Father Jopie Beek and CSIS

Posted by on Jul 19, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Father Jopie Beek and CSIS

Born in Amsterdam in March 1917, Father Josephus Geradus “Jopie” Beek joined the Jesuit order and was sent as a novice to Central Java in 1931. The Japanese jailed Beek along with other Dutch nationals during the Second World War. After the war, he went back to the Netherlands to continue his religious education. He returned to Indonesia in 1952 as a missionary in Yogyakarta, where he enlisted Catholic university students to build a dormitory school complex completed in 1955. Beek took Indonesian citizenship the same year. He began a strict training program intending to prepare Catholic youth to become intellectuals and national leaders with expectations they would occupy important positions in Indonesian society.[1]

By the early-1960s, the Catholic Party had concluded the communists would take power legally and constitutionally within five years through the polls. From Yogyakarta, Father Beek witnessed firsthand the PKI’s growing popularity. With backing from overseas Catholic organizations and cooperation from the Indonesian Catholic Students Association (PMKRI), Beek set up Pancasila unions and village cooperatives, effectively an underground anti-communist movement. He organized spiritual retreats and training sessions for students that included basic military instruction.[2]

Colonel Soeharto became the Central Java Diponegoro Regional Commander in September 1956. The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) won the general elections in the province a few months later. Along with the Muslim Student Association (HMI), the Catholic Party became the PKI’s top enemy. The Catholics were pressed into a natural alliance with Muslims and the Army.[4]

Father Beek and other Catholics advocated the “lesser evil” theory among the two “greens” – Islam and the Army. Beek had close ties to anti-communist army officers and possibly with western intelligence agencies well before the October 1 Affair. He was connected to fellow Jesuit Father Laszlo Ladany, a Hungarian priest who had fled China after the communists took over. Ladany established the China Analysis Centre in Hong Kong to analyze Chinese news and radio broadcasts, publishing the China News Analysis.[5] Father Ladany was rumored to be a Central Intelligence Agency operative and, by inference, many suspected Beek also had ties to western intelligence. Some even suggested he was the dalang behind the September 30th Movement, although there is nothing to support such claims.

Father Beek moved to Jakarta in 1960 to head of the Catholic Church Documentation Bureau (Biro Dokumentasi). He and his acolytes prepared a newsletter similar to Father Ladany’s bulletin in Hong Kong, summarizing daily news and providing succinct analysis of legal, political and economic developments. The mimeographed newsletter was distributed to the anti-communist Pancasila Front, the Army Joint Functional Groups Secretariat (Sekber Golkar) and other conservative groups.[6] The Documentation Bureau was thought to be the source for anonymous pamphlets that circulated describing the dangers of communism and oppressive conditions in the Soviet Union, East Europe and Communist China.[7]

Father Beek left the country in 1962 after Deputy Prime Minister Soebandrio’s national intelligence agency issued an arrest warrant for him on charges that he was a CIA agent. He returned during 1963 after a one-year sabbatical in England. During the 1965-1966upheaval, Father Beek formed a group called Catholic Action that enthusiastically supported Soeharto’s New Order agenda. The Jesuit priest and his Catholic acolytes saw the pragmatic, secular New Order as a buttress against both communist and Islamic forces and, therefore, provided it with early and unquestioned support. They were well-organized and highly-disciplined. Catholic Action figures Harry Tjan Silalahi, Cosmas Batubara, Johannes Soedjati Djiwandono and the Wanandi brothers, Jusuf (Lim Bian Kie) and Sofian (Liem Bian Koen), assumed leadership roles in the anti-communist Indonesian University Student Action Front (Kami).

While in Yogyakarta during the 1950s, Father Beek had established ties to Ali Moertopo, Sudono Hoemardani, Yoga Sugomo and other Diponegoro officers. He had known Ali Moertopo since he was a middle-ranking officer. Beek’s Yogyakarta-based Semedi Foundation (Yayasan Semedi) provided leadership training to Catholic youth, some who Moertopo employed in his own intelligence network. The Beek-Moertopo connection helps explain the apparent New Order favoritism toward Catholics.[8] On the priest’s counsel, Ali Moertopo and Soedjono Hoemardani accepted Jusuf and Sofian Wanandi as their respective personal assistants.[9] Catholic Party General Secretary Harry Tjan Silalahi became Subchan’s deputy in the Action Front to Crush the September 30th Movement (KAP-Gestapu).[10]

As described by Jusuf Wanandi, “We saw it as a life and death struggle. We were prepared, we trained our people and we were ready to go underground. We had printing machines everywhere, hiding places and what we needed to remain active if the communists took over.”[11] Father Beek’s militant anti-communist and anti-Islamic views were largely consistent with Soeharto and his New Order insiders’ Javanist secular outlook. He is credited with drafting some of Soeharto’s early speeches. The Jesuit priest assisted Ali Moertopo by sending young Catholic cadre to West Irian before the 1969 Act of Free Choice to help persuade the hand-picked, predominantly Christian delegates to support integration with Indonesia.

Father Beek reportedly gave Ali Moertopo the idea to transform the army Sekber Golkar mass organization into a government political party; his brain trust helped chart the regime’s successful political strategy during the 1971 elections. It was a symbiotic relationship. Beek tolerated Ali Moertopo and his New Order patrons’ ethically questionable methods – and, as a result, later became alienated with the Indonesian Catholic Church hierarchy.[12] At the same time, Ali Moertopo privately described the Chinese Catholic Jesuits as “intellectual adventurers” and admitted they were more dangerous than the communists, but rationalized it was better to put them to work inside the government than keep them outside.[13]

In late-1966, Father Beek started a one-month indoctrination course for young Catholics. He called it khalwat sebulan (one month retreat, khasebul for short) in Klender, East Jakarta. He extended invitations to the country’s best and brightest Catholic youth, including many Chinese-Indonesians. The training was considered “special and secret.” Candidates were given psychological and aptitude tests. Those accepted were forbidden to reveal the training to friends or even family members. Similar to clandestine intelligence training, participants were issued false names to mask their identities from fellow students. The training emphasized leadership skills, public speaking, writing, group dynamics, social analysis and, above all, self-discipline. Students were beaten, subjected to ridicule and severe criticism, fasting, sleep deprivation, forced to grovel and to pray with Father Beek through the night. The priest sometimes hid money in the sleeping quarters to test the students’ honesty, later interrogating suspects and searching their belongings if the currency disappeared. Those who failed the challenges were either punished or sent home.[14]

The khasebul training included intense anti-communist and anti-Muslim indoctrination. Beek made a profound impression on many students. Most khasebul graduates were fanatically loyal. Beek organized khasebul cadre into cells around the country that functioned as an intelligence network. The cells provided monthly reports to Beek. He continued the khasebul program through the late-1960s. Working with Ali Moertopo and other insiders, Father Beek placed graduates in influential positions in the government, the press and academia consistent with their proven aptitude. Some joined Moertopo’s Special Operations (Opsus) intelligence organization and its parent, the State Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Bakin).[15]

With patronage from Ali Moertopo and Soedjono Hoemardani, on September 1, 1971 Father Beek’s premier students, Harry Tjan Silalahi and the Wanandi brothers, established the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in a house on Jalan Gunung Sahari, near Pasar Baru, as a forum for New Order intellectuals. The residence had served for nearly a decade as the Catholic Party’s political analysis bureau.[16] CSIS later moved into Ali Moertopo’s old Opsus offices in Central Jakarta’s Tanah Abang commercial district. Father Beek’s Documentation Bureau was the precursor to CSIS. SSKAD Deputy Colonel Suwarto also influenced the organization, which was patterned after the American Rand Corporation as a quasi-government think tank.[17]

Ali Moertopo was not known as an intellectual, but recognized good ideas and readily took credit for them. The CSIS scholars provided him a steady flow of political and economic policy advice. Thus, working through Moertopo, CSIS (and Father Beek indirectly) wielded tremendous influence over government policy on political parties, economic development and even social matters. Unofficially known as the New Order’s political kitchen (dapur politik), CSIS promoted the regime’s secular development, political and security agenda. It was anti-communist and strongly opposed political Islam, principles that became New Order hallmarks during its early years. Generous scholarships attracted dozens of bright young, mostly Catholic graduates as researchers.

The CSIS scholars helped formulate basic New Order political and economic policies – Golkar’s conceptualization, development and propulsion to success as the state party, enforcement of party loyalty by civil servants, and the blueprint for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). They worked to restore Indonesia’s international image after tens of thousands of political prisoners had been detained without trial for a decade, the 1975 Pertamina debacle, and the December 1975 East Timor invasion. They helped refine the government’s interpretation of the state ideology, Pancasila, incorporating the Javanese bapakisme (paternalism)ideal, the corporate state and secular government policies on education and culture. And CSIS helped vilify General Nasution and others bold enough to criticize the New Order regime during the 1970s and 1980s.

Along with economic and development policy advice, CSIS researchers consistently warned about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism. Muslim leaders resented the transparently anti-Islamic policies and the presidential patronage received by the Catholic-run think tank. There was a distinct parallel between Soeharto’s favoritism toward the Catholic and Christian minorities and the earlier Dutch reliance on Christianized outer islanders for military and administrative roles during the colonial period. Of course, Sukarno too had patronized non-Muslim elites. Soeharto and his assistants did so in a more deliberate and insensitive manner which, after a short time, stimulated widespread antipathy from the Islamic community.

Muslim leaders resented CSIS because it was dominated by Chinese and Catholic elements – the so-called “Double Minority.” The inordinate influence exercised by CSIS, coupled with Soeharto’s repressive policies toward Muslim groups, spawned conspiracy theories. Catholic CSIS figures were given senior positions in Golkar and the government. They included Jusuf Wanandi (Golkar official), Cosmas Batubara (Labor Minister and Golkar official), Daoed Joesoef (Education and Culture Minister) and Pang Lay Kim (Economic Advisor to President Soeharto). Among others, Kopkamtib Commander General Soemitro and his allies resented the inordinate influence exercised by Ali Moertopo and his CSIS Catholics. Bakin Chief Sutopo Juwono (Soemitro’s associate) asked the Vatican to transfer Father Beek and he was withdrawn from Indonesia in late-1973 but returned after a few months.[18] The priest died from cancer at age sixty-six in Jakarta during September 1983 and was buried at the Catholic Saint Stanislaus College in Klepu, Central Java, about fifteen kilometers south of Semarang, where he had served as a novice during the 1930s.

After Ali Moertopo died in May 1984, ABRI Commander Benny Moerdani (himself a marginal Javanese Catholic) adopted CSIS and perpetuated its role as the unofficial government think tank. CSIS collaborated closely with the New Order regime until it was displaced in the early-1990s by B.J. Habibie’s Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI).ICMI became the anti-CSIS with an unstated mission to prepare Muslim intellectuals for senior office to compensate for the traditional minority overrepresentation. ICMI established its own think tank, the Center for Information and Development Studies (CIDES), in competition with CSIS, and displaced it as the leading government research institute. Without official patronage, CSIS actually became a more balanced, integrated and independent organization, accepting many bright young Muslim researchers and associates into its ranks. After his ouster from the cabinet in 1993, for many years Benny Moerdani regularly frequented his office at CSIS.


[1] J.B. Soedarmanta, Pater Beek, SJ: Larut Tetapi Hanyut (Jakarta: Yayasan Pustaka Obor, 2008), pp. 98-100.

[2] Interview with Harry Tjan Silalahi at his Jakarta CSIS office, November 4, 2009.

[4] Wanandi, Shades of Grey, pp. 31-32.

[5] Ibid, p. 170.

[6] Soedarmanta, Pater Beek, pp. 136-144.

[7] Said, Dari Gestapu ke Reformasi, pp. 32-34.

[8]Cahyono, Pangkopkamtib Jenderal Soemitro, pp. 34-38.

[9] Mujiburrahman, Feeling Threatened: Muslim-Christian Relations in Indonesia’s New Order (Utrecht, The Netherlands: Utrecht University, Doctoral Thesis, 2006), pp. 139-141.

[10]The Chinese Catholic Harry Tjan had been inducted into the Batak Silalahi clan after working as a labor union organizer in North Sumatra during the 1950s.

[11] Wanandi, Shades of Grey, p. 189.

[12] McDonald, Suharto’s Indonesia, pp. 101-102.

[13] Cahyono, Pangkopkamtib Jenderal Soemitro, pp. 35-37.

[14] Mujiburrahman, Feeling Threatened, pp. 134-139.

[15] Ibid, pp. 134-139.

[16] Wanandi, Shades of Grey, p. 29.

[17] Mujiburrahman, Feeling Threatened, pp. 139-141.

[18] Cahyono, Pangkopkamtib Jenderal Soemitro, pp. 34-35.

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