House ‘needs more time’ to deliberate controversial bill
Regional leaders will have the power to declare a state of emergency in their districts and deploy the Indonesian Military (TNI) to quell social conflicts under a bill the House of Representatives has quietly tried to pass into law while the public was scrutinizing the fuel-price debate.
A special House commission into the social conflict bill, which civil-liberties groups warned might cripple human-rights protections, will deliver the bill to a plenary session of lawmakers next week.
Given the powers to be handed to local leaders if it becomes law, a coalition of human rights organizations called on the House to spend more time debating the bill.
The group also said many articles in the bill contradict existing laws.
“Giving local leaders — down to mayor level — such authority would have not only legal but also political implications,” said Gufron Mabruri, a research coordinator of human-rights watchdog Imparsial.
He said such provisions could be used to benefit incumbent leaders, such as during an electoral dispute where an incumbent leader could use it as a pretext to call a state of emergency then use the conditions for their own benefit.
Al Araf, another Imparsial activist, said the bill contravenes Law No.34/2004, which declares the President the sole decision-maker who has the authority to mobilize the TNI, including when undertaking nonwar operations.
According to article 17 of the bill, a copy of which was made available to The Jakarta Post, governors, regents and mayors are authorized to set an emergency statuses and deploy the TNI to resolve social conflicts with the consent from local military and police leaders at a special forum.
The coalition, which includes Imparsial, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) and the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam), said such regional forums would be similar to local consultative forums (muspida) popular during Soeharto’s New Order regime. They have also been described throwback to the draconian measures of the era.
The bill’s definition on social conflict is also vague, the coalition said.
Article 6 of the bill stipulates that the source of conflicts can come from the political, economic, social and cultural realms, including natural-resources disputes among residents and businesses.
Elsam researcher, Wahyudi Djafar, said there were at least 150 land conflicts between residents and companies in 2011. “The bill would certainly benefit business sectors if they are in a dispute with residents,” he said.
The bill was jointly deliberated by the House Commission II overseeing domestic governance, regional autonomy, state apparatuses and agrarian affairs; Commission III on legal affairs; and Commission I overseeing defense and foreign affairs.
Commission III lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said the bill would be brought to the House’s plenary session on Wednesday.
“We could not accommodate [the coalition’s] aspirations because the process [at the bill’s special committee] was already complete. We are awaiting responses from House factions to be presented at the plenary session,” she told the Post on Friday.
Eva, who chairs the special committee, said she was disappointed with the coalition’s late response as it did not participate in 13 hearings.
“Now the key is at the plenary session. If the factions ask us to suspend the bill then we will do so.”
Earlier this month, the House’s plenary session decided to send the bill back to the committee for revision.
Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.