Criticism of President ‘Just Part of Democracy’

Some say Yudhoyono is not worthy of religious freedom prize

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. (Photo Courtesy of

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. (Photo Courtesy of

[Updated: May 18, 2013 at 12:35 p.m.]

Criticism against recognizing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as a champion of religious freedom was part of democracy, a presidential spokesman said on Friday.

Responding to claims that the president was not a worthy winner of a religious freedom prize bestowed on him recently by the US-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation, foreign affairs advisor Teuku Faizasyah said that the criticism was part of an open democracy, and that the foundation likely had valid reasons to award the president.

“[The criticism is] just part of the dynamics in our democracy,” Faizasyah said in Jakarta on Friday, adding that the president takes every criticism and aspiration offered by the public into consideration.

He said the public should ask the institution, and not the State Palace, about the award. “Go ahead and ask the institution [about the award] because we’re not the ones that initiated the process to get the acknowledgement,” he said.

Philosopher and Jesuit priest Franz Magnis Suseno previously sent the ACF a letter questioning their decision to honor the president.

“This is very embarrassing, it’s embarrassing for you. It discredits every claim you made as an institution with moralistic intentions,” he wrote.

“How could you make this decision without asking the Indonesian people? Hopefully you didn’t make the decision based on the encouragement of certain government officials or the presidential circle.”

Imam Shofwan, the son of a Nahdlatul Ulema cleric, launched an online petition on Friday calling on the ACF to postpone its granting of the award. Imam asked people to endorse Magnis’s letter and sign and circulate the petition.

“I was raised in a Nahdlatul Ulama family. As a Muslim, I agree with Magnis. I believe that a crime committed in the name of religion is the greatest crime against religion,” Imam said, quoting ACF’s motto.

Imam said that protection of minority groups is the president’s constitutional obligation rather than being the role of regional governments.

In his letter, Magnis said it was increasingly difficult for Christians in the country to obtain a permit to build a place of worship and that there were a growing number of churches being forced to close and more regulations that made it difficult for minorities to perform their religious activities.

Rights activists said last week that the president must show that he deserves the award by doing more for victims of persecution.

Reverend Palti Panjaitan, whose congregation in Bekasi has for years been fighting for the right to worship at its own church, said he wanted to remind the president that he has failed to protect the rights of minority groups to worship peacefully.

“We’re here as victims and there are bound to be more victims. We came to say that he has never resolved the religious conflicts in the country and has focused more on foreign issues,” Palti said on May 10.

In their open letter to the president, representatives from the Solidarity for Victims of Religious Freedom Violations (Sobat KBB) called for the president to “immediately afford [them] protection and end all forms of discrimination that [they] continue to face to this day.”

Previous winners of the ACF World Statesman Award include Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

[WebEd: A previous version of this story misrepresented Teuku Faizasyah's quotes. He said that criticism, not religious intolerance, was part of democracy. The Jakarta Globe regrets this error.]

  • hugnut

    The gutless (edited) that resides at the presidential palace wont address this cancer that will tear this country apart.
    He has to have a party stooge speak on his behalf.
    How typically pathetic.

  • devine

    “Democracy, rather than a weak president, is to blame for the myriad religious disputes”… I am speechless… what can one say then…

  • Hooswho

    Democracy to blame? What is democratic about being hacked to pieces with a machete or being beaten to death with a bamboo cane while religious zealots stand by yelling that god is good?

  • Roland

    IMHO – if SBY would be a person of integrity and spine he would gracefully decline this award instead of collecting awards and academic honoris causae titles which look good on any resume (which of course he doesn’e need when he really wants to become a chilli farmer) – something along the lines of

    “I thank you and I am humbled for the honour bestowed upon me by your forum of awarding me with your award – however we have still lots of religious intolerance in my beloved country, in many cases due to partially still weak law enforcement, a biased justice system, rampant poverty, lack of education, intimidating religious hard-line groups etc. and I therefore need to decline this award as I could not accept it with a clear conscience. I tried during my presidency to address all those points listed above but many of them cannot be changed within a decade or so. Democracy has been brought upon Indonesia but this also gave rise to voices which cannot be generally accepted as being part of a democratic process. Every presidency and leadership is also a concept of trial and failure and I have not been in all successful. So I ask you kindly to postpone this award until the time comes where I, or any other leader of this country can accept it with a clear conscience for really having this award earned.”

    This action or something similar would have bought my respect for him again.

    But of course he won’t, he rather blames democracy for it. How truly spineless this man has become (or probably has always been).

    I like though that Magnis and Imam Shofwan wrote a letter to this forum to address the problems in Indonesia.

  • Good,Bad and Ugly

    Over the top stupidity!
    SBY should at least be able to recognise that this person has never learned the definition of democracy.
    This quarter-wit is blindly defending his ‘religion’ with absolutely no basis in common sense or logic.
    Would some journalist ask him to explain in detail how he has defined his position?

  • teuku faizasyah

    the writer of this article quoted me wrongly and twisted my comment as such, which i presume he/she is intended to create negative perception on the part of the indonesian government. she/he must check the record whether such a statement that democracy leads to intolerance has ever been mentioned. the fact is, my response was to address rev magnis open letter, rejecting the award for presiden sby. in my explanation to media’s query on rev magnis’ rejection, his opinion is part of freedom of expression in democratic indonesia. mr/ms sihete must clarify your article to avoid misleading perception for the readers.

    [WebEd: Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We have looked at the original story and made the corrections. We apologize for this error.]

    • Wonderer

      Dear Mr Teuku. Your comment and participation here is much appreciated. The previous version of your quote was indeed too strange to be true…

      Many people in this nation would, however, also muuuuuuuuch appreciate a strong word from the President condemning the recent and outrageous injustice done too minority groups. It is not at all enough to accept criticism as part of democracy. We would so much prefer not having to criticize him. We would so much prefer to see a the award being given for good reason to a president who does in fact stand up for religious freedom. Who orders his law enforcement bodies to enforce the law and protect all his people no matter what some shouting and stone throwing people might think. We would much prefer and appreciate our president to receive this award for good reason because he does stand up for religious freedom and mutual understanding because he uses his position as a leader to explain the importance to his people!

      Unfortunately we have so far not heard a single word or seen a single action in this direction.

      Please consider this. It is not too late!

    • James T Smirk

      So what you are you saying is that the right to criticize the president IS a democratic right. Which I agree. Perhaps you might now like to comment why the bill making criticism of the President will lead to prosecution and up to 5 years imprisonment is currently being flaunted?

      Perhaps then you can comment upon the substance, which is as a democratically (sic) elected leaders and using the constitution as ‘the rule’ the current President has failed to guarantee the rights of religious practice, and when that right has been abused (to the point of death) by Islamic groups he has failed to protect said citizens, indeed his passing of the 2008 Decree re Ahmadiyah has legitimized violence, which is not only a breach of the constitution but is in my opinion a crime against the state

    • Valkyrie1604

      Pak Teuku: I believe many of us on this thread are quite glad that you are at least responding. I echo what ‘Wonderer’ mentioned.

      Rather than us expressing mixed opinions, why don’t you inform us why the lack of interest in minority issues? Why the instant response in the Freeport accident but not other, that has relevance to what this nation stands for?

      Personally, I support justice and equality.

  • human2

    This is an absolutely appalling effort by spin doctors to try to spin the unspinnable. Nice try guys but yet again you failed. What I and everyone else reads is not what you write. Blaming democracy for intolerance is beyond stupid and in a world which is drawing ever closer due to globalisation, your audience is not as easily dumbed down as in the past. Religious tolerance along with many, many other problems that exist in Indonesia is a result of not weak leadership but very weak leadership by SBY and the current administration. You have done so much harm to Indonesia and you should be ashamed of yourselves. tragic truly tragic….

  • Good,Bad and Ugly

    I am sure that this brown-tongued sycophant (psychophant?) was mis-quoted from:

    “Intolerance in Indonesia ‘Just Part of Religion’”

  • sheldon archer

    That’s known as passing the buck or, in the case of SBY maybe passing the Rupiah

  • Alex Brehm

    SBY champion of religios freedom is similar like Abu Bakhar Ba’Ashir member of Densus88

  • Catweazle

    Democracy is only a form of government.

    The real charge to be levied against the President is not protecting “liberty” in Indonesia – civil rights and freedoms afforded by the constitution, to be upheld by Rule of Law – to which the President is the guardian or ‘father figure of the nation’. Guilty or not?

    Some of these freedoms, which the President is duty and honour bound to safe guard, include the protection from slavery, forced labour, torture and death, the right to personal security, freedom of conscience, religion and expression. The right to privacy,
    the right to equal treatment and due process and the right to a fair trial, as well as the right to life.

    Now, how many of these fundamental liberties ARE regularly reported on as ‘breached’? All of them, and most of them in the last 2 weeks!

    Yes, I exercise my democratic right and voice my displeasure at his record. He might of got a ‘medal’ but he isn’t a ‘champion’….

  • Joko Lewongo

    after to lead democrate partij by SBY, more a give improve election and goodwill for partij and SBY name. Go to Governance of INDONESIA BARU Periode 3. And Prabowo Subianto for Vice Presiden 2014-2019.

    • James T Smirk

      go away

    • Wayan. PIA

      SBY has not got a good name, he has overseen corruption on levels never seen in Indonesia before, he has overseen massive ethnic and religious violence whilst turning a blind eye to radical islamic groups.
      The DPR have become a shambles of back biting, corruption, non attendance and money politics, the best and brightest Indonesians are leaving in droves, he has not wrestled power from the military, in fact he has armed them, the judicial mafia exists as we see daily
      He has not developed poorer areas, he has ignored them, unemployment is massive, debt is rising and everything the state builds falls to pieces
      His term has been a disaster for Indonesia

    • Mike

      Who do you work for?

  • Tatanka

    A medal for what? When was the last time he lifted a finger or spoke a word about religious intolerance, more specifically Islam intolerance? He was sworn to uphold Pancasila as the state ideology and the Indonesian constitution. Yet, he has breached his duty. If anything, he deserves to be impeached for failure to uphold the law, the constitution and the state ideology. For example: a protestant church was sealed and another was demolished by Islamic thugs claiming they lacked permit although the supreme court had ruled otherwise. Some Ahmadiyah members were butchered (the video was posted on YouTube), an Ahmadiyah mosque was sealed with approximately 30 members locked inside and the local police chief threatened anyone offering help such as the basic food and water (perpetrators were outsiders while some living in the area were throwing food and bottled water over Tyre fence at night), so many Shiite followers still living in sport stadium following the murder of their fellow Shiite. Need I say more? Just check the statisticsofof many churches and non- Sunni mosques have been shut down and/or demolished during SBY’s administration? I am sure some other readers have the number more readily. Now, what has SBY ever done? NOTHING! What has he ever stated strongly publicly to condemn those barbaric and terroristic acts? NOTHING! So, all those evil and barbaric things were part of democratic process? Please do not insult the people’s intelligence. SBY’s defenders who state it is part of democracy need to go back to school to learn what democracy means.

    Instead of the award, SBY deserves to be impeached for dereliction of duty.

  • TalkingEid

    funny how they now say that criticism of the president is a legitimate part of democracy – but are proposing to enact a law to prevent such criticism.

  • Hooswho

    WebEd: Where are the rest of the posts from this thread and other threads? Mine and many others have “disappeared” the past few days. Im not talking about unpublished posts – these posts were originally published and now no longer appear

    [WebEd: A previous version of this article did not reflect the source's true opinions. When we made the correction, we deleted comments that were related to the incorrect article in an effort to fix the error throughout the page. You are welcome to leave a new comment. Thanks.]

  • Daniel Budiarto

    You have to admire SBY and his staff. To say criticism is “just part of democracy” in a dismissive manner, thereby ignoring the voice of the people, takes guts—or perhaps more correctly, a rhinoceros’s face, as we say in Bahasa. Let me give you a basic lesson in political science: A democracy only works if all three branches of government—yes, that includes you, dear Mr. President—take the people’s concerns to heart, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem.

    The power to grant the award may lie with the ACF, but SBY has the power to either accept or refuse the award. If he feels that he hasn’t done enough to guarantee the security of Indonesian religious minorities—and he hasn’t—then it is his moral obligation, not only to the Indonesian people, but also to himself, to refuse the award. If he can live with the Ahmadiyya and other victims of religious violence on his conscience, let him accept it. We all already know what kind of leader he is, anyway, as it will go down in the shameful history of this country.

  • MadWorld

    A medal for self-humiliation.

  • MadWorld

    SBY looks like a glow worm, to pupate to become a……..butterfly ? beautiful creature but easily blown away by political quackery.