Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Indonesian – Kemerdekaan

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Independence, Indonesian


Relates to independence, sovereignty

  • An emotive state and exclamation declaring freedom from colonialisation and perceived colonising authority and power.
  • A referent being free from any forms of colonisation or any perceived colonialising and imperialistic authority and power.

The word ‘merdeka’, which was used as a battle cry during the revolution, is an emotive expression conveying a desire and a conviction of wanting and being free or independent from any form of colonializing and imperialistic power.  Different from the word ‘bebas’ (free) which may refer to an individual freedom, the referent of merdeka usually suggests a nation state or an individual, usually youth (pemuda), but always as a member of a national community.  On the independence day of 17 August, there are always parades displaying the re-enactment of the revolutionary struggle for independence in which the cry ‘Merdeka!’ is exchanged.  Merdeka is still commonly used as an opening exclamation or a greeting to start a speech in a political rally, though frequently lacking the original revolutionary spirit.  The revolutionary and emotive sounding of ‘Merdeka!’ started to wane significantly during the New Order when Suharto declared that Indonesia should depart from the principle of making politics as commander and move on to having economy as the commander.  When the Indonesian economy became more and more integrated into global capitalism, politicians and observers started to rethink independence in economic terms: how Indonesia nowadays has been economically colonialized, requiring a second wave of independence movement.

Kemerdekaan (freedom/independence) has been placed in the highest position in Indonesian political discourse, and is often used interchangeably or in combination with sovereignty (merdeka dan berdaulat).  One of the principles frequently present in Foreign Ministry policies is the statement ‘We love peace, but we love our independence as the utmost priority’ (Kita cinta damai, tetapi kita lebih cinta kemerdekaan).



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