Opinion

Indonesians, Pancasila
and oblivion

In the past we used to commemorate June 1 as Pancasila Day to mark the day in 1945, when Sukarno, then 44 years old, laid the philosophic basis for what would become the new nation of Indonesia.

The speech, the result of many years of serious study and observation on the nature of Indonesian society, became famous as Lahirnja Pantja Sila, or the Birth of Pancasila. Two-and-a-half months later, Sukarno became the first president of the Republic of Indonesia.

Like it or not, the speech contained brilliant thoughts, leading Daniel Lev to credit Sukarno with having “built a state out of nothing”. Indeed, the five principles of Pancasila were enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution in formal terms. However, whether Indonesians truly respect Pancasils as their own national philosophy is another issue.

As a matter of healthy reasoning, there is nothing wrong with the Five Principles. Normal people, by and large, have no problem with believing in divinity, humanism, nationalism, consensual decision making and social justice.

Yet Indonesians themselves, apparently, have a big problem in paying heed to the principles defined by Sukarno for the sake of an independent, great and prosperous state. It is also ironic that it was Sukarno himself who became the first to deviate from his brilliant political philosophy.

Following the Dutch handover of West Irian (now Papua) in 1962, tensions among the army, Islamic political groups and the Communists started to intensify. With the intention of getting the upper hand over all the conflicting parties, Sukarno introduced his concept of nasakom, a portmanteau of the Indonesian words for nationalism, religion and communism. Although Sukarno has shed his thoughts about communism during his youth in 1926, this time, his idea of nasakom directly contradicted Pancasila and things came to a head during the bloody change of power in 1965.

As we knew, Gen. Soeharto became the nation’s next president and reinstated Pancasila to unify the country, this time minus the Communists. He institutionalized Pancasila with such vigor that the concept became a subject of formal teaching in schools and was used to indoctrinate people in all manner of social constellations. Pancasila became a bureaucratic ideology that almost no Indonesian would dare to criticize. Indonesian society became increasingly dull: People memorized the percepts of Pancasila, placed its principles on a pedestal everywhere while simultaneously evincing skepticism. In more serious case, people did not believe in what they did.

Enter Reform in 1998. Since then, we have behaved hypocritical: the Five Principles are still the foundation of the 1945 Constitution, but we don’t even think about Pancasila. We have completely forgotten that Sukarno’s ideas had united Indonesians during their struggle for independence and when coping with the tremendous problems plaguing the fledgling republic.

As such, whatever we name it: Weltanschauung (world view) in the words of Sukarno, ideology in the mind of Soeharto, or state philosophy for constitutionalists, Pancasila has proven to be a strong unifying force.

After 15 years, the mess of Reform has made us unfortunate witnesses of irresponsible steps in democracy. We are now have a situation resembling the time when Sukarno launched a coup by presidential decree on July 5, 1959: Down with parliamentarian democracy based on the 1950 Provisional Constitution, long live a presidential democracy (i.e., Guided Democracy) based on the 1945 Constitution!

Hans Kelsen’s doctrine of effectively has proven that winners always make the law. Acceptance of the 1945 Constitution as the result of Sukarno’s coup in 1959 was accepted until 1998.

While reform indeed brought down Soeharto’s authoritarian rule, by amending the 1945 Constitution, lawmakers have enhanced their rule and created a majority that has increasingly become despotic. It is hard to ignore that despite strong economic growth (albeit amid an increasing income gap), the nation faces a serious problem. The truth is that the powerful have become untouchable, officials charged with corruption appear smiling in public, high-ranking public officials are irresponsibly incompetent — and the government oversees all that has been happening with ease and omission.

This problem has brought about a new age of evil in Indonesia and will lead us to become a failed state if nothing is done. We have a situation where we need something that can again unite the people against such threats. In the past, the pioneers of the republic were united by Pancasila to fight against and overcome a very strong evil — the colonial powers — in order to establish an independent and modern republic for its citizens. However, the evil that we now confront is worse than colonialism, because the despotic majority will bring this hard-won republic down, slowly but surely.

Many ask what is stopping the reintroduction of Pancasila and thus to turn the tide. The answer is simple: There are strong forces that are enjoying the situation and doing their best to keep Pancasila ineffective. They simply don’t like Pancasila. It is high time for Indonesians themselves to prove that Pancasila is good for Indonesia. For that. Indonesians need to provide proof again that they are stronger than evil, whether colonial powers in the past or the current majority despots.

Let’s start with the true leaders, the people, provided hopefully, that there are some of them ready for
the task.

The writer is a lawyer for the firm of Nurhadian, Kartohadiprodjo Noorcahyo in Jakarta.

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