Mahfud Md: Separatism Is Worse Than Radicalism

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta -  Last Wednesday, October 23, was a long day for Mohammad Mahfud Md. He was at the Presidential Palace bright and early to be sworn in as the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.

    After the ceremony, with his wife, Zaizatun Nihajati, Mahfud went to his new office in Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat in Central Jakarta for the handover of duties from his predecessor, Wiranto. Mahfud was astonished to see Wiranto at the ceremony as the latter was still being treated for his stab wounds from the incident in Pandeglang, Banten on October 10. “I was really touched that I could do the handover directly with Pak Wiranto,” Mahfud said.

    In the afternoon, the minister of defense and later the minister of laws and legislation during Abdurrahman Wahid administration held a family event at his South Jakarta residence. After the sun went down, he headed back to the office for a series of meetings including one with Comsr. Gen. Idham Azis, the newly-minted National Police chief. Mahfud, 62, finally wrapped up his agenda with a special interview with Tempo’s Maulana, Wayan Agus, Devy Ernis and Aisha Shaidra that proceeded till 10:30 pm.

    The Constitutional Court’s chief justice for the period 2008-2013 explained various matters, from his duties mandated by the president, the civilian leadership over the military to change his position at the last minute. “Actually, I was projected to become attorney-general. I’ve even had a concept already for corruption eradication programs if the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) becomes weak,” he said.

    Mahfud, who was Prabowo Subianto’s campaign team leader in the 2014 presidential race, also shed light on his relationships with Prabowo, who is now the new defense minister. “He looks calmer now.”

    How was the process of your appointment as the new coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs?

    Actually, I was projected to become attorney-general. On Sunday, October 20, at around 1 pm, Pak Pratikno (the state secretariat minister) contacted me asking me to be available on Monday and Tuesday because the president would summon me to lead M1-a moniker for attorney general because the office is located in Block M, South Jakarta. But as soon as the President concluded his inauguration speech at the People’s Consultative Assembly (on Sunday, October 20), Pak Pratikno called again and said that there had been an adjustment and that I would be asked to head the ministry of political, legal and security affairs (Kemenkopolhukam).

    What was your reaction?

    I was perplexed. I’ve already thought of a concept to balance corruption eradication efforts. If the KPK becomes weak, the Attorney-General’s Office (AGO) has to be strong. That will be the direction of my work. But, okay, the President has other considerations and I was asked to go further. Well, that’s how I ended up as the coordinating minister.

    What is the President’s rationale for the change?

    He knows my track record. For political experience, I’ve been in the House of Representatives (DPR) and a political party. As the former ministry of defense and the ministry of justice, I have experience in the government. Pak Jokowi said that I would be the Menkopolhukam but I should not tell the press waiting at the palace because he would announce it. That’s why I was evasive about my position until the inauguration.

    Do you prefer to be the attorney-general or the Menkopolhukam?

    It’s all the same for me.

    What was the President’s message upon your appointment?

    To handle legal issues, radicalism, human rights protection, deradicalization, separatism, and so on which are indeed part of the Menkopolhukam’s job.

    What are the priority tasks?

    None. Only to continue (the current programs). I have materials from Pak Wiranto which are quite good.

    What kind of homework did Wiranto pass on to you?

    A lot. Books this many (using hands to describe the stack of books). As Pak Jokowi said, human rights is now a problem. I will explain to the public about the problems and our work program.

    How serious is the President’s attention towards deradicalization?

    He said radicalism threatens ideology. Radicalism in question is the one that threatens national unity and ideology. What is the proof? The divisions among the public, cyber wars that always attack the government and promote alternative ideologies. The President understands this very well, and therefore we have to handle it seriously. The tasks are distributed among many ministries. Those relating to defending the ideology are under the realm of the defense ministry whereas disseminating religious awareness falls under the charge of the religious affairs ministry. I can go in anywhere.

    What is the government’s definition of radicalism?

    When I met the President last Monday, we didn’t have the chance to discuss it in-depth as the meeting was brief. The definition of radicalism is highly academic. There are 11 characteristics that I could not possibly discuss at the time. So, the discussion was general. Based on the root word, radicalism is a movement aimed to fundamentally change a given ideology via informal procedures. The system in place is considered rotten and it, therefore, must be changed. People of different opinions are considered enemies.

    Is it true that the appointment of Tito Karnavian (the National Police chief for 2016-2019) as the home affairs minister was related to the spread of radicalism within the civil service?

    Yes, but that is not part of the President’s directives. It’s common knowledge that some percentage of civil servants, as well as state-owned enterprises employees and 3 percent of the armed forces, have been ‘infected’ by radicalism.

    Read the full interview in Tempo English Magazine