Civil Society Urges President to Respond to Democracy’s Setback

Amnesty International Indonesia Director Usman Hamid said the quality of Indonesia’s democracy had declined. This condition is marked, among others, by the threat of freedom of expression, the weakening of accountability institutions, and the polarization that occurs among the public. Usman urged President Joko Widodo to respond to this situation of democratic decline.

“We still remember that students who were corrupted in the 2019 corruption reform were repressed, arrested, intimidated and some even died,” said Usman Hamid at the launch of the book “Democracy in Indonesia: From Stagnation to Regression”, on Sunday (10/24/2021).

Amnesty International Indonesia Director Usman Hamid (right).  (Photo: Courtesy of Publicvirtue)

Amnesty International Indonesia Director Usman Hamid (right). (Photo: Courtesy of Publicvirtue)

Usman added that the politicization of law and law enforcement agencies was seen in the leadership of President Joko Widodo. It can be seen from the stagnation of cases of past gross human rights violations in legal institutions. In fact, President Jokowi appointed people suspected of being perpetrators of human rights violations as state officials. For example, Wiranto as Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs and Prabowo Subianto as Minister of Defense.

“The prosecutor’s office and the police also tend to refuse to reopen the Munir murder case. We know that the person responsible, such as the former head of BIN Hendropriyono, has a special relationship with the president,” he added.

Highlight the Party System and Presidential Candidate Requirements

Thomas Power, a lecturer at the University of Sydney who is also the editor of the book “Democracy in Indonesia: From Stagnation to Regression” added that the signs of democratic decline in the Jokowi era can be seen from the party system that is not representative and is only controlled by the elite. He said, most political parties prioritize ministerial quotas rather than constituents’ wishes.

“The requirements for presidential candidacy are also getting narrower and more exclusive, so that only two pairs of candidates can participate in the election. This shows that the people’s wishes cannot be reflected in the presidential election,” said Thomas Power.

Thomas added that media ownership in Indonesia is increasingly dominated by a handful of people who are actively involved in the government. As a result, a number of these media tend to side with power. Meanwhile, media that criticize the government are threatened with being reported to the police or criminalized.

Even though he is ready to be criticized, the spokesman for the president is sure that democracy is still going well

Presidential spokesman, Fadjroel Rachman.  (Photo: Courtesy of Setkab)

Presidential spokesman, Fadjroel Rachman. (Photo: Courtesy of Setkab)

Responding to that, the spokesman for the President, Fadjroel Rachman said that democracy in Indonesia is still in good condition. He argued that the public could still criticize the government. On the other hand, the government will try to improve itself according to the criticism submitted.

“The apparatus continues to be criticized and continuously improves themselves. The democratic regulations continue to be criticized and continue to improve themselves,” said Fadjroel.

He added that democracy under President Joko Widodo was much better than during the New Order era which prohibited public discussions and books criticizing the government. He guaranteed that the government would not prohibit these activities for the sake of improving democracy.

Fadjroel also said that the government also acknowledged that democracy in Indonesia was experiencing a slight decline. This is reflected in the Indonesian Democracy Index published by the Central Statistics Agency, which has decreased compared to last year. Although, he denied that the decline was not as stated by Usman Hamid and Thomas Power.

“But there is an increase in terms of the cadre of political parties and the presentation of women has increased or improved,” he added.

Fadjroel said the government is also committed to resolving cases of past human rights violations. He hopes that this settlement can be immediately conveyed by the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs in the near future. [sm/em]

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