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With the conclusion of Indonesia's long and arduous struggle for independence most of its people believed there would be a rapid improvement of social and economic conditions. During the early years of independence some progress was made in this direction, most prominently in education, and for the time being at least Indonesian society did become somewhat more egalitarian than in the colonial period. But the degree of improvment fell far short of expectations, and disillusionment and frustration led increasingly to an understandable tendency to blame the central government in Jakarta for the inadequate measures taken to meet the expectations that had been aroused during the revolution.

As the young republic lurched from crisis to crisis, Jakarta's monopoly over the copra trade seriously weakened North Sulawesi's economy. Illegal exports flourished and in June 1956 Jakarta ordered the closure of Manado port, the busiest smuggling port in the republic. Local leaders refused and Jakarta backed down. As in Sumatra there was a general feeling that the central government was inefficient, development was stagnating and money was being plugged into Java.

In March 1957 the military leaders of both southern and northern Sulawesi launched a confrontation with the central government, with demands for greater regional autonomy. They demanded more local development, a fairer share of revenue, help in suppressing the Kahar Muzakar rebellion in Southern Sulawesi, and a cabinet of the central government led jointly by Soekarno and Hatta. At least initially the "Permesta" (Piagam Perjuangan Semesta Alam) rebellion was a reformist rather than a separatist movement.

B-26 plane owned by the Permesta rebels Negotiations between the central government and the Sulawesi military leaders prevented violence in southern Sulawesi, but the North Sulawesi leaders were dissatisfied with the agreements and the movement split. Inspired, perhaps, by fears of domination by the south, the leaders declared their own autonomous state of North Sulawesi in June 1957. By this time the central government had the situation in southern Sulawesi pretty much under control but in the north they had no strong local figure to rely upon and there were rumors that the USA, suspected of supplying arms to rebels in Sumatra, was also in contact with the North Sulawesi leaders.

The possibility of foreign intervention finally drove the central government to seek military support from southern Sulawesi. Permesta forces were driven out of Central Sulawesi, Gorontalo, the Sangihe Islands and from Morotai in Maluku (from whose airfield the rebels had hoped to fly bombing raids on Jakarta). The rebels' few planes (supplied by the USA and flown by Filipino, Taiwanese and US pilots) were destroyed. US policy shifted, favoring Jakarta, and in June 1958 central government troops landed in North Sulawesi. The Permesta rebellion was finally put down in mid-1961.

The effect of both the Sumatran and Sulawesi rebellions was to strengthen exactly those trends the rebels had hoped to weaken. Central authority was enhanced at the expense of local autonomy, radical nationalism gained over pragmatic moderation, the power of the communists and Soekarno increased while that of Hatta waned, and Soekarno was able to establish his "Guided Democracy" in 1959.

North Sulawesi prospered under the New Order Government of President Soeharto, which took office in 1967. Many of the economic reports (but few of the political reforms) sought by the Permesta rebels were implemented. The province has a tolerant, outward-looking culture and it will be interesting to see what the future holds after the recent implementation of Regional Autonomy, the very idea that Permesta fought for.


Sources:
1. Government of Minahasa Regency
2. F.S. Watuseke: Sedjarah Minahasa. Tjetakan kedua. Manado, 1969.
3. Godee Molsbergen, E.C. : Gesciedenis van de Minahasa tot 1829, 1928.
4. Schouten, Mieke: Minahasa and Bolaangmongondow, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1981.
5. Arsip Nasional RI No. 134, 162, 169.
6. Barbara S. Harvey: Permesta - Half A Rebellion, Cornell Modern Indonesia Project, 1977


Permesta Rebellion - Timeline

1956
June Government clamps down on smuggling in North Sulawesi.

1957
June Rebel army officers in Manado declare autonomous state of North Sulawesi (beginning of Piagam Perjuangan Semesta, or Permesta, rebellion).
September Various rebellious officers from Sumatra and Sulawesi meet in Padang to coordinate forces.

1958
February Rebellious officers meet in Padang while Sukarno is in Thailand.
February 15 Rebels set up rival PRRI government (Pemerintah Revolusioner Republik Indonesia) at Bukittingi. Permesta rebels in Sulawesi join forces with PRRI. The USA promises secret aid to the rebels. Sukarno demands a hard response.
February 21 Air Force bombs Padang, Bukittingi, and Manado.
March Army units from Diponegoro and Siliwangi divisions land in Sumatra and take Medan.
April Padang falls to central government forces.
May Bukittingi falls to central government forces, as does Gorontalo on Sulawesi.
May 18 US pilot Alan Pope is shot down over Ambon while secretly helping PRRI rebels.
June Manado falls to central government forces.

1960
September Sulawesi is divided into North Sulawesi and South Sulawesi provinces.
Last traces of "Zelfbesturen" or autonomy for local rulers are removed from the law.

1961
February Remnants of "Permesta" guerillas in Sulawesi begin surrendering after offer of amnesty.
May 29 Last of Permesta rebels in Sulawesi surrender.

Barbara S. Harveys monograph Permesta - Half A Rebellion is recommended for all those who wish to read more about the Permesta in North Sulawesi.
"This work grows out of her long interest in Indonesia's political development and a recent focus, involving substantial periods of field research, on the political history of Sulawesi. She has done much to fill one of the major lacunae in modern Indonesian history, and readers will undoubtedly welcome her study not only for the light that it throws on this period, but also because it makes much more understandable the extensive political changes that followed." George McT. Kahin

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