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Do Not Wait until Indonesia Falls Apart
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Do Not Wait until Indonesia Falls Apart

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The mission is carried out from a room very similar to an 'emergency post' on the second floor of State Secretariat on Jalan Veteran, Central Jakarta. Here Yudi Latif, 53, is crowded with 24 members of the Presidential Working Unit on the Implementation of Pancasila Ideology or UKP-PIP. The sign for the ministry-level institution is only a piece of white paper on the glass door. "If a demonstration is taking place in front of the State Palace, we have to leave because this room is used to welcome demonstrators," Yudi said laughing.

President Joko Widodo established this unit on June 7 to formulate the policy on how to guard Pancasila as the national ideology. In the long run, the unit is responsible for a program to restore the dignity of the state philosophy that has been undermined--or even ridiculed--by groups with radical ideologies.

A number of national figures, among others, Megawati Soekarnoputri, Ahmad Syafii Maarif, Ma'ruf Amin, and Mahfud MD, sit in the Advisory Board. As the Head of Executive Board, Yudi admitted that setting up the UKP-PIP is an emergency action. Circumstances, he said, drive us to reinforce our belief in Pancasila--the foundation of life for Indonesians.

Coming from an academic circle and having been engaged for years in the NGO world, Yudi is not a new face in the ongoing debate around Pancasila. He has written two books on this topic. However, this new job makes Yudi experience something he never directly confronted before: ignorance and most people's poor knowledge about Pancasila. The spread of radical teachings in different social strata, in colleges and schools, worsen the condition. "Only in a crisis like this, we become aware of Pancasila as our guiding star," he told Tempo.

Yudi Latif met with Tempo reporters Raymundus Rikang, Reza Maulana and Hermien Y. Kleden for a special interview at his office in State Secretariat, Jakarta, last Tuesday.

What is the urgency of establishing the Presidential Working Unit on the Implementation of Pancasila Ideology?

The state is cautious about the anti-pluralist fanatic groups that tend to be conservative and radical.

What do you mean precisely?

Public values seemed to disappear since the 1998 Political Reform because from then Pancasila is no longer taught in schools. Socialization is there, but the method is very sporadic, not systematic, and overlapping. Fanatic groups fill up the gap by disseminating radical doctrines.

What is important to watch out?

The advent of radical teachings proves that we neglect the construction of society's value infrastructure, as we pay too much attention on physical infrastructure. Massive development can crumble overnight if we ignore the Pancasila values.

When was the idea of this unit first discussed?

Around five years ago, an idea came out to establish an organization to socialize Pancasila in discussions in the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). However, the situation then, was not conducive yet as people worried that the intention to start this kind of institution was seen as the government's plan to revive the 'Pancasilaist regime'. Now, there was another kind of threat after the 1998 political reform. In the past, threat against freedom came from the state, now it comes from fanatic factions.

Does this mean that the trigger for discussions on the UKP-PIP is the huge blasphemy-related demonstration late last year?

The discussion started before the Defense-Islam Action on November 4, 2016, about a month before Pak Basuki--or Ahok--was protested for blasphemy. It was agreed to postpone the launching of the office as we did not want Pancasila to be used for politics. We feared there would be a perception that the government established a new institution to attack its political rivals. The need to establish the Working Unit became more pressing after the gubernatorial election in Jakarta ended up in widespread quarrels on all fronts.

How was it related to the turbulence of gubernatorial election?

The general election of district heads, especially in Jakarta, shattered our social cohesion. Direct election as a democratic procedure has lost its values such as integrity, tolerance, transparency. People prefer money politics, instead of listening to candidates vision and mission or their plans and programs. In this crisis, we become aware of the guiding star called Pancasila. I compare Pancasila to an invisible star in the sky, cannot be seen except in the darkness.

Can Pancasila be a guiding star in our daily life, not only in crisis time?

We need to 'translate' Pancasila into symbolic dimensions. Symbolization prompts our imagination about basic values of Pancasila. The United States, for example, can transform the value of state-defense into artistic expression like the movie Captain America. This kind of symbols motivates young generation to feel Pancasila as their identity, instead of a mere memorization of verses.

Who is the initiator of the UKP-PIP?

Various parties, say, Speaker of the MPR and President's Advisory Council. The crisis in public space pushes President to realize it as soon as possible.

Did the UKP-PIP contribute to the dissolution of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia or HTI?

No. This Working Unit has not been established when the discourse of HTI dissolution was underway. But in the future, the UKP-PIP can detect social developments and provides reports to related agencies concerning permit for or dissolution of an organization.

Wouldn't that be a muzzling paranoia for critiques to government?

No. In fact, we will encourage communities and organizations to interpret Pancasila according to their own respective ways of life. For example, in discussions with the Nahdlatul Ulama, we found that there is a need for a nahdliyin (NU adherent) to speak about the authentic living of Pancasila in Islamic boarding schools. The ideas of communities are like brooks that flow into the ocean. The Working Unit will give a guidance for various interpretations to converge into one point.

Do you agree with the dissolution of the HTI?

That's a debatable area. But the state has to bring back its legitimacy to protect the whole nation. If the HTI is considered a threat to national values, the Constitution imparts rights to the state to make decision during emergencies.

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

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