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‘Final operations ’ against the enemies of the state

Following the fall of the Wilopo Cabinet, at the end of July 1953 Ali Sastroamidjojo formed the first government without Masyumi and with NU as an independent party. The Nahdatul Ulama was growing rapidly thanks to its social and political characteristics: for one, it had deep roots in Java’s countryside, an area that would be key to the party’s electoral success in 1955; for another, Wahab Chasbullah, the party’s chairman, had been a close friend of Soek- arno’s since the 1920s, a factor that was to play an important role in the evolution of NU’s strategy. In the months leading up to the formation of the Sastroamidjojo Cabinet, the NU was divided on the issue of participation. Chasbullah’s pragmatic view, based on the argument that participation in the government and contribution to politics was a religious duty, eventually prevailed. The hardliners - a faction that took a better-defined shape in the following years as Chasbullah became increasingly supportive of Soekarno’s policies - argued instead that as an Islamic party, the NU had the ‘moral imperative’ to oppose Soekarno’s ‘undemocratic’ reforms to establish the ‘Guided Democracy’.[1]

The new cabinet set as its first priority the restoration of order and security. During his proclamation speech on 17 August 1953, Soekarno reiterated the importance of ending the Negara Islam Indonesia, now considered the major threat to the fledgling nation. This goal was to be pursued by applying every tool of the state, including both diplomacy and armed repression. On this occasion Kartosuwiryo and his Darul Islam were defined as ‘enemies of the state’, and within days the Prime Minister officially called for the forced termination of the Darul Islam, which was now defined a rebellion.

The speech provoked a direct response from the TII, which pointed to Soekarno’s statement as a manifestation of his weak authority and his waning influence on the Indonesian people. What more, TII accused Soekarno of indirectly legitimizing communist activities against the Negara Islam Indonesia.[2] Muhammad Natsir formulated an equally indignant response: to First Deputy Prime Minister Wongsonegoro’s call for a komando terakhir (final operation), Natsir replied that nothing short of rifles, bombs and mortars had been used in attempting to solve the problem over the past two years, and yet the gap between the Republic and ‘the disappointed’ had only widened.[3]

The 1955 elections were aimed at forming both a parliament (in September) and a constitutional assembly (in December). Upon the return of the PKI at full force, the constitutional debate on the ideological foundations of the state began to shift, revolving now around three main options: the Pancasila, Islam and Social-Economy (this latter was inspired by socialist economic principles and democracy). In this environment, the debate that ensued from the Amuntai speech quickly became a central aspect of the electoral campaign.

In April 1953 a conference of ulama in Medan issued a fatwa stating that it was haram (forbidden) for Muslims to vote for a candidate who did not work for the implementation of Islamic laws, even if he represented a religious party. Isa Anshary, who had established an anti-Communist front to counter the increasing influence of PKI, went as far as declaring that it was haram to equate the belief in the One and Only God with animistic beliefs, and labelled communists as kuffar who should not be buried as Muslims. But Nat- sir, on the other hand, supported the Pancasila as an ideology that included most Islamic principles.

On the other side of the fence, the PKI fully embraced the Pancasila and accused Masyumi of ‘imperialism’ for its attempt to impose Islam, while the nationalists propagated the idea that an Islamic victory would signify the complete abandonment of the Pancasila, the substitution of the Indonesian flag with the crescent and star and the replacement of the anthem Indonesia Raya with a song commemorating Muhammad’s migration to Medina.[4]

  • [1] Greg Fealy, ‘Wahab Chasbullah’, in Barton and Fealy (eds), pp. 1-41.
  • [2] ‘Pendjelasan singkat mengenai 1. Program Kabinet RIK tentang keamanan, 2. Pidato Pres-iden RIK, menjambut peringatan Proklamasi 17 Agoestus 1945’, Colonel S. Mughny TII, 1953?,AABRI DI no. 10.
  • [3] Natsir, Capita selecta, vol. 2, pp. 48-9.
  • [4] Nasution, The Islamic state in Indonesia, pp. 99-103.
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