National

Govt says ‘ormas’ bill
to be passed next week

Home Affairs Ministry Gamawan Fauzi said on Friday that the controversial Mass Organizations Bill should be passed into law next week. “It is likely that the bill will be brought to plenary on March 26,” the minister said at his office.

The bill will regulate thousands of organizations, including foreign NGOs. “There will be both internal and external supervision by the public and the government,” he said.

The bill, which replaces the 1984 law of the same name, has been questioned by both human rights activists and Muslim conservatives who fear it will revive Soeharto’s authoritarianism.

The bill grants the government the power to disband organizations and stipulates that all organizations must be based on Pancasila.

Human rights advocates have called for the suspension of the bill’s deliberation, claiming that it denies the right to freedom of association.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has argued that the bill granted the government excessive authority to control civil society groups and would eventually destroy democracy.

The commission’s chairman, Otto Nur Abdullah, said the lack of a clear definition of mass groups offered in the bill would enable the government to crack down on political dissidents by accusing them of contradicting Pancasila or opposing the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.

The bill has also drawn protest from Islamic groups over fears that it would revive the Soeharto policy, which required all organizations to subscribe to Pancasila as the sole ideology. The policy led to repression and was blamed for the 1984 Tanjung Priok riot.

Lawmakers previously said that they wanted to pass the bill into law earlier this month, ignoring the howls of protests from human rights defenders, including the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and Muslim groups. The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), representing Islamic groups, has reportedly stalled the passage of
the bill.

PKS lawmaker Indra said that a formal endorsement of Pancasila was redundant, claiming that the public were well aware of the national ideology.

The government insists the bill is necessary to discipline NGOs. “Mass organizations that breach the regulations will be punished by local administrations,” Indra said.

Punishment ranges from warnings, freezing of activities to disbandment.

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