‘Jail for everyone’: Sex ban puts spotlight on Indonesia’s law and order crackdown

It is a reflection of the crackdown on dissent and democratic regression that analysts say has occurred during the presidency of Widodo, known as Jokowi.

That includes weakening Indonesia’s famed anti-corruption agency, stripping it of some of its powers and bringing it into the public service.

Indonesia’s controversial Electronic Information and Transaction Law, introduced six years before Widodo took office but increasingly enforced since then, has already been used to arrest and jail internet users suspected of defaming the president online. Journalists and activists have also been charged under the broad cyber libel provisions.

“The Jokowi presidency has seen increasing pressure on freedom of expression,” Dr Ken Setiawan, senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, said at a seminar on the new code this week.

She said laws were also passed too quickly and with insufficient public consultation, the product of a political landscape in which there is minimal opposition as only two parties sit outside the super-coalition Widodo has built.

“This development fits into a larger broad pattern of the politics of democratic decline [in Indonesia],” she said.

That was summed up this year when close supporters of Widodo promoted the idea that he would extend his term beyond the constitutional two-term limit.

President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, has been in office for eight years.Credit:Bloomberg

While the president himself denied having such a plan and instructed advisers to stop discussing it, Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC, believes Widodo contributed to the “bloom” of political dynasties in Indonesia.

“Jokowi will leave Indonesian democracy in its worst shape in years,” he wrote in May.

Cast as a reformer as he began the first of his two five-year terms in 2014, that characterization is in question as he enters his final full year in office.

He has put a lot of focus on development and investment, including for his ambitious $34 billion ($50 billion) vision to build a new city in Borneo that would become Indonesia’s new capital.

Law And Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, Left, Poses For Photos After The New Penal Code Is Passed By Indonesia'S Parliament.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, left, poses for photos after the new Penal Code is passed by Indonesia’s parliament.Credit:AP

But when his reformist credentials are at stake, Aaron Connelly, senior fellow for Southeast Asian politics and foreign policy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, argues against thinking about Indonesian politics and politicians in binary terms.

“When we foreigners talk about reforms in Indonesia, we usually mean liberal economic and political policies. But when Indonesians talk about Reformasi, the first thing they think about is efforts to push back ‘KKN’ – corruption, collusion and nepotism,” he said.

“Jokowi cannot initially be considered a reformer, given his illiberal policies on a range of political issues, although he has introduced a number of liberal economic policies, such as reducing fuel subsidies, labor market liberalization and investment regulation.

“But for many Indonesians, Jokowi could still be considered a reformer, as he has made progress in infrastructure that was previously held back by corruption, collusion and nepotism (albeit through a very state-led development model). “


The new penal code will only take effect after it leaves the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java, and could face challenges along the way with Indonesia’s Constitutional Court.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly told parliament that the government had consulted a wide range of groups, saying: “It is not easy for a multicultural and multi-ethnic country to create a penal code that can protect all interests. accommodate”.

However, there is a lot of anxiety about what lies ahead. “This is not just a setback but a death for Indonesian democracy,” Citra Referandum, a lawyer at Indonesia’s Legal Aid Institute, told Reuters. “The process has not been democratic at all.”

Harsono, a former journalist, told the University of Melbourne seminar that the passing of the code in parliament was “a sad day for Indonesia”.

“I’m afraid it could take a century for this new penal code to be amended,” he said.

“I wish this generation didn’t have to face what my generation had to deal with [Suharto’s] New assignment. But if it gets really bad, keep resisting.”

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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