Striving to promote national cohesion, ideological unity and territorial integrity, the armed forces, comprising of police and the military, have ironically directed their weapons more frequently against their own people than outside enemies.
A brief glance at Indonesia’s history reveals that in the name of protecting national unity, citizens with different ideological beliefs and values were killed in order to prevent them from becoming bigger threats to the nation.
Three years after its independence, the nation began to see the beginning of what would be a covert danger to its survival. From September to December in 1948, the Indonesian Armed Forces fought the communist “Soviet Republic of Indonesia” as it was proclaimed on Sept. 18 by Muso and Alimin in Madiun, East Java.
This movement was strangely supported by then Minister of Defense Amir Sjarifoeddin. It was the embryo of a bigger threat that manifested itself in September 1965 when the Communist Party of Indonesia launched a coup that killed six military generals.
The government’s response was to kill those categorized as “rebels and subversives.” History reveals that from Sept. 18, 1948, until Sept. 30, 1965, during the communist uprising and the years that followed, millions of Indonesian citizens perished — at the hands of the state.
Indonesians became the biggest enemy to their own government.
We as a nation killed millions of our own people because they didn’t think the way we did. Ideological threats were rightly or wrongly the justification for taking the lives of our fellow citizens.
I imagined how the government would stockpile weapons to conduct a state-sponsored breach of human rights — if placed in present-day context.
Following the Madiun uprising, on Aug. 7, 1949, Sekarmadji Maridjan Kartosoewirjo proclaimed the “Theocratic Islamic State of Indonesia” to be based in Cisampah village, in the Ciawiligar sub-district of Tasikmalaya, West Java.
The Koran and Hadith were to be legalized as part of the country’s new constitution. This movement spread to West Java, Central Java, South Sulawesi and Aceh.
Again the military responded by killing its own people to preserve national identity and unity.
Though Kartosoewirjo had been executed in 1962, his radical teachings prevailed over decades, even to date, but in various manifestations that cannot easily be identified.
Most of Indonesia’s terrorists have based their struggles on the radical theocratic doctrines Kartosoewirjo left behind. They are ready to die as terrorists believing that is the only way to reach heaven.
But instead of bringing them back to the right advocation of religious teachings, or applying measures to prevent the spread of religious radicalism, the government went back to repressive therapy.
The result was the growing list of “unwanted citizens.”
In March 1957, Col. Ventje Sumual’s Permesta movement, in North Sulawesi and West Sumatra, attracted world attention. The name of this movement was an Indonesian acronym for what was then called the Universal Struggle Charter.
Indonesia’s military attache in Washington resigned and joined Sumual as his general to fight the central government until they surrendered and were given amnesty in 1961.
Reports said that CIA support of the rebels came in the form of 15 B-26 bombers that formed the insurgent air force called AUREV (Angkatan Udara Revolusioner) based on a Manado airfield.
The CIA also reportedly provided a large amount of weapons, equipment, funds, spies and mercenaries from Taiwan, Poland, the Philippines and the United States. This emboldened the rebels to attack the central government.
The cities bombed by CIA-directed planes included Balikpapan, Makassar and Ambon in May 1958, killing large numbers of civilians attending Ascension Day Sunday services. Responding to this, President Sukarno ordered the military to crush the rebellion.
Jakarta’s lack of attention to the outer region’s welfare was part of the reason for the struggle. Negative social and ethnic sentiment, in addition to injustice in the then Republic of the United States of Indonesia, added fuel to the fire.
In recent years, a revival of radical religious doctrines is believed to have become the primary reason for the fast spread of terrorism inside the country. Coupled with foreign influences like Al Qaeda, Indonesian extremists found justification for continuing their fights.
Military response to subversive movements is justified by law because the military exists to protect the nation-state.
But in the present-day context, in which preservation of human rights is highly regarded by civilized nations, we need to revisit the way we define our “justified response” to our fellow citizens’ actions and beliefs that we consider subversive.
Indonesian terrorists do not believe that they have done anything wrong — though the rest of us do. Because of that, they are ready die for what they believe in. We call them subversives; they call themselves heroes.
If we could be honest with ourselves, we could conclude that we are facing forces of ignorance, and not stupidity. Such ignorance is a state of mind based on a system that rejects anything other than ideas to cement and expand the ignorance further.
So, applying legal measures to ignorance is actually the wrong approach to ending radicalism. What the state must do is not kill its citizens who think radically but teach them to stop those thoughts.
Very few prevention efforts have taken place since the Madiun uprising, as the government still kills citizens it calls enemies.
The bullets of the police and military have killed more Indonesian citizens than foreign enemies. Similarly stupid are the actions of Indonesian terrorists whose explosives have killed too many wrong targets.
So, as Densus 88 continues to hunt down terrorists, we must remind ourselves that the anti-terror squad cannot kill the ideology that lives in the minds of millions.
Preventive efforts through education are better than relying on violence to fix ideological threats that are out of reach of our weapons.
The government needs to find a better way of coping with ideological threats. Few people would agree that repressive therapy is the right way to stop radicalism once and for all. By Pitan Daslani for The Jakarta Globe
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