New home minister to delve into minority issues
Margareth S. Aritonang and Yuliasri Perdani
The Jakarta Post
Newly appointed Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo has said that he will scrutinize problems faced by minority groups over the past decade.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician said that he would make an inventory of what could be categorized as minority problems.
'We will ask [for data] on what has happened in the past decade,' he said on the sidelines of the Cabinet inauguration on Monday at the Presidential Palace.
He added that he would soon summon governors, mayors and regents to hear directions regarding a plan on financial austerity from President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo.
'We will deliver messages from Bappenas [the National Development Planning Board] and the Finance Ministry so that regional heads can understand about the limitation of [the current] state budget and will be able to anticipate [conditions],' said Tjahjo, referring to soaring fuel prices that may push the Jokowi administration to relieve some subsidies to make larger fiscal room for development programs.
Tjahjo, who is currently still serving as PDI-P secretary-general, is among five PDI-P members appointed in the new Cabinet.
A career politician and lawmaker, Tjahjo has never acquired public office before. The nationalistic background of the PDI-P, however, has given hope that he will be able to reform the conservative approach of home ministers from the time of the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration.
Previously, Yudhoyono preferred to give the ministerial post to former military officers or local bureaucrats, which led to violent incidents with religious minority groups.
Human rights watchdogs recorded a rising number of incidents among religious groups during Yudhoyono's two terms.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) recorded 21 bylaws that had been issued by regional governments between 2005 and 2011 to disband any religious activities by members of the Ahmadiyah community, putting the Ahmadis under threat from locals and radical organizations.
A political analyst from the Indonesian Civilized Circle (Lima), Ray Rangkuti, suggested that Tjahjo would be more open-minded in handling sectarian conflicts compared to his predecessor Gamawan Fauzi.
'Looking at his character and his background as a [PDI-P] politician, I believe that Tjahjo will be more tolerant. He tends to go against mass organizations that often create trouble, such as the Islam Defenders Front [FPI], but he will handle those according to regulations,' Ray said.
Human rights defender Hendardi, who chairs human rights watchdog the Setara Institute, said that the first challenge for Tjahjo would be to end discrimination against minorities like the Ahmadi and Shia groups.
He was referring to the Islamic sect of the Shia community based in Sampang, East Java, whose hundreds of members remain banned from returning home after they were forcibly evicted from their villages when their homes were burned by a group of people claiming to be representatives of the majority Sunni Muslims in August 2012.
Similarly, members of the Ahmadiyah community in Ketapang, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), have been living in a local shelter after a mob claiming to be members of the Sunni majority attacked and burned their houses eight years ago.
Adding to discrimination imposed on the country's religious minorities, the GKI Yasmin church in Bogor, West Java, has remained sealed for more than 10 years despite a ruling by the Supreme Court, the country's highest legal institution, stipulating its legitimacy.
'[Along with the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Law and Human Rights Ministry] Tjahjo must also revoke all laws and regulations that accommodate discrimination against the country's religious minority groups, such as, among other things, the bans on Ahmadiyah as well as a 2006 joint ministerial decree on places of worship,' Hendardi said.
The 2006 joint ministerial decree stipulates that congregation members must secure approval from at least 60 local residents of different faiths and the government-sponsored Regional Interfaith Harmony Forum (FKUB) before establishing a house of worship.
Robert Endi Jaweng, executive director of the Regional Autonomy Watch (KPPOD), specifically called on Tjahjo to keep a close watch on the development of Aceh and Papua, two provinces are that still marred with political instability, as well as economic and security concerns.
'I was hoping that the new home minister would be someone who has experience in governing. But now, we have Tjahjo, a politician. He may face challenges in building communication with special regions, particularly Aceh and Papua, and coordinating with respective ministries to ensure that sufficient funds and the right policies are in place to propel these regions' development,' he said. (idb)
Hasyim Widhiarto contributed to this article.
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