CANBERRA - Pancasila, a word that embodies the Indonesian national philosophy, is at the centre of a high-profile spat between Australia and its close neighbour. Many Australians may be scratching their heads at the Indonesia’s reaction to an apparent play on words making fun of their national ideology, but one expert has explained why it’s so offensive.
Indonesia suspended relations with Australia in early December after an Indonesian special forces trainer who was teaching at an Australian military facility in Perth discovered writing that insulted Pancasila, the national philosophy.
Associate Professor, Greg Fealy of the Australian National University said the furore appeared to be over a joke.
According to The Australianan instructor from the Indonesian special forces unit, Kopassus, went to the Perth base for training but felt uneasy at some of the topics discussed in class, which allegedly included how the Indonesian military was involved in war crimes and human-rights violations during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor.
While it has not been confirmed, it’s believed the Indonesian officer went to the academy’s head office to complain and reportedly found a play on words referencing Pancasila, but ending the word with “gila” which means crazy or mad in Indonesian.
Not every military officer would have been offended by the apparent joke, said Prof Fealy, but there was a high risk of offence.
The professor, who is an expert on Indonesian politics, said Pancasila — meaning “five principles” — was very important to Indonesians as these represent the country’s national ideology.
“Every schoolchild, every Indonesian knows what the five principles are, they are thoroughly ingrained and taught in the education system. For a strongly nationalistic military officer, the Pancasila has an almost sacred status,” Prof Fealy told news.com.au.
Pancasila is made up of two Old Javanese words, “panca” meaning five, and “sila” meaning principles, and was first spoken about by Indonesian nationalist leader Sukarno in 1945, just before the country’s independence. He argued the country should be based on five principles and these were later referenced in the constitution, with slight alterations.
1. Belief in one God
2. Just and civilised humanity
3. Indonesian unity
4. Democracy under the wise guidance of representative consultations
5. Social justice for all the peoples of Indonesia.
Indonesians celebrate Pancasila Day on June 1 and country’s coat of arms also features a shield with five symbols reflecting the principles of Pancasila.
“A lot of people see the Pancasila as very important,” Prof Fealy said.
“They regard it as the common statement or basis of Indonesian unity and diversity,” he told.