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Pancasila Day

Pancasila Day 2017 and 2018

Pancasila Day is a new official public holiday in Indonesia, having been declared such by the sitting president Joko Widodo in 2016.

20171 JunThuPancasila Day
20181 JunFriPancasila Day

However, Pancasila Day has actually been celebrated since 1945, though it was not a non-working day. Widodo’s decree simply moved Pancasila Day to a higher official status. June 1st was chosen for the observance because it is the day on which Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, gave a famous speech on that day in 1945, wherein he outlined five principles by which the new nation ought be governed. Sukarno referred to these principles as “pancasila” because, in Indonesian, panca means “five,” while sila means “principle.” June 1st is also the day on which Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands, after Japanese forces surrendered to the Allies at the end of World War II.

Sukarno’s speech has been given the title, “The Birth of Pancasila,” and its five principles are:

  • Nationalism: Indonesia must be a unified nation despite its ethnic and religious diversity and despite the divided geography of its far-flung archipelago.
  • Internationalism: To Sukarno, this meant concern for humanitarian and human rights efforts beyond the boundaries of Indonesia.
  • Democracy: This meant that all citizens and all their representatives had an equal vote and that a consensus must be reached through genuine deliberation before new national decisions were made.
  • Social Welfare: This was basically a nod to the Western ideas of “the welfare state” and “social justice.”
  • Monotheism: Sukarno wanted to include a religious foundation for Indonesian government and society, the belief in but one God.

Later, the guiding principles of pancasila were incorporated into Indonesia’s constitution. First, however, they were rearranged into this order: Monotheism, Internationalism, Nationalism, Democracy, and Social Welfare. This was done because Muslims wanted to emphasise the importance of Allah over all else. Nationalists and Christians, however, were wary of those who wanted to make Islam Indonesia’s state religion. In the end, “Allah” was replaced in the constitution with “Tuhan,” a “generic” term for God, in most but not all places. Thus, even in the interpretation of pancasila and in the constitution itself, there is tension among Indonesia’s various political camps.

Today, with a new president, there is hope that pancasila will be fairly administered, and with newfound national holiday status, there is expectation that Pancasila Day will be more celebrated than at any time in the past.

Three things to do should you be in Indonesia for Pancasila Day are:

  • See the Pancasila Sakti monument in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta. It consists of seven statues of famous past leaders fronting a gigantic eagle with its wings outspread. The eagle is a statue of Indonesia’s coat of arms, and the shield it wears on its chest symbolises the five principles, the star on the shield’s centre representing monotheism.
  • Also in Jakarta, visit the National Museum of Indonesia, where you will find vast collections of artifacts from every corner of Indonesia, from every ethnic and religious group, and from every period of its long history.
  • On the east end of the island of Java, get a taste of Indonesia’s diversity in a single city, Surabaya. Here you see towering skyscrapers casting their shadow over colonial-era Dutch architecture. You also find minority sectors like Chinatown and the Arab Quarter with its 15th-Century Ampel Mosque.

On Pancasila Day in Indonesia, you will hear many political speeches in person or on TV and radio, and beginning in 2017, the celebrations may become more pronounced with its new status as a national holiday.