The House of Representatives is being urged to scrap proposed legislation on mass organizations by civil society groups that fear the law would cripple freedom of expression in Indonesia.
The draft law states that any group wishing to create an organization must report to the Ministry of Home Affairs and have its statute legalized by a notary public. The organization would also be required to submit a position paper stating that it was not affiliated with any political party.
Mass organizations that advocate the spread of Marxism, atheism, socialism, capitalism and other ideologies could also be banned under the draft law.
While supporters praise the draft law’s promise to discipline organizations that disrupt social order, others fear that such legislation would undermine the right to assemble and freedom of expression.
Ronald Rofriandri from the Indonesian Center for Law and Policy Studies told news portal beritasatu.com that regulations on mass organizations represented a return to repressive New Order era policies in place under President Suharto, and should not be written into law.
Ronald called laws restricting mass organizations “political creatures of the New Order.”
“There should not be efforts to curtail the freedom of the civil society,” he warned.
He said he was not opposed to regulations on establishing organizations, but that any new rules required a clear legal context.
The requirements outlined in the draft law, Ronald said, may curtail freedom of expression and assembly.
Meanwhile, the Coalition for Freedom of Expression and Assembly has urged the House to stop the legislation, which it feared would “revive the New Order’s dictatorial control” over mass and nongovernmental organizations.
Coalition spokesman Amir Effendi Siregar said he rejected the draft law because of the limits it would place on organizations advocating ideologies such as atheism and communism.
“That is dangerous toward our freedom of expression,” Siregar said.
The coalition also called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to scrap the Home Affairs Ministry decree that regulates the establishment of social organizations.
Siregar said the decree curtailed people’s freedom to assemble and express opinions freely and was therefore contrary to the principle of democracy and human rights.
Political analysts said that the government was in a quandary in reconciling the actions of some mass organizations with the founding state ideology of Pancasila. Among the principles enshrined in Pancasila is that belief in a supreme God is part of the nation’s foundation.
Indonesia has a large number of mass organizations. At least 19,000 are registered under the Ministry of Social Affairs alone, while the Ministry of Religious Affairs handles more than 9,000 others.
Under the surveillance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there are at least 140 such organizations. But independent sources said there are more such organizations operating in the country than are known to have registered with the government.
Nongovernmental organizations have blossomed since the fall of Suharto, with many playing a key role in keeping government and the private sector accountable, and advancing debate over public policy.
Those receiving funding from abroad, however, have come under criticism from nationalists questioning their motivation.
The labor movement in Indonesia has traditionally been subdued, with public support limited by previously associations with hard-left political figures. But in recent years unions have found their voice as part of the broader blooming of debate.