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Will Indonesia have a non-Javanese President?

Evi Nurvidya Arifin

Opinion Asia, 20 February 2010

Indonesia has been in transition in more ways than one. For over a decade, it has undergone social, economic and political transformation, portending tremendous change in the country. The island of Java and Javanese have played and will continue to play a pivotal role in this transition. Demographically, the Javanese represent the majority ethnic group comprising about 42% or 99 million out of Indonesia’s 230 million population. By any stretch, this is a huge number.

The Javanese Diaspora through Jakarta’s transmigration policy has provided a framework to understand the Indonesian geopolitical landscape. The transmigration policy of yesteryears was promoted to improve the national poverty profile by sending Javanese Indonesians to outlying islands thus giving them more land to improve their livelihood. The famous Javanese saying Mangan ora mangan pokoke kumpul (literally: eating or not, the most important thing is being together) is thus just a myth as the Javanese are spread throughout Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. In the neighbouring countries of Singapore and Malaysia, the Javanese comprise a significant portion of their Malay population.

From a cultural-political perspective, transmigration has been interpreted by Indonesians outside Java as a process of “Javanization”, Read the rest of this entry »


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