Hundreds of members of an organization notorious for its thuggery attacked the Depok District Court in West Java on Tuesday morning, threatening the chairman of the court over a disputed land case.
Members of Pemuda Pancasila, dressed in the organization’s military-style uniforms, rammed motorbikes into the court’s glass entry door, smashing their way into the building as they headed to chairman Prim Haryadi’s office.
“At about 8:30 a.m., I was receiving some guests [in my office], when all of a sudden hundreds of PP members came breaking into the building with motorbikes,” Prim said later on Tuesday.
Upon noticing the chaos on CCTV, the judge immediately dismissed his guests just as dozens of angry PP members broke the door and windows in his office.
The group reportedly launched a chair in Prim’s direction in addition to threatening to kill him over a court decision to delay the execution of a previous verdict.
“They just came in, more than 10 people were in my room wearing PP uniforms, including the leader, Rudi Samin, who refused to accept the court’s decision to postpone a land eviction order. They threatened to kill me,” he said.
“Two of my staff were slapped on the face. They were trying to block the PP from getting into my office,” Prim added.
“There were no policemen on hand during the incident.”
According to Depok District Court spokesman Iman Lukmanul Hakim, the group had come to threaten the court on behalf of PP Depok chief Rudi Samin, who had been announced the winner in a dispute involving 33 hectares of land in Sukmajaya subdistrict.
However, Iman said the opposing party had filed an appeal, which had required the court to stay the eviction process.
“We had sent a letter to Rudi Samin as the winning party, saying the execution of the verdict would take place today, on September 17,” he said.
Under threat from their unannounced visitors, Iman and Prim were forced to agree to immediately carry out an eviction at the disputed plot of land.
“I immediately told them, yes we will do it. If I hadn’t said those words, I don’t know what would’ve happened next,” said Iman, who at the time of the incident was in the same room as Prim.
“There was nothing we could do,” a Depok Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) official said. “The chairman of the court had been threatened. So the eviction was eventually conducted.”
Later on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered the police force to take strict action against the perpetrators of the attack on the court.
“State investigators have to take action because clearly there are state assets that have been damaged. The perpetrators should be held responsible,” said Supreme Court spokesman Ridwan Mansyur, as quoted by Detik.com.
Ridwan highlighted weak security in courts across the country and called on police and lawmakers to be more involved.
“In the future, we would like to push for [the government] to put together a contempt of court law,” he said.
Rudi admitted his men had been behind the incident and said the group would take responsibility for damage done.
“If the court would like to report us to the police, then go ahead. Pemuda Pancasila will take responsibility,” he said.
Explaining their motive behind the violence, Rudi said the attacks had been conducted to express their disappointment and distrust of the court.
“The PP would like to teach the district court a lesson. This is how you implement the law,” Rudi said.
“The law no longer exists in Depok.”
Rudi claimed his group had incriminating information about court staff, and could use it against the institution.
“If they attack us, then we, too, will expose the district court’s flaws,” he said.
Tuesday’s incident added to the list of attacks on government institutions involving Pemuda Pancasila.
On Aug. 27, dozens of Pemuda Pancasila members marched to the East Java General Elections Commission headquarters, demanding that chairman Andri Dewanto Ahmad step down from office for siding with one of the candidates running in the region’s gubernatorial election.
But on that occasion security officers were quick to block the PP’s entrance, preventing violence from breaking out.
Other organizations across the country have also been allowed to get away with repeated acts of thuggery and vigilantism. Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) have been held responsible for regular violent raids during the month of Idul Fitri, for example.
But Pemuda Pancasila’s notoriety goes a long way back, notably including the 1965 massacres of suspected members and sympathizers of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
The massacres were the backdrop to a documentary film by American director Joshua Oppenheimer titled “The Act of Killing,” which has turned the world’s eyes on Indonesia’s bloody hidden past.
In the movie, two members of Pemuda Pancasila, Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkdary, are central characters as they re-enact their personal participation in the 1965 killings, which left an estimated 500,000 people dead nationwide.
“The Act of Killing” went on to garner critical acclaim after secret screenings in Indonesia and later commercial international screenings, prompting condemnation from the international community over the brutal killings and, moreover, Pemuda Pancasila’s role in them.
In an opinion piece published by Kompas on Tuesday, however, US academic R. William Liddle, an expert on Indonesian politics, said the film failed to place the attacks in their context, which he said included public anxiety about the communist party’s rapid growth in the 1960s.
The PKI, Liddle said, was very popular among impoverished plantation workers in Sumatra with whom calls for class struggle struck a chord.
“My impression was that non-communist members of the public in Siantar and Simalungun [in North Sumatra] had grown anxious of the PKI’s growth,” he wrote.
He said that fears about the party may have stemmed from news reports about totalitarianism in the Soviet Union and China, and largely mistaken, but common, characterizations of communist party members as atheists.
Liddle said that the movie’s estimate of a three-million-strong membership for Pemuda Pancasila was inaccurate.
“This fantastic claim is a normal thing in the Indonesian political and organizational world, but people in the outside need to be more sceptical,” he wrote.
“In terms of Pemuda Pancasila, although it is hard to pinpoint an exact number, it is perhaps safer to assume there were tens of thousands of members.”
The movie has had audiences worldwide cringing in their seats as Anwar boasts on screen of his favorite method of murdering political enemies, which involved garotting his victims with wire.
However, equally gut-wrenching parts of the movie included scenes where public officials were pictured bluntly offering support for the organization.
“At least four members of the government have hung themselves through interviews with Oppenheimer or through speeches and recorded actions, all of whom praised Pemuda Pancasila as a patriotic organization that had served the country and needed to be maintained for the sake of the future,” Liddle wrote.
In one scene, former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, wearing a Pemuda Pancasila uniform, proudly proclaims that the nation has a need for thugs such as those in Pemuda Pancasila.
“We need our gangsters to get things done,” Kalla says in the film.