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Jakarta Post

EDITORIAL: A Pancasila holiday


    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, May 31, 2017   /   08:19 am
EDITORIAL: A Pancasila holiday A man sweeps the floor of the Potent Pancasila Monument in East Jakarta on Sept 26. (Antara Photo/Risky Andrianto)

To the delight of many we have yet another holiday — Pancasila Day, affirming June 1 as the birthday of the state ideology. The famed speech of founding father and first president Sukarno introducing Pancasila was made on June 1, 1945, and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo made the date into a national holiday through a presidential decree last year.

Jokowi’s latest video blog called on citizens to embrace Pancasila values — essentially belief in one God, humanity, unity, consensus and social justice. Pancasila, Jokowi said, “is in every drop of our blood and every beat of our heart. [It is] the cement of our national unity. I am Jokowi. I am Pancasila.” People are encouraged to share testimonies with the hashtag #SayaPancasila (I am Pancasila).

But didn’t Indonesians have enough indoctrination during more than 30 years of Soeharto’s rule, when every student had to memorize 36 items of Pancasila norms and values?

We sure did — which is precisely why the embracing of official commemorations, although through more fun methods than those of old — come with a condition.

The condition is that those in power must never again make themselves the sole authority to interpret and virtually sanctify the ideology and to brand its “traitors” fit to be arrested, locked up and tortured. The constitutional freedom of expression means we have a safe space to debate the ideology.

Calls for intensified teaching of Pancasila values have long come from worried citizens. The calls followed increasing intolerance, mainly against minorities. Activists said embedding Pancasila values in citizens would guarantee respect for Indonesia’s highly plural society.

Making the birthday of Pancasila a national holiday signaled Jokowi’s commitment to safeguarding its teachings. It would be truly cynical if Jokowi, elected to office on a human rights campaign, reverted to New Order-style brutal reaction to claimed attacks on state symbols, including Pancasila.

Today, however, citizens’ voices are loud and diverse. Among them are people traumatized by past alienation of Islamic political aspirations; hence celebrations beyond this “Pancasila Week” must avoid worsening the mistake of suppressing Islamists.

Jokowi is riding high on his popularity among citizens who are wary of what to expect following the series of “defend Islam” rallies. The rallies succeeded in pressuring the court trying outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy. He had earlier lost the Jakarta gubernatorial election, a defeat partly blamed on the whipped-up sentiments against his identity as a Christian of Chinese descent, despite wide praise for his no-nonsense attitude in ruling the capital.

True, many couldn’t care less that the government is moving to ban the Hizbuth Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), an Islamic mass organization calling for a caliphate, as it is said to violate Pancasila, which HTI denies.

However a highly creative campaign, with the government’s efforts to ensure inclusiveness by reducing the social economic gap, is a much better way to convince Indonesians why Pancasila should remain the “cement” binding the archipelago. A holiday for all sounds like a good start.