Jakarta decree bans radical groups opposing Pancasila

Muslim student activists taking part in an anti-government rally in Jakarta yesterday after Indonesia issued a decree allowing it to ban groups that oppose its official state ideology, Pancasila. Activists said the move is aimed at disbanding Hizb ut
Muslim student activists taking part in an anti-government rally in Jakarta yesterday after Indonesia issued a decree allowing it to ban groups that oppose its official state ideology, Pancasila. Activists said the move is aimed at disbanding Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), the local branch of a radical Islamist group that seeks to unify all Muslims into a caliphate.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JAKARTA • Indonesia has issued a decree allowing it to ban groups that oppose its official state ideology, in a move seen to target radical Islamists in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

The law, signed by President Joko Widodo on Monday, comes as concerns grow about the influence of hardliners in Indonesia, where a majority of the population practise a moderate form of Islam.

It empowers the government to disband without trial any group that challenges Pancasila, a set of founding national principles which promote pluralism and tolerance.

Pancasila is considered the unifying factor for a country home to significant Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities.

Security minister Wiranto yesterday said the move was taken because some groups were "threatening the nation's existence and creating conflict in society".

Neither Mr Wiranto nor the decree named specific organisations. But activists said the move is aimed at disbanding Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), the local branch of a radical Islamist group that seeks to unify all Muslims into a caliphate.

The government said in May it wanted to take legal steps to dissolve the group. "This decree is merely a shortcut to disband HTI because if they use the old NGO law, it's going to take a long time," legal expert Bivitri Susanti said.

Mass organisations spreading ideologies such as atheism and communism are also banned under the decree. Rights activists warned that the decree could stifle a broad range of democratic institutions.

"Banning any organisation strictly on ideological grounds, including Pancasila, is a draconian action that undermines rights of freedom of association and expression," said Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono.

Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation head Asfinawati said the move is "a setback" for democracy.

Mr Wiranto denied that the decree aims to muffle non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'Jakarta decree bans radical groups opposing Pancasila'. Print Edition | Subscribe