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The Brief History of Decentralization in Indonesia

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Decentralization is the handover of policies from the central government to local governments to regulate their own households. However, some fields like security, laws, and policies are still centralized from the delegations of local government.


The form of decentralization in Indonesia called the regional autonomy. It is done to simplify the system of government in Indonesian since this country consists of many islands. The system of regional autonomy had been through a very long process in Indonesia. Here we are going to expand the history of decentralization in Indonesia.

  1. The period of Dutch colonialism

The Dutch was the first pioneer who brought the concept of decentralization-centralization in Indonesia. The year 1822 can be recorded as a year of the beginning of this concept, as has been launched Regelement op het Beleid der Regering van Nederlandsch Indie. This regulation asserted that there was no recognition of decentralization because the system that used was centralized in Dutch era. However, there was also deconcetration which meant administrative areas were arranged hierarchically such as Gewest (resident), Afdeling, District, and Onderdistrict.

The development of decentralization which began in 1903 (vide Decentralisatie Wet 1903) was driven by the need for the entry of private capital with the entry of liberalism to the Dutch East Indies since 1870 (vide Agrarische Wet 1870). Decentralized decision-making at that time caused the central government official got more problem concerning to the public services that the government should administer and implement.

As a result, decision-making was very slow because of many problems that the center had to decide. In addition, due to the distance factor that is too far, so often the decision taken is not as desirable and not timely because officials of central officials do not quite understand the problem as a whole. (Read also: Dutch Colonization in Indonesia)

  1. The period of Japanese colonialism

Initially, the former Dutch colony government was divided into 3 commandments which were carried out by the command of each force called Gunseikan. The command is:

  • Sumatra under the command of the Armed Forces Commander XXV based in Bukittinggi.
  • Java and Madura are under the Command of Army Commander XVI based in Jakarta.
  • The other areas are under the Command of the Navy Commander based in Makassar.

On September 11, 1943 the power of the government was in one hand, namely the Saikosikikan which was the Governor-General.  The concept that has been formed by the Dutch East Indies government was not used anymore. The Japanese government implements a full centralization system with military power as its central.

  1. Old order Period

After the Committee for the Preparation of Indonesian Independence (PPKI) set UUD 1945, the Panitia Kecil (small committee) was established to regulate the People Affairs, Regional Government, Police Leadership and National Army. This decision made by the PPKI on 19 August 1945 which essentially temporarily establish the division of the territory of the Republic of Indonesia into eight administrative regions called provinces which headed by a Governor, consisted of West Java, Central Java, East Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Sunda Kecil, Maluku.

Each province was divided into Residency called karesidenan headed by a Resident. The Governor and Resident are assisted by the National Committee of the Region. Under Karisidenan, there were units of Administrative District, City, Kawedanan (district), Kecamatan (Under district), and Village. In this case the National Committee of the Region performs the legislative function which was the form of the goals and ideals of the Indonesian nation to organize the independence of Indonesia based on people’s sovereignty. The function of this decentralization was aimed to deliver the citizen’s aspiration.

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  1. New Order Period

With the birth of a new order that is contrary to the old order, there were a lot of rules and legislation that was not fit with the principles of the new order. In this era, the Regional Head is the State Official who carried out duties as the Chief Executive in the field of decentralization. While the central government tightened control of the local government, known for its three types of supervision named preventive maintenance, repressive supervision, and general supervision.

In other words, in the New Order era there has been a remarkable process of state. This was becoming increasingly effective through military involvement in day-to-day politics that created a sense of fear (both ideological and physical repression) toward the political communities who tried to resist central domination. State administration also exerted many things in private life, such as the management of Identity Card, Letter of Goodness, Environmental Clean Description, and others which creating individual dependence on the state.

  1. The effect of Decentralization

However, the centralized and monolithic way of working politics can only improve the momentary and pseudo-state. Signals of failure of the local political arrangements of new order became more prominent when some local communities, notably Irian Jaya and Aceh, demanded a fundamental change in local political arrangements and in central-local relations in 1997.

In fact, one form of the demand is a separatist demand to form its own state. The demands to escape from the territory of the Republic of Indonesia really manifested. It was proven by the release of the Province of East Timor from the territory of the Republic of Indonesia through a referendum in the era of President Habibie. Finally, decentralization or regional autonomy during the New Order era was erased at all.

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  1. After reformation

On May 7, 1999, it was born Law no. 22/1999 on Regional Government then Law no. 25/1999 which regulated central and regional financial relations, replacing Law no. 5/1974 which was centralistic. These two laws provided for wide-ranging autonomy authority to district and city governments. Regents and mayors were declared no longer as a hierarchical government apparatus under the governor. The highest office in the district and the city was the only local head at the local level, being independent of the governor. Every mayor had full authority to manage his / her territory.

  1. The final decentralization rule

In 2004, the new law of decentralization was created. The Center government should not reduce, let alone negate the authority of government which has been submitted to the autonomous region. However, autonomous regions-autonomous regions should not be separated from the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. No matter how vast the scope of autonomy, decentralization that carries out local government can’t crack the framework of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.

Those are the history of decentralization in Indonesia. Recently, the government is on the way to arrange the Indonesian system to be in good order. Hopefully, the system of decentralization could be one of the ways to support them.

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Kategori : History