INDONESIA, the largest archipelago in the world to form a single state, consists of five main islands and some 30 smaller archipelagoes, totaling about 18,110 islands and islets of which about 6,000 are inhabited.
The name "INDONESIA" is composed of the two Greek words: "Indos" meaning India and "Nesos" meaning islands. The Indonesian archipelago forms a crossroad between two oceans, the Pacific and Indian oceans and a bridge between two continents, Asia and Australia. Because of its strategic position, therefore, Indonesia’s cultural, social, political and economic patterns have always been conditioned by its geographical position.
The territory of the Republic of Indonesia stretches from 6°8' north latitude to 11°15' south latitude and from 94°45' to 141°65' east longitude. Its estimated total area is 9.8 million sq km (including Exclusive Economic Zone -EEZ), which consists of a land territory of 1.9 million sq km and a sea territory of 7.9 million sq km.
Indonesia’s five main islands are: Sumatra is about 473,606 sq km in size, Java-the most fertile and densely populated island-132, 187 sq km, Kalimantan or two-thirds of the island of Borneo measuring 539,460 sq km, Sulawesi 189,216 sq km and Papua 421,981 sq km which forms part of the world's second biggest island of New Guinea. The other islands are smaller in size.
The Indonesian archipelago is divided into three groups. The island of Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan, together with the small islands in between, lie on the Sunda Shelf which begin on the coasts of Malaysia and Indo China, where the sea depth does not exceed 700 feet. Papua which is part of the island of New Guinea, and the Aru Islands lie on the Sahul Shelf, which stretches northwards from the Australian coast. Here the sea depth is similar to that of the Sunda Shelf. Located between two shelves is the island group of Nusa Tenggara, Maluku and Sulawesi, where the sea depth reaches 15,000 feet.
The Country's land area is generally covered by thick tropical rain forests where fertile soils are continuously replenished by volcanic eruptions like that on the island of Java. The island of Java has 112 volcanic centers of which 15 are active. The lava ejected has a high degree of fertility.
An additional advantage of the island of Java is that its coastal plains are neither edged by wide swamps as in the case of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua, nor bordered by coral reefs as in the case of the island of Sulawesi. On the island of Sumatra there is plenty of evidence of past volcanic activities, although the ejected material contained acid which is of less fertility compared with Java.
Climate and Weather
Indonesia's climate and weather is characterized by an equatorial double rainy season. Its variation is caused by the equatorial circulation (Walker circulation) and the meridian circulation (Hardley circulation). The displacement of the latter circulation is closely related to the North-South movement of the sun and its position at a certain period with regard to the earth and the continents of Asia and Australia. These factors contribute to the displacement and intensity of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) being an equatorial through of low pressure. This characterizes the weather of Indonesia, while the prevalence of the West monsoon and the East monsoon (the rainy and dry seasons) are characterizing Indonesia's climate.
Indonesia's monsoon-type climate changes approximately every six months although in recent years weather patterns have been somewhat disrupted as part of global changes in weather. Humidity and temperatures are varying according to the season but temperatures are affected additionally by rime of day, height above sea level and proximity to the sea and exception. The dry season is from June to September and the rainy season from December to March. Intervening periods are transition months in which the weather will be mixed.
Average temperatures are classified as follows: Coastal plains: 28°C; inland and mountain areas: 26°C; higher mountain areas: 23°C, varying with the altitude. Indonesia has an average relative humidity between 70 percent and 90 percent, with a minimum of 73 percent and a maximum of 87 percent.
Indonesia Standard Time
Indonesia's three time zones are as below:
- Western Indonesia Standard Time equals GMT plus 7 hours (meridian 105 ‘0 E), covering all provinces in Sumatra and Java, and the provinces of West and Central Kalimantan.
- Central Indonesia Standard Time equals GMT plus 8 hours (meridian120’0 E), covering the provinces of East and South Kalimantan, all provinces in Sulawesi, and the provinces of Bali, West and East Nusatenggara.
- Eastern Indonesia Standard Time equals GMT plus 9 hours (meridian 135°E), covering the provinces of Maluku and Papua.
Exclusive Economic Zone
When independence was proclaimed and sovereignty gained, Indonesia had to enact laws to govern the seas in accordance with the geographic structure of an archipelagic state. This, however, did not mean that the country would bar international passage. The laws were necessary instruments for the unity and national resilience of the country, with a territory that embraces all the islands, the islets and the seas in between.
In view of the country's susceptibility to foreign intervention from the sea and for domestic security reasons, on December 13, 1957, the Indonesian Government issued a declaration on the territorial waters of the Republic. It states that all the waters surrounding and between the islands in the territory came within Indonesia’s sovereignty. It also determines that the country's territorial water limit is 12 miles, measured from a straight baseline drawn from the outermost points of the islands.
In the past, archipelagic states like Indonesia had unilaterally determined their 200-mile-Exclusive Economic Zones. Today such economic zones are confirmed by the International Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was ratified by the Indonesian Government on October18, 1983, by Act No.5 of the same year. This is the legal basis of the Indonesian - Exclusive Economic Zone.
After the end of the Ice Age, the sub-mongoloid people from Asia started to move to the archipelago, and later had inter-marriages with the indigenous people. Later on, the Indo-Arian people from sub-Asian continent of India migrated to the archipelago and settled there. These Indian migrants brought with them their culture and religion. Afterwards, well-organized kingdoms emerged in Indonesia, with the Royal families and their people either embraced Hindu or Buddhist.
Trade was the main activity of these kingdoms, in which they benefited from their strategic locations, between China, India and the Middle East. Rice, gold and spices were main commodities offered by these kingdoms. Then, more and more people came to the archipelago, mainly from China, India and the Middle East. A melting-pot has just emerged.
In the 7th century, Crivijaya came up as one of the most powerful kingdom in Southeast Asia. Located in the southern side of Sumatera, Crivijaya was at that time the center of the Buddhist learning.
Another famous Buddhist kingdom was Mataram, which was located in Java. Under the Cailendra dynasty, in the 9th century, the kingdom built Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Almost at the same period, the Sanjaya dynasty built Prambanan, now the largest Hindu temple compound in Indonesia, which was dedicated to the Gods Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.
Moslem merchants from Middle East and India started their journey to the archipelago in the 10th century. Like the Indians and Chinese many centuries before, they also introduced their culture and religion. Islam spread to the whole region, and in the 15th century various Islamic kingdoms emerged and took over the power once held by the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms.
In their search for spices, the Portuguese arrived in Indonesia in 1511. Followed a year later by the Spaniards, the two European nations then started their war of conquest. In 1596, the Dutch arrived in Java and gradually built a colonial empire in the Indonesian archipelago, famously known as Dutch East Indies. The Dutch also brought Christianity which then became dominant in eastern Indonesia.
Interrupted briefly by the British, in 1811-1815, the Dutch period in Indonesia remained until 1942. In that year, Japan invaded Dutch East Indies. Following the Japanese defeat, on August 17, 1945, Indonesia’s independence was proclaimed. The Dutch, intended to recover the colony, did not acknowledge the independence and started sending troops to Indonesia. The War of Independence broke out. Finally, under auspices of the United Nations, the Netherlands recognized Indonesia’s independence in 1949.
Indonesia is a unitary State and has its capital in Jakarta. Indonesia has 33 provinces and exercises a great autonomy to the provinces. In all, only matters relate to foreign relations; religion; defense and security; judiciaries; and monetary remain on the hand of the Central Government.
Since 1999, Indonesia has been adopting multi-parties system. In the last general election, in 2009, 38 parties participated. Indonesia exercises a presidential-cabinet system, in which both the president and the vice president are freely elected by the people. The current president is HE Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, while HE Dr. Boediono is the Vice President. They will lead Indonesia until the next election in 2014.
Indonesia has more than 300 ethnics group. As a melting-pot for various cultures for many centuries, Indonesia has a unique mosaic of culture. Each ethnic has its own tradition, customs, language, which distinguish it from others. Bahasa Indonesia is the official language, while local dialects are recognized, widely spoken and preserved.
Islam is the major religion, and is embraced by approximately 85% Indonesians. Indonesia is actually the largest Moslem nation in the world. The rest of the people are Christians, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhist and Confucians. Indonesia is not an Islamic State. All religions are allowed to practice freely.
Trade and investment are two main economic sectors. Indonesia’s top export commodities have been dominated by natural resources and plantation products. Indonesian is among the largest natural gas producers in the world, and the world largest producer of natural rubber and palm oil.
Indonesia is one of Canada’s main business partners in South East Asia. Indonesia exported natural rubber, coffee, textiles, furniture and electronic equipment to BC, while BC exported wheat, pulp, metal and industrial machineries to Indonesia.