President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s office has refuted accusations that he is undeserved of an award for tolerance, claiming he has been an active member of global interfaith dialogues.
Teuku Faizasyah, a member of Yudhoyono’s international relations staff, said that cases of intolerance in Indonesia did not wipe out the president’s efforts to defend human rights.
“The intolerance cases should not blind the eyes of the commentators from seeing the many progresses in building Indonesian values under President SBY,” Faizasyah said on Monday.
The Appeal of Conscience Foundation, a US-based interfaith group, this year has named Yudhoyono the recipient of the World Statesman Award for championing religious freedom. The award will be presented to Yudhoyono in New York in the middle of this year.
“President SBY at the international level is also active in promoting interfaith dialogue and coining the global intermedia dialogues to build understanding and tolerance between cultures and beliefs,” Faizasyah said.
The ACF hands out the World Statesman Award annually to “heads of state who have exemplified their commitment to freedom, human rights, peace and respect for religious and ethnic diversity, and endeavor to advance these essential democratic values on the international scene.”
The Human Rights Working Group on Monday said that there were “several reasons why SBY doesn’t deserve the award.”
“On cases of [religious-based] violence and intolerance, the president has failed to uphold the law in a fair manner, both in preventing violence committed in the name of religion and in ensuring that the victims receive justice,” Muhammad Choirul Anam, the HRWG deputy director, said in a statement.
He also accused officials in the SBY administration of being involved in acts of intolerance and even criminalization of the victims.
“Another reason that SBY doesn’t deserve the award is because he has far too often remained silent on the rights abuses suffered by members of minority faiths in Indonesia,” Choirul said. “In many cases, like that of the Ahmadiyah since 2005, the president has to date never called on his officials to take firm action against perpetrators of intolerance who have clearly violated the Constitution.”
He said it was the same thing in the case of the Taman Yasmin and HKBP Filadelfia Protestant churches in West java, which continue to be sealed off by local authorities in direct violation of Supreme Court rulings ordering them to be reopened.