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Jakarta Post

Specter of communism polarizes PDI-P infighting: Sources

  • Margareth S. Aritonang

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, July 9, 2020   /   09:50 am
Specter of communism polarizes PDI-P infighting: Sources A motorcyclist passes a Garuda Pancasila mural painted on a wall on Jl. Puspitek Raya in South Tangerang, Banten, on Monday. Pancasila was officially promulgated by founding father Sukarno on June 1, 1945, but only in 2016 did Pancasila Day become a public holiday. (JP / Dhoni Setiawan)

As the country’s only political party that has welcomed members linked to the now defunct and outlawed Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), accusations of supporting communism are hardly new for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

The ruling party has survived decades of attacks on that premise, which PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto refers to as “frequently fabricated political tactics to ruin the party’s electability”.

Read also: Muslim preacher accused of calling PDI-P members communists acquitted

The issue also emerged during the 2014 presidential elections when the party first nominated Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as its candidate – he was accused of being the son of a communist supporter at the time. But the party’s opponents did not succeed, with the PDI-P going on to secure the majority of votes in two consecutive elections.

The ploy was recently used again to attack the party in the form of protest against the proposed Pancasila ideology guidelines (HIP) bill, but this time the hit seems to have landed and has polarized political infighting between Puan Maharani and Prananda Prabowo, two children of PDI-P matron Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Puan, the current House of Representatives speaker, and her less well-known step-brother Prananda have privately traded barbs as the party looks to tame opposition from Muslim conservatives and groups of military retirees who accuse the PDI-P of attempting to invoke communism through the bill, according to at least two political sources familiar with the process.

Read also: Red scare sinks Pancasila bill in House

The controversial bill itself is the result of rivalry between two competing factions led by Puan and Prananda, respectively, both of whom have been touted as potential candidates to succeed Megawati as the party’s chairperson, the two sources from within the party told The Jakarta Post.

The growing rivalry among them is seen as a challenge that analyst Firman Noor from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) cited as “the most determining factor in the party’s future against all potential threats from outside of the party”.

The two party members, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the topic, said that the bill was initially inspired by the idea of increasing the authority of the Agency for Pancasila Ideology Education (BPIP) led by Megawati, by turning it into a ministerial-level institution. The proposal was made by party executive Ahmad Basarah, a known Puan loyalist.

Basarah is also deputy chairman of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), which oversees the implementation of Pancasila as the state ideology, and is leader of the party’s faction at the MPR.

According to the sources, the proposal was seized upon by Prananda and his faction, who prepared a draft bill that excluded Basarah from the process.

The resulting bill was “unexpectedly disappointing” because it raised controversy and sparked strong opposition from conservative groups due to its failure to mention the 1966 Provisional MPR Decree (TAP MPRS), one source said.

In 1966, then-president Soeharto declared communism the nation’s ideological pariah, an idea first set out in 1957 when the erstwhile PKI began to take a foothold in national politics, historians have said. The resulting Provisional MPR Decree No. 25/1966 banned communism in Indonesia, and this was later reaffirmed through MPR Decree No. 1/2003.

Read also: PDI-P members report burning of party's flag to police

Following a contentious House plenary session last month involving PDI-P politicians sparring with lawmakers from Muslim-based political parties, the Jokowi administration halted the deliberation of the HIP bill.

Muslim organizations, including Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, along with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), have led the campaign to stop the House from deliberating the HIP bill, which they fear could lead to the reemergence of communism in the country.

The bill includes provisions that interpret and combine the five principles of Pancasila into a singular pillar (eka sila), which has drawn wide criticism for eliminating the first principle of Pancasila: the belief in one God.

Prananda’s faction had secured control over the deliberation process at the House Legislative Body (Baleg), which was until recently cochaired by a party executive member, Rieke Dyah Pitaloka, sources said.

The bill faced strong opposition from Muslim conservatives, which led other members of the ruling coalition to turn their backs on the PDI-P, they said.

Read also: PDI-P, Gerindra slammed for lodging ‘vested interest’ bills

Rieke, who is known as a close friend of Prananda, was replaced as of Wednesday as Baleg deputy chairwoman by fellow PDI-P politician M. Nurdin, a retired three-star police general.

Speaking to the Post, PDI-P House faction secretary Bambang Wuryanto denied that replacing Rieke had anything to do with the controversy surrounding the HIP bill.

Bambang, who is regarded among party ranks as a “godfather” to Puan, argued that the replacement was necessary to ensure the smooth deliberation of the omnibus bill on job creation, another bill that has sparked controversy.

Pak Nurdin is a highly competent retired police general with comprehensive knowledge and years of experience dealing with legal matters. We need his knowledge and expertise to safeguard the deliberation of the omnibus bill with all its legal complexities,” Bambang explained.

“This bill is on President Jokowi’s priority agenda, which we fully support.”

When asked further about the fate of the HIP bill and the controversy surrounding it, Bambang said the party had agreed to entrust Basarah with the task of taking over the bill’s deliberation because of his comprehensive knowledge about Pancasila.

“Basarah did a PhD on Pancasila as an ideology. It’s best to let him lead the discussion in the public space, especially as he is also leader of the faction at the MPR. He is the expert,” he said.