In a move that has been severely criticised by civil society organisations, Indonesia on 10 July introduced a new law that allows the government to disband certain groups that threaten the state’s secular ideology.
The law comes at a time when Indonesia is facing the increasing influence of hardline Islamist groups that call for Sharia (Islamic law), Reuters reports.
The chief security minister told reporters on Wednesday (12 July) that “it must be underscored that this decree is not intended to discredit Islamic organisations or the majority-Muslim population of Indonesia […] It has been issued in the national interest.”
The presidential decree gives the executive branch of government the power “to disband groups without judicial oversight, greatly speeding up the process and has been criticised by civil society and human rights’ groups”, writes the New York Times.
Civil society and human rights’ groups protested last week, saying that a law that bans organisations on ideological grounds undermines freedom of association and expression. “This threatens the legal rights of all NGOs in Indonesia,” said Usman Hamid, the Indonesia director of Amnesty International, referring to non-governmental organisations.
Islamist groups were instrumental in the downfall earlier this year of Jakarta’s former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as “Ahok”, a Chinese Christian who was accused and subsequently jailed for insulting Islam.
The same blasphemy law that landed Ahok in prison is now also being used as a basis for investigations into the actions of President Joko Widodo’s youngest son, Kaesang Pangarep, following a video he uploaded.
Meanwhile a Jakarta-based rights group and the Catholic Church have called on legislators to immediately approve a stalled anti-terrorism bill, reports UCAN. In the wake of a series of terror attacks in Indonesia, they say it is high time that the bill, which has been stalled because of lack of agreement on several critical points, comes into effect.