Dr Ian Wilson1
1Murdoch University, Australia
Formed in 1959, the paramilitary youth organisation Pemuda Pancasila have been one of the great survivors of Indonesian politics. Pivotal in the anti-communist mass violence of 1965 that saw the rise of Suharto’s New Order it consolidated its position throughout the regime as criminal entrepreneurs and thuggish protectors from the manufactured threat of communism. In the immediate post reformasi era however, the organisation faced something of an existential crisis, now tainted by its association with the former regime and confronted by new competitors for control over protection economies and political patronage.
This paper examines the recent political resurgence of Pemuda Pancasila. It argues that the increasing political polarisation surrounding national elections combined with social and political anxieties over the rise of conservative and radical Islam has been seized upon by far-right groups such as Pemuda Pancasila as a means by which to ‘rebrand’ themselves as frontline defenders of a particular historical notion of Indonesian pluralism. This has seen a significant influx of new members and patrons, including from ethnic and religious minorities, seeking ‘protection’. Drawing explicitly upon security discourses of radicalisation and threats of violent extremism Pemuda Pancasila has also re-established close working relations with the Jokowi government as a key non-state partner in its securitisation of political dissent, and advocate for a ‘rolling back’ of electoral democracy
Ian Wilson is a Senior Lecturer in Politics and Security Studies, and a research Fellow at The Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University. His research focuses upon power, representation and violence in contemporary Indonesia. He is the author of The Politics of Protection Rackets in Post-New Order Indonesia (Routledge, 2015).