Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Indonesian – Ketertiban

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Indonesian, Order, Security


Relates to security, order, resilience

Former Indonesian president Suharto shrewdly called his government ‘Orde Baru’ (The New Order) to distinguish it from the previous government, which he called ‘Orde Lama’ (The Old Order).  In a speech in 1978, he explicitly defined the Old Order as ‘a regime which had deviated from Pancasila (the five national principles) and the 1945 Constitution’ – ‘a government dedicated to worshipping its leader’, ‘a system which opened the possibility for the communist party to rebel’, and ‘a regime which had brought Indonesia to its doom’. Suharto defined his New Order as ‘the saviour and the true implementer of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution.’

Suharto’s curious choice of the Dutch term orde to name his regime suggests his preoccupation with ‘ketertiban’—a concept that embodies strict rules and regulations, state policies and actions in order to assume authority to create orderliness in all aspects of life—and the Dutch policy of ‘rust and orde’ (security and order), also employed to suppress any movement that considered undermining the “normal atmosphere” during the 1930s.

In response to a large demonstration early in his presidency, known as Malari (The Tragedy of 15 January 1974), Suharto issued a proclamation called ‘Enam Langkah Penertiban’ (Six Steps for Order).  The way that ketertiban was used in the Suharto period is illustrated by the use of the root word tertib. Suharto’s proclamation clarifies the importance of this trope:

Menertibkan pelaksanaan hak-hak demokrasi, dengan jalan antara lain tidak membenarkan demonstrasi, menertibkan pemberitaan pers, menertibkan kehidupan universitas dan sekolah-sekolah agar tidak digunakan untuk kegiatan-kegiatan politik.

To give order to the implementation of democratic rights, by means of banning demonstrations, to give order to media coverage, and to give order to campus and school life, in order to prevent exploitation for political activities. (Tempo, 26 January 1974, p.4).


This preoccupation with orderliness also extends to the area of culture and language – hence the promotion of local performing arts into national and local motifs, after being sanitised to remove inappropriate matter. In addition, this period also saw the development of language strategies focused on the standardisation and stabilisation of both meaning and expression. As Suharto put it:

Bahasa yang tertib mencerminkan cara berfikir, sikap dan tindakan yang tertib pula.  Dan ketertiban inilah kunci utama bagi berhasilnya pembangunan dan pembinaan bangsa.

Orderly language reflects orderliness in the way of thinking, attitudes, and behaviour.  And this orderliness is the main key for success in creating development and building the nation. (Suharto, 1985)

The emphasis in the use of the term ketertiban is orderliness with respect to appearance. This relates to a modernist and civilisation-forming agenda, which has been present in Indonesia since colonial times. It is currently used to define a range of local security claims at a level below the police force, the activities of militias and subordinate security agencies that are justified by ketertiban remain an important part of local security cultures. Ketertiban, as a concern for government, broadens the sphere for official intervention in Indonesian society, particularly in terms of the maintenance of the social aesthetic.




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