Bill is democratic, House says

Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 09/26/2011 11:05

Lawmakers have rejected a call by activists to annul the deliberation of the mass organization bill, which critics say opposes civic rights mandated in the Constitution.

A member of the House of Representatives’ special committee on the bill, Abdul Malik Haramain of the National Awakening Party (PKB), said the bill would create a more organized society and avoid social problems provoked by certain groups.

“We are not attempting to limit people’s rights. Mass organizations are free to exist but they must be subject to certain rules,” he said on Sunday.

Ganjar Pranowo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI_P)echoed Haramain’s statement, saying that all organizations must be registered so that the government would be able to monitor their activities.

“However, we are still open to inputs and suggestions as the deliberation of the bill has yet to commence,” he said.

A House plenary meeting in July officiated the House-initiated bill which would replace the 1985 Mass Organization Law. The special committee on the bill has been formed to deliberate it with the government. The bill is set to be passed into law this year.

The House’s move to revise the 1985 law appeared to be the result of public pressure to disband vigilante groups such as the hard-liner Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

The government did not immediately fulfill the request although the 1985 Law grants them the authority to impose sanctions on organizations or disband them if they commit violations, such as illegally hiring foreign workers or provoking violence.

The Home Ministry has argued that the law is too old and contains articles that are no longer relevant.

“We propose a revision of the law in the hopes that, in the future, we can make decisive efforts concerning civil society organizations without having to worry about legal issues,” ministry spokesman Reydonnyzar Moenek said.

Dozens of NGOs, however, protested the bill, which they said could threaten the constitutional right to form or to be involved in civil society organizations.

“The House should revoke the old law instead of revising it,” said Ronald Rofiandri of the Center for Legal and Policy Studies (PSHK), one of the NGOs.

“We, civil society, do not want to be free without regulations. We need regulations that are based on the 1945 Constitution and that do not contain repressive articles,” he went on.

Lawmakers have upheld the articles on organizations’ disbandment of the bill which may enable the Home Ministry to break up mass organizations without a court ruling.

“Such articles are prone to abuse of power. Disbandment must be decided via court,” Ronald said, adding that he was afraid that the government might use the bill to disband organizations that criticized it.

He said that the Criminal Code should be sufficient to deal with violent groups. “If you commit violence, be you a member of an organization or not, you are subject to law enforcement,” Ronald said.

“It would not be right to address the problems relating to the violent groups by revising the 1985 Law, which would instead worsen the situation,” he added.

Source: The Jakarta Post