Government’s legal team reminiscent of Suharto’s New Order dictatorship

CNN Indonesia – May 9, 2019
Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs Wiranto (CNN)
Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs Wiranto (CNN)

Jakarta – Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs (Kemenko Polhukam) Wiranto plans to form a national legal team to monitor statements, ideas and actions by national figures about the government and the president.

The team, which will be comprised of experts and academics, will determine whether or not a statement by a person violates the law or not.

Wiranto concedes that he has been unable to determine what legal umbrella would cover the team. Nevertheless, he is sure that such a team needs to be established to act against parties that clearly violate the law.

Andalas University constitutional studies centre researcher Feri Amsari says that the planned formation of the team by the Kemenko Polhukam is a step back or in other words a return to the era of the New Order dictatorship of former president Suharto.

He says the team has the potential to undermine freedom of expression which is guaranteed under the 1945 Constitution (UUD 1945) as occurred under the New Order.

“It’s not very different from what we understand happened under the New Order”, Amsari told CNN Indonesia on Thursday May 9.

The impression created by the planned monitoring of remarks by national figures is that the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo wants to revive a political climate of absolute and total control like Suharto’s New Order.

This impression, said Amsari, is further strengthened by Wiranto’s background as a senior official in the New Order. If this plan is allowed to go ahead, Amsari warns that public trust in the government will decline.

“Remember Pak [Mr] Wiranto’s background and his relationship with the New Order. He was the Panglima [commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces] during the New Order”, said Amsari.

Amsari is warning the government that Article 28 and Article 28F of the UUD 1945 clearly provides a guarantee of freedom of expression to the public.

In Article 28, he notes that the law protects citizen’s freedom of organisation, association and to express ideas verbally or in writing. Article 28F meanwhile guarantees that citizens have the right to communication and obtain information in any form.

If the rights enshrined in the UUD 1945 are abrogated, he says that this will conflict with the Constitution.

“If the Menko Polhukam’s plans to do this I worry that it will result in Pak Wiranto’s actions being seen as conflicting with the UUD 1945”, he said.

Aside from conflicting with the UUD, Amsari believes that Wiranto as the Menko Polhukam does not actually have the authority to police criminal acts.

Amsari said that according to the Law on State Ministries, the function of a coordinating minister is to coordinate the ministries that are under his working jurisdiction.

For example, Wiranto can only coordinate with the Ministry of Communication and Information (Menteri Kominfo) on issues related to legal violations in the electronic media. Meanwhile in terms of prosecutions, Wiranto is restricted to coordinating with the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office.

“So then if this institution is not utilised, and instead then assigned to experts who are formed by a coordinating ministry, then what is this institution being coordinated by the Kemenko Polhukam actually for?”, asked Amsari.

“So there’s a kind of neglect of the institutional functions that are under him. And that isn’t good”, he added.

Furthermore, Amsari believes that the formation of this team is odd bearing in mind that the political tensions surrounding the elections have already begun to subside because of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. He says that the team actually has the potential to create new conflicts within society.

“This is actually not good for a country when this conflict is instead being created by an official who is part of the Palace’s inner circle. Pak Wiranto should be [trying] to calm the situation down”, said Amsari.

Given this situation, he is asking Wiranto to cancel the formation of the team and comply with the constitutional regulations that are in force.

As for the experts or academics that Wiranto has invited to join the team, Amsari is appealing to them to rethink the offer and comply with the prevailing stipulations of the UUD 1945.

“What Pak Wiranto is trying to do has no value in legal terms. So his actions will not achieve anything. Except to give the impression that the administration wants to move towards authoritarianism”, he said. (jps/wis)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Membangkitkan Orde Baru Lewat Tim Pantau Pencaci Jokowi”.]