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Darul Islam and the regional rebellions

The second chapter of Ali’s premiership ended dramatically within a year of its inception with the proclamation of a nationwide state of war and emergency. This was soon followed by martial law in March-April 1957. Military commanders had their powers renewed after having been sidelined in the post-revolution era, and regional civilian authority was further weakened. In Jakarta, political parties could not find common ground, and their activities were being closely monitored and restricted, whilst army officers thrived and lobbied for more power. After the proclamation of martial law, as Suwiryo failed to form a cabinet, Soekarno appointed himself - as ‘citizen’ Soekarno - to form ‘an emergency, extra-parliamentary, business cabinet’, in which only PNI, Nahdatul Ulama, the Christian Party and PSII were represented. With Djuanda as Prime Minister, the country was led by an informal triumvirate of Soekarno, Djuanda and Nasution.

The main reason behind the return to power of army officers in Jakarta was the string of regional rebellions that had been challenging the central authority. The peak of political instability was reached in December 1956, when Hatta, a Sumatran, resigned, leaving non-Javanese leaders without representation in the government. The rebellions stretched from North Sumatra to Sulawesi and East Indonesia and, as explained in the preface, these were connected to the Darul Islam in different degrees.

In early March 1957 the army commander for Sulawesi and East Indonesia announced a state of siege and proclaimed a regional government independent from Jakarta. In this way, the army inaugurated the Perdjuangan Semesta (Permesta, ‘Total Struggle’) movement. None of the actors on stage made attempts at reconciliation, allowing the conflict to escalate. In late November 1957 Soekarno was victim of an attempt on his life in Jakarta, and regional commanders, as well as prominent Masyumi leaders, were accused of involvement.

Masyumi had had a ‘soft’ attitude towards the Darul Islam because of its ideological commitment to the Islamic state, but the party had been open in its condemnation of the use of violence. So far as the regional rebellions were concerned, though, Masyumi had been supportive all along. This fitted with its new ‘non-Javanese’ outlook, as well as its opposition to Soekarno’s kon- sepsi - which the party saw as anti-constitutional - and its frustration at having been left out of Soekarno’s ‘work cabinet’.

By the end of the year, Muhammad Natsir, Sjafruddin Prawi- ranegara and Burhanuddin Harahap had joined the rebellion in Sumatra, and in February 1958 they announced the formation of the Pemerintah Revolusioner Republik Indonesia (PRRI, Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia), under Sjafruddin’s leadership. Van Dijk mentions that in April 1958 Permesta and Mudzakkar’s Islamic state signed an agreement ‘to cooperate in opposing Indonesian as well as international communists who were influencing and manipulating the Soekarno group’.[1] Towards the end of 1959 and in early 1960 the PRRI joined with DI Aceh and changed its name to Republik Persat- uan Indonesia. Van Dijk has described this alliance as a ‘coalition of losers’, but for Herbert Feith and Daniel Lev this step represented the rebellion’s alliance with the Darul Islam within a federal scheme.[2]

The backlash instigated by the proclamation of the PRRI contributed to the reshaping of government politics in the years to come. The ensuing repression eliminated all outspoken enemies of Soekarno and those officers who might have challenged the authority of Nasution and his faction. It also allowed for the return of communism as an influential political ideology, and eventually isolated Masyumi, thus eclipsing the possibility of a fulfilment of the ummah’s aspirations for an Islamic state.

None of those rebellions had, at their inception, links to the Darul Islam. However, both the PRRI and Permesta established strategic links to the Darul Islam in their respective areas. Each group retained its own primarily regional identity, and the ideological links between PRRI and DI in Aceh, and Permesta and DI in Sulawesi, are still unclear.

I suggest that the major difference between Kartosuwiryo’s Darul Islam in West Java and its offshoots in other regions lay in the original spark. Daud Beureueh in Aceh, Kahar Mudzakkar in South Sulawesi and Kiyai Hadjar in South Kalimantan all decided to join Kartosuwiryo’s Darul Islam after respective rebellions were already ongoing. Under each leader, these regional rebellions were framed in Islamic terms, in more or less detail, only after having become involved in Kartosuwiryo’s Islamic state project.[3] In West Java the process was reversed, as the platform for an Islamic state had first been developed and implemented when there was no unitary national government to challenge.

  • [1] Van Dijk, Rebellion under the banner of Islam, p. 211.
  • [2] Van Dijk, Rebellion under the banner of Islam, pp. 336-7; Herbert Feith and Daniel S. Lev, ‘Theend of the Indonesian rebellion’, Pacific Affairs, 36-1 (Spring 1963): pp. 32-46 .
  • [3] For an overview of Darul Islam-linked rebellions across the archipelago, see Van Dijk, Rebellion under the banner of Islam. On the situation in South Sulawesi, see Barbara Sillars Harvey, ‘Tradition, Islam and rebellion, South Sulawesi 1905-1965’ (PhD thesis, Cornell University, 1974);Harvey, Prmesta: Half a rebellion (Ithaca: Cornell Modern Indonesia Project, Cornell UniversityPress, 1977); Esther Velthoen, ‘Hutanand kota: Contested visions of the nation-state in SouthernSulawesi in the 1950s’, in Samuel Hanneman and Henk Schulte Nordholt (eds), Indonesia intransition: Rethinking ‘civil society’, ‘region’ and ‘crisis’ (Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar, 2004), pp. 14774. For the Aceh case, see Aspinall, Islam and nation.
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