The Pancasila

What is Pancasila?

Pancasila [pronounced pan-cha-see-laa] is the Indonesian state’s philosophy. It is from two old classical words [Sanskrit]: ‘panca’, which is the word for number five and ‘sila’, which means principle.

At the end of World War II, the Indonesian independence movement’s leaders faced with problem of a heterogen population. Not only has different religions, but also different races and ethnicities. They hoped to unite all of these and thousands of scattered islands into a new nation. Sukarno and Hatta who got their educations abroad were familiar with some terms of international politics like nationalism, socialism, monotheism.

However, Sukarno in particular was digging very hard into the many aspects of the Indonesian society and looked for the common grounds from their histories and traditions to find one important thing which can unify the population and become the national principles on which the Indonesian nation would be built.

In June 1945, Sukarno in his speech entitled ‘The Birth of Pancasila’ stated his five principles: nationalism, human rights, concensus, socialism and monotheism. This version was later on refined by a special committee and through a long debating process, the leaders came out with a new version:

  1. A belief in an almighty God (Ketuhanan yang maha esa);
  2. A just and civilised humanity (Kemanusiaan yang adil dan beradab);
  3. The unity of Indonesia (Persatuan Indonesia);
  4. A democratic process guided by inspirational wisdom in consultation and representation (Kerakyatan yang dipimpin oleh hikmat kebijaksanaan dalam permusyawaratan dan perwakilan); and
  5. Social justice for all Indonesians (Keadilan sosial bagi seluruh rakyat Indonesia).

The Pancasila is symbolically represented in the coat of arms of Indonesia [Garuda=the big Eagle] as seen in official Indonesian documents and government properties. Inside a shield on the eagle’s breast, God is represented by a star, humanity by a circular chain, nationalsm by a bull’s head, democracy through concensus and represtation by a many-trunked banyan tree, and social justice by springs of cotton and wheat.

In term of law, the Pancasila is not only seen as the state’s philosophy but also as the legal source [grund norms]. In the Constitution, although the collective name Pancasila is not mentioned but each principle is written in it’s preamble. It means that Pancasila is the root or basic of every article in the Constitution. As a result, amending the Constitution will be a very difficult exercise because a new article must not conflict with the Pancasila, which since the independence has been seen as something that has an almost supernatural and glorified meaning for the nation.