The Jakarta Post
Bila rakyat berani mengeluh (When people dare to complain)/
Itu artinya sudah gawat (It means a crisis is happening)/
Dan bila omongan penguasa (When the ruler’s words)/
Tidak boleh dibantah (Cannot be argued)/
Kebeneran pasti terancam (The truth is definitely under threat)/
Poet Wiji Thukul wrote this poem in 1986. An outspoken antigovernment critic and labor activist, Wiji disappeared in 1998, the year Soeharto stepped down after 32 years of dictatorship.
Wiji’s poem is a message for all, including the political elite, religious leaders and laypersons. When people turn angry as they meet their leaders, there must be something wrong with the leaders. This is the case perhaps because it is believed that the rulers are the one who rob from their people, and so the only way to stop the injustice is to fight.
In the case of Wiji, his resistance led to his disappearance, with nobody held responsible.
The state of emergency that Wiji’s poem alludes to found its justification on Thursday, albeit in a different context, when a man stabbed Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto in Banten. The attack proves that safety and security is a luxury in this country and perhaps the worst has yet to come.
The nation is definitely in danger when a VVIP who normally enjoys extra protection falls victim to assault.
State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Budi Gunawan identified the attacker as Abu Rara, a suspected member of terrorist group Jamaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD), which is linked to the Islamic State (IS) movement.
When commenting on the surprise attack, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said he had warned of threats from IS and its affiliates against the country five years ago. “But people refused to buy it,” Ryamizard said in Papua, where bloody riots occurred recently.
Wiranto was among several figures who received death threats when protests erupted in Jakarta over the result of the presidential election last May.
I have little knowledge about IS. But I agree with Ryamizard that Indonesia and its democracy are facing a clear and present danger, which can be traced to terrorism, inequality and growing intolerance among people of different religions and ethnicities. But many have opted to deny the warning and accuse the government of spreading fear or seeking justification to curb freedoms.
As a Catholic by birth, I firmly believe Indonesia, a Muslim-majority nation, is on the right path of democracy. Most of my Muslim friends are tolerant, peaceful and moderate. Many conservative Muslims are also peaceful. Conversely, radicalism and intolerance can be found among my fellow Christians.
Do not ignore the warning that intolerance, distrust and hatred loom in the country, which is characterized by its diversity. Perhaps many are becoming impatient with what they believe is social injustice. Unfortunately, those who search for power make use of such frustration to achieve their ambitions.
Wiranto is the first VVIP victim of a terrorist-style attack in more than five decades. Let us pray for his speedy recovery. The 72-year-old retired general, who will soon end his service in the Cabinet, was targeted apparently because of his job.
Not only has he dealt with mass protests against the government, as in the recent demonstrations against attempts to weaken the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), but he also had to face those who simply hate President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and want to delegitimize him at all costs.
The attack, believed to be carefully planned, occurred just 10 days before Jokowi begins his second term in office. It is just nonsense to refer to the assault as an ordinary incident.
There is no reason to play it down, let alone deny the threats that surround it.
The perpetrators of the attack should be punished for the crime and for posing a threat to the nation. We cannot pretend as if nothing wrong has happened to this country, or else the evil acts will repeat in a more destructive way. We shall never let the Bali bombings of 17 years ago, which we will commemorate on Saturday, recur.
Some may connect the assault with Wiranto’s past as the powerful military chief under Soeharto and during the transition to democracy. Whatever he did during those years cannot be used as a justification for his stabbing.
After his swearing-in on Oct. 20, Jokowi will announce his Cabinet lineup. As a token of appreciation for Wiranto, it would be wise for the President to delay the announcement until after the retired general fully recovers.
After a tumultuous time, marked by demonstrations that have claimed the lives of some protesters and an attack on a Cabinet member, can we protect our democracy, which has given us pride in the eyes of the international community? Yes we can, although it will be tough and difficult.
No matter what, Indonesia will never backtrack from its commitment to democracy. So, please, world, stop jeering at us while we are in trouble.