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Petition seeks to reaffirm Indonesia’s diversity
Endy M. Bayuni, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
A group of activists began circulating a petition Thursday 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,” human rights campaigner Todung Mulya Lubis said in reading the declaration at a ceremony marking the 61st anniversary of the state ideology Pancasila.
The ceremony at the Jakarta Convention Center culminated a series of gatherings held in the past two weeks as activists, 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.
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 government 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.
On June 1, 1945, during the final months of the Japanese occupation, a young Sukarno delivered a speech that sought to provide the foundation for a new independent nation. He defined the five principles as nationalism, humanitarianism, consensual democracy, social welfare and belief in one God.
Three months later, when Indonesia came into being, the principles were modified and inserted into the preamble of the Constitution as monotheism, humanitarianism, nationalism, consensual democracy and social justice.
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.
Soeharto, who never recognized June 1, 1945, as the founding of the Pancasila, used the ideology to deadly effect after taking power from Sukarno in 1966. He initially hijacked its principles to quash communism, before making it a weapon to justify suppressing all forms of opposition.
Still, Thursday’s ceremony more resembled a Soeharto-style gathering than the day Sukarno delivered his historic speech. Most guests, including Yudhoyono, wore ceremonial batik rather than the white shirts and white jackets adopted by Sukarno and other founding fathers.