2017/36, 5 June 2017
As an effort to clamp down on fundamentalism and intolerance, the Indonesian government has introduced new measures to re-inculcate Pancasila, which upholds pluralism and inclusiveness, as the sole national ideology. In his speech during Pancasila Day on June 1, President Joko Widodo established UKP-PIP, a special task-force to reinforce Pancasila principles in citizens’ daily lives, including in religious lectures, education curricula, and social media.
Pancasila, promulgated by Indonesia’s first President Soekarno, has five principles, namely: belief in One Supreme God, a just and civilized humanity, the national unity of Indonesia, democracy based on deliberation among popular representatives, and social justice for all Indonesians.
Under President Soeharto, Pancasila was used as a counter-ideology against Islamic fundamentalism and communism. It also became the basis for domestic development programs and Indonesian foreign policy’s non-aligned principle. In 1985, the government issued a law obliging all organizations to adhere to Pancasila as their sole ideology. Gradually, it was used to legitimize the regime. The government established BP7, an institution responsible for the Practice and Application of Pancasila (P4), an obligatory program for all civil servant trainees and university freshmen. Yet this program was discontinued in 1998 when the New Order government fell.
With the current rise of Islamic fundamentalism domestically and regionally, the government recognizes the need to reinforce Pancasila as the only ideology to counter radicalism. The recent terrorist bombing in Jakarta and the fighting against ISIS in Marawi, the Philippines, have also signalled the urgency for the Indonesian government to block fundamentalist ideology before it grows graver.
As the first step, the government has recently moved to ban Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, an Islamist group aiming to create a caliphate government. Furthermore, the police have placed Rizieq Shihab, the leader of the notorious Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) – said to be currently “hiding” in Saudi Arabia – on its most wanted list. FPI is responsible for various sectarian incidents and was the main propagator of the blasphemy charges against Jakarta’s former Christian governor Basuki Purnama. The police also clamp down on FPI sympathizers who intimidated social-media users who posted dissenting opinions to their position.
The government’s renewed vigor in upholding Pancasila is welcomed by many proponents of unity and tolerance. The largest Muslim organization that advocates religious tolerance, Nahdlatul Ulama, has also reiterated its support for Pancasila as the sole national ideology. The University of Indonesia, the country’s most prominent public university, has recently stated its commitment to fight against radicalism on campus.
While President Joko Widodo’s new Pancasila task-force may, for some, hark back to New Order’s ideological strategy, the current state of intolerance in society does call for a real and effective move towards the re-inculcation of a national ideology that upholds unity in diversity.
Dr Deasy Simandjuntak is Visiting Fellow at the Indonesia Studies Programme at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.
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