The Politcal Persecution in Society: Indonesian Democracy in Harrassment

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(illustration: IO/Agung)

IO, Jakarta – The State should be present to protect its citizens. What happens if a State ignores the basic rights of its citizens? Article 28 of the Constitution of 1945 states that all Indonesian citizens have the right to liberties of association and assembly, to freedom of thought expressed verbally and in writing. These are some of the constitutional rights of every citizen.

Yet, not all members of society enjoy this freedom, as experienced by the persecutions individually suffered by Neno Warisman, Ratna Sarumpaet, Ahmad Dani, and Rocky Gerung. They were persecuted in several regions in the country as a result of their involvement in the “#2019GantiPresiden” (“#2019ChangePresidents”) movement.

Ratna Sarumpaet and Rocky Gerung were prohibited from speaking at a political discussion held on 25 August 2018 in Bangka Belitung. They were blocked by a mass of members of the Yudha Putra PPM regiment and GP Anshor.

Citizens blocked Neno Warisman at Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport, Pekanbaru, Riau on 25 August 2018. She was also prevented from entering Hang Nadim Airport, Batam, on Saturday night, 28 July 2018, when a number of citizens refused to allow her entry into their city. They carried banners protesting Neno’s plan to attend a tabligh akbar (religious mass lecture) and “#2019GantiPresiden” declaration event in Batam. The police later came to disperse the crowds and to announce that the tabligh akbar and “#2019GantiPresiden” declaration that Neno should have attended are cancelled.

On 26 August 2018 in Majapahit Hotel, Surabaya, East Java, a number of community members who disapprove of the “#2019GantiPresiden” movement in Surabaya refused entry to Ahmad Dhani. The mob ordered Dhani to leave Surabaya immediately.

The above group of events shows how current law enforcement resists the “#2019GantiPresiden” movement. On the contrary, the opposing “Dukung Jokowi 2 Periode” (“Support Jokowi for the 2nd Term”) events in several regions went off peacefully and without any obstacles. This gives rise to the criticism that law enforcement is selective in its application of justice. Furthermore, it tends to be a pro-Government group that “punishes” the opposition, despite the assurance made by the Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) that the “#2019GantiPresiden” movement does not satisfy the definition of a campaign: it is merely an expression of opinion.  “Expressing one’s opinion” is the right of the people.

If the freedom of a part of the people is limited, we need to question the “democracy” being implemented in the republic. Does the Government really support the implementation of democracy in our homeland?

The Economist’s Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s 2017 Democracy Index Report calls Indonesia “a flawed democracy with the worst performance” as its rank plummeted from 48th to 68th of 167 countries. The threat to civil freedoms has become one of the main factors behind the decline of Indonesia’s democratic condition and ranking. EIU’s Democracy Index was established in 2006. It is comprised of 5 variables: pluralism and electoral processes, civil freedoms, government functionality, political participation and political culture.

According to Freedom House data (2018), Indonesia suffers a democratic deficit. Its status went from “free” in 2006-2013 to “partly free” from 2013 until now. On the contrary, Timor Leste, a country birthed from Indonesia, rose from “partly free” to “free” in 2018.

Devie Rahmawati, a Social Observer from University of Indonesia, states that persecution, no matter what form it takes, wherever it occurs, and whoever the target is, is unjustifiable. Persecution is a violation of human rights, and it causes anxiety among the public. She observed that persecution in Indonesia has been rising sharply since 2010. This persecution frequently ends with abuse, both physical and psychological, including the driving out of persons from a region simply because they hold different opinions from people in the region.

Devie further explains that humans tend to be more psychologically isolated in the modern era, because current technological developments allow them to live in their own private worlds. This reduces their empathy for other humans. “Therefore, weakened interactions make them unaware that what they say or do can cause injury to other groups or individuals,” she said.

Other than the noise created by the “#2019GantiPresiden” movement, which resulted in persecution of its initiators, we must not forget a classic issue that we see in every Election and that we can expect to see again in the 2019 Presidential Elections: the doubling of voters listed in the Permanent Voters’ List (Daftar Pemilih Tetap – “DPT”) in various regions.

The Elections Supervisory Agency (Badan Pengawas Pemilu – “Bawaslu”) recorded thousands of violations during the 2018 Simultaneous Regional Elections that occurred in 8,751 Voting Stations (Tempat Pemungutan Suara – “TPS”). The highest number of violations (735 cases recorded) is for late opening of TPS (later than 07.00 a.m.). The second-highest number of violations was the lack of support for blind voters (457 cases). Furthermore, Bawaslu member Rahmat Bagja stated that violations also occurred due to damaged votes (151 cases). Another violation involving blind voters is that their escorts frequently failed to sign their statement letters, even until the DPTs are posted on the Election Notice Boards.

Another violation also found is the fact that some Voting Organizers (Kelompok Penyelenggara Pemungutan Suara – “KPPS”) (forcibly) directed voters’ selection (40 cases). There were 22 cases of KPPS failing to swear in, 29 cases of TPS which could not be accessed by voters, 10 cases of voter mobility, and 4 cases of intimidation in TPS.

Suspected violations that generate a recommendation for repeat voting (pemungutan suara ulang – “PSU”) has been found in Jayawijaya Regency in the Province of Papua. 681 voting slips for the election of governors and regents were already filled in. Other than in Papua, the suspected violation of filled-in voting slips occurred in Lebak Regency in the Province of Banten. The number of filled-in slips precisely matched the number of voters coming to vote.

Suspected violations also occurred in the Province of Palangka Raya (voters failing to exercise their voting rights) and in the Province of South Aceh (voters not voting in their assigned TPS). Abhan Misbah, Chairman of Bawaslu RI, also mentioned violations caused by the disappearance of thousands of votes in Cirebon Regency.

Duplicate DPT data is the worst, most frequently occurring among these violations. The Bawaslu of the Province of Riau discovered cases of duplicate DPT data in a number of regions. This finding was reported by Bawaslu Riau member Gema Wahyu Adinata, who also serves as Bawaslu Riau’s Coordinator of the Organization and Human Resource Division. Gema stated that duplicate voter data remains the most common violation. Most of this data originates from Indragiri Hilir Regency (22,715 items), followed by Rokan Hilir Regency (11,849 items) and Rokan Hulu Regency (9,089 items). In response to this report, Bawaslu Riau immediately contacted the Chairman of KPU in the Province of Riau, Nurhamin, in order to request KPU to verify and identify these 58,922 suspected duplicate DPT items.

Even high Governmental officials are involved in doubled DPT data: The Minister of Home Affairs, Tjahjo Kumolo, is registered as a voter in the DPT of two separate regions, i.e. Jakarta and Semarang, even though Tjahjo has been holding a Jakarta Citizen Identity Card (Kartu Tanda Penduduk – “KTP”) for 3 years. Therefore, Tjahjo cooperated with the Chairman of Bawaslu, Abhan, to ensure that officials from KPPS see that his C-6 Form (a.k.a. voting slip).

Political Aspiration
In a democracy, everyone has the right to hold an opinion, but persecution relating to the “#2019GantiPresiden” declaration has been more frequent. Hendardi, the Chairman of SETARA Institute, stated that “#2019GantiPresiden” is a citizen’s political aspiration expressed in public spaces meant to influence the selection made by citizens during the political contest of the 2019 Presidential Elections. Normally, this aspiration is something ordinary. In fact, expressing opinion in public is a right guaranteed by the Constitution, because the Constitution of RI of 1945 guarantees the freedom to hold an opinion and to gather together. Excessive prohibition of this action contradicts the spirit of the Constitution and democracy. The right and freedom to hold an opinion and to gather publicly is guaranteed in Law 39/1999 concerning Human Rights and Law 9/1998 concerning the Procedures for Expressing Opinion in Public.

Maneger Nasution, Director of the Human Rights Study and Educational Center of Prof Dr. Hamka Muhammadiyah University, Jakarta, requested that the authorities stop the persecution being inflicted against the activists who oppose Jokowi’s Government by some people. Maneger thinks that the State should have the mandate for freeing democratic space in Indonesia, including for those who hold different opinions from Jokowi’s Government. “The persecution perpetrated by masses against Neno Warisman and Ratna Sarumpaet violates the law,” he said.

Maneger questions the lack of police presence as law enforcement in cases of persecution against activists who are opposed to the Government. The police should have been present in order to satisfy the rights of the public concerning truth in information. “Such persecution is highly regrettable. It threatens the constitutional rights of our citizens, as well as threaten the future of our democracy and national integration,” he said.

Democracy should have room for the difference of opinion, and this is regulated in the Constitution. Maneger thinks that even though one group holds a different opinion from another, there are still other mechanisms that are more elegant, effective, and civilized to express aspiration over a difference of opinion, i.e. through a civil dialog. “Even if no dialog is realized, we should continue to channel our aspirations over the difference of views and opinions according to available legal mechanisms. We should steer clear of vigilantism,” he said. Maneger further said that such persecution and vigilantism by a number of people against these activists are inelegant, uncivilized, and resolves no problems. In fact, such methods give rise to new violent acts taken in response and revenge.

Great Indonesia Movement (Gerakan Indonesia Raya – “Gerindra”) Party politician Ferry Juliantono believes that the persecution cases suffered by “#2019GantiPresiden” supporters are untenable, because this movement is not a conspiracy as accused by the supporters of “Jokowi 2 Periode”. Ferry considers that the challenge faced by Indonesian citizens who want the President to be replaced through democracy is a tough one. He thinks that our law enforcement currently cannot control the conflicts designed by those in power. “Law enforcement knows who does what, or who plans what. Therefore, they do nothing when Neno Warisman is persecuted,” he said.

Ferry hopes that such unfortunate occurrences will push the people to be more open and stop judging any occurrences from one side only. “This is a maturation process – such inequality soils the Government’s image. The people are clashing with each other, but nowadays our people are becoming more mature and intelligent,” he said.

The Police (Kepolisian Republik Indonesia – “Polri”) and The Army (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – “TNI”) Must Remain Neutral
Siti Zuhro, Senior Researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, stated that democracy teaches us that the people must respect and trust each other. The essence of democracy is to establish positive values, because amicable discussions should be held in order to establish mutual agreement, communication, transparency and accountable actions. Therefore, persecution should not have occurred. Fairness in a competition must be prioritized. If the contest is not balanced and equal, it is not a contest, but an enforced condition.

“We are entering an Elections period. Therefore, the ambience will be covered with contests and competition, whether we want it or not. What is being competed for, what is being contested, are the candidate pair’s programs and qualifications. They need to attract the people’s emotions as much as possible,” she said.

The right to belong to an association is constitutionally protected. In consequence, we have new political parties once every 5 years. Prohibition against the “#2019GantiPresiden” movement should carry an equal risk of prohibition against the “Jokowi 2 Periode” movement as well. “Democracy teaches us to revere justice, unless our country maintains an authoritarian system that does not really have either contests or competitions, but monopolies instead,” Siti Zuhro said.

The Police’s main duty is as law enforcement – in other words, it must enforce applicable laws. During the elections, the Police and TNI must remain politically neutral and uninvolved. They must remain professional and must never be dragged into practical politics. We have actually undergone a period of “dwifungsi ABRI” (“double-function of the Armed Forces”), wherein the Army were actively involved in practical politics from the end of 1998 to 2004.

“Persecution may occur because this is a contest. It is possible that “#2019GantiPresiden” is considered to have a strong effect. The hashtag seems to be able to attract the people’s support, and some will feel threatened by it in April 2019. This is a contest wherein 2 candidate pairs appear – one will win and the other will lose. Therefore, this hashtag is very powerful,” Siti Zuhro said.

The strength of an incumbent can be seen from the people’s passion and enthusiasm. Are most of the people passionate about wanting a new leader? The “#2019GantiPresiden” is an expression of desire from communities and people who do not want the incumbent to be re-elected, and it is normal in the elections contest. Some people win and others lose, and the incumbent can either win or lose.

The rejection of the “#2019GantiPresiden” demonstrates resistance from its opponents. The Police must remain neutral and professional and give equal protection to all the people, there must not be any differentiation whatsoever. If the Police should make any discrimination, people would consider that the Police are partisan. “Neno Warisman’s statement that there has been violence from members of the State Intelligence Agency (Badan Intelijen Nasional – “BIN”) and the Army in the region might cause people to judge our law enforcement institutions negatively. If this judgment becomes widespread, it will be bad (for national security),” Siti Zuhro said.

Siti Zuhro further said that the Government might be panicking with the advent of the “#2019GantiPresiden” movement, because it can be interpreted as an unambiguous desire to replace the president, while in democratic terms it can also be interpreted as “legitimate succession”. Replacement or succession of leadership is something natural. The “#2019GantiPresiden” movement also have a great potential of reducing people’s support for President Jokowi, so that they will not vote for him in the upcoming election.

Nobody guarantees that “#2019GantiPresiden” will win or lose, because the contestation period is still far away. There is no need to feel paranoid about political dynamics. The “#2019GantiPresiden” movement broke the Government’s concentration because now it thinks more about the upcoming contest instead of its duty of running the governmental administration, while campaigns will not commence until 23 September,” she said.

Ismail Hasani, Setara Institute’s Research Director, explains that “#2019GantiPresiden” is part of the common citizen’s political expression or aspiration, which is part of the freedom to hold an opinion and to associate. The State should legally protect these rights of the citizen, and any cancellation or dispersion of masses without any valid reason can be contested. “#2019GantiPresiden” is a political expression and movement. Therefore, the people who oppose it should fight back using political movements. However, the Police as law enforcement should never dabble in politics. Therefore, its benchmark in taking any action should be an objective analysis whether the movement has potential to cause security instability, such as an interruption of public order, or not.

“If the Police find any indication of potential interruption to public order, then it can limit the movement up to a certain point. However, it must still explain its argument of potential disturbance in a valid manner. Without such valid arguments, it is only natural that its actions should be perceived as “persecution”, which is obstructing a person from enjoying his or her freedom in expressing his or her thoughts and opinions. As Fadli Zon has observed, this means that the Police can be seen as being partisan in action. The Police must have valid reasons to take any law enforcement act, to maintain order. Without valid reasons, the Police violate human rights,” he said.

The Police as a State institution does have the power to also protect Neno Warisman as a citizen, because it felt that if she were not defended, there would have been a mass threat and other consequences. But we need to investigate whether or not a mass riot was about to occur. Ideally, law enforcement actions should be directed towards people who are bent on preventing an individual from enjoying his or her freedom. In the context of freedom to express and hold an opinion, the Police were also found to have pressured the organizers to cancel their event due to fear of disturbing public order.

“The “#2019GantiPresiden” movement is not part of a presidential or vice-presidential campaign, but the content is a campaign. It is a political expression and aspiration meant to induce citizens to change presidents. On the surface, the Police might seem to treat the two movements, i.e. the “Jokowi 2 Periode” and the “#2019GantiPresiden” declarations differently, but we must consider the benchmark that they use, mostly in terms of public security – is there a potential of security threat if the movement is allowed to endure?” Ismail Hasani asked.

Yet the prohibition of the “#2019GantiPresiden” clearly threatens citizens’ constitutional right to assemble and associate. It should have responded using political movement, and there should have been no pressure against law enforcement to act. Freedom to hold and express an opinion is the essence of democracy. When people are threatened and obstructed from holding an opinion, whether there is pressure from those opposing or not, it is a danger to democracy. It is no wonder that party elites are panicking, because this is a political year after all.

Devie Rahmawati concludes that the increase of persecution cases is caused by the inability of the justice system to uphold existing laws. The prohibition against the people’s associating and assembling with each other threatens everyone’s constitutional rights. Therefore, law enforcement must be serious in demonstrating that they are on the side of the truth. They should prosecute the wrongdoers and refrain from labeling any group without any proof. Again, they must remain objective.

Maneger Nasution explains that the persecution performed by “an unknown mass” against a citizen who are visiting various territories within the country is a violation of the law. Therefore, the Police should immediately explain to the public their suspicions concerning the persecution case in order to satisfy the public’s right to know the truth of all information. In the context of persecution, if the State does not stop, or in other words, allow such persecution to occur, that is a violation of human rights. The State, and in particularly the Police, should be present in order to prevent and investigate such occurrences. The Police must arrest the perpetrators and intellectual actors professionally, independently, fairly, transparently, and non-discriminatively according to applicable laws. The State must not lose out to intolerant groups, and must not allow impunity towards justice.

Stagnant Democracy
Siti Zuhro stated that democracy is executed by means of elections, which is one of the main pillars of democracy. Will this 5th election be a more quality election that will raise our class, meaning that all of its stages are not mere procedures, but a true consolidation of democracy based on law? Then there is a possibility for us to raise our class. However, if those stages were mere procedures, going through the motions with far from adequate substance; if they allow all methods to be used, this violates regulations, and shows slanted behavior; that means that we have failed to raise our class. “It is only natural that our democratic index remains stagnant – freedom of expression is inhibited, competitions and contests are limited, and fair chances are not allowed to certain groups. This threatens the quality of our democratic consolidation,” she said.

Maneger Nasution states that humanity strongly opposes repressive and punkish methods against the “#2019GantiPresiden” movement. Freedom to express one’s opinion is guaranteed and regulated by law. The prohibition of Neno Warisman to attend the declaration event in Pekanbaru and the surrounding of Ahmad Dhani Prasetyo in Surabaya, for example, are repressive and punkish. Allowing such actions will not help us build up the democratic climate we are working so hard on, and it does not show law enforcement neutrality in protecting the people.

Such methods will be detrimental to President Jokowi and are not the proper and correct way to show support for him. Despite difference of choice, people should appreciate and respect the freedom hold an opinion. We must also ask “#2019GantiPresiden” activists to remain dignified and move within the limits of rules and regulations, i.e. to remain compliant with the law. Law enforcement should also educate the people about democracy without taking any sides, and should be able to facilitate and regulate each demonstration activity to prevent conflicts in the field.

“We hope that 2019 will really be a celebration of democracy that all Indonesian citizens can enjoy, and we don’t want repressive and provocative methods to stain this event. Let us jointly protect our nation’s biggest asset, our democracy, from being damaged and stained by such provocative and repressive methods. We must ask the public not to be baited and provoked, and to avoid violence and vigilantism. We must insist that the State satisfy the constitutional rights of the victims of persecution. We must also insist that the State, especially the Police, be present in order to prevent such occurrences from repeating in the future. The State must not lose out to the perpetrators and intellectual actors of persecution, and must also guarantee and ensure that such cases of suspected persecution do not get exported by irresponsible parties to other regions, for the sake of the unity and integrity of NKRI,” Maneger Nasution said. (Dessy Aipipidely, Ekawati)