcanoes, one quarter of which are active. Indonesia has a monsoon climate, with rainfall in some areas surpassing 140 in. annually.

Most of the land is concentrated in a few large islands: Irian (West New Guinea), which it shares with Papua-New Guinea; Sumatra; Kalimantan (Borneo), which it shares with Malaysia and Brunei; Sulawesi (Celebes); Java, home of more than 60% of the population; and Timor, the eastern half of which is claimed both by the Democratic Republic of East Timor and by Indonesia.

Size: 735,267 sq. mi. (1,904,345 sq. km.).

Population: 139.2 million.

Who Rules: President Suharto, the chief of government and state, is elected every five years by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). The MPR consists of 460 members appointed by the government and the 460 members of the House of People's Representatives (DPR), the legislative branch of government. Only 360 of the DPR representatives are elected; the remainder are appointed by the president--75 from the military and 25 from Sekber Golkar (the "Functional Groups"). Golkar is the political organization of the governing bureaucracy. It is not considered a political party.

Who REALLY Rules: Indonesia's weak democratic structure protects the power of the military, which seized control in 1965-1966. Golkar is the creation of the military government, but even with Golkar majorities assured by campaign restrictions and the large number of appointments, General Suharto has chosen not to assign real power to the DPR.

The military itself consists of many competing factions. Suharto's power flows mainly from the fact that he can balance the aspirations of the various factions by distributing political power and economic opportunity among the top officers. In Indonesia, major business enterprises are operated directly by the military. Frequently military entrepreneurs team up with overseas Chinese businessmen, called Cukongs. The popularly despised minority Chinese are often used as scapegoats for economic problems.

Two allied groups limit Suharto's authority. The first, nations that lend or give money to Indonesia, formed the Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI) in 1967. Led by the International Monetary Fund, IGGI reviews Indonesia's economic policies and establishes conditions for continuing aid.

The second group, Indonesian economic "technocrats," runs Indonesia's economic planning structure. Called the Berkeley Mafia because of their training in the U.S., they share the economic philosophy of the IMF and thus receive backing from the foreign lenders and donors.

Indonesia has between 50,000 and 100,000 political prisoners, most of whom have been held without trial since the period following the 1965 coup. Though the government has promised to release most of the prisoners within the 1970s, it plans to relocate them on the outer islands, rather than let them return to their homes on Java. Though such "transmigration" is put forward as a policy to relieve population pressures on Java, many transmigration camps, such as Buru Island, are essentially prison labor camps.

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