Wed, 10 Aug 1994

Marsillam fights ghost from Indonesia's past

Pandangan Negara Integralistik Marsillam Simandjuntak Publisher: PT Pustaka Utama Grafiti, 1994 284 pages

JAKARTA (JP): Has anyone noticed that hidden beneath the thick, almost invisible smog of political tension, a ghost from the country's past has been brought back from obscurity to haunt the democratization process?

In his new book, Marsillam Simanjuntak, an outspoken activist or eloquent political observer, lashes out against this old ghost identified in his book's title "The Integral State Concept" (Pandangan Negara Integralistik).

It is curious that the integral idea, a concept not found in the written text of the constitution, has been officially brought back from obscurity by the New Order government as the basis for interpreting the 1945 Constitution (UUD'45) and the Pancasila state ideology.

This disturbs the author because, as he cleverly shows in his meticulously researched book, the integral concept became obsolete immediately after it was brought up on the eventful night of May 31, 1945. That night, some of Indonesia's founding fathers gathered to discuss what principle the country should adopt for its constitution and the foundation of its law.

This book, currently available only in Bahasa Indonesia, must be read by those concerned with the democratization process. The book is especially enlightening because it reflects on the long roots of various non-democratic ideas which are often presented as, like Lee Kuan Yew or Li Peng say, the "Asian way".


The idea of the integral state was introduced by Prof. Supomo, one of Indonesia's founding fathers, who, based on his peculiar understanding of Hegel's philosophy, believed it was consistent with "the Eastern way of thinking" and what he called "the family principle, unity and cohesion".

This idea can be summarized as a mostly normative non- democratic concept which is modeled on, as Supomo himself said, Third Reich Germany and the ultra nationalistic Japanese government during World War II (p.88).

Supomo's speech, which was recorded by Muhammad Yamin in his Naskah Persiapan UUD'45, summarized the concept as: "...the State as an integral combination of the entire society, of all people and all classes, in which its members relate to one another as an organic unity...the State does not favor a particular group or class, does not view the individual's interests as essential but it guarantees the nation's livelihood as a whole in a unity which cannot be separated." (p.85)

Marsillam attacks this idea as it ignores the basic rights of citizens, is too vague and is virtually inconceivable in the context of a modern state's administrative law.

Indeed, other than on one night, Supomo never elaborated on the controversial concept.

The professor, as described in the book, was consistently vague and controversial during his presentation. At one point, he even argued that "it is not an essential matter under the integral concept whether the country should be governed under a republic or a monarchy".

Instead, Supomo said "what is vital is that the head of state must have a character resembling that of a leader and the entire people" and "whether the head of state is a King...a President...or a Fuhrer, it is not essential."

In addition, Supomo, a Dutch trained lawyer and member of the Javanese gentry who worked in the civil service under the Dutch and Japanese occupation, also adamantly opposed all ideas that he thought "liberal" and "individualistic" which were proposed, for example, by the other founding father Muhammad Hatta who brought up the issue of human rights.

It is to Marsillam's credit that he chronologically presents how various "democratic" ideas finally prevailed in the 1945 Constitution as illustrated in Article 28, which "guarantees the right to assembly and freedom of opinion which is managed by the law".


Marsillam concludes that the 1945 Constitution is essentially non-integral because many elements of Supomo's original idea were later dismantled in the text of the constitution. (p.112)

In fact, in a very important footnote on p.237, Marsillam proves that even Supomo, in a book published in 1948, repudiated his 1945 insistence on the concept.

The author writes: "This particular acknowledgment of Supomo should end the debate in the interpretation of article 28 in UUD'45, which is clearly about the basic rights of man. Thus, it is also the end of the integral concept."

To Marsillam's dismay, this concept has been brought back from virtual obscurity by the New Order government for political purposes.

He believes that the idea was resurrected to restrict any new interpretation of Pancasila and the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution, particularly pertaining to citizen's rights.

He points out, for example, that in a text book published by the government in 1984, the integral state was referred to as the method to interpret the 1945 Constitution, particularly on human rights issues.

Marsillam indicates that this is a serious problem. He reminds the reader that Pancasila had the capability to become the foundation of the UUDS (Provisional Law) 1950, a very liberal blue print of a constitution which explicitly guaranteed human rights and the formation of a parliamentary government.

Marsillam's concluding message, which is difficult to argue against, blasts maneuvers designed to bring back the integral idea: "...all sorts of integral concepts should be abandoned and no longer applied because they will violate the people's sovereignty.."

Despite his apparent strong disagreement with Supomo, one of the nation's heroes, Marsillam carefully phrases his work and never attempts to discredit the professor by launching personal attacks.

In short, the book is not a character assassination of Prof. Supomo.

The book's only weakness, I believe, is the long and rather over worked analysis of Hegel's political philosophy which does not seem to posses any urgent relevance to the rest of the work.

One problem also remains. If the UUD '45 is a non-integral constitution, can we safely regard it as a "democratic" constitution?

Marsillam does not rule out that the UUD '45 contains many of Sukarno's anti liberal ideas which, if seen through a particular historical and political light, are essentially just another form of the integral concept.

In light of the recent press bans and the executive's pressure on the Supreme Court about the latter's unexpected ruling, all Indonesians should remember this truly fearsome ghost.

-- Hidayat Jati