Decree Giving Indonesian Citizens Role in Policing Extremism Criticized

Riza Chadijah
Decree Giving Indonesian Citizens Role in Policing Extremism Criticized People in Jakarta hold candles in support of victims and their relatives following a series of bomb attacks in Surabaya, Indonesia, May 14, 2018.

A new presidential decree that gives members of the Indonesian public a role in policing extremism was criticized by observers on Monday who said it could violate human rights and create divisions in society.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s office had defended the decree – which came into force earlier this month – saying it was needed because the country’s police force wasn’t large enough to deal with security issues by itself. On Sunday, the Cabinet Secretariat issued a statement on its website about the decree signed on Jan. 6.  

It “aims to overcome the increasing threat of violent extremism that leads to terrorism in Indonesia,” the secretariat said.

“The action plan prioritizes a soft approach in tackling violent extremism that leads to terrorism. The formulation and implementation of the action plan emphasizes the overall involvement of the government and the public, as an integral part of the soft approach and hard approach in countering terrorism.”

Citizens would be involved in tackling extremism through training in “community policing,” an annex to the decree said.

The presidential chief of staff, Moeldoko, last week defended the anti-extremism decree as “rational.”

“The size of our police force is around 470,000 members and the size of our population is about 270 million. So, we have one police officer for about 500 people, while in Japan they have one for 50,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“The issue of security cannot be handled by the police and the government alone. It requires the involvement of all Indonesian citizens. It is empowerment and I think this is part of democracy.”

Awareness is important, Moeldoko said.

“If we are not alert, we are negligent as a nation,” he said.


Abdul Fickar Hadjar, a law professor at Trisakti University in Jakarta, expressed concern that involving citizens in policing extremism could inflame tensions in society amid perceptions by conservative Muslims that the government is out to target them.

“Citizens’ involvement in reporting alleged illegal activities has the potential to cause polarization in the communities. This can create conflict in society,” Fickar told BenarNews.

Indonesia has institutions that deal with extremism and terrorism, including the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), he said. Fickar urged the government to not create a new mechanism to counter extremism.

“If the existing institutions are optimized, people’s right to security will be protected,” he said.

The decree said the national action plan had three pillars – prevention, law enforcement and partnerships – and takes into account the principles of human rights, the rule of law and justice.

Authorities said they were seeking to improve coordination between government agencies, increase public participation and expand data collection and monitoring.

But Abdul Mu’ti, secretary general of the country’s second largest Islamic organization, Muhammadiyah, said the decree could threaten freedom of religion and belief.

“Faith is something that is not visible. People’s actions are based on their beliefs. However, not all beliefs are expressed in actions,” he said.

Proposed changes to electoral law

It appears the Jokowi government has been stepping up anti-extremism programs.

The government last month banned the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a group led by hardline cleric Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, accusing it of violating the law and disrupting peace and security.

Rizieq was arrested in December on suspicion of flouting coronavirus restrictions just days after returning to Indonesia from three years of self-exile in Saudi Arabia.

On Dec. 7, police said they shot and killed in self-defense six FPI members who were traveling in a convoy with Rizieq.

Meanwhile, proposed revisions to the electoral law include provisions barring former members of the outlawed domestic branch of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) from running local and national elections.

It requires candidates running in regional and national election to produce a letter issued by the police certifying that they had never been involved with HTI, an international organization calling for Muslims to unite under an Islamic caliphate.

The bill is one of 33 priority pieces of legislation to be debated in the House of Representatives during the parliamentary term running through 2024.

In 2017, the government outlawed HTI for promoting a state based on Sharia law instead of the nation’s “Pancasila” ideology.

The ban came after Jokowi issued an executive decree allowing the government to bypass a lengthy court process required to disband non-governmental organizations.

Some legislators are opposed to the proposal to bar former HTI members from running in elections.

“We respect our colleagues’ opinions, but we don’t agree with them,” said Zulkifli Hasan, chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN).

Militant suspects arrested

Separately, police arrested five suspected members of the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) in Aceh province where they were planning to carry out attacks, local police spokesman Winardy said on Monday.

JAD is a militant group affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) group.

Officers on Friday also seized bomb-making materials and a note that warned the national police, the central government and the local government of attacks, Winardy said.

“They had planned to make bombs that would be used for acts of terror in Aceh,” Winardy told BenarNews.

The five suspects identified by their initials U.M., S.A., SJ., M.Y. and R.A. were arrested in three separate locations, he said, adding that S.J. was a civil servant.

The suspects were planning to travel to Khorasan in Afghanistan, where remnants of the IS are based, the spokesman said.


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