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  • Dynamics of Dissent in Indonesia
Dynamics of Dissent in Indonesia
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Dynamics of Dissent in Indonesia

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    In June 1978, a forty-five year old Indonesian named Sawito Kartowibowo was pronounced guilty of subversion. He was charged with having composed a number of inflammatory documents criticizing the government's failings and requesting that Suharto stand down as President. These documents would have been quite insignificant if those who had endorsed them had not been so well known. Their signatories included former Vice-President Mohammad Hatta and four very prominent and well-respected religious leaders: the head of the Catholic Church in Indonesia, Cardinal Darmoyuwono; the Moslem publicist and writer, Hamka [H. Abdulmalik Karim Amrullah]; leading mystic and founder of the Indonesian Police, Said Sukanto Tjokrodiatmojo; and retired General T. B. Simatupang, a Protestant leader and former Armed Forces Chief of Staff. As it was, the controversy over the documents became a national issue and the Sawito affair is one of the enigmas of recent Indonesian history.

    Puzzles abounded from the afternoon in September 1976 when the government dramatically announced the discovery of a "plot to topple the President," and a number of subsequent arrests. Had a coup been planned? Who was behind it? And who on earth was Sawito, the man the government declared had tricked Hatta and his fellow signatories into the "dark conspiracy"? Much of the public interest in Sawito, in the months following the announcement, derived from the publicization of a diary written by a former Indonesian diplomat describing a series of spiritual pilgrimages undertaken by Sawito in the early 1970s. According to the diary, Sawito had meditated on a sacred Javanese mountain-top and there received supernatural signs that he was destined to rule Indonesia. Subsequently, in a solemn and archaic ritual involving symbols of the fifteenth century Majapahit Kingdom, Sawito had been invested as Ratu Adil, the messianic Just King.

    The press, and later the courts, drew the conclusion that Sawito, convinced of his regal destiny, had then embarked on a mission to replace Suharto as President. In order to achieve this, so the story went, he had drafted a number of subversive documents and, with guile and deceit, obtained the signatures of several gullible dignitaries. One newspaper ran a cartoon of a demented-looking Sawito, praying before a row of Javanese daggers (keris) and a fuming incense pot, dreaming of the presidential throne. The tiny figure running towards him and brandishing a piece of paper calls to Sawito: "It's not the age for that sort of thing any more, mas!" The general impression was thus created that the affair was essentially a product of Sawito's mystically inspired claim to power. This became the accepted perception of the Sawito affair, both for a large majority of Indonesians and in a number of Western academic treatments of the subject. A classic historical pattern of political challenge seemed to be repeating itself, and parallels were drawn between the "Sawito challenge" and messianic Ratu Adil movements of Java's past.

    Analysts also invoked Javanese cultural tradition in an attempt to come to terms with the government's remarkably severe response to the affair. Some sought to explain the danger Sawito posed to Suharto by referring to traditional conceptions of the linkage between earthly and supernatural authority still exercising an influence in Indonesian society. As some readers will be unfamiliar with the cultural-historical frame of reference alluded to here and elsewhere in this study, it is necessary briefly to identify a few key elements of the Javanese cosmology.

    ISBN : 9786028397483
    Author : David Bourchier
    Publisher : Equinox Publishing
    Dimension Product : 22.9x15.2x0.9 cm


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