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Under Soeharto, students’ introduction to campus life was a mandatory, state-sponsored indoctrination session in the state ideology, Pancasila, held on-campus prior to their first semester in college. These sessions, known as P4 (short for Pedoman Penghayatan dan Pengamalan Pancasila, a difficult-to-translate title which has been rendered in English as Upgrading Course on the Directives for the Realization and Implementation of Pancasila135), were first required of civil servants in the late 1970s and were extended to students beginning in 1980. Students were also required to take two semesters of “Pancasila Education” as a prerequisite to graduation. According to Indonesian historian Ong Hok Ham, the entire Pancasila curriculum, but particularly the P4 sessions, are emblematic of the New Order government’s privileging of “political loyalty over expertise” in academic matters.136

Indonesian students and faculty interviewed by Human Rights Watch repeatedly emphasized that a distinction should be maintained between Pancasila and P4, noting that the doctrine itself is open to a range of interpretations. As described above, Pancasila itself consists of an enumeration of five broad principles: belief in one supreme being, a just and civilized humanitarianism, the unity of Indonesia, a people led by wise policies arrived at through a process of consultation and consensus, and social justice for all the Indonesian people.137 The doctrine was first articulated in a 1945 speech by Sukarno prior to the declaration of Indonesian independence and was subsequently embodied in the preamble to the 1945 Constitution as a statement of the foundational principles of the new nation. As a doctrine that pre-dates the founding of the nation, Pancasila is sometimes likened to the Declaration of Independence in the United States, and a leading scholar of Indonesia termed it Indonesia’s “statement of civilizational intent.”138

The P4 curriculum was, however, as one Indonesian critic phrased it, “sheer indoctrination.”139 The core of the curriculum consisted of thirty-six formulaic precepts (butir). The sessions, which were required to include at least forty hours of classroom instruction, stressed rote memorization and regurgitation of the precepts, and repeated a drill to which students had been exposed since grade school.140 In an article analyzing the curriculum, one foreign scholar noted that P4 offered a static vision of Indonesian society, one in which Indonesians are to work together to promote economic growth and increased prosperity for all, but also one emphasizing the role of the armed forces in preserving the existing social order, allowing no room for social change. Calling P4 an “ideology of containment rather than one of mobilization,” the scholar wrote: “The clear and conscious attempt of P4 . . . is to provide an accepted framework to contain politics within defined boundaries. Pancasila, as propounded by P4, is the clearest and most self-conscious articulation of this ideological vision and, by implication, of the competing visions that the government is not willing to tolerate.”141

As noted above, the sessions were first required of civil servants in the late 1970s and were extended to campuses in 1980, shortly after the government had cracked down on political activism on Indonesia’s campuses and implemented far-reaching institutional controls to prevent the emergence of renewed activism. The imposition of the P4 requirements also coincided with a move, which many interpreted as directed against Muslim activists, to require all political and social organizations to adopt Pancasila as their “sole basis” (asas tunggal). This requirement was enacted into law in 1985. To the extent Pancasila was used against proponents of an Islamic state and to encourage mutual tolerance and respect among Indonesia’s diverse religions and ethnic groups, the government’s measures won some popular support.

In countless government proclamations, in schools, and in the courts, however, Pancasila was more often defined in negative terms, as against the great inchoate, subversive communist threat:

In the later years of the New Order, the government’s use of Pancasila came under increasing attack. In 1996, when the government launched its campaign against the PRD, for example, declaring the organization to be “anti-Pancasila” and suggesting that it was a reincarnation of the banned PKI, students began asking professors to explain what the PRD had in common with the PKI. In response, Dr. P.J. Soewarno, Director of the Center for the Study and Documentation of History at Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta, published a strongly worded critique of the government’s use of Pancasila:

We are taught to distance ourselves from communism and the PKI, but we are not given the opportunity to know them in a scholarly way. How can such teaching be carried out? Doesn’t this mean that we are being ordered to wage war against an enemy whose identity, weaknesses and strengths we don’t know? . . . The knowledge of teachers cannot be complete if the teachers concerned only know about the PKI through books or documents issued by the power holders of the New Order and are not allowed to study books published by the PKI itself or independent groups. . . . Professors who teach Pancasila are going to have trouble giving explanations about the PKI because the only books that are free to circulate are those that are anti-PKI. Works that explain the PKI itself are forbidden. That’s the trouble for professors who teach Pancasila . . . If you don’t respond clearly, it means you are not carrying out Pancasila education properly . . . If you respond clearly and in a scholarly way, you are likely to be accused of spreading communism and that is the accusation most feared by teachers.144

As indicated at the outset of this report, the government formally suspended P4 courses for academic year 1998-99 following the resignation of Soeharto. There have also been calls that it be abandoned in its entirety.145 The P4 curriculum is fundamentally incompatible with the spirit of open inquiry that should characterize academic inquiry and therefore should be abolished. If civic education is retained in the universities, academic values must at all times govern the selection of materials to be covered in the curriculum.

135 Michael Morfit, “Pancasila: The Indonesian State Ideology According to the New Order Government,” Asian Survey, vol. XXI, no. 8, August 1981, p. 838.

136 Human Rights Watch interview with Ong Hok Ham, Jakarta, September 17, 1997.

137 Morfit, “Pancasila: The Indonesian State Ideology,” p. 839.

138 Ruth McVey, “Building Behemoth: Indonesian Constructions of the Nation-State,” in Making Indonesia: Essays on Modern Indonesia in Honor of George McT. Kahin (Ithaca, New York: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, 1996), p. 24.

139 “P4 course for students suspended,” Jakarta Post, June 4, 1998.

140 See “Prof. Soetandyo: Pedagogik Jadikan P4 Tak Populer,” Surabaya Post, June 8, 1998.

141 Morfit, “Pancasila: The Indonesian State Ideology,” p. 850.

142 See “Menpen: Kesaktian Pancasila, Ingatkan Bahaya Laten PKI,” Kompas Online, October 1, 1996.

143 "Curiga Lima Belas Tanpa Bentuk,” Forum Keadilan, no. 15/IV, November 6, 1995.

144 P.J. Suwarno, “Sulit, Mengajar Pancasila pada Mahasiswa,” Kompas Online, October 1, 1996.

145 See “Hapuskan P4 dan Ebtanas, Tunda Akreditasi,” Kompas Online, June 25, 1998.

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