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President Joko Widodo: There Is No Room For Radicals
President Joko Widodo
Tuesday, 06 June, 2017 | 21:30 WIB
President Joko Widodo: There Is No Room For Radicals

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - PRESIDENT Joko Widodo kept his cool when insults were hurled at him during the series of mass rallies called Defend Islam which first broke out in November last year. He has also appeared unfazed amid an alleged conspiracy to overthrow his government. 

His reaction, however, was very different when confronted with groups accused of plotting to replace the state philosophy; a few weeks ago, he ordered the security forces to 'squash' anyone attempting to threaten the state ideology, Pancasila, and the unity of the country. He made the statement on three different occasions. It was the same expression used by former President Suharto to counter issues that could disrupt the New Order. "Because it concerns such fundamental issues, no other word could have been used," Jokowi, 55, said. 

While taking a firm stance against radical groups, the President also urged the public to reconcile after deep fissures divided the country during the elections for regional heads. He stressed it is the duty of the candidates, the campaign teams and the political elite to educate the public that elections are part of a vibrant democracy in which hostilities among voters should not drag on. "When the elections are over, move on. Don't push people to keep on vilifying one another," advised the former Jakarta governor, who previously had also been the mayor of Surakarta. 

Last Tuesday, President Jokowi met Tempo's Budi Setyarso, Wahyu Dhyatmika, Istman Musaharun and Raymundus Rikang for an interview at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta. The President was accompanied by his spokesperson, Johan Budi, and the chief of press, media and information, Bey Machmudin. Throughout the interview, Johan and Bey often interrupted to advise the President to not comment on sensitive issues such as the political maneuvering by the Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces and the religious blasphemy case against former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. "Their job is to distract you guys," the President joked about his staffers. 

What is the reason behind your response to intolerance and radicalism using the word 'squash' (gebuk)?

I want to make it clear that Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) are final and complete. They cannot be fiddled with. The honourable founders of our nation, the freedom fighters and even the clerics, all agreed on the foundation of our national ideology. That is the exact right word for anyone who dares to meddle with these (foundations). No other word is more appropriate than 'squash'! We cannot negotiate with people attempting to mess around with our nation's fundamentals and ideology.

Did the word come out spontaneously, or was it scripted?

It just popped up during a meeting with media chiefs at the Merdeka Palace three weeks ago.

Many have likened the usage of the word to the repressive language of the New Order... 

(Laughing) For such fundamental issues no other word can be used. A half-hearted statement would have sounded weak. Particularly when it concerns something this fundamental, we cannot respond with normal statements. It is the right choice of a word.

How acute is this ideological threat that you deem it necessary to be so firm?

It is a warning that the existence of Pancasila, the Constitution, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika and our unitary state are fundamental issues, and that no one should attempt to mess with them.

Is the government's effort to disband Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) a response to their attempts in meddling with the state ideology? 

The coordinating ministry for politics, law and security (Kemenkopolhukam) has been reviewing HTI's dissolution for a while. The government makes no discrimination--this can be carried out on individuals, groups or organizations.

Are there plans to disband other radical organizations?

Ask Pak Wiranto, the Kemenkopolhukam Minister, about organizations on their radar. I'm not talking about only one or two organizations. There could be four, five, or even six.

Is the FPI (Islamic Defenders Front) among them?

The Kemenkopolhukam will look into that. I don't want to make premature comments because the review is still ongoing. Ours is a huge country with 250 million inhabitants. We cannot let groups with only 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000 members harm the whole population.

Is dissolving organizations the best solution to combat radicalism? 

For me, there is no room for radical organizations that interfere with the nation's fundamental matters. Of course the squashing will be done according to the confines of the law.

Are you not worried you may lose supporters for the 2019 general elections, as these organizations are backed by many Muslims?

Many people have given me similar advice. If a leader always considers political support, well, the very basic issues will never be solved.

It seems like you tend to ignore political calculations when making decisions?

Because I uphold and safeguard the Constitution and the will of the people.

Does the government have other strategies to fight intolerance?

I'm currently putting together a presidential taskforce spearheaded by Moslem intellectual Pak Yudi Latif to promote the Pancasila ideology. I will sign the decree this week. This taskforce was set up because in the past 19 years, since the reforms in 1998, there have been no efforts to feed people's thinking, so other groups do this instead.

What is the duty of this task force?

To make applicable the understanding of Pancasila through contemporary means. It can be via comics, vlogs or Instagram--more youth-friendly channels. We can no longer use training methods set up like during the New Order era, although there will still be discussions and seminars, and making use of face-to-face encounters.

Why are you involving the military in the anti-terror strategy?

Many countries, be they in Europe, Asia or America, are being beset by terrorism. These countries also involve their military in fighting terrorism. At the High-Level Arab Islamic American Summit in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, the only topics discussed were the threats of terrorism and radicalism. Nothing else. I shared Indonesia's counter-terrorism experience at the forum.

To what extent will the army be involved?

Terrorism Law No. l5/2003 indeed gives the national police the authority to handle terrorism. However, I also want the armed forces to have power and more space in these matters, of course after discussions and taking into account special notes from the House of Representatives (DPR). The government and the DPR will deliberate to what extent the military will be given jurisdiction (in these matters).

Are you not worried that human rights violations might re-occur?

Those are traumas from the past that are carried over into the present. Do not be swayed by preconceptions. With the transparency we have now, the public can monitor (what happens). I do not believe violations will occur because we now have a professional army.

Many say that Armed Forces Commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo is playing politics… 

(Laughing) Ask the commander.

Are you noticing his political moves?

There is nothing out of the ordinary.

Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine



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