JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Indonesian House of Representatives is preparing to revive the articles of insulting the President and Vice President in the criminal code which many critics call would be a tool of criminalization and restrict freedom of opinion, which is similar to Thailand’s lèse-majesté law.

This law is a legacy from the Dutch colonial government for 350 years, has been declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in 2006 for violating the 1945 Constitution. By the House of Representatives, the criminal act of defamation in the criminal code draft law was raised back with the change from an ordinary offense to a complaint offense to protect the interests of protecting the president and vice president as a symbol of the state.

A complaint of offense means that anyone who insults the president must be reported first by the party who feels aggrieved or victim before the law enforcement can proceed, while a public offense allows the apparatus to process the case with or without a complaint from the victim.

In the draft version of August 28, 2019, the article previously known as the crime of “insulting the president” changed the terminology to “Attack of Honor or Dignity and Dignity of the President and Vice President” in Articles 218-220 of the draft criminal law. The government and the Parliament continue to insist on regulating these crimes, repeatedly stating “we just criminalize the humiliation of the heads of friendly countries, so the president of the country itself must be protected.”

Besides being considered unconstitutional, the article also has the potential to become a political weapon for the authorities. “There can be a charge of beating political opponents over dissent,” said criminal law expert from Trisakti University, Abdul Fickar Hadjar, in Jakarta, Saturday (08/31).

According to Hadjar, the presence of the article reinforced the president’s anti-criticism wall. If the article is still legalized, the people will not have the critical power. The article also seemed to legalize the head of state to be authoritarian.

Therefore, Hadjar requested that criminal code draft be reviewed because it could be misused by the authorities to bring down anyone, including political opponents. Even though the offense of the article is a complaint offense, its existence is still dangerous.

Efforts to include the law in criminal law date back to 2015, the year after President Widodo was first elected. It was later rejected by the opposition parties. With the political coalition supporting Widodo holding around 60 percent of the 575 seats in parliament, the law is expected to be passed. Even Gerakan Indonesia Raya, the party of former general Prabowo Subianto, who lost the election against Widodo is expected to support the change.

The Jakarta-based law observing institute, the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, said the revival of the colonial era law was an attempt to defy the constitution and was no longer relevant for a democratic country.

The reason, they said, the Constitutional Court on 200 had stated that Indonesia as a democratic rule of law, in the form of a republic, and the sovereignty of the people, as well as upholding human rights as determined in the 1945 Constitution.

“Therefore, the Constitutional Court stated that it was already irrelevant if the Indonesian Penal Code still contained the Presidential Humiliation Article which negated the principle of equality before the law, reduced freedom of expression of thoughts and opinions, freedom of information, and the principle of legal certainty,” they said in a release to InsiderStories.

Written by Marcel Gual, Email: theinsiderstories@gmail.com