Insulting House Could Now Be Felony
Former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid was the only president after the Reform Era to have publicly insulted the House of Representatives, comparing to a kindergarten.
Years after making the statement, the late president and influential Muslim cleric doubled down on his attack on the House, saying the legislative body was “chaotic” and had devolved from a kindergarten into a playgroup. It is said tha the Gus Dur regreted comparing House members to kindergarten students, saying the latter were pure and innocent and therefore not a like. But
his joke about the House maybe a thing of the past, however, as starting Wednesday, it is unclear whether one can make such jokes in public after the Legislative Institutions (MD3) law came into force.
The law, which took effect on Wednesday, last week granted the House’s ethics countil (MKD) the authority to press charges againts those accused of disrespecting the House or its members. To make matters worse, the law also stipulated that House members cannot be investigated by law enforcement authorities without the approval of the president and the consideration of the MKD.
Civil society groups have said the provision could be easliy abused to silence critic, though lawmakers have dismissed such concerns as baseless, saying the could differentiate betwen legitimate criticism and insults.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said he was aware of the public’s concern about the law, which he had refused to sign, but made clear that there was nothing he could do to repeal the law outher than ask the public to challenge it at the Constitutional Court. Laws assed by the House will take effect after 30 days with or without the President’s signature. The President was initially advised to issue a regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) to replace the controversial (MD3) Law, but he argued there was no point in doing so.
Constitutional law expert Feri Amsari criticized the President for being wishy – washy, saying he could still have issued a Perppu to delay the implementation of the MD3 Law and demand that the law be revised.
The lawmakers, meanwhile, seem to have little concern for the controversy surrounding the law. The House has been preparing for the inauguration of a new House deputy speaker from the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggel (PDI-P) facition, as mandated under the law.
The MD3 Law stipulates that one additional seat on the House speakership board be created as well as three additional seats whitin the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR). Initially, the revision of the 2014 MD3 Law was designed to provide the PDI-P, as the winner of the 2014 presidential election, with a position among the House leaders. The articles expanding the MKD’s powers were inserted later.
*) Wilnas/Bayu K