Greater Indonesia or Greater Malay (in Indonesian and Malay: Indonesia Raya or Melayu Raya) was a political concept that sought to bring the so-called Malay race together by uniting the territories of Dutch East Indies (and Portuguese Timor) with the British Malaya and British Borneo. It was espoused by students and graduates of Sultan Idris Training College for Malay Teachers in the late 1920s, and individuals from Sumatra and Java including Muhammad Yamin and Sukarno in the 1950s. Indonesia Raya was later adapted as the name of the Indonesian national anthem in 1924.
The Pan-Malay union was based on understandings on similarities in race, shared language, religion and culture among ethnic groups in Maritime Southeast Asia. The ancient concept of Nusantara advocates an historical awareness that the territory of British Malaya, British Borneo and the Dutch East Indies were once united, to a degree, under native empires such as Srivijaya, Majapahit, and the Sultanates of Malacca, Johor-Riau and various other sultanates in Borneo island.
At the end of the 1920s, the idea to form a new independent nation grew among the people of Dutch East Indies, especially among educated pribumi (native Indonesian). While in the Malay peninsula, the idea of Greater Malay was proposed. In the Dutch East Indies, the activist youth of Indonesian nationalists were more interested in forming an independent Indonesia. In 1928 the Youth Pledge was declared in Batavia (today Jakarta) by Indonesian nationalist youth activists proclaiming three ideals; one motherland, one nation, and support one unifying language.
During World War II advocates of Greater Indonesia collaborated with the Japanese against the British and the Dutch. The co-operation was based on the understanding that Japan would unite the Dutch East Indies, Malaya and Borneo and grant them independence. It was understood that under a unified Japanese occupation of these areas, the formation of Greater Indonesia was possible.
In January 1942, Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM) requested the Japanese to grant Malaya the independence the Japanese had promised earlier. This was the first request for Malayan independence by a Malaya-wide political body. The request however was turned down. The Japanese authorities instead disbanded Kesatuan Melayu Muda and established Defenders of the Homeland (Pembela Tanah Air, abbreviated as PETA) militia in its stead.
In July 1945 Union of Indonesian Peninsular People (Kesatuan Rakyat Indonesia Semenanjung, abbreviated as KRIS), that later the name would be changed to "Kekuatan Rakyat Indonesia Istimewa" (Special Indonesian People Force) was formed in British Malaya under the leadership of Ibrahim Yaacob and Dr. Burhanuddin Al-Hemy with the aim to achieve independence from Great Britain and union with Republic of Indonesia. This plan has been consulted with Sukarno and Hatta.
On 12 August 1945, Ibrahim Yaacob met with Sukarno, Hatta and Dr. Radjiman in Taiping, Perak. Sukarno transited in Taiping airport on his flight back from Saigon back to Jakarta. Previously Sukarno was summoned by Field Marshal Hisaichi Terauchi in Dalat to discuss about the Indonesian independence and to receive direct statement from Terauchi that Japanese Empire permitted the independence of Indonesia. During this meeting Yaacob expressed his intention to unite Malay Peninsula into independent Indonesia. It was in this short conference that Sukarno, flanked by Hatta, shook hands with Ibrahim Yaacob and said, 'Let us form one single Motherland for all the sons of Indonesia'.
Sukarno and Muhammad Yamin were Indonesian political figures who agreed with the idea of this great union. However, they were reluctant to call this idea "Melayu Raya" and offered another name, namely "Indonesia Raya". Essentially both Malay Raya and Greater Indonesia are the exact same political ideas. Reluctance to name the Great Malay because it is different from in Malaya, in Indonesia the term Malay refers more to the Malay tribe which is considered only as one of the various tribes in the archipelago, which has an equal position with Minangkabau, Aceh, Java, Sunda, Madura, Bali , Dayak, Bugis, Makassar, Minahasa, Ambon, and so on. Association based on race or "Malay" ethnic group is feared to be vulnerable and counter-productive with the unity of Indonesia which includes various ethnic groups, religions, cultures and races because many ethnic groups in Eastern Indonesia such as Papuans, Ambonese and East Nusa Tenggara, are not included Austronesian Malay family, but the Melanesian family.
However, on 15 August 1945 Emperor Hirohito declared the surrender of Japanese Empire through radio broadcast. Promptly, Sukarno and Hatta proclaimed Indonesian Republic independence on 17 August 1945. After Indonesia proclaimed its independence, the Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM) was disappointed that Malaya was not included as part of Indonesia and they demanded its promise to Sukarno and other Indonesian leaders according to the discussion in Taiping, Perak.
However, because the situation was not safe, Sukarno and Hatta decided to postpone the Malaya unification talks. Ibrahim Yacoob was asked by Sukarno not to return to Malaya for a while, given the situation in Malaya was chaotic and the British army had already landed there to reoccupy the colony.
Accused as a collaborator, on 19 August Ibrahim Yaacob flew in Japanese military aeroplane to Jakarta. Yaacob sought refuge in Jakarta with his wife Mariatun Haji Siraj, his in-law Onan Haji Siraj and Hassan Manan. Ibrahim Yaacob that fought for the unity of Malay Peninsula into Indonesia then resides in Jakarta until his death in 1979.
With the surrender of Japan in August 1945, former Kesatuan Melayu Muda cadres formed the nucleus of the emerging political movements like the Malay Nationalist Party, Angkatan Pemuda Insaf, and Angkatan Wanita Sedar. With the fall of Japanese power in August 1945, and its key advocates are accused as traitors and Japanese collaborators in Malaya, the ideas of the union between the peninsula with Indonesia were faded and almost forgotten in Malay peninsula.
On the other hand, after the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence, through diplomacy during the Indonesian National Revolution between 1945-1949, the Republic of Indonesia finally gained independence from the Netherlands during Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference in 1949. While across the straits, after Japanese occupation, the Malay Peninsula returned to British control.
After the end of World War II, the idea of Greater Indonesia was little heard until more than five years later. On 17 August 1950 President Sukarno officially dissolved The United States of Indonesia and replaced by an unitary Republic of Indonesia. On 28 September 1950 Ambon was invaded and incorporated into the Republic Indonesia. Between 1950-1962 Sukarno made preparations for an invasion of West New Guinea under the euphemism of a liberation after the Netherlands had made preparations for self-determination for the area of West New Guinea. After the New York Agreement Dutch New Guinea was handed over to the United Nations in 1962. Sukarno strongly opposed the British decolonisation initiative involving the formation of the Federation of Malaysia that would comprise the Malay Peninsula and North Borneo. That hostile political stance led to the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation in the early 1960s that was manifested in an undeclared war with small scale transborder battles and military infiltration in Borneo. Sukarno accused the new nation of Malaysia of being a British puppet state aimed at establishing neo-imperialism and neo-colonialism in Southeast Asia, and also at containing Indonesian ambition to be the regional hegemonic power. However, it was also suggested that Sukarno's campaign against the formation of Malaysia was actually motivated by a desire to unite the Malay Peninsula and the whole island of Borneo under Indonesian rule and to complete the previously abandoned idea of Greater Indonesia.
In late 1965, the failed 30 September Movement coup attempt caused Sukarno to fall from power and General Suharto to seize power in Indonesia. Because of this internal conflict, Indonesia lost its desire to continue its hostile policy against Malaysia, and therefore the war ended. On 28 May 1966, a conference held in Bangkok secured an agreement between the Federation of Malaysia and Republic of Indonesia to resolve the conflict. The violence ended in June, and the peace deal was signed on 11 August and officially recognised two days later. With this treaty, Indonesia and Malaysia officially agreed to be two separate national entities that mutually recognised each other's existence and sovereignty.
After the Indonesia-Malaysia peace deal, Indonesia was occupied with its own domestic problems building its economy while tried to maintain its unity as a diverse and plural nation. As a result, during the reign of Suharto freedom and democracy were sacrificed in the name of national stability and unity. In 1975 Indonesia annexed the former Portuguese colony of East Timor that finally achieved independence from Indonesia in 1999. Indonesia suffered various problems ranging from economic crisis, separatist movements in Aceh and Papua, to the problem of terrorism. Indonesia is more interested in defining itself as Indonesian by trying to develop national character building, to define themselves as pluralist nation encapsulated in Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity) under Pancasila as national ideology with territorial claim only spanned from Sabang in Aceh to Merauke in Papua. As the largest nation in Southeast Asia, Indonesia seems to be satisfied on channelling its regional ambition through assuming leadership role among ASEAN countries.
On the other side, Malaysia was struggling on national building and facing problems regarding the national format alternatives; between leftist republic fighter and rightist traditional royalist. The remnants of Kesatuan Melayu Muda -- the advocate of unification with Indonesia, which had been fighting for the independence for Malaya, aspired for the formation of Greater Indonesia or Greater Malay, to join the republic and encourage to overthrow the monarchy. However, at that time the majority of Malays supported the traditional institution of the Malay rulers (Malay Kingship) and Islam as national ideology; which led to the prominence of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which fought to uphold the traditional institution of the Malay Rulers and the special status of Islam.
The national unity issues in Malaysia also has been aggravated with inter-racial tensions, especially between the Malay majority with Chinese and Hindu Indian minorities, the problem that plagued Malaysian politics up until now. The racial issue and the disagreement on citizenship and privileged issues between Bumiputra and Chinese and Indian Malaysian is the very problems that has caused the separation of Singapore from Malaysia back in the 1960s. By the end of the 1960s, UMNO gained domination in Malaysian politics, while their rival, the advocate of the republic and the union with Greater Indonesia, are stigmatised as leftists, communists or even traitors. In North Borneo, the Brunei royals chose not to follow Sarawak and Sabah on forming the Malaysia and remained under British protection until 1984.
With both parties kept busy and being occupied in their own problems, taking their own path of national systems; the ideal of a grand union that united the whole so-called Malay race under one great national entity called Greater Malay or Greater Indonesia has finally faded away, ceased to exist and remain irredentist. However, the term "Indonesia Raya" is still in use today as the national anthem of Indonesia, written in 1924.