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close this bookAgricultural Expansion and Pioneer Settlements in the Humid Tropics (UNU, 1988, 305 pages)
close this folder11. Ex-military settlements in Indonesia and the emergence of social differentiation in frontier areas
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentInitial efforts
View the documentEarly settlement pattern
View the documentThe Sapta Marga concept applied
View the documentTowards integration
View the documentConcluding remarks
View the documentReferences

Initial efforts

Immediately after the proclamation of Indonesia's independence in 1945, the government of the young Republic was confronted with a warlike situation, since the Allied (American-British-Dutch) forces, including Dutch fighting units, did not recognize the Republic of Indonesia. Strong nationalist sentiments to defend the country against external threats of political and military intervention gave rise to the formation of a popular volunteer army. A small core of Japanese-trained Indonesian army units acted as instructors and soon a dozen divisions were formed. Many of the volunteers came from rural areas, and even those from urban centres often were of recent rural background.

Indonesia today has no professional army, navy, or air force in the formal sense, neither has it a conscription army. The armed forces consist of volunteers, although many have made a lifelong career out of their service period. Servicemen who have volunteered and built a military career are treated as government officers, who are on the government payroll, are obliged to retire at a certain age, and are eligible to receive a pension or old-age allowance thereafter. The Department of Defence and Security often helps by offering post-retirement jobs in public life, and one of these jobs is becoming a farmer through the transmigration programme. Very much like the migrants in a government subsidized transmigration programme, the exmilitary servicemen are allocated a piece of land and farm equipment. In addition, however, the ax-servicemen receive a pension in accordance with rank and length of military service. Obviously this enables them to enjoy a higher minimum standard of living.

The first ax-military settlers were sent to Lampung, the traditional transmigration settlement area since 1905, and special settlements were prepared to pave the way for easier adjustment of the settlers to a new natural and social environment (Kampto Utomo 1975). In the district of Central Lampung, the village of Sumberdjaja received the first demobilized servicemen in 1950.

The National Reserve Corps (Corps Tjadangan Nasional, CTN) sent two companies of ax-servicemen from East Java to Central Lampung in July 1950, and they were promised that they would receive "new weapons" to continue the national struggle in a different way. However, perhaps as former guerilla fighters they had little notion of what the "new weapons" in a different stage of the revolutionary struggle could be.

When it turned out at a ceremonial gathering that the "new weapons" were hoes to work the newly allotted land, the inevitable disappointment was demonstrated by throwing crates full of hoes into the Way Sekampung river.

Though no further studies have been conducted on the attitudes of postrevolutionary guerilla fighters, it appeared rather clearly that either their leaders had not given them adequate explanation as to their new assignment or the exservicemen themselves were no longer prepared to work in the agricultural sector and to accept becoming owner-cultivators on the newly allocated plots.

Even prior to the transfer of sovereignty (end of 1949), a Ministry for Community Development already existed, taking care of rechanneling ax-servicemen into society. As long as the army units were under active service they were taken care of by Staff A of the Defence Ministry, such that no bridge existed between the military and civilian administration. In order to solve this problem, a Bureau for National Reconstruction (Biro Rekonstruksi Nasional, BRN) was established under the Prime Minister's office. Within the Defence Ministry itself, as already referred to above, the CTN was formed and later renamed Agency for the Reception of Exservicemen (Badan Penampungan Bekas Anggauta Tentara).

One characteristic of military settlements is that they tend to be rather separated from other villages, forming individual settlements of their own, and in most cases the former military organizational units are retained. To their names on the door plates settlers often add their ranks and even their identification numbers. Yet, despite the discernible ties of unity of the early 1950s, the dissolution of larger units into smaller ones became a matter of fact. Many military settlers were not quite prepared mentally to return to agriculture and, whenever there was an opportunity, emigrated to nearby cities to find jobs there. Most likely, after the years of military service the risky, low-status agricultural life was no longer attractive to them.

Therefore, land clearing by the ax-servicemen in the new areas began slowly in the early 1950s, and understandably the initial goal was to open the 0.25 ha of allocated land, the yard, or pekarangan, immediately surrounding the house (fig. 1). Many have not come much further than that, and obviously a quarter of a hectare to cultivate rice on rain-fed plots simply cannot meet the food needs of a small settler's family for the whole year.

Clearing the forest to expand the home yard and develop more rain-fed sawah is often handicapped by a shortage of available manpower. Forest clearing is also a more or less specialized activity for which not all military servicemen are capable. Not infrequently, therefore, this is offered to civilian migrants interested in doing the job for pay.