House Committee Refuses UN Intervention on Mass Organizations Bill
Markus Junianto Sihaloho
A special committee of the House of Representatives said they would prefer to justify Indonesia’s bill on mass organizations according to the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, rather than to Western liberal opinions.
“As for me, it is the right of a state to manage freedom, because freedom without control surely disturbs and threatens other persons or groups,” said Abdul Malik Haramain, head of the special committee deliberating the bill, on Friday. “That is factual in our country.”
He said that since the beginning, the bill was not aimed at curtailing freedom, but it was an effort to control freedom as stipulated in the Constitution of Indonesia.
A group of United Nations independent experts warned on Thursday that the bill threatened to curtail rights to freedom of association, expression and religion. The group called on the House of Representatives on Thursday to amend the bill to keep it in line with international human rights norms.
Abdul, who is a lawmaker from the National Awakening Party (PKB) dismissed the UN’s opinion.
“None of the [bill's] articles curtail or hamper people from establishing an organization, starting from the conditions to establish mass organizations up to registration procedures and its status, even though many proposals from regions restrict it,” he said.
According to Abdul, mass organizations would still have the freedom to perform their activities, to manage their organizations and to create their own regulations.
He said that the committee would hold on to the principle of responsible freedom, but not the kind of freedom that threatened other groups or even the state.
“The state is not only obliged to respect freedom to assemble and to associate of its citizens, but the state is obliged, once more, to control the freedom,” he said.
The bill on mass organizations states that associations may not contradict Pancasila, the official state philosophy that concentrates the belief “in the One and Only God.” It stipulates that organizations must maintain religious values.
Associations are not only restricted to limited categories of activities by the bill, but also subjected to vague prohibitions, including bans on conducting activities that “endanger the unity and safety of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia” and “embracing, instigating and propagating beliefs and religions conflicting with Pancasila.”
The bill also significantly curtails the activities of foreign associations, which must obtain a permit from the Foreign Ministry to operate and are mandated not to disrupt the “stability and oneness” of Indonesia, carry out “practical political activities” or fund-raising or activities “which disrupt diplomatic ties.”