Johannesburg, Jakarta, 18 August 2013: The decision by Indonesian President Yudhoyono to approve a highly restrictive NGO has been condemned by civil society in Indonesia and abroad.
The Law on Mass Organisations (Ormas Law) represents a severe setback for freedom of association in the country says CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) and the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID).
The ORMAS Law gives government officials wide powers to curtail the activities of independent Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). “Through ambiguous and vague provisions, this law gives the Indonesian government numerous ways of stopping the work of organisations that are critical of its policies. The law also creates additional barriers for international CSOs to prevent them from working in the country, thus denying them the opportunity to work towards the advancement of democracy and human rights,” said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS.
“It is also deeply troubling that a law that will restrict the independence of civil society in Indonesia should be passed under the stewardship of President Yudhoyono, while he is co-chair of the UN Secretary General’s high level panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda,” said Hodenfield.
CSOs play a key role in the formulation of development strategies and assist in finding innovative solutions to complex development challenges. In many instances, they take responsibility for the actual delivery of services. Critically, CSOs at the local, national and international level independently evaluate the performance of governments and shape public opinion on accountability. The new law will make it easier for the Indonesian government to silence CSOs critical of its performance.
The ORMAS Law suffers from the following defects:
- It bars CSOs from propagating ideology that conflicts with ‘Pancasila’ - the principles of official state philosophy of Indonesia – thereby providing government officials with a powerful tool to silence organisations that oppose official policy.
- It prevents CSOs from undertaking activities falling within the purview of law enforcement agencies and government, curbing activities related to reform of the political, legal and security sectors.
- International CSOs are subjected to ambiguous demands to refrain from activities which "disrupt the stability and oneness" of Indonesia or "disrupt diplomatic ties," creating obstacles for projects related to good governance and democratic reform.
- International organizations are also forced to abide by discriminatory and excessive bureaucratic controls including requirements that they have at least five consecutive years of residency in the country and IDR 10 billion (US$1 million) prior to establishing an organization.
In July, the UN Human Rights Committee, the body of independent experts which monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), expressed deep concerns about the provisions of the ORMAS law on the grounds that they placed “undue restrictions on the freedom of association.”
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the Indonesia Forum for Environment (WALHI) and the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) are deeply concerned about the negative impact of the ORMAS Law on Civil Society space in Indonesia. They urge the Indonesian Government to urgently undertake a review of the law in light of the recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Committee, and uphold its obligations under international law to protect civil society freedoms.