Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, during Saturday evening's presidential debate with his challenger, Prabowo Subianto, said it was better for the country's leaders to adhere to the values of Pancasila in their daily lives and interactions. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak)

Prabowo Reinvigorates Commitment to Pancasila; Jokowi: Let's Not Blaspheme Each Other


MARCH 31, 2019

Jakarta. Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto crushed any concerns that he may compromise Indonesia's national unity by being too cozy with radical Islamists during Saturday evening's debate.

The former Army general, in a heated tone, said he has been at the receiving end of accusations that he supports the movement that seeks to establish an Islamic state, or caliphate, in Indonesia. 

"This is something very unreasonable. My mother is a Christian. I was born from a Christian womb," Prabowo said, stating the fact in public for the first time in years. 

"I, from the age of 18, risked my life to defend Pancasila. I put my life at stake for this republic; why am I being accused of wanting to change Pancasila?" he said about the official state ideology.

"These are really cruel acquisitions, but I believe Mr. Jokowi doesn't approve of them," he added, referring to the incumbent, Joko Widodo, by his popular nickname.

Prabowo has been rallying Islamist support for his presidential ticket, seeking to replicate a strategy that proved successful two years ago in toppling Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta's widely popular former governor, who is a Christian.

The chairman of the opposition Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) revamped his Islamic credentials with a formal endorsement of his candidacy by the ulema. The party also opposed a move by the Jokowi administration to disband Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, the local branch of a transnational movement that aims to establish a global caliphate. 

But when asked to state his position on Pancasila, Prabowo reinvigorated his commitment to the state ideology. 

"For us, Pancasila is the final ideology," he said.

"Pancasila is the result of a major compromise, of the brilliance of our founding generation. Pancasila succeeded in uniting hundreds of ethnic groups, major religions, different cultures and different languages. This compromise resulted in the ‎Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia‎, therefore we are determined to maintain Pancasila to the last drop of blood."

"I, at the age of 18, signed an oath to defend the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, based on Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. If anyone wants to change this, I will face them with all the strength I have." 

Early Education

Jokowi had little to disagree with in Prabowo's statement.

"I believe Mr. Prabowo is a 'Pancasilaist.' I also believe Mr. Prabowo is a nationalist," the president said. 

But he added that it is better for leaders to adhere to the values of Pancasila in their daily lives and interactions. 

"Let's not blaspheme each other; not insult each other; not underestimate each other; not disparage each other, which we now see our politicians doing," Jokowi said, adding that the country's leaders should behave in a way that sets a healthy example for young people.

The two candidates agreed that Pancasila should be introduced to Indonesian children from an early age. 

"Education of our children should start, not from kindergarten, but from preschool," Jokowi said. 

The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) has found many examples over the past three years of extremist literature distributed at Islamic preschools in Indonesia stating that it is halal, or lawful under Islamic law, to shed the blood of non-Muslims. 

"Children must be told how to be tolerant, because we have 714 tribes. Children must also be told how to be friends with their brothers and sisters of the same country, which has more than 1,100 different regional languages," Jokowi said.


Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the advisory council of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), said the discourse between the idea of a caliphate – in its narrowest sense an Islamic state – and Pancasila had been resolved by the Indonesian ulema long ago. 

He said Indonesia can be considered Darul Ahdi wa Shahadah, or a state based on an agreement between Muslims and their fellow countrymen, which Muslims are obliged to uphold. 

He acknowledged the connotation recently attached to the idea of a caliphate, which links it with the movement to dismantle Indonesia's current political system and replace it with something based solely on Islamic law. But he warned that using it in politics could cause irreparable damage to the nation.    

"Broadbrushing something considered anti-Pancasila onto a particular group is a labeling and generalization that are dangerous and which can create an atmosphere of division in the fabric of the nation," Din said.