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Is the New Left in Indonesia a threat?

Liputan 6 - April 4, 2007

Jakarta – There was once a period when rival ideologies were deep and prevalent across this land. At that time political ideologies became the supreme commander. Political forces were divided based on ideological differences. This competition took the form of demonstrations and political pamphlets in the streets.

History it seems repeated itself last week. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which is part of the Anti-Communist Command, attacked a rally by National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) who they accused of being leftist. "This harms democracy", said the head of Papernas' advisory committee, Dita Indah Sari during a discussion on "This Week's Topic" aired Wednesday April 4.

Aside from Dita, also present was Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) historian Asvi Warman Adam, Indonesian Movement of National Patriots (GNPI) chairperson Alfian Tanjung and the executive director of the Institute for Policy Studies, Fadli Zon. They were invited to the SCTV studios to discuss the controversy surrounding Papernas.

Opposition against Papernas started in late January when it was launched in Kaliurang, Yogyakarta. At the time the Indonesian Anti-Communist Front (FAKI) asked the police to disband the event on the grounds that Papernas is a reincarnation of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) that they believe goes against the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly decree on the prohibition of Marxist and Leninist ideology(1).

It may well be that FAKI brands Papernas as a communist party. But this is not so according to Dita. She admits that they are leftist but rejects it being referred to as communist. "As if all of the 'left' is communist", said the founder of the People's Democratic Party.

Dita also condemned the methods used the FPI who she cites as having committed physical violence against women and children during the clash in the Dukuh Atas area on Jl. Sudirman in Central Jakarta on March 29. The different views held by political parties can only be resolved through the courts so she is asking that the issue be resolved legally.

Tanjung's views are of course different from Dita. The head of the GNPI believes Papernas is an embryonic communist party. This is because the party always takes up issues of poverty and social problems as its main agenda. According to Tanjung, this is done only to attract the masses before metamorphosing into a communist party. "It is already approaching the next jump, not much is left now", said the man who sports a thin beard.

There may well be no end in sight to the counter accusations that Papernas is or is not a communist party. According to Adam, Indonesian people's fear of communist ideas cannot be separated from the experiences of the past. The people are still traumatised by the 30 September Movement(2) and Indonesian Communist Party rebellion in Madiun in 1948(3).

According to Adam it is only human to have such fears. Even other countries such as Germany are still traumortised over the Nazis and its ideas of ultra-nationalism. Likewise also with Malaysia and the Malaysian Communist Party. Therefore he agrees with the regulations in these two countries that prohibit parties whose ideology is deemed to endanger the country.

But making a problem out these differences will of not course resolve the actual issues. Moreover what is being discussed is party ideology that is not easy to just change. Because of this Zon hopes that the two side will forget the dim historical past and accept their differences with an open heart. With this endorsement, Papernas is not a communist party because it would be in conflict with Law Number 27/1999 on the prohibition of the communist parties(4). "If it is not communist why not?" said the editor of the book "Testimonies of the Victims of Brutality of the PKI in 1948".

Although holding different views on the question of Papernas, the four have one thing in common that should be supported. That is the need to resolve the problem peacefully. Although it may not be able to be resolved through dialogue, they agree with resolving it in the courts. Not through counter agitation that will only lead to the spilling of blood and a repeat of this nations dim history. (YAN/Tim Liputan 6 SCTV)


1. Tap MPRS XXV/1966 - Provisional People's Consultative Assembly Decree Number XXV/1966 on the Dissolution of the Indonesian Communist Party and Prohibitions on Marxist, Leninist and Communist Teachings

2. G30S - A group of military officers who detained and later killed seven generals on September 30, 1965 that the New Order regime officially described as a PKI conspiracy, labelling it G30S/PKI. The PKI was later banned and more than a million of its members and supporters killed in an army-led pogrom.

3. The so called Madiun revolt was triggered by an attempt by Vice President Hatta in alliance with right-wing military officers to disband the PKI and left-wing military units. The conflict culminated when pro-PKI soldiers seized control of the city of Madiun in Central Java in September 1948. The city was retaken and thousands of PKI members massacred and key communist and left-wing leaders of the nationalist movement were arrested and executed.

4. Law No. 27/1999 is a revision to the Criminal Code that codifies MPRS Decree Number XXV/1966.

[Translated by James Balowski.]