The Jakarta Post
It is too bad that as we are about to commemorate the birth of Pancasila on June 1, we are embroiled in a debate over such a trivial issue as the salary for eminent persons entrusted to reinvigorate the state ideology. Not only does the controversy lack substance, it will distract us from the need to reflect on our commitment to the five principles that are supposed to characterize this nation.
Of course, the spectacle of schoolchildren or adults struggling to memorize the five principles in front of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo during his field trip does not necessarily suggest Pancasila is losing its relevance. It is simply a logical consequence of the end of mandatory Pancasila courses for all students and civil servants, which was no more than indoctrination, as participants had to memorize 36 (later on 45) points on daily attitudes and behavior that comply with Pancasila values both as individuals and community members.
The real cause for concern is the creeping ignorance of Pancasila as the foundation of the nation. Worse, there are people or groups who consistently reject Pancasila and attempt to spread their own beliefs and views about Indonesia, but law enforcers can only act effectively against them if they commit violence.
In many cases, people breach the first principle of Pancasila by denying the freedom of religion of others and their right to profess their faith. The latest example is the attack on followers of the Ahmadiyah minority, who mainstream Muslims brand as heretical, in the West Nusa Tenggara regency of East Lombok early this month. The rampant violations of minority rights by the majority also constitute disagreement with the second principle of Pancasila.
And where was the state when the noble values of Pancasila were infringed upon? We have seen the government as representation of the state justifying the persecution in the way it keeps laws and regulations intact just to please the majority.
The list of “antiPancasila” acts goes on if we include the current proliferation of hate speech and fake news intended to smear political rivals, but as a result they divide the nation, society and even families. The police have been getting tough with those spreading hatred, but their measures are prone to abuse of power.
It seems Pancasila has been forgotten ever since we embarked on sweeping reforms 20 years ago, simply because the old regime abused the state ideology to cling to power. For decades Pancasila served as a lethal weapon of the New Order to silence, if not exterminate, the opposition.
The crisis of confidence in Pancasila was behind the government-sponsored move to revitalize the state ideology, including the establishment of the Agency for the Implementation of State Ideology Pancasila (BPIP), whose steering committee members’ salaries of more than Rp 100 million (US$7,210) per month have ignited controversy.
A salary is just a number, but those eminent persons who run the agency are nevertheless our assets who will hopefully guide this nation back to its founding values. Happy Birthday, Pancasila!