The Indonesian state ideology, pancasila, makes a return to centre stage.
The word itself is derived from two Sanskrit words, "panca" meaning five, and "sila" meaning principles. These five tenets of the philosophy are:
Pancasila was affirmed by Sukarno in 1945 and it forms the basis of the Indonesian constitution. In the time of Suharto Pancasila became much more clearly the state philosophy and great amounts of propaganda were put out to drive the message home. However since the fall of Suharto Pancasila has been in a somewhat awkward position with few standing up to defend it from the assaults of radical Islamic groups. That may be changing now.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is reported by the Jakarta Post as saying that abandoning the Pancasila state ideology for narrow religious or ethnic-based ideologies will only jeopardize the unity and diversity of the nation. In a speech to commemorate the founding of Pancasila on Thursday, Yudhoyono said the ideology was not an absolute doctrine but a compromise reached by the nation's founding fathers, who had realized that Indonesia was a country made up of people from many faiths and ethnic groups.
Let us make Pancasila the basis for reform. In this period of transition, many of us tend to create new realities and directions but abandon the old values, which should become part of our identity and be used as a tool for unity.
We should end the debate on alternatives to the Pancasila as our ideology. We should keep on with efforts to increase the people's welfare and to uphold justice based on the ideology that we have.
The speech seems to have carried an implicit message to the country's hardline Muslim groups, which are attempting to have sharia law imposed in various parts of the nation. It also addressed ethnic minority groups, some of which have called for independence from Indonesia.
Pancasila, Yudhoyono said, was an ideology that saw all Indonesians as equal, despite their different faiths and ethnicities.
Nowadays, if we discuss Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, and the unity of Indonesia, most people will quickly associate us with the New Order regime, which limited human rights and was an anti-reform movement.
We are in the process of reconstructing our nation. But in that process there are 'invisible hands' (groups) which are trying to spread their ideas among us.
While these groups had some good values, others were not in the spirit of pluralism and tolerance, he said. Yudhoyono said the political freedoms people had won after 1998 had led to a lessening of central government authority and a surge in identity politics, which was weakening the nation. Instead of seeing themselves as Indonesians, people now tended to group themselves along ethnic, religious or socioeconomic lines, he said.
Meanwhile a group of activists began circulating a petition yesterday seeking nationwide support to preserve Indonesia's diversity and to fight back against growing intolerance that they warn could tear the nation apart.
Today, we are reiterating Indonesia as our common goal, a goal that has yet to be accomplished. Today, we appeal to Indonesia to awaken in spirit and body, to unite in diversity
Todung Mulya Lubis, a human rights campaigner, said in reading the declaration at a ceremony marking the 61st anniversary of the state ideology Pancasila. The ceremony at the Jakarta Convention Center capped off a series of gatherings held in the past two weeks as people, with the help of prominent universities, sought to restore Pancasila as the unifying national ideology.
While the declaration makes no reference to any particular threat, it was clear from earlier discussions that the activists were particularly concerned at the inroads made by the Muslim religious right in national politics, at times accompanied by the use of force, the Jakarta Post says.
More than a dozen prominent figures and pro-democracy advocates who signed the petition accompanied Lubis on stage as he read the declaration. They included Goenawan Mohamad, Jakob Oetama, Rahman Toleng, H.S. Dillon, Rosita Noor, Karlina Supelli, Azyumardi Azra, Daniel Dhakidae, Mochtar Pabottingi and B. Herry-Priyono.
Among the invited guests were President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his Cabinet members, political leaders and religious leaders.
Also present were members of religious minorities, including from Ahmadiyah, which the Minister of Religion has labeled a deviant Islamic sect. Ahmadiyah followers have been the target of physical attacks in the past year by radical Islamic groups.
These and raids on churches in many parts of Indonesia have raised doubts about the government's capability to live up to its task in protecting people's freedom of religion, as mandated by the 1945 Constitution, and their right to practice their faith.
We are gathered here to reiterate Indonesia as the place where we stand; Indonesia as a treasured heritage but also as an ideal; the Indonesia that was not only a mandate for our predecessors, but which is also vested for the millions of children still to be born.
the declaration reads.
Guests were asked to sign the petition on leaving the ceremony, with the declaration also to be circulated nationwide to gain wider support. Thursday was the first time in many years that the Pancasila anniversary was officially commemorated in a grand ceremony, although the initiative came from outside the government.
The hard question remains, how far is the government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono prepared to go in dealing with the problem of Islamic radicalism, will it take concrete steps rather than just speech-making.