The Legislation Committee of the House of Representatives is currently studying a draft law on national security that covers a broad range of issues affecting the nation’s survival. This week, Commission I, overseeing defense issues at the House, will conduct hearings with the ministers of defense, home affairs and justice and human rights before deliberating on the bill.
The title of the bill — the National Security Law — sounds alarming to some, especially victims of past-era repression and those who have not read the draft thoroughly, as if Indonesia were making a U-turn back to the military-backed dictatorship of Suharto.
But a careful study of the draft law obtained by the Jakarta Globe reveals that this is going to be a comprehensive security law that updates even the State Defense Law issued during the incumbency of President Megawati Sukarnoputri, due to its scope and depth.
Essentially, there have been two types of reactions to the bill, which was first introduced in March 2011. Optimists see it as a good effort to protect Indonesia’s national interests. They argue that the entire nation should feel a duty to contribute ideas to improve the bill.
But critics say anything that comes from the military is suspect, with a hidden agenda. There are more pessimists than optimists these days, and many are saying the new law will be a militaristic tool used to dismantle democracy and abolish freedom of expression.
To be fair, however, one needs to study it thoroughly before drawing any conclusions. It would be unwise to dismiss it sight unseen.
The bill contains 60 articles addressing the entire spectrum of national security concerns and offers solutions on dealing with the various kinds of threats that a democratic Indonesia faces in a globalized world.
Importantly, Article 19 of the draft law clearly states that “national security shall be carried out in conformity with national interest, democratic principles, human rights, moral and ethical values, [preservation of the] environment, [and] national and international laws.” So if passed, the law will protect rather than violate democracy, human rights and citizens’ freedoms, optimists say.
The law will establish a National Security Council to be chaired by the Indonesian president with the vice president serving as vice chairman. The executive chairman in charge of daily affairs will be a ministerial-level official to be appointed by the president.
Members of the National Security Council will comprise relevant ministerial officials, governors, district chiefs, mayors, police and military and intelligence officials.
The law will define threats across four categories: the nation and state, sustainability of national development, society in its entirety and individual citizens. The spectrum of threats listed in these categories ranges from soft threats to hard threats, be they locally, nationally or internationally generated.
Those threats are further categorized as military, armed, or non-armed threats. A threat is defined here as anything that could disturb or endanger “all aspects of national life.”
A thorough definition of “all aspects of national life” is provided in the law. The phrase refers to threats against things such as Indonesia’s geography, theft of natural resources, demographic disturbance, political, economic, and sociocultural life, as well as defense and security.
Elements that can pose a threat to the nation may originate either at home or abroad; they may come from a foreign state, non-state foreign agency or individuals supported by a foreign state, the bill says.
Point 1a of Article 17 defines a “military threat” as an organized armed threat that has the potential to endanger the sovereignty, territorial integrity and safety of the entire nation.
Point 1b of the same article defines an “armed threat” as a threat posed by an armed force that has the potential to endanger the life of individual citizens, society, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and safety of the nation.
“Non-armed threats” are described in Point 1c as including natural disasters and other types of disasters that endanger personal, public and national safety and national defense in all aspects, including riots and contagious disease epidemics.
A more detailed list of the way these threats could manifest is also included in Article 17.
Point 2a defines external military threats as aggression, invasion, violation of Indonesia’s borders by a foreign ministry, espionage, sabotage, the use of chemical and biological weapons, and radioactive and nuclear substances including explosives.
It also includes blocking of territorial sovereignty, violation of agreements by foreign military elements, and deployment of foreign mercenaries or armed groups within Indonesian territory.
Point 2b defines armed threats as separatism, rebellion, terrorism, hijacking, criminality, and hostage-taking.
Examples of non-armed threats are violation of territorial integrity, horizontal and communal conflicts, anarchism, human trafficking, illegal immigrants, weapons and ammunition, unfair trading practices (dumping, forgery, design theft), monetary crises, and financial crimes such as counterfeiting, money laundering and cybercrime.
Other threats under this category include natural disasters (floods, tsunami, earthquakes), non-natural disasters (technological failures, arson, and large-scale labor strikes).
This threat category also includes transnational crimes such as drug trafficking.
Ideological threats and radicalism are also included in this category, as is destruction to the moral and ethical values of the nation.
This particular issue needs careful elaboration because often it is caused by an incorrect interpretation of religious beliefs for which the right response may be religious enlightenment rather than a security approach.
Famine, shortages of water and energy, the incorrect use of chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear materials in agriculture, livestock and fisheries areas are also mentioned. Alongside those, destruction to the environment and pandemics are also covered, from degradation of land to outbreaks of swine flu.
This category’s threats also include poverty, injustice, ignorance, legal disobedience, corruption in all forms, as well as harmful misinterpretation of legislation and regulations.
With such a comprehensive scope, society need not look at the bill with prejudice or suspicion of any kind.
The public needs to realize that it is no longer possible for the military to weaken our democracy. Times have changed — and the military realizes it. In fact, in Indonesia’s experience, reform has been far more successful in the military than in the civilian sector.
Here’s the proof: no single political party has been able to emerge as a role model. Not one is free from corruption. None have groomed the right candidates for the presidency. And democratic Indonesia has so far only been able to elect a four-star military general — the incumbent — as its president.
So, suspecting the military of blocking reform and democracy through this National Defense Law is probably the easiest way for some reformists to display their own hypocrisy. But make no mistake — allowing the military to compose this law by itself would be a risky blunder best avoided.
Instead of meeting the law with uncompromising suspicion, why don’t we all put our heads together to produce a comprehensive security law to protect our common interests?