Early this year, I was invited by Jinan
University to present a paper on Chinese organizations in Guangzhou, China. At
the conference, I met a distinguished African professor who asked me an
He said, “Aimee, I’ve been to your country before,
and I’m amazed at how large, diverse and dispersed geographically it is. You
have so many people living on thousands of islands. What keeps it all
I thought of his question carefully and answered, “It’s our
ideology. That’s what keeps us all together.”
I explained to him that
Indonesia was founded on the unifying principles of Pancasila: belief in one
supreme god; humanism; nationalism; popular sovereignty; and social justice. Our
founding fathers, Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta, also kept our nation together
using the national motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika or Unity in Diversity.
As child, teenager and later on, a young woman living abroad in
Singapore and the United States, these concepts stayed as vague nationalist
images in my memories as a third and fourth grader. Before I went to Singapore
at the end of fourth grade, I learned Pancasila and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika as part
of Pancasila moral studies).
Never did I think that after earning a PhD
in the US and coming back as a lecturer at the University of Indonesia that I
would be immersing myself in a highly intensive course for seven and a half
months at the National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas).
Lemhannas is a
government think tank established in 1965 to assist the president in providing
an educational program to safeguard and preserve the national ideal of
proclamation, the goal of the nation and the sustainability of the nation in the
globalized world for potential national leaders.
As the head of the
Communication Research Committee at the Indonesian Chinese Social Organization
(PSMTI, or Paguyuban Sosial Marga Tionghoa Indonesia), I had been selected to
participate in this demanding Lemhannas course alongside military officers
(including representatives from six countries such as Singapore, Algeria,
Jordan, Cambodia, Malaysia and Pakistan), high-ranking officials from various
government ministries and other representatives like myself, who come from
various social or political organizations. Only five of the 79 participants are
During the inaugural ceremony of the program, on March 19, 2013, I
felt like a fish out of water — looking at the men in their military regalia and
rows of medals on their uniforms. I asked myself then, “What do I have in common
Throughout the course, I learned about many aspects of
national security issues, such as national identity and integrity, regional and
international diplomacy, as well as various aspects of our country’s demography
I also became part of an official government mission to
visit Turkey in July.
In Turkey, my colleagues and I proudly represented
Indonesia, engaging the Turkish ministries of science and technology, education,
agriculture and defense in dialogues to enhance our countries’ bilateral
Other than Turkey, my other colleagues visited Jordan and
South Korea at the same time.
In September, my colleagues and I will also
visit South Sulawesi, Aceh and West Kalimantan as part of our domestic strategic
studies component of the course.
As our country celebrates its 68th year
as an independent nation, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the
Lemhannas course. The strong bonds and friendships forged throughout the course
means that I can count future military generals and future leaders of Indonesia
and several other countries as my friends. If I could give myself a piece of
advice on that inaugural day, I would tell her, “You’re all Indonesians or close
friends of Indonesia. That’s what you have in common with them. This is a once
in a lifetime opportunity for you to learn how to be truly
Thank you, Indonesia. I am proud to be one of your citizens.
The writer, a researcher and lecturer on Chinese-Indonesian cultural and
national identities, has published two books: The Chinese of Indonesia and Their
Search for Identity and Prominent Chinese-Indonesian Women. She is currently
completing her course at The National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas),