Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Indonesia’s Democracy: Seeking Activists’ Protector

Democratic life is mandate of the proclamation of independence of the Republic of Indonesia. The main goal to be achieved is a fair and prosperous society. However, in essence democracy is not just a tool, but also part of the goal itself. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono gave his point of view about democracy. He stated that a democratic country has five characteristics, i.e. the existence of civil society, political society, economic society, the rule of law, and the well-functioned state apparatus. Now, I want to focus on the role of civil society in the development of democracy in Indonesia, especially the freedom of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

As a democratic country, Indonesia has a legal basis to give the people freedom to establish unions and associations, that is article 28 of the 1945 constitution. The implication of this regulation is the existence of free public sphere in the middle of society. Free public sphere means a region where people as citizen have full access on every public activity. Citizens have rights to be involved and understand policies taken by the government. They also could convey their disagreement. Therefore, they could build NGOs which represent their concern about something, like corruption, education, children, women, environment, culture, etc. But the freedom of NGOs spotted with a number of attempts to injure NGO’s activists, such as violence, abuse, slander, etc. So in this situation, I think we need to prevent any kind of attempts to silent NGOs.

In the political system, NGO can be categorized as one of the society’s political infrastructure, that is pressure group. The pressure group has power to force the government or incumbent elite to fulfill their aspirations. Therefore, NGO has bottom-up orientation. There are many NGOs in Indonesia such as ICW, Sahabat Anak, Prakarsa Rakyat, Transparency International, and so on. Indeed, since the reforms, NGO in Indonesia have grown rapidly in terms of quantity. Currently, Indonesia has approximately thirteen thousand NGOs. All the NGOs became the basis of civil society power. The fact show us that indirectly, number of NGO in Indonesia also represent our socio-politic maturity. Government with all its limitation, can’t reach into all the needs and interests of the people. The presence of NGO became important in building social networks and became the media that intermediary the public interests and the authorities’.

Along with the large number of NGO in Indonesia and its progress, there are more parties who want to restrict their movement. Report from Imparsial NGO mentioned that from 2005 – 2009 there are 138 cases of violence, 46 cases of persecutions, 29 cases of arbitrary arrest, followed with other cases, i.e. intimidation, threat of violence, terror, criminalization, properties demolition, properties despoliation, kidnapping, and assassination. Usually, the purpose of commit the crime are: as a form of threat to the perpetrators of human rights defenders, try to limit the work of activists who are critical , or to create demoralization of human rights defenders to be afraid of power. The recent cases are the violence done to Tama Satrya Langkun, ICW’s investigation division researcher, and the Molotov bombing to Koran Tempo’s office.

Seeing these circumstances, we have to take action to force this problem. NGO activists are assets of our democracy. They have noble task to fight against any wickedness in this nation. The are pro democracy activists. So, they need to be protected.

Solutions about this problem are: the national commission of human rights should open special desk to handle the violence upon the activists. Thus, the cases can be easily coordinated. We have to make activists protection act. Besides that, NGOs should coordinating with police to protect their activists.

If we just remain doing nothing, then it means we are contributing to injure the freedom and peace in society, and of course, it also injure the democracy in Indonesia.

Source: Kontan Online,, Listyarti, Retno. 2007. Pendidikan Kewarganegaraan untuk Kelas X. Jakrta: Esis.

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