Saturday, January 1, 2011

Gus Dur’s legacy kept alive by millions of Indonesians

It has been 365 days since the nation lost its teacher, former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, but millions of Indonesians still remember him fondly.

“He was a man who will live on in the memory of many for a long time,” Rita, a Surabaya resident, told The Jakarta Post.

Rita, who has a Javanese and Dutch background and is married to a Chinese-Indonesian, is among droves of Indonesians grateful for Gus Dur’s legacy of championing multiculturalism. Although Gus Dur himself was a prominent cleric of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), he is remembered not only by those within the NU, but also by diverse groups.

Commemorations of the first anniversary of Gus Dur’s death are being held for several days in various locations.

Tebuireng Islamic boarding school headmaster Lukman Hakim said 3,000 people visited Gus Dur’s grave in Jombang, East Java, each day since early last month.

Gus Dur’s family at their home in Ciganjur, South Jakarta, began a two-day commemoration of his passing on Wednesday. The tributes began with a communal screening of the AFF Suzuki Cup soccer final between Indonesia and Malaysia.

The tribute in Ciganjur also featured a book fair, painting exhibition, seminars, cultural pilgrimage and multi faith prayers.

News portal reported Allisa Wahid, Gus Dur’s eldest daughter, said she could still feel the presence of her father even though he passed away a year ago. “The values he fought for are still relevant today,” she said.

Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud MD remembered Gus Dur as an assertive figure with strong integrity who protected the Constitution and democracy, during commemorations at his office in Jakarta.

Mahfud, who was a defense minister in Gus Dur’s Cabinet, said he was reminded of a time when Gus Dur turned down an offer to support and cement his position as president if he issued a decree to change the state ideology from Pancasila to sharia or Islamic law.

“At the time, Gus Dur faced impeachment. He said he would rather lose his position than betray the Constitution,” Mahfud said.

The People’s Consultative Assembly impeached the founder of the National Awakening Party (PKB) for incompetence in 2001 after an erratic presidency.

The impeachment was the start of a bleak period in Gus Dur’s political life as he continued to lose his place in the country’s political stage and internal conflicts among the elite of NU, the country’s largest Islamic organization, escalated.

The biggest internal conflict, which saw the PKB split between Gus Dur and Muhaimin Iskandar, his nephew, still continues today.

Gus Dur’s daughter, Yenny Wahid, is currently considering establishing a new party if Muhaimin, the officially recognized chairman of the PKB did not heed calls to reconcile.

Gus Dur’s sister, Lily Wahid, said the two leaders would bring about the downfall of the party.

University of Indonesia political analyst Fachry Ali said the NU’s role in politics saw its rise and fall during Gus Dur’s reign.

“Clerics should not be openly involved in politics,” Fachry said.

Support for the NU in the political world is currently provided by three parties: the PKB’s two splinter groups, the Awakening Nahdlatul Ulama Party (PKNU), and the United Development Party (PPP).

Syarif Hidyatullah Islamic University political analyst Bachtiar Effendy said Gus Dur was a hero but was never a good politician. (rch)

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