Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Some members of the Indonesia's House of Representatives are rejecting a formal statement from Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro pressuring them to pass a draconian national security bill.
TB Hasanuddin, a lawmaker from opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the deputy chairman of House Commission I on defence, said yesterdat that PDI-P lawmakers would continue to oppose the bill.
Hasanuddin said that several PDI-P lawmakers had urged the House's leaders to return the bill to the government, arguing that no new legislation was needed to maintain national security.
Passing the bill would be a setback for the nation's democracy, Hasanuddin said. "If the bill is endorsed into law, it will certainly do damage to the democracy that we have had for the past 14 years. The bill could revive militarism and might be abused by the ruling regime to maintain the status quo."
Hasanuddin, who is also a former presidential military secretary and a retired Army major general, said that he questioned the government's motives in introducing the bill. "But our party will listen to the people's aspirations and their responses to the bill," Hasanuddin said.
Lawmakers from the PDI-P, the United Development Party (PPP) and the People's Conscience Party (Hanura) have rejected the bill, which has also met with strong opposition from rights groups and students, who fear that the bill is paving the way for a return to authoritarian rule.
The draft bill submitted to the House by the government does not clearly define threats to national security, giving rise to concerns that if enacted, it could be abused to limit freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.
The bill also carries provisions that would allow the authorities to wiretap or launch investigations of individuals or organisations deemed threats to national security.
It also gives the authority to the National Security Council, instead of the President, on national security problems.
Six political parties represented in the House, including those from parties in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's ruling coalition, have pledged to reject the bill after deliberations with the government begin.
"Most factions have hoped that the government would make changes to some of key issues in the draft bill," lawmaker Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita, the chairman of a special committee assigned to deliberate bill, said.
Last week, Deputy Defence Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin lobbied lawmakers, claiming that the bill would not curb political freedoms.
Meanwhile, Yusgiantoro is expected today to deliver a formal pitch touting the bill on behalf of the government before the House's special committee.
Lawmakers, however, will not be allowed to deliver a response to the defence minister's speech.
Haris Azhar, the coordinator of watchdog Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that rights groups have formed an alliance to put pressure on lawmakers and representatives from the Regional Representative Council (DPD) to reject the bill.
"Deliberations of the bill must be stopped or our democracy will suffer. The bill has the potential to bury civil liberties and give birth to an authoritarian regime in the future," Azhar said.
Contacted separately, Fajrul Falakh, a legal expert from Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, said that Indonesia would suffer a serious setback if the House decided to endorse the bill, as it would pave the way for the wider role for the Indonesian Military in domestic politics.