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SBY issues regulation to quell conflicts

Jakarta Post - January 29, 2013

Ina Parlina, Jakarta – Concerned by the increasing number of communal conflicts throughout the country, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued on Monday Presidential Instruction No. 2/2013, a new regulation aimed at better coordinating efforts to handle communal and social disputes.

The new regulation will allow governors, mayors, and regents to play bigger roles in dealing with communal conflicts.

The instruction will also allow the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister, Home Minister, Attorney General, chief of Police, National Intelligence Agency head, National Counterterrorism Agency head and local leaders to have a line of coordination to effectively handle security problems.

"Last year, violence and disturbances, social conflicts and communal disputes, as well as acts of terrorism, continued to occur. This means that our security, particularly public order and safety, are not being well maintained," Yudhoyono said on Monday, explaining the reason for the issuance of the new regulation.

Yudhoyono said that the regulation was a response to complaints that the "state and law enforcement officials have been negligent in dealing with the conflicts".

"Under the new instruction, there should be no hesitation in taking action. We can no longer deal with communal conflicts that have been left unresolved. Do not let them turn into time bombs," he said.

In recent months, the government has been subject to a barrage of criticism attacking the government for failing to handle social conflicts.

Meanwhile, rights groups have opposed the national security bill, saying it will only violate human rights. The deliberation of the bill has recently been suspended.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto insisted the new measure would not violate human rights, nor would it be used as a tool for repression. "Don't think the new regulation as something that it is not," Djoko told a press conference.

Djoko said that he could guarantee that the security authorities would act responsibly. "No actions will go beyond the boundaries; I stress again that this [instruction] is based on existing laws," Djoko said.

The main idea was to handle disturbances more effectively and with better coordination, he added.

"Some think the government allows such conflicts to occur. The police, with help from relevant government institutions, need to act fast in handling social conflicts," he said. "This will allow for early detection of potential conflict so that we can show the public that there is no such thing as government negligence."

Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi said the new regulation would more effectively coordinate different government institutions.

Activist Al Araf from human rights watchdog Imparsial criticized the issuance of the new regulation, saying that it was redundant as existing laws could effectively be used to deal with communal conflicts.

"Identifying the root cause [of a conflict] is a must. But the government must get a clear view here. For instance, many religious conflicts result from growing intolerance backed by the government's own discriminatory policies," he said. "The instruction is an easy way to counter their own failure," he said.

The government has warned against escalating tensions this year with violent, communal conflicts remaining the primary source of security disturbances.

Late last year, Yudhoyono ordered local government heads to engage with the public through social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, to deal with communal conflicts. Yudhoyono told governors, regents, mayors, heads of local police and local military commanders that they should all have a social media presence.