'the Japanese Occupation Marked 'a New Dawn For Southeast Asia'. Can This Statement Be Justified With Regards To The Development Of Nationalism In Southeast Asia?

3016 words - 12 pages

The Occupation years were pivotal in improving the fortunes of the nationalists as there were varied advantages accrued by them under Japanese auspices. Even if the Japanese were largely motivated by self- interest, it is undeniable that certain obstacles confronting the nationalists were removed. Previously, most of the colonial masters were uncompromising in their policies towards the nationalists causing them to lack mass support and be subjected to colonial repression due to the lack of armed capacity and lack of progress in achieving independence. However, the Japanese Occupation provided amelioration to the development of nationalism- the nationalists were given more opportunities which allowed them to gain access to arms, garner mass support and progress towards independence. In addition, the position of the leftist groups also improved greatly.On the other hand, it must be noted that in some colonies, the prospects of the nationalists did not improve and pre- Occupation problems remained or were magnified. For example, the problem of factionalism within parties was not resolved. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the Japanese Occupation was pivotal in improving the fortunes of the nationalists.The Japanese's provision of platforms for nationalists to organize themselves made it possible for nationalists to secure a wider base of mass support. During the pre- Occupation years, rural- urban divide proved to be an obstacle to the nationalist attempts to win the support of the population. Those who sought collaboration with the colonial regimes lost their credibility in the eyes of the population. However, the Japanese encouraged the formation of plethora anti- Western, pro- Japanese, 'pan- Asian' mass organization. Unlike colonial powers, the Japanese unleashed mass grassroots political activity as seen in the case of formation of PUTERA in Indonesia. PUTERA was a puppet political body but the Indonesian leaders were able to exploit the freedom they had been offered to promote the nationalist cause in a guarded fashion. Sukarno and Hatta were to head the government and feign to aid the Japanese while Sjahrir and Sjarifuddin would organize underground movement to hamper the Japanese war effort and train locals in resistance and sabotage operations. Through their new positions, the nationalists were now able to link and communicate their nationalist ideals to the masses. As such, they gained mass support and were able to effectively pose as an opposition to the Japanese and the colonial masters, upon their return.The political freedom provided also strengthened the nationalists' position in garnering mass support as well as intensifying nationalist ideas among the masses. Mass organizations were created by the Japanese at various levels which gave nationalists access to such groups. The occupiers encouraged political mobilization which made possible mass mobilization, previously clamped down by the colonial regimes. Nationalist could...

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