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.]

  • 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?

  • 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

  • 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.

    • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.