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Pancasila: Sukarno’s vision for Indonesia

27 May 2011

Every book about the history of Indonesia lists the “five principles” described by Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia. I found it very interesting to read an English translation of the speech Sukarno made on June 1, 1945, describing what each of the principles meant to him at that time. The speech is reprinted in Southeast Asian History: Essential Readings (pp. 152-159), from which the quotations below have been taken.

First principle: nationalism. … We intend to establish a state “all for all.” … Impossible to separate people from the earth under their feet! … Only twice have we experienced a national state; that was in the time of Srivijaya and in the time of Majahapit.

Sukarno said that even a child can see by looking at a map that the islands of Indonesia “are one entity.” He acknowledged the vast diversity of people across all those islands, but he said they are united because of their territory — “the earth under their feet.”

Second principle: internationalism. … our homeland Indonesia is only a small part of the world. remember this. … Internationalism cannot flower if it is not rooted in the soil of nationalism.

Sukarno referred to both Gandhi and the Nazis as he explained his view of internationalism, in which he advocated “the unity and brotherhood of the whole world.”

Third principle: representative government. … the principle of consent … the principle of consultation. … For Islam, this is the best condition for the promotion of religion. … Both in an Islamic state and also in a Christian state, there is always a struggle. Accept principle number 3, the principle of consent, the principle of people’s representation! …

Explaining that principle, Sukarno spoke again about Indonesia being a state “all for all,” not for one individual, for one group, or for the wealthy.

Fourth principle: social justice. … there shall be no poverty in Free Indonesia. … Do we want a free Indonesia whose capitalists do as they wish, or where the entire people prosper, where every man has enough to eat …

Sukarno was staunchly anti-communist, but in that principle he acknowledged that capitalism carries with it an ugly risk. He noted that social justice means not only political equality among people but also economic equality and prosperity for the average person.

Fifth principle: belief in God. … every Indonesian should believe in his own particular God. The Christian … Muslims … Buddhists … But let us all have belief in God. The Indonesian state shall be a state where every person can worship God in freedom. …

The five principles have been open to interpretation since that day, and as politicians everywhere will always do, the political leaders of Indonesia have used their founding principles to serve their own ends.

They are very fine principles, nonetheless!

One Comment leave one →
  1. winarta adisubrata permalink
    30 May 2014 7:14 am

    after almost 70 years as a free uncolonized country , indonesia until today is still trying to exist as a nation, with pancasila as the state’s philosophy which is not really well-understood by most of her people , who are still wrongly living with unconsciously oppressed and victimized by ‘pseudo feudalism and aristocratism’ disguised as ‘nonsense democacy’ (as wrongly practized through so-called ‘indonesia-style democracy’ which is still exploited by their own politicians and intellectuals who are enslaving themselves to hedonism and materialistic lifestyles (a.k.a. western and modern life style)

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