Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo signed a government regulation in lieu of law, or Perppu, on Monday (10/07) that will expand the power of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights to disband groups that espouse ideologies contradictory to values enshrined in the state ideology, Pancasila.
The Perppu, named No. 2/2017, widens the government's ability to dismantle mass organizations deemed as threats to national security and national unity, previously outlined in Law No. 17/2013 on Mass Organizations.
"The existing law is not sufficient enough to prevent the spread of radical ideologies that contradict Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution," Chief Security Minister Wiranto said in a press conference on Wednesday.
In May, the government announced plans to dismantle Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), an Islamic organization seeking to establish a caliphate on Indonesian soil, on grounds of anti-Pancasila activities. This week's new Perppu is expected to end legal uncertainties over that process and to help the government tackle similar extremist groups in the future.
"This Perppu is not at all intended to discredit or harm the presence of any Islamic organization. It is issued for the good of the people," Wiranto said.
The new regulation has been met with positive responses by many moderate Muslim groups in the country, who have praised Jokowi for taking a tangible steps to diminish the influence of hardliners that could threaten the nation's unity.
However, rights activists also expressed concern that the new regulation might in fact be undemocratic and prone to abuse, saying other non-violent organizations might be shut down in the future without a valid legal process.
On Wednesday, Wiranto, a retired army general and former military chief under President Soeharto, said the 2013 law was "substantially and procedurally" lagging, underlining the need for the new regulation.
Moderate Islamic Groups Voice Support
The government's move drew support from the two largest Muslim organizations in the country – Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah – in the hopes that Islamist extremism, which has been on the rise in the country over the past few years, will take a back seat to their more moderate religious views.
"The executive board of Nahdlatul Ulama considers the president's move clever and inspiring. It is accurate and constitutional," Robikin Emhas, NU's head of law affairs, said in a statement published on the organization's official website.
As many as 14 mass Muslim organizations, including NU, were previosuly united in a coalition named the Islamic Mass Organization Friendship (LPOI) that officially requested the government to issue a Perppu to ban organizations that contravene the values enshrined in Pancasila.
The organizations include Nahdlatul Ulama, the Islamic Union (Persis), Al-Irsyad, Al-Islmiyah, Arrobithoh Al-Alawiyah, Association of Indonesian Chinese Muslims (Piti), Mathlaul Anwar, Attihadiyah, Azikra, Al-Wasliyah, Islamic Preacher Association (Ikadi), Syariakat Islam Indonesia, Union of Islamic Education (Perti) and Board of Da'wah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDI).
NU, the statement said, "fully supports" the new regulation that is expected to expedite the legal process of organizational bans while still upholding constitutional rights.
"It is like a cancer cell, the rate of spreading is so rapid, so proper and prompt treatment is required, including through the legal approach," Robikin said about the spread of hardline Islamist groups in the country.
The chairman of the youth wing of Muhammadiyah, Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, said the planned ban on HTI was "valid for the sake of maintaining national unity."
"As long as it is imposed constitutionally," Dahnil added.
High level government officials, including Wiranto himself, have repeatedly complained about what they said were "lengthy and complicated" procedures stipulated under existing law to ban HTI, which could take years.
The new regulation is aimed at revising parts of the 2013 law, though it will first need to be approved by the House of Representatives before it passes into law, which could take months.
HTI is the local chapter of Hizbut Tahrir, an international organization aimed at establishing a pan-Islamic theocracy in the Muslim world by removing existing, pluralist governments, whether by coercion or other means.
HTI has been present in Indonesia since the 1980s and has largely been a campus-based movement with well-attended meetings and rallies, though the organization has been banned in several countries already.
In April, police refused to grant HTI a permit to stage an international discussion forum in South Jakarta, citing security concerns over public opposition.
Human Rights at Stake?
HTI immediately vowed to fight back against the Perppu, which has also sparked protest from human rights groups that say the measure could threaten Indonesia's hard-won democracy.
The organization condemned the move as "despotic," while HTI spokesman Ismail Yusanto said the existing law was issued to defend mass organizations from government efforts to disband them on weak legal grounds.
"When that law is revised, including revoking the trial mechanism, it's obvious the government is making an arbitrary move," Ismail told the Jakarta Globe.
He also said there were no strong grounds for the government to issue the regulation or to ban HTI itself.
"There is no legal void, and there is no compelling situation," Ismail said, adding that HTI, which appointed prominent law professor Yusril Ihza Mahendra as counsel, is planning to file a judicial review against the government's new regulation with the country's Constitutional Court.
"HTI is a legal preaching group. There has been no law violated. Why ban us?" he said.
Al Araf, a director of Jakarta-based human rights group Imparsial, criticized the government's decision as "reactive."
Al Araf admitted there is an increasing need for the government to take firm action against mass groups that threaten democracy and human rights, but said the government should not do so by following suit.
"Respect for the principle of due process of law is fundamental," he said, citing the 2013 law, which he believes is adequate and not in need of immediate revision.
Even amid concerns from human rights groups and HTI itself, Wiranto said on Wednesday that "members of the public do not need to worry. This is not a form of arbitrariness."