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Jakarta Post

Angered by Perppu on pandemic response, civil groups turn to Constitutional Court

  • Galih Gumelar

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, April 16, 2020   /   12:19 pm
Angered by Perppu on pandemic response, civil groups turn to Constitutional Court The Constitutional Court building in Central Jakarta. (JP/Syelanita)

The newly proposed regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) on COVID-19 pandemic response has fueled anger among civil groups who fear it would lead to budget misappropriation and embezzlement if passed.

Now, they are taking the Perppu to the Constitutional Court, demanding the revocation of contentious provisions stipulating that officials responsible for fiscal and monetary policies cannot be criminally charged when using the state budget to counter the negative economic impacts of the pandemic.

Five organizations filed a petition for judicial review with the Constitutional Court online on April 9 against the Perppu.

"It gives officials excessive power over the state budget, which might lead to corruption. That very provision is unacceptable,” Boyamin Saiman from the Indonesian Anticorruption Community (MAKI) said.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued the Perppu on March 31, giving Financial System Stability Committee (KSSK) members impunity in taking extraordinary measures to cushion the economy from the negative impacts of the outbreak as long as the measure were performed “in good faith” and with respect to existing laws. It also stipulates that the funds spent by the government to save the country from the economic crisis are considered simply economic costs rather than state losses.

MAKI said the provisions violated the Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law and judicial independence, as well as the principle of “a state governed by laws”.

“We think that no one should be allowed to have impunity whatsoever, even during times of pandemic,” Boyamin said, adding that the phrase “in good faith” was open to multiple interpretations that could be misused by officials to gain personal benefits from the state budget.

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The court registry, which has suspended all trials until April 21, is checking the application and verifying all required documents before scheduling the first hearing, court spokesman Fajar Laksono said.

A legal advocacy group called Mahutama is preparing to file a similar petition soon with the Court.

“The regulation is very peculiar because it paves the way for the government to abuse power,” said Syaiful Bakhri, a lawyer representing the group.

Not only does it violate the Constitution, the suspicious provision, he said, also contradicts some prevailing laws: the 2003 law on state finances and the 2006 law on the Supreme Audit Agency.

“It is very problematic. We need to revoke the Perppu before the House of Representatives passes it into law,” Syaiful said.

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Submitted to the House of Representatives on April 2, the regulation is awaiting lawmakers’ approval.

Lawmakers, however, have no plans to deliberate the regulation during the current session as Jokowi sent an approval notification days after the session had started.

“Even if there is no petition, we can only deliberate [the Perppu] in the next legislative session,” House Budget Committee chairman Said Abdullah said.

Finance Ministry spokeswoman Rahayu Puspasari said the ministry would respect the legal processes at the court. The Palace was not immediately available for comment.