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Jakarta Post

Govt opts to postpone deliberation of controversial bill on Pancasila amid backlash against House

  • Ghina Ghaliya
    Ghina Ghaliya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, June 16, 2020   /   06:31 pm
Govt opts to postpone deliberation of controversial bill on Pancasila amid backlash against House Indonesia’s national emblem, Garuda Pancasila, is sprayed with disinfectant liquid. JP/Fauzan (JP/Fauzan)

The government has rejected a plan to deliberate a bill initiated by the House of Representatives on Pancasila Ideology Guidelines (HIP) amid outcry from members of the public questioning the urgency and some of its contentious articles.

Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD announced on his Twitter account @mohmahfudmd that the government had decided to postpone deliberation of the bill, arguing that it would focus more on handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We asked the House as the initiator [of the bill] to have more dialogue with the public and take their wishes into account,” he tweeted on Tuesday adding that he was assigned to deliver the news.

The decision came in light of growing criticism from scholars and various organizations lamenting the House for endorsing the HIP bill amid the current pandemic.

The bill, supported by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), aims to regulate the values of the Pancasila ideology and the functions of the Agency for Pancasila Ideology Education (BPIP). The party's chairwoman and former president Megawati Soekarnoputri serves as the steering committee head.

Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) chairwoman Asfinawati expressed concerns that the bill could harm freedom of expression, alleging that there was an effort to monopolize the interpretation of the Pancasila in Article 45 of the draft bill, which regulates the BPIP's tasks.

She also highlighted Article 48 of the draft bill on BPIP steering committee elements that could be filled by the active TNI and police personnel.

 "As if the meaning of the Pancasila is merely a matter of state security as the TNI and police could have the right to interpret it,” she told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Constitutional law expert from Jakarta-based Jentera School of Law Bivitri Susanti suggested the House drop the bill, saying the bill could reduce the value of Pancasila in the 1945 Constitution.

“I don’t think we need the bill. I can’t see its urgency by looking at the contents. The lawmakers should focus on handling COVID-19 and the problems following the pandemic instead,” she said.

Read also: ‘Pancasila’s biggest enemy is religion’: Indonesia’s ideology chief’s comment sparks outcry

Discussions of the bill, led by deputy chairwoman of the House Legislative Body (Baleg) Rieke Diah Pitaloka, who is a PDI-P politician, has also sparked an outcry among Islamic organizations, which questioned the draft bill's failure to include the Temporary People’s Consultative Assembly Decree (TAP MPR) No. 25/1966 on the banning of communism in Indonesia.

Islamic organizations, ranging from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah to the hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI), have called on the House to drop the bill, saying it would open the door for communist ideology to reemerge in the country.

Retired military and police personnel have echoed similar sentiments against the House’s plan to endorse the bill.

House deputy speaker Sufmi Dasco Ahmad said that seven out of nine factions at the House had agreed to continue the deliberation of the bill. The House is still waiting for the presidential letter (Surpres) to give the green light for the deliberation.

“We are still waiting for the Surpres. We haven’t begun the deliberation process […] We also need to hear the public opinions," the Gerindra Party politician said on Tuesday.

MUI secretary-general Anwar Abbas said the MUI rejected the entire contents of the draft bill, saying the main concern was not only the absence of the 1966 decree, but it was also deemed to be “secular and atheistic” as it degraded the Pancasila ideology itself.

Anwar noted Article 7 of the bill, which stipulates the “trisila” (three principles) concept as the basic characteristic of Pancasila, which consisted of socionationalism, sociodemocracy and cultural divinity. All the values should also be crystallized in “ekasila” (one principle) of gotong royong (mutual cooperation), according to the draft.

"Those concepts have degraded the main ‘belief in the Almighty God’ in the first principle of Pancasila. The bill stipulates a cultural concept of God instead while the only cultured creature is humankind. In the trisila, we must obey human authority rather than God,” he said in a written statement on Monday.

“Degrading Pancasila into trisila and ekasila is a betrayal of the nation. Pancasila consists of five principles that cannot be separated and changed,” he added.

Muhammadiyah secretary Abdul Mu'ti also questioned the bill’s urgency and significance, noting that especially there were several existing laws as the legal basis of Pancasila, namely MPRS Decree No, XX/MPRS/1966, MPR Decree No. IX/1978 and MPR Decree No. III/2000.

“Pancasila doesn’t need a legal basis anymore,” he said.

Factions at the House are divided over the bill, with only the PDI-P and the Gerindra Party that do not share the concerns of the others about the exclusion of the anti-communism stipulations based on the 1966 TAP MPR.