The Jakarta Post
The scene could not be more symbolic and the parallel could not be more striking. On Wednesday, from a lectern set up inside the State Palace, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto announced the issuance of a regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) granting the government the sweeping power to disband mass organizations without judicial process.
It is fitting that a draconian law was announced by a holdover from the New Order regime. Wiranto served as Indonesian Military (TNI) chief under Soeharto and during the country’s transitional period in the late 1990s, so he definitely knows a thing or two about quashing opposition.
Rights groups have rightly condemned the new regulation, saying that with the Perppu, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was turning back the clock to an era when the government could disband mass organizations willy-nilly using the argument that it posed a threat to Pancasila and the Constitution.
The new Perppu gives authority to the Law and Human Rights Ministry to disband a mass organization within a week after issuing only one warning letter, a radical departure from the 2013 Law on Mass Organizations (Ormas) that requires the government to seek a court ruling to ban aberrant organizations.
It’s a slippery slope from here. Wiranto himself said that the government will expand the definition of anti-Pancasila ideologies, which currently only refer to atheism, Marxism and Leninism. Western liberalism has been the bête noire of authoritarian regime the world over and with the surge populism, it is easy to imagine that its values could be seen as contradicting Pancasila.
What if the authority decided that labor unions’ demand for better living for workers had gone too far and branded their fight as inspired by communism? Once the government is in possession of a hammer, it will treat everything as if it were a nail.
It is certainly a risk not worth taking, considering that the Perppu’s issuance was motivated by the desire to disband the hard-line Islamic group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), whose aspiration for establishing a global caliphate not only contradicts the country’s founding principles, but also basic democratic norms (HTI leaders have consistently argued the democratic system is not consistent with Islamic teachings, as sovereignty is in the hands of God).
Without doubt, the presence of HTI and other hardline organizations, especially those that promote violence, are a threat to liberal society, but the government has at its disposal a variety of means to deal with them. For groups like HTI, which campaigns to replace existing order with a caliphate, police could charge members with treason as regulated by the Criminal Code (KUHP).
For hard-line groups that continued to promote violence, there are numerous articles in the KUHP that could be used to punish them. Or, if these groups promoted hate speech or violence on the internet and social media, the Electronic Information and Transaction Law could be a powerful tool to deal with them.
The government may have good intentions in banning HTI, but the means do not justify the ends.