Japanese military authorities in Java, having interned Dutch
administrative personnel, found it necessary to use Indonesians in many administrative
positions, thus giving them opportunities that had been denied them under the Dutch. In
order to secure popular acceptance of their rule, the Japanese sought also to enlist the
support of both nationalist and Islamic leaders. Under this policy Sukarno and Hatta both
accepted positions in the military administration.
Though initially welcomed as liberators, the Japanese gradually established themselves
as harsh overlords. Their policies fluctuated according to the exigencies of the war, but,
in general, their primary object was to make the Indies serve Japanese war needs.
Nationalist leaders, however, felt able to trade support for political concessions.
Sukarno was able to convince the administration that Indonesian support could only be
mobilized through an organization that would represent genuine Indonesian aspirations. In
March 1943 such an organization, Putera (Pusat Tenaga Rakjat; "Centre of the People's
Power") was inaugurated under his chairmanship. While the new organization enabled
Sukarno to establish himself more clearly as the leader of the nation and while it enabled
him to develop more effective lines of communication to the people, it also placed upon
him the responsibility of trying to sustain Indonesian support for Japan through, among
other things, the romusha (forced-labour) program. Later in the year Indonesian opinion
was given a further forum in a Central Advisory Council and a series of local councils. At
a different level, Indonesian youths were able to acquire a sense of corporate identity
through membership in the several youth organizations established by the Japanese. Of
great importance, also, was the creation in October 1943 of a volunteer defense force
composed of and officered by Indonesians trained by the Japanese. The Sukarela Tentara
Pembela Tanah Air (Peta) was to become the core of the republic's army during the
In March 1944 the Japanese, feeling that Putera had served
Indonesian rather than Japanese interests, replaced it with a "people's loyalty
organization" (Djawa Hokokai), which was kept under much closer control. Six months
later the Japanese premier announced the Japanese intention to prepare the Indies for
self-government. In August 1945, on the eve of the Japanese surrender, Sukarno and Hatta
were summoned to Saigon, Vietnam, where Terauchi Hisaichi, commander of Southeast Asia,
promised an immediate transfer of independence.
On their return to Djakarta (Jakarta; formerly Batavia), Sukarno and Hatta were under
pressure to declare independence unilaterally. This pressure reached its climax in the
kidnapping of the two men, for a day, by some of Djakarta's youth leaders. After the news
of the Japanese surrender had been confirmed, Sukarno proclaimed independence on the
morning of Aug. 17, 1945.
'Proklamasi Kemerdekaan' by Sukarno on Aug 17, 1945
(on the right in white: Hatta)