Pemuda Pancasila and the Militia Culture

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Pemuda Pancasila and the Militia Culture

Pemuda Pancasila (Pancasila Youth) was the most prominent regime-sanctioned militia during the 1990s. The group was established in October 1959 as a youth wing for the Veteran’s Party (IPKI), founded by General Abdul Haris Nasution. A heated rivalry between Pemuda Pancasila and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) youth organization, Pemuda Rakyat, developed long before the 1965-1966 conflagration, when Pemuda Pancasila chapters in Medan and Aceh aggressively slaughtered PKI cadre and suspected communists. Members collected ears and penises as gruesome souvenirs of their labors. Traditionally, Pemuda Pancasila had been strong in North Sumatra, especially around Medan’s Belawan Port, where it was involved in smuggling, prostitution, gambling, drugs and the protection rackets. By the late-1990s, there were around 300,000 Pemuda Pancasila members in North Sumatra, significantly outnumbering the police.

Pemuda Pancasila’s violent role during the anti-communist massacre helped cement its partnership with the New Order regime. With its stated mission to defend Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution, Golkar adopted the group as an unofficial paramilitary. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s under the New Order’s protective umbrella, Pemuda Pancasila chapters around the country recruited small-time hoodlums and expanded into illicit protection and gambling rackets. [1] The regime acted to revitalize Pemuda Pancasila in 1980 under Yapto Soelistyo Soeryosoemarno (photo inset), the son of Major General Soetarjo Soeryosoemarno, an army officer with royal blood from the Surakarta Mankunegara Sultanate, and a Dutch-Jewish mother. Soetarjo was the Army Topography Director. As Ibu Tien’s distant cousin, he was a Soeharto family friend.

As a sixteen-year old, Yapto led the Siliwangi Boys, a notorious gang in Jakarta’s Senen Market, during the 1965-1966 upheaval. After being in and out of jail several times and making a name for himself, Yapto was appointed to head the government party (Golkar) Youth Organization, Ampi (Angkatan Muda Pemuda Pancasila Indonesia). Through his aggressive behavior and the President’s patronage, he advanced to become the national Pemuda Pancasila Commander. Yapto put friends in charge of regional chapters and recruited gang members and ex-convicts.

Most urban gangs and Major General Ali Moertopo’s mafia network were decimated during the 1983-1985 Petrus (Penembakan Misterius or “Mysterious Shooter”) anti-crime campaign, leaving Yapto’s Pemuda Pancasila with virtually unchallenged control over the underworld. In effect, Yapto and his Pemuda Pancasila lieutenants clawed their way to prominence over the piled up bodies of their gangster rivals. By 1990, Pemuda Pancasila dubiously claimed six million nationwide members. [2]

Soeharto and his family employed Pemuda Pancasila members as bodyguards. The military and Golkar used Pemuda Pancasila thugs to do the regime’s dirty work – attacking pro-democracy rallies, staging counter-demonstrations against students and anti-government protestors, provoking mob violence, distributing bribes to vote for Golkar, clearing land for developers, and intimidating activists, civic groups and opposition figures – in contrast to its declared mission to encourage citizens to uphold the state ideology. Pemuda Pancasila chapters developed partnerships with the regional commands. With military sponsorship, the group operated above the law, shielded from criminal sanctions. The regime employed Pemuda Pancasila gangsters as proxies and then denied responsibility for their actions, generally excused as overzealousness in defending Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. Regime opponents feared such groups more than the Army.

Pemuda Pancasila was not alone. The Nahdlatul Ulama had its huge Ansor paramilitary youth organization. After the Petrus extra-judicial killings, the United Development Party (PPP) and Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) formed their own party task forces (satuan tugas partai politik, satgas parpol). Like Pemuda Pancasila, the party militias drew from the ranks of the unemployed, juvenile delinquents and petty criminals. Members wore uniforms and were responsible to provide security during party functions, control members, organize parades, set up communications and security posts, act as body guards and more offensive activities, like intimidating opposition party cadre, journalists and rivals. [3]

Pemuda Pancasila helped organize the July 27, 1996 attack on the Jakarta PDI headquarters, sparking two days of riots and looting. Military leaders protected the group from the police, who on several occasions had tried to charge both Yapto and his Chinese-Papuan deputy, Yorrys Raweyai, with illegal gambling, assault and weapons charges. [4] Both Yapto and Yorrys were of mixed pedigree, types typically involved in organized crime since colonial times. Yorrys started out in the protection rackets in Jayapura and later moved to Jakarta, where he joined Pemuda Pancasila. He worked his way up to become Yapto’s right hand man. Yapto put Yorrys in charge of fundraising because of his gambling connections and ties to the Chinese community. Yorrys was also helpful in protecting regime timber and mining interests in Irian Jaya because of his underworld contacts in the distant province. [5]

After the PDI operation, Yapto stepped back from Pemuda Pancasila leadership and turned the group over to Yorrys. He inherited Yapto’s close ties to the Soeharto family, Bob Hasan and Prabowo Subianto. Moving to more legitimate pastures, Yapto headed the Indonesian Manpower Service, a government agency that coordinated labor export, while Yorrys ran the Jakarta branch of the government-sponsored SPSI workers union and the Jakarta Tourist Industry Association. Pemuda Pancasila district and local chapter heads were granted lucrative official and private sector positions. With Soeharto’s patronage, Yapto graduated into polite society despite his reputation as “the godfather of Indonesian gangsters.” By the late-1990s, he devoted himself to expensive hobbies as a big game hunter and adventure enthusiast. In April 1999, Yapto formed the Pancasila Patriot Party, a small party aligned with Golkar. By then, there were already dozens of Pemuda Pancasila graduates representing Golkar in Parliament. [6]

Pemuda Pancasila was active in the post-Soeharto era but more circumscribed, its ties to the military and Golkar less overt. Yorrys Raweyai continued to protect Soeharto and his family. The proliferation of political parties and satgas parpol militias became a significant problem, contributing to election-related violence during the 1999, 2002 and 2004 campaigns. “The satgas paramilitary wings of the political parties reflected the reproduction of New Order style militarism within the new political structure. … The reality has been that the satgas have been akin to private mercenary armies, intimidating opponents and critics both within and outside the party, providing ‘muscle’ for the private sector and operating their own protection rackets alongside other criminal activities.” [7] The political parties steadfastly resisted calls to disband their militias.

By the early-1990s, regimist Generals Feisal Tanjung, Hartono, Syarwan Hamid and Prabowo were cultivating Islamic groups that might be controlled and manipulated. The new Islamic-military connections were based more on opportunism than ideology. Soeharto son-in-law Prabowo enjoyed close ties to both Yapto and Yorrys but branched out to establish his own network of Islamic militant supporters, including radical groups like the Indonesian Committee in Solidarity with the Muslim World (Komite Indonesia untuk Solidaritas Dunia Islam, Kisdi) under Ahmad Sumargono and the Indonesian Muslim Workers Association (Persaudaraan Pekerja Muslim Indonesia, PPMI) under Eggi Sudjana. He also sponsored marginally Catholic East Timorese militias and gangsters, like Hercules Rozario Marcal who ran a powerful East Timorese gang in the Central Jakarta Tanah Abang commercial district, and martial arts groups like the Young Indonesian Knights (Satria Muda Indonesia).

Prabowo’s secular-nationalist rival, Armed Forces Commander General Wiranto made his own circumscribed effort to develop a cadre of Islamic thugs when he chartered the Pam Swakarsa (volunteer security force) during the November 1998 MPR, although it was a temporary alliance. Wiranto and his supporters forged new relationships with groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, FPI). Following the Pemuda Pancasila model, FPI often did the military and police dirty work. As they had characterized Pemuda Pancasila’s unsavory behavior as overzealousness in the cause of Pancasila, now the generals and bureaucrats depicted FPI’s thuggish actions as over enthusiasm in defending Islamic values. Throughout the military-backed pro-integration campaign of intimidation and terror during 1999, General Wiranto denied there were any militias in East Timor. Instead, he legitimized those groups by referring to them as official Wanra (Perlawanan Rakyat, People’s Resistance) paramilitary organizations. In reality, they comprised the worst criminal elements from society.

The ground shifted when Soeharto resigned. Security forces had less control over criminal groups as those groups competed to establish new turf. To a large extent it was a question of money. Under Soeharto, the military had access to almost unlimited funds used to manipulate criminal elements. After the military’s fall from grace and the collapse of military-run businesses in the late-1990s, commanders no longer had the resources to control their criminal assets, one reason for the dramatic rise in crime. In early-2000, security forces assisted the passage by Laskar Jihad and other Islamic fighters across Java, onto passenger ships at Surabaya’s Tanjung Perak Port, and onward to Maluku, despite explicit orders from President Abdurrahman Wahid to stop them. The tacit partnership between senior officers and Muslim politicians with jihadist groups in Maluku and Central Sulawesi was aimed more at undermining Wahid than any real ideological affinity with the militants.

Senior officers and politicians persisted in the belief they could control the militant groups and prevent them from engaging in terrorist acts. There was a change of attitude among many after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Military support for Muslim militants was reduced in recognition of the danger they represented. Perceptions shifted again after Indonesia’s own home-grown terrorist bombing on October 12, 2002 in Bali by Jemaah Islamiyah. Senior officers who had supported the jihadist groups in Maluku and Central Sulawesi scurried to sever those relationships and cover their tracks.

After decades of indoctrination, many Indonesians tolerated organized preman (criminal) groups operating with government legitimacy as a fact of life. The sanctioned ties between criminals and the security forces had for decades encouraged the opportunistic involvement by military and police personnel in criminal activities, like extortion, black marketeering, narcotics and weapons trafficking. Political parties continue to have their own security forces, operating with varying degrees of discipline. While the principal players and motivations have changed, the militia culture is alive and well in Indonesia today. Yorrys Raweyai presently serves as a Golkar representative in Parliament.

[1] Loren Ryter, “Pemuda Pancasila: The Last Loyalist Free Men of Suharto’s Order” (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, Indonesia, Volume 66, October 1998), pp. 55-57. The 5,000-strong Jakarta Pemuda Pancasila chapter also joined in raids against the PKI and ransacking PKI properties.

[2] Ibid,” pp. 64-67.

[3] Phil King, “Putting the (Para) Military Back into Politics: The Taskforces of the Political Parties,” Inside Indonesia, Volume 73, January-March 2003.

[4] Ryter, “Pemuda Pancasila,” p. 46.

[5] Kevin O’Rourke, Reformasi: The Struggle for Power in Post-Soeharto Indonesia (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2002), pp. 12-13 and 46.

[6] Ian Wilson, The Changing Contours of Organized Violence in Post New Order Indonesia (Perth: Murdoch University Working Paper Number 118, February 2005), p. 27.

[7] Ibid, p. 5.

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