ICW and Lawmaker in War of Words Over Tobacco Regulation

By webadmin on 09:37 pm Jun 28, 2012
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Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Camelia Pasandaran

The head of House of Representatives Commission IX, which oversees health matters, on Thursday criticized some nongovernmental organizations for receiving funding from the Bloomberg Initiative, a global tobacco control effort.

“For example, ICW [Indonesian Corruption Watch], which is concerned about eradicating corruption, is instead receiving foreign donations,” Ribka Tjiptaning said. “They are prostituting their own nation. We know how they get money.”

She said that ICW had received $45,470 in July 2010 to bolster an anti-tobacco campaign mainly aimed at reshaping tobacco regulation in Indonesia.

Ribka said the funding was also meant to support the government’s plan to issue a tobacco control bill amid criticism that the regulation threatened some 15 million Indonesian tobacco farmers whose lives depended on the tobacco industry.

“So if ICW hit me about the missing tobacco article, they should look in the mirror,” she said. “Who is being right and who is wrong in receiving foreign donations?”

The lawmaker was referring to an incident related to the 2009 Health Law; shortly after the amended law was passed, a clause classifying tobacco as an addictive substance was omitted from the final draft.

There was evidence of three handwritten notes that read, “Change: Article 113, Clause 2 to be dropped, Clause 3 to become Clause 2.” The notes were signed by Ribka, fellow legislators Aisyah Salekan and Maryani Baramuli and Faiq Bahfen, a Health Ministry official.

Danang Widoyoko, chairman of ICW, confirmed that the organization had received the money, but claimed that it has been used transparently and that the public could access a funding audit on its website.

“We don’t have a problem in ICW with receiving foreign donations, but for sure we could not accept corruption money,” he said. “The opposite arrangement might have been practiced by Ribka. That is why we reported her to the police for allegedly receiving something to omit the article.”

Danang said that regardless of whether or not police decided to terminate their investigation into the Health Law controversy, the fact remained that the House Ethics Council had decided to sanction Ribka on the matter.

While ICW primarily fights against corruption, its involvement in anti-tobacco campaigning stems from a concern over how money affects anti-tobacco regulation.

“We received the funding from Tobacco-Free Kids Control, who got the money from Bloomberg and other sources,” Danang said. “Existing regulations in Indonesia make it easy for children to access cigarettes. So, we’re campaigning to prevent the interests of the cigarette industry being sold along with children’s health.

“We’re concerned about the livelihood of the tobacco farmer, but that should not legalize smoking among children.”

Health Minister Nafsiah Mboy has said that the tobacco control bill is being finalized and would be issued soon.

Based on data gained from the Bloomberg Initiative Grants Program, million of dollars have been disbursed to Indonesia for several organizations.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent $220 million on the global anti-smoking campaign. The money is directed primarily at five countries — Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia and Russia — and to a lesser degree 15 other nations, which altogether make up two-thirds of the world’s smokers.

Several Indonesian organizations have received the funding, including Islamic organization Muhammadiyah, which issued an anti-smoking edict in 2010; Indonesia Institute for Social Development; Tobacco Control Support Center-Indonesia Public Health Association or TCSC-IPHA; Jakarta People’s Forum; National Commission on Tobacco Control; Children Protection Foundation in Bali; No Tobacco Community; Swisscontact Indonesia Foundation; and Indonesia Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI).

Most of them have received $200,000 on average.