Thursday, July 31, 2008

De-radicalizing the Radicals: A Proposal

Bahtiar Effendy recently wrote an interesting article about the problems of combating terrorism in Indonesia (The Jakarta Post, 21/07/2008). He has rightly pointed out that one of the most important problems in combating terrorism is the lack of any serious efforts by the government to address the theological or doctrinal basis for terrorism.

Recent project by the Partnership for Governance Reform and Crime Prevention Foundation in Indonesia (LCKI) from May to December 2007 which focused on finding alternative mechanism of managing terror prevention efforts in Indonesia arrived at three broad suggestions. First, structurally, it suggests the establishment of a national coordinating body for countering terrorism under the control of the president. It is responsible for effectively coordinating cross-sector activities by different anti-terrorism agencies in the prevention and management of terrorism. Planning, organizing, implementing, monitoring, controlling as well as providing financial support for joint programs to prevent and tackle terrorism will become the main focus of this body. It will not take over the specific functions attached to the existing agencies but instead it will harmonize these functions, to make them efficient, more effective and focused on the common objectives.

Second, instrumentally, there is a need to re-arrange an umbrella law on the prevention and management of terrorism in Indonesia that will consist of: (a) formulation of an umbrella law for the establishment of a national counter terrorism agency, (b) strengthening of the existing umbrella law, particularly the refinement of Law No. 15/2003 on Terrorism Crime, (c) formulation of laws related to radical and anarchic organizations, (d) policy formulation on the effectiveness of intelligence reports, (e) socialization of national policies and strategies on terrorism eradication, and (f) adjustment of the national laws to relevant international laws, particularly international conventions which so far have been ratified by Indonesia.

Third, culturally, there is a need to engage various religious bodies and figures to create better awareness of the community on legal issues and different aspects of terrorism. This so-called soft-power approach or de-radicalization process through intensive direct engagement and dialogue will become an important entry point to achieve what Bahtiar has mentioned as addressing the theological or doctrinal basis for terrorism.

The three suggestions or objectives above are not easy to achieve. Theoretically, the first two (structural and instrumental objectives) could successfully be achieved through the use of intensive public pressure to the executive and legislative bodies to conduct and formulate necessary strategies on this matter. Legal-formal approach through existing democratic channels should maximally be utilized as a strategy to achieve the objectives.

On the other hand, the third objective is more delicate to achieve than the first two objectives. Altering or making a change to one’s mindset is not an easy task to do. Brainwashing strategies are not the best known and appropriate activities to achieve this objective in a democratic society. Instead intensive dialogue and communication would be deemed more acceptable and appropriate approach to achieve this objective.

Politics is about managing problems and democracy allows this process. Different views and opinions should be allowed to emerge and solutions are achieved through discussions and consultations.

One possible, tangible step that can be proposed as an entry point to arrive at this target of altering the mind of radical groups is through the introduction and dissemination of human right values. The fact that all religions teach human rights and that respect of human life and all living beings is an integral part of religious teachings should provide an opening for an intensive discussion and communication with these groups. This process should lead to a common ground that all acts of terrorism and radicalism are contrary to human right values.

Better understanding of human rights and respect of human life and living beings would, in my view, help radical groups to understand better about the differences of various elements in the society they are a part of. It would help them in exercising and practicing their religious teachings better. Fateful incident such as Monument National incident on 1 June 2008 would be avoidable in future.

It should be noted here that this proposal is not easy to achieve. Any absence of goodwill or willingness from the groups to learn about the subject such as human rights could become a huge stumbling block. The nature of exclusivity in such groups should become matter of concern before embarking on this proposal.

However, to be optimist, this proposal should be tried and tested. Thus, the role of civil society organizations in this matter is so important, especially in the current context of democratization in Indonesia. For de-radicalization process of radical Muslim groups in Indonesia, the role of NU and Muhammadiyah as two leading civil society organizations in Indonesia should be accounted for. They must play a vanguard position to ensure that Islam is really a religion that is rahmatan lil ‘alamin.

At the same time, the media as the fourth pillar of republic should also play important role in providing information, education and bringing up discourses related to this issue so that an integrated effort could be established to achieve this objective.

It will be a long process though but worth to try.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Capital Punishment: Yes or No?

In the past one week, debate over the implementation of capital punishment in Indonesia has become the headlines in several TV stations. Two opposite camps have been pitched against each other, debating the pro and con on the issue. The executions of five convicts who have been found guilty of drug trafficking and planned murder in July 2008 alone have triggered the debate: “Should capital punishment (death penalty) be retained or be abolished altogether in Indonesia?”

The abolitionist, the group who opposes capital punishment, argues that, first, the right to life cannot be abrogated at any cost by anyone and the state is held responsible in ensuring this situation. Thus a convict who has been proven guilty for serious crime cannot be punished with capital punishment instead he/she should be put in jail for the longest term possible.

Second, decision by the Indonesian government to ratify the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) into Law No. 12/2005 should make it mandatory for Indonesia to abolish capital punishment. Life imprisonment is the only alternative to punish any serious criminal offence, and not capital punishment if Indonesia wants to move forward in this globalized world.

Third, Article 28I (1) of 1945 Constitution guarantees the right to life of each and every Indonesian citizen. It is inline with the ICCPR and Law No. 12/2005. Retaining death penalty in Indonesian penal code (KUHP) is a contradiction and a proof of inconsistency in Indonesian constitutional law system.

Finally, on the question of justice for the victim, the group argues that by punishing the perpetrator with death penalty, it does not do justice to the suffering being inflicted by the crime that has been committed. Life imprisonment will, in their opinion, bring more justice to the victim since it will amount to multiple miseries, both mentally and physically, to the perpetrator.

On the contrary, the retentionists who support the implementation of capital punishment in Indonesia argue that Indonesia is a sovereign, independent state which, even though it ratified the ICCPR, but it has the constitutional right to define what serious crimes are and the type of punishment to these crimes. ICCPR gives this options and it has nothing to do with Indonesia’s future in this globalized world.

Besides, even though the Indonesian Constitution guarantees the right to life of each and every Indonesian citizen, but in the same Constitution, the right to life can still be taken by the state for certain reasons restricted by law for the sole purposes of guaranteeing the recognition and respect of the rights and freedoms of others.

Moreover, argument of inconsistency in the Constitution has been ruled out by recent ruling issued by Indonesian Constitutional Court on Decision No. 2-3/PUU-V/2007. The ruling says that there is no inconsistency on this matter and at present, Indonesia still needs the application of capital punishment for serious crimes categorized under the international laws.

On the question of justice, capital punishment still holds justice to any serious crimes committed by a perpetrator. However, there is a necessity to look into the legal process in order to arrive at a justifiable final conclusion of applying capital punishment to such crimes. Competent judges and legal system in a country holds the most prominent position in this matter.

In our view, since it has been officially interpreted as constitutional, therefore capital punishment should still be applicable in Indonesia. Apart from being utilized as a deterrent for the perpetrators of serious crimes, ratification of ICCPR does not mean that Indonesia cannot decide what is applicable and what is not, especially in relation to capital punishment.

Even though majority of nations in the world has approved the abolition of capital punishment (129 of 196 countries), but being the minority in this matter shall not make Indonesia incapable of fitting into the new world. As a sovereign nation, Indonesia has all the rights to decide its own future.

The right to live is for everyone, both for the perpetrators and the victims alike. The Constitution guarantees that right and, in our opinion, it is both for the state and the citizens to respect and uphold this basic human right.

With democracy that allows transparency and by revamping and improving Indonesian legal system, the question of justice and the application of capital punishment should not be a problem in Indonesia. Instead, it will bring better future for Indonesia as a democratic society.

Note: Pan Mohammad Faiz, S.H., M.C.L. from Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, India who is currently working at Indonesian Constitutional Court, has added his views in this article.

Friday, July 11, 2008

It is Time to Party

Finally, the long awaited list has been announced. The Indonesian Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – General Elections Commission, KPU) has just announced the prospective political parties that will be eligible for April 2009 general elections. If the 2004 general elections had 21 contestants, the 2009 elections will have 34 political parties that will fight for seats in the Indonesian parliament and the nomination of the next Indonesian president. 16 of them are political parties that won at least a seat in the Indonesian parliament in 2004 elections while the remaining parties are new parties that have passed the long verification process conducted by the KPU.

It should be noted here that only party or coalition of parties that have at least 15 percent of the seats in the parliament can field a candidate for presidency. Thus the competition for 2009 elections will be tight.

Even though big names like Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) and Golkar Party will dominate the contest, but there are resurgent players that might disrupt the party. The Islamist party, Welfare and Justice Party (PKS), the most successful cadre party in Indonesia, continues its good showing in local elections and will likely to continue the trend up until 2009 general elections. Their latest achievement in local elections was by beating candidates fielded by PDI-P as well as Golkar Party by a good margin in West Nusa Tenggara gubernatorial elections. Tracking poll conducted by different pollsters support this trend.

Besides, new players like Partai Hanura, led by ex-army chief of staff, retired general Wiranto, and Gerindra Party, led by another ex-army general Prabowo Soebijanto, should be players to watch. Their vigorous campaign and abundant source of fund should become a matter of concern by other parties.

Indonesian transition to democracy has been an up and down journey. Scenes like impeachment of a president, arrests of corrupt lawmakers, riots over fuel price hike, problems of electricity supply have endlessly marked this process. Health problems like malnutrition and suspected bird flu infection in several regions are other matters of concern that needs to be addressed. In addition, unemployment and lack of employment opportunities need be sorted out by the government.

But one thing should be noted here that Indonesia’s transition process to democracy is something inevitable. Indonesian people understand that their future lies in the working of a democracy. Ten years is such a short period to build a real democracy in such a diverse country like Indonesia. However, with the increasing maturity of Indonesian young guns, this transition process will surely find its way to its destination. The next general elections will be crucial for the future of Indonesian democracy and Indonesia as a nation. The world is watching closely, how democracy and Islam, the second largest religion in the world and the religion of the majority population in Indonesia, work hand in hand in Indonesia to achieve a common goal of creating a welfare society.