Indonesia’s Pancasila

PranotoIn a new Commentary, Pranoto Iskandar of The Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies at Nottingham University’s Malaysia Campus and The Institute for Migrant Rights in Indonesia, has a critical assessment of Indonesia’s Pancasila, the official philosophical foundation of the post-colonial state.

While Pancasila is now sometimes officially proclaimed as a foundation of human rights in post-Suharto Indonesia, “The Pancasila Delusion” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2016.1195430) presents a different perspective. The abstract for the Commentary is:

Rather than producing a new liberal democracy, Indonesia’s sudden democratising process that started in 1998 has produced a mere electoral democracy. This commentary argues that this situation cannot be separated from the preservation of the Five Principles, or the Pancasila, in the political reform agenda (reformasi). In this case, the Indonesian version of exceptionalism (national self-righteousness) has unwittingly legitimised some fundamental deviations from internationally well-established practices in global constitutionalism as the post-Suharto Indonesia proceeds to “electoralise” its public life. Indonesia’s version of exceptionalism might best be described in an unabated conviction about the inviolable nature of Pancasila in national political life and beyond. This Pancasila delusion has gone further with the introduction of some legal efforts to prosecute any sacrileges against it. To make matters worse, this delusional conviction in Pancasila has stubbornly featured in Indonesia’s political thinking, which eventually has also prompted the process of reformasi to drift from one ad hoc response to another.

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