Surabaya Police Withhold Permit for Gay Conference
Surabaya Police have buckled to continuing threats from Islamic clerics in conservative East Java and refused to issue a permit for a regional conference to discuss the rights of members of the gay, lesbian and transgender communities in Asia, scheduled to commence on Friday.
Adj. Sr. Comr. Sri Setyo Rahayu, who heads the city’s community policing department, confirmed that the force had decided not to provide a permit for the fourth regional conference of the Asia chapter of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association from Friday to Sunday due to strong protests from the local branch of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI).
“We will not issue the permit due to security reasons,” Sri said. “If it is allowed to be held, many parties will stage protests.”
She said the police were concerned that allowing the conference to proceed had the potential to create unrest, including the possibility of clashes given that many groups had expressed opposition.
She said the group concerned had been informed of the decision and that if it chose to proceed, police would not hesitate to take action to prevent it from holding the conference.
The event, hosted by gay rights group Gaya Nusantara, had been expected to attract more than 150 activists to discuss how gay, lesbian and transgender communities across the region might move toward a “common vision, mission and goal,” according to the ILGA Web site.
Abdusshomad Buchori, chairman of the East Java chapter of the MUI, said the conference was an attempt “to ruin the people and the young generation.”
“According to Islamic teachings, the same-sex relationships of gays or lesbians as well as bisexuals are condemned by the Almighty,” he said, adding that his organization had sent a formal request to the National Police headquarters and the East Java administration not to permit the conference to go ahead.
Abdusshomad said his organization would not hesitate “to use our own methods” to break up the event should authorities allow it to go forward. “If there are parties that insist on holding the event, we will play hard,” he warned.
Abdusshomad criticized the activists for using human rights to defend their movement, saying “their actions are contrary to human rights because people feel disturbed by their activities.”
Pujiatiam, who chairs the organizing committee of the conference, said the group would negotiate with the police to try and secure the permit while discussing other possibilities to ensure the conference went ahead in some form or another.