Anti-Ahok demonstrators rally in Jakarta, October 2016. (Antara Photo/Rivan Awal Lingga)

Commentary: President Must Take Action As Pancasila Is in Danger


NOVEMBER 01, 2016

The government's lack of resoluteness in controlling radical groups' unlimited freedom has now backfired. After Islamic hardliners demonstrated right at the heart of the capital city and angry reactions from various places over Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama case branched out to disturb national stability, now a group of adventurous radicals are calling on the nation to abandon the state ideology Pancasila and replace it with Shariah law.

As the nation was commemorating the 88th anniversary of Youth Pledge Day on Oct. 28, the group calling themselves Gerakan Masyarakat (Gema) Pembebasan meaning "people's liberation movement" staged a demonstration in front of Gedung Sate, Bandung, West Java, with banners that urged society to abandon the commemoration and uphold the Shariah ideology instead.

The Youth Pledge of 1928 was the second national landmark (after Budi Utomo Movement of 1908), that unified young leaders from various parts of the archipelago to declare Indonesia having one motherland, one nation and one language. This was an embryo of Pancasila and in fact the state ideology's third principle of Indonesian Unity was derived from the two historic events.

One of the subversive banners in Bandung read: "The Youth Pledge is outlandish and outdated, rise up with the Islamic ideology."

The cancer that Indonesia's shallow and corruption-ridden democracy has refused to heal, against all odds, is intuition preservation by the state of the breeding ground of radicalism. One may argue this isn't the case but no one can repulse the reality of society's uneasiness and dismay over the radicals' haughty shows of force in ignorant defense of what they presume to be the right way of pleasing God.

Democracy has no quality in this country as everything is highly costly, procedural rather than substantive, lacking a solid foundation and clear direction. And in the name of democracy also Indonesia's Reform-era governments have failed to contain the brimming libido of disguised subversives that are rending the nation's ideology and human rights.

Bowing to pressure from a few groups of fanatics whose interpretation of Islamic doctrines contradiction of the peaceful and orderly Muslim majority is a mistake that needs courageous rectification. The majority of Muslims in Indonesia advocate peace, harmony, and solidarity. Islam has since the nation's independence in 1945 been the majority religion yet the majority of Muslims' mature religiosity and tolerance dictate that they uphold harmony in the framework of pluralistic national unity.

So why have the minority groups of radicals taken the country hostage? There are at least five underlying triggers to mention.

Firstly, the factor of presumed international injustice. Western powers' handling of the Palestinian crisis sends wrong signals to the world's largest Muslim-dominated country. The pains suffered by Palestinians since Yasser Arafat's era are felt directly in Indonesia as hurting millions.

The prevailing, though irrational, perception here is that Jews and Christians are forever to blame for all the pains, regardless of what actually happens over there.

Secondly, social jealousy resulting from economic backwardness or stagnation. Radicals are mainly either economically disadvantaged or socially annoyed well-to-do people, or both, who are impatient to see the lion's share of the nation's economic pie being swallowed from one generation to another by the debatable "non-indigenous" few. This has nothing to do with religious sentiments, but a lack of government solution aggravates and perpetuates the sentiments.

Thirdly, a lack of stern rules on the conduct of mass organizations, meaning that such laws need to be strengthened, because there is only a fine line bordering "rightist extremism" and sound practices of faith amidst different interpretations of religious doctrines.

The government's response has always been security-oriented, lacking the awareness for immunizing or taming the breeding ground of radical behavior. Security-oriented response means action is taken only when public order is disturbed. But agitations, hate speech and the spread of provocative brain-washing teachings are left untouched. In cyberspace today the reality is more alarming than just a proxy war tendency.

Fourthly, weak national leadership. Radicalism and extremism can never be overcome with democratic approach, just as advancing state enemies cannot be confronted with sentimental music. Persuading radicals and extremists to stop their dangerous ideologies is the policy of wishful thinkers. The troublemakers won't listen.

Democracy here is 50 percent + 1. The big majority of our population are peaceful and moderate people who refuse to subscribe to rightist ideologies. Why bow to the pressure of the radical few to create the impression that the government is against the democratic axiom?

The fifth trigger is ignorance. It is an attitude rather than low levels of intellectual capacity. It is the attitude of rejecting anything other than what one believes as the truth, albeit wrongly. And ignorance is the result of misleading indoctrination for which the government's remedy is ineffective.

Ignorance can only be removed with holistic education. Secular education can't do it; it only would aggravate itself, because of the lack of true understanding of human values and dignity.

Countries like Singapore don't need religions in schools yet their graduates have a high level of discipline and integrity to be tolerant to one another and practice a harmoniously moderate rather than extreme attitude in social life.

They don't have Pancasila as state ideology but they implement its five principles more faithfully than we do — faith in God, just and civilized humanity, national unity, democratic representation and social justice.

To overcome radical behavior in society and ensure long-term national stability, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo needs to take action by issuing an emergency regulation on deradicalization of rightist mass organizations and their handling by relevant state organs. This needs to guarantee free speech but at the same time ensure public order, human rights and national stability.

Until such a stern decree is in force, radicals will continue to rock stability with their narrow-minded acts that annoy majority of the population. Deradicalizing those elements must also include revamping the curriculum in certain schools that are not sufficiently founded on the state ideology. This is the priority the president needs to act on.

Pitan Daslani is a senior political analyst and a former journalist for the Jakarta Post, Jakarta Globe, Radio Deutsche Welle, Radio Netherlands and Yomiuri Shimbun. He can be reached at