Controversial Criminal Code Bill Not Dead Yet

Credits:  Liputan6

Credits: Liputan6

Despite recent news headlines stating that Indonesia’s new controversial Criminal Code Bill (KUHP) will not be passed by the end of this parliamentary session which closes 30 September, the bill is far from dead and may be carried over and passed in the upcoming 2019-2020 session which is set to begin on 1 October. Previously, bills that were not passed by the end of the session could not be carried over to following House session and would be killed. Deliberations of such bills were required to start over if they failed to be passed, until now.

The new mechanism which allows for bills to be carried over is included in the new the Law Governing the Formulation of Legislation (UU PPP) which was passed in the House plenary session on 24 September.

Under the new law, both the legislative and executive branch must both agree to revive the bill and the bill must be at least 50% complete in order for it to be carried to the House’s next session. The carried over bill can then be easily included in the all-important National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) to be deliberated and passed.

The Criminal Code, which predates Indonesian independence and was enacted by Indonesia in 1958, needs to be updated and revised. However, the latest effort to amend the law has been widely criticised by journalist, civil society groups and the general public citing that passing the bill would lead to excessive criminalisation and undermine freedom of speech. The bill included many problematic articles and would criminalize:

·     insulting the president or vice president

·     defamation against the government

·     cohabitation of unmarried couples

·     consensual pre-marital sex

·     abortion even in the case of rape

·     promoting sex education & contraception unless by approved health worker

·     “obscene acts” (targeted at the LGBT community)

·     spreading “fake” news or “unproven” news

·     (The bill would also expand existing blasphemy clauses)

New Government Body

On a separate note, the Law Governing the Formulation of Legislation also allows for the establishment of a special government body called the National Legislation Center (NLC) which will supervise the creation of laws and regulations. The NLC will be a state institution equal to a ministry level and will be tasked with preventing overlapping and contradictory laws and regulations and identify local laws that conflict with the constitution. The president will oversee the NLC and it will be coordinated by the minister or another agency. Conflicting laws and regulations have been a major problem in Indonesia for decades and has obstructed foreign investment. During the presidential election earlier this year, President Widodo campaigned on resolving conflicting national laws as well as local laws that are not in line with the constitution.

The government has over 42,000 regulations in place with thousands of conflicting local laws. Indonesia ranked 93rd out of 193 in the World Bank’s 2016 Regulatory Quality Index and the country ranked among the lowest among its neighbours. The NLC has a major task ahead of them.

Shawn Corrigan