The uniqueness of Indonesia lies much in its multiculturalism and language diversity. Of course Indonesia is not the only one, each country may have its own unique traits. However, if you look at the number, Indonesia’s cultural and language diversities remain unmatched. This fact leaves many people — especially friends from abroad — wondered; How can a culturally and ethnically diverse society be kept together and unified? Surely, there are many possible answers to this question. Without trying to complicate the answer to this question, this article wants to show an important event that is closely related to that question. The event is called the Youth Pledge (Sumpah Pemuda).
Every October 28, Indonesia commemorates the Youth Pledge Day. As with other state celebrations, Youth Pledge Day is important in the history of the journey of the Indonesian Nation. Apart from answering the question, this event’s subject—the youth—makes this celebration day special. To understand the importance of youth in the context of the Youth Pledge Day in particular and the Indonesian independence in general, let us look at the history.
Talking about youth and the Youth Pledge in the context of the struggle for Indonesian independence, we must never forget the fact that Indonesia is a country with rich cultural diversity. Long before the independence, long before the arrival of the colonial rulers (penjajah), people in the archipelago (Nusantara), as Indonesia was called at that time, lived in their respective regions. Both the maritime and agrarian kingdoms grew in almost every region of the country. This fact shows and reinforces that the population of the archipelago at that time lived in such regionality. However, that does not mean they did not interact with each other. The archipelago waters was a busy trading area. People from various regions of the archipelago interacted through trade at that time.
The arrival of Europeans, especially the Dutch with their VOC, changed the situation. The Archipelago, then came under one umbrella of the VOC administration and later changed to the Dutch East Indies. Under the colonial ruler, the lives of the people in the archipelago at that time was quite devastating. We can see the life of the people of the archipelago, for example, through the portrayal in the Max Havelaar, a novel by Multatuli.
The novel, Max Havelaar, published in 1860 in the Netherlands, opened up the eyes of many in the Netherlands regarding the cruelty and injustice of the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies. Slowly, this novel sparked protests against the Dutch government at the time. As a result, even though Max Havelaar was only a factor, the Ethical Policy (Politik Balas Budi) emerged in 1901. The essence of this policy is that, the Dutch government must return the favor—because the Dutch have made a lot of profit while the people of the Archipelago lived in misery—to the people of the archipelago. The concrete form of the ‘returning the favor’ policy—or also called the Ethical Policy—is comprised of three things, namely irrigation, immigration, and education.
The policy lead to better education opportunities for youth in the archipelago compared to before. At the same time, tiered education schools were established, especially in big cities. One of the most important cities is Batavia (now Jakarta). Youth from all over the archipelago came to Batavia to study. They then formed various regional youth groups or organizations, namely Djong Java, Djong Sumatra Bond, Djong Celebes, and many others. However, there were regional youth organizations before, but more were established. These youth organizations then organized the first and the second Youth Congress. The second Youth Congress formulated and declared an important ‘Youth Pledge’ which we continue to commemorate today. Before going further on the second Youth Congress, the topic of this article, the question we need to answer is, “why did the youth, the members of the regional organizations, decide to hold a congress?”
Although at the second Youth Congress, there was PPPI (Indonesian Students Association), a national youth association, most of the youth joined regional organizations. It appears that the regional perspective was still very strong among the young people at that time. This began to change when those from various regions met and attended the same school. When they shared their stories, they found similarities; They were colonized by the Dutch and, also, the people in their respective regions lived in difficulties because of the occupation. Moreover, education, as part of the Ethical Policy, gave birth to critical educated groups. One of the important groups was Budi Utomo, an organization founded in 1908 by Javanese students at Stovia, a medical school. And outside school, there were already movements against the Dutch occupation demanding for independence. At the time, the Proclamators of Indonesian Independence, Soekarno and Hatta, were already engaged in the political struggle for independence. There were other Indonesia’s political figures known as the Triumvirate (Tiga Serangkai) namely Ernest Douwes Dekker, Tjipto Mangunkusumo, and Ki Hadjar Dewantara whom at the time were experienced in the political struggle. Such constellation, lighted the way forward in our youth struggle and unification.
The second Youth Congress then became a very appropriate momentum for the Djongs to declare the pledge, which until today continues to bind the Indonesian people. The second Youth Congress was held in several sessions. The first session was held on October 27, 1928 at Katholieke Jongenlingen Bond Waterlooplein Noord. Followed by a meeting session held at Oost Java Bioscoop, Koningsplein Noord. At the first meeting, Moehammad Yamin explained about Indonesia’s unity while the second meeting discussed education issues.
The meeting was resumed at the Indonesische Clubgebouw Building (now the Youth Pledge Museum, on Jalan Kramat, Central Jakarta). Here, before the congressional decision was read, Wage Rudolf Supratman took his violin and played Indonesian Raya song. After that, at the initiative of Moehammad Yamin, the Youth Pledge text was agreed upon and then read out. The text is as follows:
Firstly: WE THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF INDONESIA, ACKNOWLEDGE ONE MOTHERLAND, INDONESIA
Secondly: WE THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF INDONESIA, ACKNOWLEDGE ONE NATION, THE NATION OF INDONESIA
Thirdly: WE THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF INDONESIA, RESPECT THE LANGUAGE OF UNITY, INDONESIAN
This is the pledge that unites the Indonesian youths. The same youths, who initially came with a regional mindset, have finally realized that the Indonesian independence can only be achieved by being united. Therefore, every time we commemorate the Youth Pledge, we also remember the pledge as a result of contemplation on the importance of unity for the survival of the nation and this country.
Author: Lambertus Berto Tukan
Tags : history, youth pledge