Politics in Indonesia: Democracy, Islam, and the Ideology of Tolerance

Politics in Indonesia: Democracy, Islam, and the Ideology of Tolerance

Politics in Indonesia: Democracy, Islam, and the Ideology of Tolerance

Politics in Indonesia: Democracy, Islam, and the Ideology of Tolerance

Excerpt

Pancasila is a set of five principles enunciated by the late President Sukarno in June 1945 in an attempt to fend off demands for an Islamic state and to reconcile the cultural diversity of the embryonic Republic of Indonesia. Divisive at first, these principles have been enthroned as the exclusive national ideology by the military-based administration of General and then President Soeharto which has been in power continuously since March 1966. For some three decades, Pancasila has been at the very heart of Indonesian political discourse, at times contentiously so when, for example, dissidents have accused President Soeharto of appropriating the concept for his narrow purposes. Initially, Douglas Ramage, the author of this volume, assumed that Pancasila was merely the uninteresting rhetoric of a government trying to legitimize its rule. Closer examination made it evident to him that Pancasila had meaning for Indonesians far beyond government propaganda. It is the dimensions and significance of that meaning which Dr Ramage addresses with great skill.

This book is a pioneering and scholarly assessment of the diversity of understanding of the longstanding core concept of Indonesian national ideology and its uses in public life. Based on extensive interviews and other primary sources within Indonesia, the author identifies, in addition to that of President Soeharto, four “voices” or views of Pancasila comprising two distinct Islamic groupings, the armed forces and the secular nationalists. Beyond explaining the diverse and adverse conceptions and uses of Pancasila, an additional significance of this volume is that the issue of political succession in Indonesia is expected to become a matter of increasingly active debate as President Soeharto approaches the end of his sixth term of office in March 1998 at the age of

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