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Dr. Matta: Supporting Gaza is an Indonesian religious duty

Dr. Matta: Supporting Gaza is an Indonesian religious duty

In a comprehensive discussion with the Palestine Information Centre, the Deputy Speaker of the Indonesian Parliament, Dr. Muhammad Anis Matta, talked about his party, the situation in his country and the stance of the Indonesian people on the Palestinian issue.

Dr. Matta is also the Secretary General of the Indonesian Justice and Welfare Party, one of the biggest and most active political parties in the country. Since its foundation in 1998, it has taken huge steps to achieve an unprecedented victory in the 2009 elections, winning 57 parliamentary seats and four ministries. Western reports describe the Justice and Welfare Party as "the clean party" in a country noted for political corruption. The JWP is a model of excellence among Islamic parties, combining faith-based original thought with modern administrative methods based on extensive charity and social work.

Palestine Information Centre: What is your view of the siege imposed on the Palestinians in Gaza? And what efforts could your party in particular and the Indonesian people in general make, or have already made, on this matter?  

Muhammad Anis Matta: First of all, I would like to make it clear that our party's strategy is to stress that the Palestine question is a humanitarian issue, not simply an Islamic issue, so that everyone can feel at ease about supporting the Palestinian cause. As a result, we are pleased that a broad cross-section of Indonesian society, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, is doing something for the Palestinians. This includes disseminating information through the media as well as financial, popular and political support.  

Our party is not alone; all political parties in Indonesia have been eager to support the Palestinians. For the first time in the history of the Indonesian media all television channels were united in sending reporters to cover the brutal Israeli war against the people of the Gaza Strip. The Palestine conflict is seen as the world's most important issue by the Indonesian parliament, which has formed the Indonesian Committee for Solidarity with Palestine (KISPA). This was consolidated by a visit to Gaza by the prime minister.  

All sections of Indonesian society condemn the siege on Gaza and see it as a brutal and inhumane attempt by Israel to humiliate the Palestinians. It is, we believe, a continuation of the Zionist colonialist project in Occupied Palestine, backed by US imperialism. This belief is shared with the Indonesian population as it is an issue that appeals to the conscience of ordinary people; the siege on Gaza serves the interests of neither the US nor Israel. They are the biggest losers and our message to the US administration is for it to reconsider its relationship with the Zionist state and stop its unconditional support for Israel.

PIC: Is there anything special that political parties and popular activists can do to end the siege on Gaza?

MAM: Many solidarity groups are looking to send further humanitarian aid flotillas to Gaza. Some are backed politically by the Indonesian government and parliament and will contribute to any international project aimed at lifting the siege on Gaza. However, there is no clear timetable for these activities as yet.

PIC: As an Islamic movement and party, and an active player in Indonesian politics, what is your view of the direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas and the Israelis?

MAM: Supporting the Palestinian resistance is an Indonesian religious and constitutional duty but we believe that no peace can be reached in the Middle East without the involvement of all the parties involved in Palestinian politics. Excluding Hamas from the negotiations, for example, will lead to the failure of the talks as the party has become a force which cannot be ignored. It is neither appropriate nor politically reasonable to keep an electorally popular party like Hamas at arms' length. We also believe that the ongoing negotiations will give absolutely nothing to the Palestinian people. That is why we called upon the Indonesian government to contribute to the international efforts aimed at bringing about peace in the region so that Western countries will not have the upper hand in the administration of any peace agreement.

Based on Indonesian political thought, as well as your long experience in resisting occupation, how do you perceive the Palestinian resistance and the war being waged against it?

MAM: Indonesia is by nature supportive of all kinds of resistance against oppression because our people have known the bitterness of life under occupation, having been occupied for three and a half centuries. Former president Sukarno was the leader of our country's struggle for independence and he united previously occupied developing Asian and African countries into a non-aligned movement. All the occupied countries were liberated except South Africa and Palestine. Now Palestine is the only country under occupation. Also, the constitution of Indonesia emphasizes that it is the humanitarian duty of the Indonesian people to show solidarity with all occupied peoples in their struggle for independence. Supporting the Palestinian resistance is first of all a religious and constitutional duty in addition to being an historical obligation. We believe strongly in and support the resistance.

PIC: You have all been elected by the people in a popular vote; what is your opinion about the Palestinian MPs and ministers detained by the Israeli occupation authorities?

MAM: We demanded the release of all the Palestinians MPs in Israeli jails through the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and called for their rights to be returned to them, including their rights as elected members of parliament to participate in international gatherings. It is unfair that a Palestinian government which won free and fair elections can be treated so brutally and unfairly, and humiliated politically. In addition, we called upon the Indonesian government to exert pressure on the Israeli government to free the detained MPs.

PIC: What is the truth behind the alleged Zionist infiltration across Eastern Asia, including, perhaps, Indonesia, and how do you confront and overcome it?

Zionist infiltration in the Indonesian economy is a reality of which we are totally aware; we see it with our own eyes. Because of this, we presented to our government a project for economic independence in which we called for tackling all forms of external control over our economy; this is another issue which has touched the conscience of the Indonesian people. It is within the context of this project that a number of reforms have been introduced in the legal system covering investment, mining and the oil extraction industry.

PIC: As a senior official in Indonesia, what is your message to the Palestinians on behalf of the Indonesian people?

MAM: Our hearts and minds are, and will always be, with you until you get your independence.

PIC: Let us talk about internal affairs in Indonesia. Could you tell us about the Justice and Welfare Party, and what contributions you have made to your country's political life?

MAM: The Justice and Welfare Party is an Islamic party that was founded by a number of young Muslims in 1998 at the end of the Suharto era. He ruled Indonesia for 32 years and his resignation marked the beginning of a new politics in the country, moving from a dictatorship and one-party rule to a pluralist system. It was in those political circumstances that the party was born. The change came about following a financial and economic crisis across South East Asia, creating a political crisis in Indonesia.

We have participated in three elections since the foundation of the party. We did well, winning seven parliamentary seats in the 1999 election, 45 in 2004 and 57 in 2009. At first we had only one ministry, then three, and now we have four ministries: Media, Agriculture, Technology and Social Affairs. The Justice and Welfare Party is now the biggest Islamic party and the fourth largest of all parties in Indonesia. It is a great advocate of Islamic values and adopts a moderate political approach, advocating openness as well as political alliances with nationalists and secularists. The JWP is a pioneer of the power of reform in the country.

We look forward to a bright future for our party for a number of reasons, not least because our leadership is relatively young; most of the founding members were in their late twenties or early thirties when the party was formed. They now have enough experience to push the party towards more success. Also, there is what we may call the "old age" phenomenon in all other parties in the country, whether Islamic or secular.  

Source: The Palestinian Information Centre


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