There Is Vacuum in Muslim Leadership
Muhammad Jusuf Kalla, Former Vice President:
MUHAMMAD Jusuf Kalla is no longer the vice president of the country but it does not mean he is less busy these days. As chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) and also of the Indonesian Mosque Council (DMI), he is still busy as a bee attending a myriad of events both at home and overseas. Along with judges of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, he flew to Vatican on October 23 to meet Pope Francis. On the way home, he stopped by Saud Arabia to discuss the continuation of the construction of the Prophet Muhammad Museum in Ancol, North Jakarta. “I took the opportunity to go for ‘very limited’ umrah (minor pilgrimage),” said Kalla, 78, during a special interview with Tempo at his South Jakarta residence last Wednesday, November 18.
Kalla only had a few days’ breather after arriving back home before taking off again for a two-day trip to Manokwari, West Papua; and Jayapura, Papua on November 13 to 14. There, he visited the PMI office and swore in the regional DMI leadership. He also met with religious leaders to discuss development initiatives as well as conflict resolution. Based on his experience as a peace broker in Aceh, the veteran politician who served as the vice president in the administrations of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004-2009) and Joko Widodo (2014-2019) is confident that the Papua conflict can be resolved via dialog.
Although he is no longer active in the political arena, Kalla keeps abreast of talk of the town events such as the repatriation of Muhammad Rizieq Syihab, Grand Imam of Islam Defenders Front (FPI), from Saudi Arabia. He said the frenzied welcome Rizieq received from his supporters amid the pandemic was worthy of note adding that Rizieq had benefitted from the void of Muslim leadership which promotes amar ma’ruf nahi munkar (commanding the right and forbidding the wrong). “He entered through that void and garnered massive number of supporters,” he said.
Accompanied by his spokesperson Husain Abdullah, Kalla spoke to Tempo reporters Anton Septian, Mahardika Satria Hadi, Raymundus Rikang, Khairul Anam, and Aisha Shaidra, about his meeting with Pope Francis, his view about Rizieq’s repatriation as well as the issues that had long dogged Papua. He also explained the reason behind the government’s decision to pick Patimban in Subang, West Java, as the location for the construction of the country’s second largest port after Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta.
How do you see the dynamics surrounding Rizieq Syihab’s return to Indonesia?
There has been a vacuum in the Muslim leadership when it comes to the principle of amar ma’ruf nahi munkar. Islamic political parties which are wasathiyah or moderate are expected to promote it but they all are too pragmatic. Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) clearly is preoccupied with dakwah (preaching) and social initiatives. The same goes for Muhammadiyah. But their efforts to fill the leadership roles were arguably lacking, leaving a void. That was how Habib Rizieq came in and managed to amass an extraordinary army of supporters. We ourselves were stunned how suddenly this happened. We certainly need to consolidate other organizations to groom alternative figures.
That role used to be yours—bringing religious groups together while maintaining political fluidity. Is this the kind of void you are referring to?
The FPI has been around for quite long. Out of the blue, it reached a peak like this, in terms of masses. The masses have not changed. This needs a new perspective or approach. Let us not be engrossed in preaching only. Let’s advocate amar ma’ruf nahi munkar. We’ve been so wrapped up in politics that Habib Rizieq came in and filled that leadership vacuum.
Who’s to blame for this situation?
No one. I’m not saying it’s wrong but only stressing that Islamic organizations need to be active in promoting amar ma’ruf nahi munkar.
Do you consider the frenetic welcome extended to Rizieq by thousands of people as an alarming phenomenon?
As long as they do it peacefully, we should not worry, I guess. What’s wrong is that it happened at the height of the pandemic. There was nothing wrong with 411 and 212 rallies (Defending Islam Movement II and III). These are the same masses. The 212 masses were far larger than the last crowds. But the problem is their violations of the health protocols, the Health Quarantine Law and also the large-scale social restriction regulations which landed Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan in trouble with the police (the Jakarta metro police).
Wasn’t the government firm enough in responding to Rizieq’s return?
Well, he’s a respected citizen and cleric. Since the investigation of his case has been suspended, he is a now free man. There’s no way to dictate him on his movements. I guess he was equally surprised by the massive crowds.
According to the health protocols, shouldn’t this event involving masses have been prohibited?
It is hard to prohibit it in a normal situation, much less in a situation like this. That’s why I feel that we are facing a Muslim leadership vacuum. It was almost like the homecoming of Khomeini (Iran’s Islamic revolutionary leader). He was welcomed with cheers. But I guess it was just all momentary euphoria. They took selfies to show off to people in their villages. ‘Hey, I was among those who picked up Rizieq.’ They were proud. Look at the videos.
What could be the worst consequences if the government is too hard on Rizieq?
It can claim victims. It was not possible to break up such massive crowds with water cannons. The police would be outnumbered if they started pushing the crowds. Even more so if there was shooting or stampede. In the minds of the crowds, if they die, they would die as syahids (martyrs). So, the situation called for a more rational approach. I think the euphoria of the crowds could be attributed to their longing for their ‘leader’ during the three and a half years of absence.
Did you meet with Rizieq when you were in Saudi Arabia?
Of course not! I only had one day there-one night each in Riyadh and Mecca, then about six hours in Medina before returning home.
He didn’t have any communication with you after his return?
Not at all.
Some view that Rizieq became such a huge figure because of the government’s treatment during the first term of President Joko Widodo’s administration. You were the vice president then. What is your response?
What catapulted him into prominence was Ahok’s case (the religious blasphemy case that landed the then Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama in jail). The case united masses that shared the same sentiment and brought about 411 and 212 movements. The public sentiment that carried him was powerful. During the 411 rallies, the president was not at the Palace. I was the one on guard at the palace and that’s when we made a decision. I asked the police chief how long it would take him to resolve this Ahok case. He said two weeks. So, we agreed on two weeks. There wouldn’t be 411 and 212 without that case. But then it was politically difficult because Ahok also had a lot of supporters. It created a very sharp divide.
Do you think Rizieq can become an elected leader via general elections?
If he goes via political parties, yes, but we can take a firm stance actually. I once ordered his arrest.
During my first term (with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono). I asked the national police chief (Gen. Sutanto) to arrest him for ordering assault on innocent individuals at Monas (the national monument) on June 1, 2008. He spent nine months behind bars. After he got out, he—altogether five people—came to see me. He asked, ‘you ordered my arrest, Sir?’ and I said, ‘yes, why? Because you were in the wrong.’ He’s not above the law.
Why didn’t the police take immediate actions?
They were hesitant. I said, ‘I’m giving you the order.’ It means I’d take the responsibility. Pak SBY was away that time. Otherwise, I could use an authorization letter (chuckles)...
How would you describe your relationship with Rizieq?
During the 2009 elections, I wanted to run as the presidential candidate as Pak SBY no longer wanted me as his running mate. Rizieq came to me and said, ‘Pak JK, we support you but on the written condition that you would implement the Islamic law (if you win).’ I said, ‘Habib, I’m offended by your words. Which part of the Islamic law that we are not applying? The Sharia consists of aqidah (belief), ibadah (worship), muamalat (transaction). We build mosques, pay zakat (alms), line up to go on haj pilgrimage. What other Islamic rules are there?
What was his reaction?
He fell silent. I’ve lived by the Sharia since I was born until now. I said it was ok if he didn’t want to support me. He said we were not on the same path. Well, yes, we didn’t think in the same way. He wanted to include the Sharia in the regional regulations and the laws. For what? The Qur’an and hadiths (Prophet Mohammad’s sayings) cover sharia. That’s the highest law for Muslims. Then we have the constitution below that. So which part of Sharia did he want to put into laws? Should the people who don’t pray be put in jail? They would go to hell if they don’t pray. That’s already a higher level decree.
You said the Rizieq phenomenon reflected the Muslim population’s longing for an approachable leader who champions their interests. Doesn’t this open up opportunities for Anies Baswedan in the 2024 elections?
It was an easy win for Anies (in the gubernatorial elections) because of Ahok’s case. There was tremendous partiality. Anies could capitalize on that but even if he wins, for me, whoever aspires to become president must have achievements. It’s not about the ties or close relations he has. People will judge Anies, Ganjar Pranowo, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, or Ridwan Kamil based on their achievements, including in curbing Covid-19.
You pushed forward Anies’ nomination in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial elections. Will you prepare him for the 2024 presidential elections?
It’s still a long way to go—four more years. Things can change.
Please tell us about your visit to Vatican and the meeting with Pope Francis.
I was chosen as a judge for the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity. Since the idea for the award sprang from a meeting between Pope Francis and Ahmad el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, last year, we visited both. I will also speak with the grand Imam of Al-Azhar in January. We’ve been kind of stalled by the Covid-19.
What are the duties of the jury?
There are five judges and I represent Asia. We nominate figures or organizations that meet the human fraternity criteria, among others, endeavors to promote peace and harmony. War is not the solution.
What did you discuss with the Pope?
I informed him that I was the chairman of the Indonesian Mosque Council. The Pope was scheduled to visit Indonesia last September. I conveyed to him, ‘The Catholic community in Indonesia is awaiting Your Holiness’ visit.’ He said he would reschedule the visit.
Besides Vatican and Saudi Arabia, you also went to Papua. What did you do there?
I held discussions with religious and community leaders, bishops and the chairman of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI). We brainstormed about how to end the conflict and move Papua forward. They gave a lot of input although I’m not part of the government anymore. I reported to the President, ‘Sir, just start a dialog.’ He concurred.
From your experience as a conflict mediator in Aceh, why do you think the government has not succeeded with a similar approach in Papua?
Acehnese insurgents ran the line of command in a disciplined manner. There were Malik Mahmud (the prime minister of the Free Aceh Movement—GAM), Zaini Abdullah in Sweden, Zakaria Zaman, and his commander-in-chief Muzakir Manaf alias Mualem. It’s different in Papua. Every region has its own group. One group in Puncak Jaya, another in Timika and so on. They are not organized so we don’t know whom we should talk to.
Isn’t there already an umbrella organization called the United Liberation Movement for West Papua?
It’s only a kind of campaign. It is not a structured organization and not necessarily followed by all. Benny Wenda in the UK, for example. They may make proclamations but the Papuan people themselves may not acknowledge it.
Which groups should the government hold dialog with?
Everyone. It should be a significantly large dialog, for example with 50 people representing each region. They already have the Papua People’s Council but it is more of a customary council. Besides, what more do they want to talk about? Everything is stipulated in the Special Autonomy Law.
Papuan people have the desire to determine their own fate. Is there room for dialog with the government for that?
It depends on what determining own fate means. Now Papua can already decide for themselves. It is now more federal than a federal state. In the United States as a federal republic for instance, a Texan can be New York’s governor, a New Yorker can become California’s governor. Here, a Papuan can legally be elected to be a governor for Jakarta or Sulawesi but Javanese or Sumatran natives cannot reach beyond the post of regent in Papua. A lot of economic initiatives have also been launched. So, I don’t really know what more to talk about.
What is wrong with the Jokowi government’s current approach to Papua?
People used to think that the republic has robbed Papua of so much resources. I said it was not true at all. It is precisely Papua that received the most subsidies. The government gave a lot more to Papua than what it received from there, for example the taxes. The only major contributors are Freeport and Tangguh (natural gas).
What about the security approach which has been slammed as excessive?
From my experience in Aceh, as regards security, it depends on who hold the weapons. GAM combatants destroyed their weapons. The security approach was taken (in Papua) because militants and armed groups still possess weapons. Otherwise, why should the troops be deployed there. Don’t distort the reality. State’s duty is to protect the people. Imagine what could happen without the presence of the army. The national army is only guarding against criminal acts.
What should still be done by the government to improve the conditions in Papua?
Development of human resources. It’s great that there is now a special autonomy program facilitating Papua students to study overseas to help open their minds. We hope that many more Papuan youths will study in the universities in Java to enhance their transformation.
When you were still the vice president, you initiated the Patimban Port development plan. Do you think the current development is already in line with the plan?
It was supposed to be in Cilamaya (West Java). After inspection, we saw there were a lot of rigs in front of the Cilamaya port. It means there will be many pipelines. Imagine if a ship’s anchor strikes a pipeline. Everything will explode. That’s why I asked the port to be moved to the east and Patimban in Subang was chosen.
What are the considerations for choosing Patimban?
The government has long been mulling over the plan to move the industry to the east as West Java is already full. It’s difficult to build a port in Semarang (Central Java) because its sea is shallow whereas ships are huge. Patimban will surely become Jakarta’s rival but will also boost other industries. Jakarta can still serve ships from Bekasi (West Java), Tangerang (Banten), and so on. Those from Karawang (West Java) to the east could dock at Patimban.
Patimban will become the first port to be operated by a private company. Is it what the government planned?
Pak Jokowi’s approach is always about creating competition. The most glaring example is Pertamina which got better and brighter after Shell, Total, and Petronas entered. If Patimban can set one or two days of dwell time, Tanjung Priok will surely be challenged to improve its own. That’s why Pelindo doesn’t participate.
Was the plan to not include Pelindo announced from the start?
From the beginning, it was already stipulated in the agreement that Patimban would be operated by a consortium of Indonesian and Japanese companies. It’s a pure private consortium from Indonesia called CT Corp Infrastructure Indonesia with a Japanese operator.
During their visit to Patimban, several logistics businessmen said you had bought all the lands around the port area. Is that true?
(Laughs) Who said that? I don’t own a single meter of land there. It was Barito Pacific belonging to Prajogo (Pangestu) who owns a lot of lands. But it was just coincidental. He wanted to build a power plant and suddenly there’s a port.
How much land does Barito Pacific own over there?
If I’m not wrong, almost 1,000 hectares. In ring 2, I think. It’s close.
MUHAMMAD JUSUF KALLA
Place and Date of Birth: Watampone, South Sulawesi, May 15, 1942 | Education: Faculty of Economics, Hasanuddin University, Makassar (1967); The European Institute of Business Administration, Fontainebleau, France (1977) | Career: Member, Regional People’s Representative Council of South Sulawesi (1965-1968), Member, People’s Consultative Assembly (1982-1987, 1987-1992, and 1997-1999), Minister of Industry and Trade (1999-2000), Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare (2001-2004), Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia (2004-2009 and 2014-2019) | Organization: Chair, Golkar Central Executive Board (2004-2009), Chairman, Indonesian Red Cross (2019-2024), Chairman, Indonesian Mosque Council (2012-2022)