Jakarta – Forty-four Student Executive Councils (BEM) from several different campuses along with a number of civil society organisations have slammed the University of Indonesia (UI) authorities for summoning UI BEM representatives over a Twitter posting criticising President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.
The UI campus authorities, according to the coalition, are curbing civil freedoms. "The summons by UI bureaucrats indicates that today civil freedoms are being increasingly and systematically curbed by the state", read a solidarity statement on Monday June 28.
The solidarity statement was issued by 44 BEMs and civil society organisations including the All Indonesia BEM Alliance, Greenpeace Indonesia and the Andalas University faculty of law Constitutional Studies Centre (Pusako)
Greenpeace Indonesia campaign spokesperson Asep Komarudin confirmed the solidarity statement. "We are giving our support and solidarity to the BEM UI over their criticism of President Jokowi", Komarudin told CNN Indonesia.
CNN Indonesia has also sought confirmation from BEM Alliance Chairperson Nofrian Fadhil Akbar on the statement but has not been able to contact him as of this report being posted.
The grouping of BEMs and civil society organisations believe that the content published by the UI BEM is in line with the state of civil freedoms and freedom of expression in Indonesia at the moment.
The believe that civil freedoms have been muzzled by repression against mass actions, that freedom expression has been muzzled through the catch all articles in the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Law, that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has been systematically weakened and that the president has intervened in the supremacy of law.
"Meanwhile the president says the opposite of what's actually happening", added the statement.
Given the actions against the UI BEM over their criticisms of Widodo, the state has neglected to pursue the mandate of Articles 28 and 7 of the 1945 Constitution which states that the state is obliged and responsible for protecting freedom of opinion, including in writing.
Reflecting upon the incident, the BEM grouping and civil society are urging the government to guarantee freedom of expression based on prevailing laws.
They also urged the UI bureaucrats to guarantee freedom of opinion by UI students and invited all elements of society to stand in solidarity in safeguarding freedom of opinion by the UI BEM in this case.
Earlier, the UI BEM uploaded a poster and statement criticising Widodo on social media. In the poster, the UI BEM dubbed Widodo as the "King of Lip Service" or the "King of Bragging".
The epithet was given to Widodo because the UI BEM believe that he often brags and makes sweet promises which are not realised, ranging from speaking about democratic freedoms, revisions to the ITE Law and strengthening the KPK.
"Jokowi often brags and makes sweet promises, but it is often not in keeping with reality. He talks like this, the facts are like that. Beginning with saying he missed being protested against, revisions to the ITE Law, strengthening the KPK, and a series of other promises", wrote the UI BEM on their official Twitter account @BEMUI_Official on Sunday June 27. The same criticisms ware also posted on the official BEM website resmiBEMUI.
They also highlighted a statement by Widodo when he was still the deputy mayor of Solo in which he said he missed being demonstrated against and that the government needs to be controlled by critical demonstrations.
They then touched on incidents which have befallen mass protests under Widodo's leadership ranging from acts of violence against demonstrators opposing the Omnibus Law on Job Creation in 2020, the 2021 May Day commemorations and the 2021 commemorations of National Education Day.
The UI BEM also criticised the weakening of the KPK saying that often Widodo bragged and made sweet promises about strengthening the KPK. "All of this indicates that the words spoken [by Widodo] are nothing more than a form of 'lip service'", wrote the UI BEM.
In the aftermath of the posting, several UI BEM leaders were summoned by UI Student Affairs Director Tito Latif Indra for questioning.
"Earlier I took part in a meeting with my representatives, together with the Student Representative Council (DPM) chairperson and deputy chairperson. The UI authorities asked us for an explanation, why we posted it, what was the aim, and we explained it to them there", said UI BEM Chairperson Leon Alvinda Putra on Sunday June 27.
Presidential spokesperson Fadjroel Rachman meanwhile has posted a tweet about the UI students on his Twitter account in which he stated that the campus authorities must be held accountable for the activities of their students. He did not explain whether his tweet was related to the criticism by the UI BEM. (fey/ugo)
[Translated by James Balowski with additional material on the UI BEM Twitter posting from an article by CNN Indonesia on the same day titled "Kritik Jokowi The King of Lip Service Berujung Pemanggilan". The original title of the lead article was "Koalisi Bela BEM UI: Kampus Kerdilkan Kebebasan Sipil".]