Heru Andriyanto, Jakarta – Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly lambasted critics of the criminal code bill for pointlessly debating articles that had actually become law for many years under the existing code.
"There are credible media companies that have been making a mountain out a molehill of 'the controversial articles' [in the bill] such as the laws on homeless people and on domesticated birds, when both articles had long become laws under the existing criminal code," Yasonna said in an exclusive interview with Beritasatu TV on Wednesday.
"We've adopted them again into the current bill with better regulations. For example, the law on homeless people [wandering about in public areas]; the old criminal code prescribes penalty of imprisonment against them, but the current bill prescribes only fines or social works."
Yasonna alleged the media had not compared the bill with the existing penal code, while making quick judgments on certain articles they picked for the stories.
"So I ask my friends, why don't they protest the existing Dutch-made criminal code that carries heavier punishments? Where have you been all these years?" the American-educated law professor said.
"They told us these [proposed] articles were controversial but they never disputed the Dutch-made laws at the Constitutional Court," he said.
Yasonna singled out a female actress who campaigned on social media against an article she said would criminalize rape victims.
"The actress spoke out that we must reject [the bill] because it criminalizes rape victims who have abortions. It only shows that she doesn't read the explanatory notes," Yasonna said without citing a name.
"Abortion is regulated under the health law that we also adopted into the criminal code bill. It is also mentioned in the existing penal code. Article 75 of the health law gives an exception to rape victims – they can have abortions."
Dream comes true
Yasonna said it's been a big dream for Indonesia to have a genuine criminal code of its own.
"We have been using the Dutch-made penal code for 74 years since our first government was formed. The penal code itself has been here for 102 years," the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle [PDI-P] politician said.
"This is our dream to have a criminal code of our own, not one given to us by the Dutch," he said.
Yasonna claimed works to draft the new criminal code started more than 40 years ago, so now the government would rather produce a completely new criminal code than an amended one.
"Seven presidents have attempted to produce a new criminal code. During Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's presidency, a draft was submitted to the House of Representatives but it could not be completed," he said.
"As justice minister, I resubmitted the bill in June 2015, so it's been more than four years now. Every hearing [to discuss the bill] was held publicly and we received many inputs from various community groups."
Yasonna said the bill comprises 628 articles and would serve "as the constitution of all criminal laws" upon its completion.