The Jakarta Post
The Education and Culture Ministry has been roundly criticized by academics and teachers for issuing a letter on Friday calling on university students not to take part in protests against the newly passed Job Creation Law.
The Association for Education and Teachers (P2G) told the ministry that it must not be “allergic” to criticism against the controversial law.
“The ministry created the Merdeka Belajar [Freedom to Learn] and Kampus Merdeka [Independent Campus] programs and promoted them across the country. However, the letter is a form of intervention that robs [university] campuses of their independence,” P2G coordinator Satriwan Salim said in a written statement on Sunday.
“Universities should be a place that prepares the younger generations to become intellectuals who can stand alongside society and relate to workers, indigenous people, environmental activists and other people badly impacted by the law [...] The classroom for university students is society itself.”
He added that student protests embodied the public’s aspirations and its perception of the government, and the ministry should show its appreciation to those who criticized the government, as that was “the duty of intellectuals”.
The Alliance of Academics Rejecting the Omnibus Law, a group consisting of 400 lecturers nationwide, accused the ministry of trying to silence scholars criticizing the contentious law and demanded that it retract the letter.
“The very proposition that scholars and academics must not take part in protests against the Job Creation Law is a way of limiting our freedom of speech and academic rights guaranteed by the Constitution,” alliance spokesperson Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir, who is also a lecturer at the State University of Jakarta, said in a statement on Friday.
The alliance argued that higher education institutions only had an obligation to the truth, not to the authorities, and thus should be free from political intervention.
“Telling lecturers not to encourage their students to join rallies is a form of political intervention against the lecturers’ independence. Furthermore, telling students not to join rallies also disregards students’ independence in responding against injustices and abuse of power,” Abdil added.
In the letter, Education and Culture Ministry higher education director general Nizam appealed to university students not to take part in any protest that could endanger the students’ health and safety during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
He also suggested that they “conduct academic research rather than rally” as it was deemed a better and more “elegant” way of protesting the law.