A Church in East Timor
 
Lessons for Hindus: how East Timor became a Christian State

Hindu nationalists and political analysts expected the newly elected Modi government to release the religious…

Hindu nationalists and political analysts expected the newly elected Modi government to release the religious demographic data of Census 2011. But contrary to expectations, this information for some reason continues to remain classified data giving rise to the suspicion and even fear that the Hindu population percentage has suffered an alrming decline and the BJP government is as afraid, possibly more afraid than the UPA of a Hindu backlash. This suspicion would explain why the RSS Sarsanghachalak reacted ferociously to demands by secularists to Narendra Modi that he must intervene personally and stop Hindu organizations from reconverting Abrahamic cultists back to Hinduism. Mohan Bhagwat said, “if Hindus cannot convert, we will not allow others to convert either. So bring in a nation-wide law banning religious conversions”.

In an earlier article, I had observed that the Church had embarked on a renewed partnership to reconquer the world for Christ in innovative ways: new-fangled Christian political tenets like human rights, freedom of religion and conscience, renewed attacks against Hindu varna, jaati and kula, foreign funding of domestic churches and Christian NGOs and secular political activists are all of a piece.

Considering that America, Britain and Germany have collectively pumped a whopping 1957 crores to churches and Christian NGOs in just one year, 2013-14, Hindu nationalists must pressurize the Modi government to throttle and end foreign funds to both Abrahamic cults. The end objective of all Christian (and Muslim) NGOs, no matter which cause they espouse, is to alter the religious profile of the region where they operate.

Christian NGOs

Tamil Nadu’s coastline is now almost totally either Muslim or Christian and this would be equally true of the coastline of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Religious demography decides the basis of nationhood and considering Modi government’s continued reluctance to release religious demographic dats of Census 2011 and to stop foriegn funds, it may be salutary to look behind to see how America, the United Nations and Vatican came together to create the Christian state of East Timor.

The UN comes into being in 1945 and ironically, the UK, Australia and Netherlands, the principal wreckers of the independence of Indonesia in August 1945, are founding members of the UN and signatories to the UN Charter. The Charter of the United Nations was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, and came into force on 24 October 1945. The Statute of the International Court of Justice is an integral part of the Charter. What does the UN Charter say?

WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED

To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and

To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and

To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.

Considering that the actions of Britain, the Netherlands and Australia in 1945 and 1946, as occupational forces in Indonesia, was aimed at the singular objective of reversing the independence of Indonesia and reverting it to Netherlands colonial control and administration, the UN remained remarkably silent at the brazen violation of its Charter by the three founding member countries. The best that the UNSC could do in 1947, after two years of Netherlands and British and Australian atrocities against the Indonesian people, and after the ‘police action’ by the Netherlands colonial government in violation of the Linggajati agreement, was to timidly call for cease-fire on August 1, 1947.

Linggajati agreement

The UN does not declare the continuing presence of the Dutch in Indonesia or the continuing British control of the Malay province or British Malaya, to be illegal and violation of the UN Charter. It calls for cease-fire instead as though Indonesia is a party to the hostilities instead of being the victim of continued western and colonial aggression.

Instead of asking the Netherlands to withdraw from Indonesia immediately and unconditionally and instead of asking the United Kingdom to withdraw from British Malaya, the UN sets up a ‘good offices commission’ in October 1947 to find a ‘settlement’ in Indonesia. ‘Settlement’effectively made the Netherlands a legitimate party in the negotiations. This was to legitimise colonialism and legitimise, in the process, European colonial powers’ refusal to withdraw unconditionally from their colonies. The ambivalence of the UN in dealing with violations by powerful western nations had a lesson for our leaders at the time. This is the second lesson we failed to learn and continued to repose faith in the UN to deal effectively deal with Pakistan’s aggression and occupation of Indian territories in 1947.

THE UN-BROKERED RENVILLE AGREEMENT

On January 17, the Renville agreement under UN auspices draws a ceasefire line favorable to Dutch. As per this agreement, the Dutch will hand back Java, Sumatra and Madura to the Republicans, recognize Indonesia’s independence but keep the federal states created by the Dutch during their ‘police action’ from out of the Republic. Just as the Princely states in India were kept out by the British from independent Union of India, the UN kept these states artificially created by the Dutch, from out of the Indonesian republic with the bizarre condition that the republic would allow them the choice of integration or secession!

Renville agreement

The Dutch ignore the Renville agreement, and continue to create Dutch-controlled states in the areas occupied by them during the police actions. The representatives of the 13 federal states thus created, agree to constitute themselves into the United States of Indonesia. In December1948, one year after signing the Renville agreement, and one year after its active violation, the Dutch formally inform the UN that they will not negotiate further with the Republic and that they considered further talks with the republic to be‘futile’. A few days later they officially declare the end of the Renville agreement and launch the second police action to remove the Republicans from Yogyakarta too. The Dutch arrest Sukarno and Hatta and exile them to North Sumatra and assume total control of all Indonesia.

UN-BROKERED ROUND TABLE CONFERENCE

The UN calls ‘for end to hostilities’ on 24thDecember, 1948 and on 28th January 1949, demands release of republican leaders and independence for Indonesia by July 1, 1950. The UN yet again does not demand immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Dutch from Indonesia but gives the Dutch fifteen months to plan their withdrawal and more ridiculously, asks them to negotiate terms for independence with the republicans.

The Indonesians are forced to sit across the table with their aggressors in The Hague for a Round Table Conference in August 1949 to negotiate their independence. November 2 The Hague Agreement is the result of the Round Table Conference: “Republik Indonesia Serikat” is supposed to have the crown of the Netherlands as a symbolic head, Sukarno as President, and Hatta as Vice-President. It consists of 15 Dutch-created states plus the original Republic. Sovereignty is to be transferred by December 30. Dutch investments are protected, and the new government is responsible for the billion-dollar Netherlands Indies government debt. The Dutch also get to keep Irian Jaya.

The UN actually sanctions continued occupation by a colonial aggressor in a part within a sovereign, independent state. The UN is responsible for leaving the Dutch thorn in Irian Jaya inside the body politik of Indonesia.

THE UN AND IRIAN JAYA

Sukarno, the fierce nationalist that he was, was furious with the Round Table proviso with regard to Irian Jaya. He was determined to get back Irian Jaya from the Dutch and he used all measures at his command. By 1957, Indonesia had unsuccessfully submitted four resolutions on their claim to the UN General Assembly and Sukarno’s patience with the UN to render justice was wearing thin. In September 1961, Sukarno takes the issue of Irian Jaya once again to the General Assembly and this time too he is unsuccessful. He begins to threaten to take back Irian Jaya by military force if necessary and the US knew that these were no idle threats. The US had been deeply worried over the Soviet-backed sharp increase in military expenditure of the Indonesian government.

Eventually Washington decided that the only way to avoid a Dutch / Indonesian war on the issue was to persuade the Dutch to accept a compromise involving a transfer of sovereignty to Indonesia, linked to some form of self-determination. The Hague was persuaded to accept such a solution and on August 15, 1962, they signed the New York Agreement with Jakarta. In what was in effect a face saving measure for the Dutch, the territory was not directly transferred to Indonesia. Instead, under the Agreement, a temporary UN administration (UNTEA, United Nations Temporary Executive Authority) was established to run the territory for a minimum of seven months at the end of which period, Irian Jaya would be transferred by the UN to the Republic of Indonesia. Indonesia was obliged as per the UN-brokered New York agreement to allow for the people of Irian Jaya to express their choice about integration or secession, six years after transfer of authority.

The UN, which had remained a silent bystander to the forceful occupation of Indonesia by the Netherlands, Britain and Australia, in spite of the overwhelming and explicit expression of the desire for freedom from colonial rule expressed by the people of Indonesia, was nevertheless insistent that Indonesia may not integrate Irian Jaya into the republic without the right to self-determination of the people of Irian Jaya.

Irian Jaya

In August 1968, a UN team returned to the territory, now renamed West Irian. Led by the Bolivian diplomat Fernando Ortiz Sanz. Its responsibility under the Agreement was to “assist, advise and participate” in the act of self-determination planned for the following year. The UN was also insistent on scrupulous adherence to the pedantically worded agreement on self-determination. The New York Agreement referred to an opportunity to “exercise freedom of choice,” and of consultations with “representative councils” on procedures and methods to be adopted for “ascertaining the freely expressed will of the population.” Article XVII of the Agreement stated that all adults from the territory were eligible to participate in the act of self-determination, “to be carried out in accordance with international practice.”

The insistence on the methodology of self-determination being in accordance with ‘international practice’ is amusing considering that the very act of continued occupation of a sovereign country had violated the very basis of international relationship – international law, the cornerstone of the UN Charter. By ‘international practice’ was probably meant the one man-one vote typical of western style democracy. There is a lesson here for India. Just as Sukarno before him had refused to comply with every comma and full stop of the agreement, Suharto who had succeeded to the Presidency, had no intention of allowing the UN or the international community to tell him about the methodology to be adopted to ascertain the wishes of the people of West Irian in 1969. Under the terms of the Agreement, a number of UN experts were to have remained in the territory following the Indonesian takeover in 1963, to “advise and assist the authorities in general preparations for the eventual act of self-determination. This part of the Agreement was never fulfilled. The reason for this was that Jakarta did not respond to Secretary-General U Thant’s initial proposals for their deployment, and he in turn reportedly “did not intend to make too much of it”.

In the end, in spite of the UN’s insistence for a free, fair and democratic method for self-determination, Suharto conducted the process in a manner appropriate to the political and cultural ethos of Irian Jaya. In 1969, Irian Jaya finally becomes an integral part of the Indonesian republic. The last important lesson for India about the irrevocability of international agreements and the role of the UN is the current Dutch position on the Act of Free Choice of 1969. On December 10, 1999, Dutch Foreign Minister Van Aartson announced that he would initiate a historical re-examination of the circumstances surrounding the Act. Van Middelkoop, the MP who was behind the proposal replied “….finally we can look the Papuans straight in the eyes.” Strangely though the same MP does not seem unduly interested in looking the Indonesians whom his country had colonised for over 500 years, in the eye.

THE UN, THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND THE VATICAN IN THE MAKING OF EAST TIMOR

In April 1974, the “Carnation Revolution” in Portugal leads to the overthrow of the Caetano regime and to a policy of decolonisation. Portugal’s African colonies become independent in 1974-1975. In East Timor, still ruled by Lisbon, three political parties are established, with different goals as to the future status of East Timor (Fretilin, Apodeti, UDT).

But the situation in East Timor deteriorates and escalates to civil war, fuelled by Portuguese arms supplies to the left-wing Fretilin. The Portuguese administration leaves the territory hastily in August 1975. A hand-over of power does not take place; the decolonisation process remains incomplete.

From September 1975 onward and encouraged by the West, particularly the USA which saw it primarily as anti-communist and against the background of the Vietnam war – Indonesian President Suharto orders troops to move into East Timor. East Timor is integrated into the Indonesian republic as its 27th province.

Reacting to this invasion, the UN Security Council calls upon the government of Indonesia to withdraw all its forces from the territory without delay. Not that alone, the UN continues to recognize only Portugal, the colonial state as its administrator! But the anti-communist theme of the Cold War years renders the UN ineffective with regard to east Timor in 1975. But not so in 1999. Post-Cold War foreign policy objectives were geared towards the reality of a uni-polar world and the UN had willy-nilly allowed itself to be used as hand-maiden of the USA. And it suited the US in the 1990s to work for the unseating of Suharto.

While the western nations, notably the US, UK and Australia radically changed their attitude towards Suharto and allowed the campaign against him to mount, it is the role of the Papacy, the UN and the pan-national institutions like the IMF and the World Bank which merit a more detailed study. But for the central role played by the UN, the creation of East Timor may not have been as smooth as it turned out to be. The UN was transformed into the representative agent for the western nations, the Vatican, and their domestic collaborators who wanted to see the last of Suharto before creating the Catholic State of East Timor.

Emboldened by the fall of the Berlin Wall, and flushed with his triumph in overthrowing the communist regime in Poland, Pope John Paul II began an aggressive campaign to create Catholic states in already Catholic majority regions. Simultaneously he sought the backing of the US and the UN for an aggressive and intrusive foreign policy around the western/Christian doctrines of human rights and religious freedom. Constitutionally enshrined and State-protected Religious freedom and freedom of conscience, which really meant the right to convert to the Christian faith, was pegged to human rights and soon developed the stature of being basic to the guarantee and protection of human rights.

ussr

The collapse of the Soviet Union, which was the culmination of calculated and orchestrated strategies and tactics employed both overtly and covertly by the West and Vatican, saw the birth of Catholic states in the Balkans. Slovenia, Croatia, and the separation of Czechoslovakia into Czech and Slovakia created four new Catholic states in Satan’s own dominion. The seeds for creating the independent Catholic state of East Timor were sown by the Pope as early as October 1989 when he visits East Timor taking prompt and calculated advantage of Suharto’s confident policy of opening up East Timor to foreign visitors from June 1989. His visit creates unrest in East Timor and riots break out in the Capital Dili even during the visit of the Pope. The unrest continues and so do sporadic riots until towards the end of 1990, in November, a particularly violent bout of rioting by students and youth in Dili, provokes firing by the Indonesian military killing nearly 200 student rioters; and the UN and the western world react in chorus, strongly condemning the strong state action. The Pope had effectively brought East Timor to world center-stage.

And one of the major gestures made by the international community to send a strong signal to Suharto about the changing attitudes of the Western world towards him and his country is to reward the leaders of the secessionist movement in East Timor, with ironically, the misnomer called the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace prize is awarded to, not surprisingly, a East Timorese Catholic Christian Bishop – Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, S.D.B. Apostolic Administrator Diocese of Dili East Timor jointly with another secessionist leader living in exile, not surprisingly again, in Portugal – Jose Ramos Horta.

Jose Ramos Horta

The change in attitude is best reflected in the attitude of the international community towards Suharto when he annexed Irian Jaya to the republic in 1963 and finalised the annexation in 1969 and in the 1990s when the secessionist movement in East Timor gathers momentum. This changed attitude is also reflected in the manner in which the UN was put in its place by Suharto in 1963 thorough to 1969 when the UN conducts a referendum of sorts in Irian Jaya and in 1999 when the UN pushes for a referendum in East Timor in August 1999 within a year of Suharto’s removal from power.

In the words of a British official J. M. Sutherland, who commented in April 1968:

The strength of the Indonesian position lies in the fact that … they must know that, even if there are protests about the way they go through the motions of consultation, no other power is likely to conceive it as being in their interests to intervene. . . . I understand that the exiles may find support in the Australian press. But I cannot imagine the US, Japanese, Dutch, or Australian Governments putting at risk their economic and political relations with Indonesia on a matter of principle involving a relatively small number of very primitive peoples”. (J. M. Sutherland, British Embassy, Jakarta, to Donald Murray, Foreign Office Southeast Asian)

And again as regards the UN:

“Importantly, Jakarta also objected to the UN’s intention to send up to fifty staff to West Irian. This number was later reduced to twenty-five, but in the end only sixteen UN staff members were employed, and these included administrative personnel. Looking back, it seems incredible that the UN agreed to limit the number of its officials to such a small, token figure. By way of comparison, the UN mission to organize and monitor the August 1999 referendum in East Timor totaled upwards of one thousand individuals, including several hundred police and hundreds of electoral officials. While Ortiz Sanz’s team had the more limited responsibility of “advising, assisting and participating” in the Act of Self-Determination, it operated in a territory many times the size of East Timor. Both territories were engaged in an act of self-determination, but the comparison demonstrates the immense difference between a genuine attempt to monitor a democratic referendum and one that was not genuine”.

The change in attitude was also reflected in the rapid growth of the human rights industry. Indonesia led by an embattled Suharto and later the Indonesia sans Suharto was the happy hunting ground of these predators. Any number of reports on human rights violations perpetrated by the Indonesian state in East Timor were compiled and made public by the UN Commission for Human Rights. Other human rights organizations, notable Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also orchestrate their chorus against Indonesia. Suharto and Indonesia come under increasing international gaze and attendant international pressure to resolve the East Timor issue. By the second half of the 1990s decade, Suharto’s attention gets increasingly diverted from dealing effectively with international pressure on East Timor, first by raging forest fires in 1997 mysteriously started in Sumatra and Kalimantan and soon enveloping much of South East Asia and immediately thereafter by the East Asian currency crisis.

The contagion of the East Asian currency crisis spreads from Thailand to Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea. In Indonesia, it leads to a severe economic crisis with shortages in food and fuel, sky-rocketing prices and the consequent student riots that turn increasingly strident and violent. Suharto is a man under siege and yet again after the 1970s there are protest demonstrations about corruption – his own and that of his family. While Suharto did not turn a hair in the 1970s and nonchalantly banned student organizations and firmly dealt with student rioters, besides putting the UN firmly in its palce, in the 1990s decade, he is faced by acute problems on different sides and is unable to deal with any one of them with any measure of decisiveness. On May 21, 1998, Suharto steps down from office and Vice-President Habibe is sworn in President.

MOVES INTENSIFY FOR THE CREATION OF EAST TIMOR

Had the world orchestrated the forest fires, the financial crisis and the ethnic conflicts across Indonesia only to remove the well-trenched Suharto, the disturbances rocking the country ought to have stopped gradually after Suharto’s resignation. And it is not imagination running wild with conspiracy theories when I say that almost all of the events in Indonesia beginning in 1989 were calculated to achieve the Catholic state of East Timor. Similar tactics had been tried before and since then – in China in Tiananman Square, in Iran, in Malaysia, in the erstwhile Soviet Union.

Habibe

It was also tried in India during the time of Mrs. Indira Gandhi provoking her to declare Emergency which in effect ended her brilliant political career. The west, particularly the US had perfected this strategy over several decades. The west uses this ploy to destabilise strong nationalist leaders who are committed to making their countries important powers in their region. It happened to Indira Gandhi, it happened to China, to the Soviet Union, and to Saddam Hussein. The west tried it with Dr.Mahatir Muhammad using the Malaysian Vice-President Anwar Ibrahim as pawn but the move backfired on Ibrahim who is till date languishing in jail, serving time on various counts for offenses ranging from sodomy to subversion. They are playing this game in Myanmar too.

American interference in East Timor affairs begins in earnest in 1998 when the US Catholic Conference writes to Bishop Belo in June 1998. The US Catholics Bishops conference, in a letter addressed to Bishop Belo in June 1998 refers to making the promise of the 1996 Peace prize a reality, leaving no doubts whatever about the intentions behind the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 to Bishop Belo and Horta.

Department of Social Development and World Peace 3211 4th Street, N.E. Washington, DC 20017)1194 Fax (202) 541 3339

June 5, 1998

Most Reverend Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, S.D.B. Apostolic Administrator Diocese of Dili East Timor

Dear Bishop Belo,

As we Bishops of the United States are about to meet in our Spring Assembly, I am reminded of your presence among us at the Kansas City Assembly last year. It was a great pleasure to have you with us at that time, and I was particularly pleased that you were able to be my guest in Newark. At this historic juncture, our Conference is eager to lend whatever support we can to make the promise of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize a reality. We believe that the United States government should impress upon the new Indonesian administration the need for a prompt resolution of the East Timor issue, based upon the freely expressed wishes of the people and in accord with the resolutions of the United Nations.

Attached is a copy of a letter I have just sent to Secretary Albright expressing those views. I extend warm personal greetings to you and to Bishop Do Nascimento, assuring you of the continued solidarity of our Conference with the Church in East Timor.

Fraternally yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick Archbishop of Newark Chairman, USCC Committee on International Policy

The three years following Suharto’s ouster hold several important lessons for India. The first being the inexplicable move on the part of President Habibe on February 11, 1999 to grant some kind of autonomy for East Timor and if that failed, to accept its breaking away. On February 26 he meets with representatives from Irian Jaya and promises autonomy or independence. Scenting blood, the UN and the international community continued to keep Indonesia in a state of political and economic instability, while continuing to exert pressure on the new leadership to undertake concrete measures towards resolving the issue of East Timor. On the 5th May, 1999, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presides over an agreement between the republics of Indonesia and Portugal which virtually gives the UN a carte blanche with regard to East Timor. Article 6 of the agreement reads as follows:

If the Secretary-General determines, on the basis of the result of the popular consultation and in accordance with this Agreement, that the proposed constitutional framework for special autonomy is not acceptable to the East Timorese people, the Government of Indonesia shall take the constitutional steps necessary to terminate its links with East Timor thus restoring under Indonesian law the status East Timor held prior to 17 July 1976, and the Governments of Indonesia and Portugal and the Secretary-General shall agree on arrangements for a peaceful and orderly transfer of authority in East Timor to the United Nations. The Secretary-General shall, subject to the appropriate legislative mandate, initiate the procedure enabling East Timor to begin a process of transition towards independence.

The UN-brokered agreement set off a spate of violence across East Timor which like a contagion spread across Indonesia.

Riots spread across the eastern archipelago – to Ceram, Ambon, Maluku, Sulawesi, West and East Kalimantan, Irian Jaya, and finally from Jakarta, all across Java. On March 11 the UN announces plans to hold the referendum on autonomy for East Timor. Riots occur across East Timor as pro-independence and pro-Indonesian supporters clash. In April 1999, the two parties sign a ceasefire in the presence of Bishop Belo and Gen.Wiranto. UN police officials arrive in Dili in May 1999 for the referendum scheduled for August 1999. The referendum passes off peacefully and nearly 72% of the people vote in favour of independence. Riots break out across Dili and the rest of East Timor. Dili is burnt completely and the UNSC passes a resolution sanctioning an international peace-keeping force under Australian command to maintain law and order in east Timor.

 East Timor

The INTERFET or the international peacekeeping forces in East Timor give way to a 9000 man strong UN Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET). The UNTAET was neo-colonialism at its best and the Secreatry-general wielded all control over the administration of East Timor much like the Governors-General of colonial governments of yore. The UN was administering East Timor on behalf of the developed nations – all colonial States and it would begin administering East Timor until February 2002 when East Timor would become an independent Catholic State.

CONCLUSION

The religious demography of East Timor was transformed into a Christian majority region in less than a century, and this was the underlying cause for the demands for secession from a Muslim majority nation. This was a replay of the demand for creation of the Catholic state of Croatia from the wreckage of the Habsburg Empire. At the beginning of the 20thcentury, in 1900, there were only 45,000,000 Christians in East Timor while the vast majority of its people, around 324,200,000 practiced their native religions. Those practicing native religions constituted 87.6% of the total population while the Catholics constituted only 12.2%. By 1970 there is a dramatic increase in the population of the Catholic Christians and a corresponding dramatic decrease of those practicing native religions. The Christian population has risen to 211,000,000 constituting 34.9% of the population while the numbers of those practicing native religion is at 383,800,000 constituting a vastly decreased 63.5% of the population. But the most cataclysmic changes occur in twenty years between 1970 and 1990. While the numbers of those practicing native religion has decreased from 383,800,000 to a meagre 30,750,000, reduced to 4.2%, the Christian population has risen to an absolutely alarming 91.4% of the population at 676,500,000.

If the right lessons are not learned from Indonesia’s experiences as a secular Muslim majority independent nation-state, we will be forced to suffer the same fate many times over as we are sitting on several potential East Timors and Acehs.

SOME FACTS ON THE ETHNIC DEMOGRAPHY OF INDONESIA CENSUS 2000

The 2000 census was the first since the colonial Volkstellung of 1930 to collect information on ethnicity. However figures for the religious composition of the various ethnic groups is not yet available on the net. This may be very important considering that the statistics on ethnic demography has thrown up some surprises.

There are more than 1000 ethnic groups and sub-groups with 15 of them having at least one million citizens each.The largest ethnic group is the Javanese who constitute 41.71% of the country’s population or 83,865,924 (in thousands).

The 11 largest ethnic groups in Indonesia are: Javanese, Sundanese, Malay, Madurese, Batak, Minangkabau, Betawi, Buginese, Bandenese, Banjarese, and Balinese.

The Chinese constitute 1.5% of the population – lower than previous guesstimates. These have been only guesstimates because as said earlier, the census of 2000 is the first census after 1930 to have sought information on ethnic groups in Indonesia.

Indonesia has been Javanised. The Javanese rank consistently among the top three ethnic groups in a majority of Indonesia’s provinces.

The Sundanese are the second largest ethnic group constituting 15.4% of the population and the Malays are the third largest at 3.5%. It is the figures with regard to the Malays which have thrown up the surprise. In the 1930 census, the Malays were in 9th position. They are in the 3rd position as per census 2000 data. A very high birth rate accounts for this rapid ascent. Whereas the Javanese population increased three times between 1930-2000, the Malay population increased seven-fold. There are 7 million Malays in Indonesia and 12 million in Malaysia. The vast majority of Malay Indonesians live on Sumatra with concentrations in S.Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, Bangka-Belitung and North Sumatra.

The Chinese concentration occurs in Jakarta and West Kalimantan.

Muslims constitute 88.2% of the population while the Christians are 8.9%. What is surprising is that the annual growth rate of Christians in Indonesia is higher than the Muslims – 2.5% – 1.9%. there has been a rapid increase in the Christian population in West Kalimantan. The Muslims are in a minority in three provinces– Bali, East Nussa Tengarra, and in Irian Jaya.

radha@jjamm.net'
Radha Rajan is a Chennai-based political analyst. She is also author and animal activist.
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  • Umashankar Mahalingam

    Something seriously wrong in the population numbers reported for East
    Timor. Its total population can’t exceed 1.25 million at best. Looks
    like numbers have been padded up by 3 extra zeroes!

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  • NK Sarma

    Radha-ji, government not releasing religious demography from 2011 census is not because of fear of hindu backlash (if it existed ever in history), but because of fear of increased minority aggression. A dramatic increase in minority population will make them and their secular supporters more aggressive. They will use that data to mobilize and to regroup more than what they are capable of now. This will change the political landscape significantly that may even lead to downfall of BJP from Delhi in 2019. High % of minorities will create more howls for preferential treatment, including quotas, fiscal allocations etc. It will convince the media and secular groups that their future depends on patronizing minorities. On the contrary, hindu backlash is more a fantasy than one should anticipate. Hindus have retaliated and protested in the past, but in pockets, on very specific incidents. Hindus at present cannot unite on a common futuristic threat. Even for ram janmabhoomi, hindus united for a tangible cause. But demographic threat perception is a futuristic one and will never cause backlash from hindus across india. May be few bajrang dal and vhp local units may protest for few hours. Everything I wrote is about your statement on census 2011 and not about the rest of the article.

    • Radha Rajan

      Totally agree.