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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Police to enforce new law, pledge no violent Ramadhan raids

  • Yuliasri Perdani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Thu, July 3, 2014 | 10:01 am

A year after the implementation of the 2013 Mass Organizations Law, the National Police have promised to stop raids by mass organizations during Ramadhan.

Spokesperson Sr. Comr. Agus Riyanto said on Wednesday that the force would use the law as grounds to act against groups who conducted violent raids during the fasting month.

Agus noted that according to Article 59 Point 2 of the law, mass organizations are prohibited from launching violent attacks, disrupting public order and vandalizing public property.

'€œWe'€™ll stop any violent raids based on that law. After that, we will assess whether the action was initiated by a handful of an organization'€™s members or the organization itself. We will charge individual suspects with assault, as regulated in articles 170 and 351 of the Criminal Code,'€ he said in a telephone interview.

If it appears that an organization initiated the attack, Agus said the police would let the government and respective regional administration determine the sanctions for the organization.

'€œThe National Police do not have the authority to prosecute an organization. It is up to the government to assess the organization'€™s role in violent raids and impose sanctions,'€ he said.

According to Article 61 of the law, the government and regional administrations can hand down sanctions '€” ranging from written warnings to permanent disbandment '€” to a mass organization.

The revised Mass Organizations Law guarantees protection against violent mass organizations. It, for instance, gives the opportunity to disband an organization deemed to be violent or disruptive.

On the one-year anniversary of the revised law'€™s implementation, activists criticized the regulation for bringing back New Order-style repression in its implementation as the protection it offers limits the freedom of organizations.

Fransisca Fitri, the coordinator of the Freedom of Association Coalition (KKB), said the Mass Organizations Law failed to limit the capacity of vigilante groups and instead limited freedom of expression.

'€œThe law doesn'€™t curb the misdeeds of civil society organizations,'€ Fransisca said on Wednesday.

Fransisca, who is also a member of the Civil Society Alliance for Democracy (Yappika), said that the law was problematic on several fronts, including its proneness to misinterpretation and its definitions.

Article 16 of the law, for instance, does not clearly state whether an organization is compelled to register with the Political and Community Protection National Unity Agency (Kesbangpolinmas).

Fransisca said that the vagueness in the wording had led to misinterpretation by officials of the Kesbangpolinmas regional offices, citing an incident in Tapin regency, South Kalimantan, and another in Merangin regency, Jambi.

She also cited a Suara Pembaruan newspaper report in May on the delayed founding of the Indonesian Chinese Custom Assembly (MABT), which ran up against the law because it did not have enough regional representative offices to qualify as a national-level mass organization.

Articles 23 to 25 of the 2013 law provide enough room for misinterpretation, which ultimately prevented the Chinese-Indonesian community from exercising its freedom of expression.

'€œWe don'€™t reject registration, we just want it to be regulated correctly,'€ Fransisca added.

Furthermore, the law gives officials leeway to sanction groups that fail to renew their permits, either by revoking their licenses, declaring them illegal, cutting their access to regional government funding or simply denying them service.

Wahyudi Djafar, who is a researcher at the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam), echoed the sentiment by saying that the law had taken a step backward by embracing Soeharto'€™s New Order-style authoritarianism.

'€œIt is somewhat of a paradox that today'€™s democratic government, which holds the mandate to safeguard the Constitution that protects freedom and human rights, would issue a regulation that provides less freedom for civil society organizations,'€ Wahyudi said. (tjs)