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A new round of negotiations

Muhammad Natsir was appointed to form the first cabinet of the unitary state in September 1950. This cabinet’s first priority was internal security, and, consistent with his August 1949 attempt to negotiate with Kartosuwiryo, Natsir once again refused to take a strong stand on the Darul Islam. In November Natsir called for a general amnesty for all armed guerrillas.

Perhaps hopeful that a Masyumi government would take a positive attitude towards the issues of the Islamic state and the Darul Islam’s achievements in the independence struggle, around the same time Kartosuwiryo sent letters to both Soekarno and Natsir, arguing that political Islam was the only weapon the Republic had to fight communism, as they were ‘ideological enemies’. Emphasizing that nationalism could be co-opted by leftist agitators, Kartosuwiryo suggested that the Republic should be transformed into an Islamic state.[1]

This proposal was never taken seriously, but Al Chaidar has suggested that in December 1950 Natsir attempted once again to make contact with Kartosuwiryo, this time via a former PSII colleague, Kiyai Muslich. Kartosuwiryo refused to receive the kiyai, but instead entrusted him with a personal letter for the Prime Minister. In this letter, Kartosuwiryo offered the NII’s absolute support if Natsir were to use his authority to ‘add the letter “I” to the RI’, so as to transform the Pancasila state into the ‘Republik Islam Indonesia’.[2]

Sporadic attempts to negotiate continued in the years to come, but they were to little avail, as Kartosuwiryo was committed to defending the ‘sacred right’ (hak suci) of the Islamic ummah to live in an Islamic state. If the Republic was not ready to recognize the NII as an autonomous state, then he ‘could not be responsible for the fate of the Indonesian state and people, in front of neither the Tribunal of History, nor the Tribunal of God’.[3] These kinds of statements by Kartosuwiryo only further polarized Masyumi and the secularists. The former reiterated its dedication to an Islamic state through democracy and parliamentary debates - thus signalling its commonality of goals with Kartosuwiryo - whilst the latter were strengthened in their conviction that the solution to the Darul Islam lay in decisive military action.

Natsir’s dedication to diplomacy with the Darul Islam was transformed, in January 1951, into accusations that the Darul Islam had infiltrated Masyumi. Natsir had to explain that attempting to make contact with Kartosuwiryo and his lieutenants had been a strategy to reach a political solution and not an indication of complicity. Within a few days, Isa Anshary, the chairman of the West Java branch of Masyumi, issued a ‘freeze’ on the Garut party branch on account of military attacks against Masyumi’s members, accused of collaboration with the Darul Islam.[4] Natsir remained convinced that the Darul Islam ‘problem’ - as well as the unrest in South Sulawesi and Sumatra - could only be solved through political action and eliminating the ‘source of disappointment’, as the use of military force had initiated a vicious cycle that was slowly dragging the country into civil war.[5]

  • [1] ‘Nota rahasia’ from Kartosuwiryo to Soekarno, 22 October 1950, in Boland, The struggle ofIslam, pp. 244-9.
  • [2] Al Chaidar, Pemikiran politik, p. 116.
  • [3] ‘Nota rahasia kedua’ from Kartosuwiryo to Soekarno, 17 February 1951, in Boland, Thestruggle of Islam, pp. 250-5.
  • [4] ‘Masjumi tidak di-infiltrasi oleh Darul Islam’, Berita Masjumi, 12 January 1951; ‘Tentanginfiltrasi DI dalam Masjumi’ and ‘Masjumi Garut dibekukan’, Berita Masjumi, 19 January 1951.
  • [5] Muhammad Natsir, Capita selecta (Jakarta: Abadi-Yayasan Capita Selecta, 2008), vol. 2,pp. 48-50, 66-8, 230-5, 272-4, 275, 331, 340-5, 371-2, 381-2, 392-8, 422-3; vol. 3, p. 26. Thesearticles and speeches were delivered between 12 May 1951 and 11 November 1956.
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