243. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Southwest Pacific Affairs (Mein) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Parsons)0

SUBJECT

  • Suspension of Indonesian Parliament

Sukarno suspended parliament March 5, decreeing an end to its “responsibilities and labors.” This action was not wholly unexpected, since it has been widely assumed that the government could not allow parliament to reject the 1960 budget, which parliament appeared about to do. Moreover, it has been rumored since June 1959, when the 1945 constitution was reinstated, that the existing parliament might be dissolved, since guided democracy frankly contemplated at a minimum the dilution of the elected parliament with appointive, “functional” representatives.

Sukarno’s decree promised early “renewal” of parliament. This renewal will probably consist of (1) appointment by Sukarno of a new parliament containing functional representatives or (2) appointment of the planned People’s Consultative Congress, a kind of super-parliament expected to contain ideological, functional and regional representatives and envisaged as the incarnation of Indonesian sovereignty. However he chooses to handle the renewal question, Sukarno is virtually certain to create a “legislative” body that will see eye to eye with the government.

The suspension of parliament is, as noted above, a logical and not unexpected step in the development of guided democracy, a philosophy [Page 471]inspired in large part by a desire to end the ineffectual bickering which has marked parliamentary government in Indonesia. Guided democracy is openly anti-party, and even before its suspension parliament had been shorn of most of its statutory power (Sukarno made it clear he acknowledged no responsibility to parliament, only to the People’s Consultative Congress). Thus, the principal effect of the March 5 decree is to deprive parliament—already without significant control over governmental affairs—of its opportunity to influence public opinion through its debating sessions.

Although the suspension of parliament hurts all the parties, it probably hurts the Communist Party (PKI) most of all, since that party has been making the most effective use of parliament as a propaganda medium. Sukarno probably was not motivated by any desire thus to curb the PKI, but his action will have the whole-hearted support of the Army leadership in part for this reason. The Army apparently supports the measure without reservation and will now provide, more exclusively than ever, the power to insure implementation of the government’s measures.

Implications for United States interests. Since it practically completes the process of concentrating power in the executive, Sukarno’s decree seems to take Indonesia further away from the sort of democratic system we would like to see there. However, for the time being the stability of the Indonesian Government—so long as that government is non-Communist—is more important to us than the maintenance of traditional forms of parliamentary democracy, particular so since parliamentary regimes in Indonesia helped to create the near political anarchy that has been a major threat to our interests.

  1. Source: Department of State, SPA Files: Lot 63 D 436, Parliament. Confidential. Drafted by Moore.