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Intimidation, criminalisation of activists a sign the authorities becoming anxious

CNN Indonesia - December 9, 2023

Jakarta – Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid says that the cases of alleged intimidation against artist Butet Kartaredjasa and the criminalisation of Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti are signs that the authorities are beginning to get anxious about criticism.

Hamid conveyed this during a speech at the People's Stage concert titled "Bongkar" (to expose, dismantle, demolish) held at the Madya Stadium in the Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) Sports Complex in Jakarta on Saturday December 9.

"The cases of Haris and Fatia, Budi Pego, Mama Yosefa in Papua, Bung [Brother] Retno Gunardi in Rembang, and most recently Butet shows that the authorities are anxious because the ordinary people are starting to speak out", cried Hamid.

During the speech, Hamid was accompanied on the stage by Fajar Merah, the son of radical people's poet Wiji Thukul who was disappeared in 1998. Hamid, a former coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), could be seen holding a black flag with the words "Reformasi Dikorupsi" (Reform Corrupted).

Hamid said he believes that democracy in Indonesia is experiencing a regression to the point of repression. He said that freedom of expression is starting to be repressed while the people's oversight of the legislature has begun to be weakened.

"And judicial bodies have also been emasculated. All of the natural wealth in Indonesia [should be] for the ordinary Indonesian people's welfare, not foreign investors. Don't stay silent", he said.

On the other hand, Hamid also highlighted the move by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo through instruments of executive power to try and perpetuate his power. One of the ways being to weaken people's freedoms and emasculate the Constitutional Court (MK).

"He used the MK chief justice [Widodo's brother-in-law] to priorities the interests of his family, [so] his son [Gibran Rakabuming Raka could] became a cawapres [vice presidential candidate]. Not in the interests of the country", he said.

"So I say save democracy, I say fight [political] dynasties, fight dynasties", he added.

Human rights activists Azhar and Maulidiyanti are being tried on charges of defamation brought against them by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan over the use of the phrase "Lord Luhut" in a video discussion about his alleged mining business interests in Papua.

The prosecution has demanded that Maulidiyanti be sentenced to three years and six months in prison along with a fine of 500,000 rupiah in lieu of an additional three months in prison, while Azhar faces a four year prison sentence and a 1 million rupiah fine in lieu of an addition six months in prison.

Artist Butet Kartaredjasa meanwhile clams that he was prohibited by police from including political elements in a theatrical performance titled "Musuh Bebuyutan" (The Hating Game) at the Taman Ismail Marzuki arts and cultural centre in Jakarta on Friday December 1.

Kartaredjasa claims he was ordered to sign a written statement that political elements would not be discussed in the stage performance.

"So this administrative requirement prior to this hasn't existed since reformasi in 1998. This, in the New Order era [of former president Suharto] it was like that", Kartaredjasa told CNN Indonesia on Tuesday December 5.

Government's response

Regarding the reporting of critics to police, Widodo once claimed he prefers to just keep working as president.

"Those are minor things. I just [keep] working", said Widodo at Senayan Park in Jakarta on Wednesday July 2 amid pressure to report political activist Rocky Gerung for allegedly spreading fake news.

Regarding the alleged nepotism in the Constitutional Court for the sake of perpetuating his power, Widodo was also reluctant to comment.

"I don't want to express an opinion on the Constitutional Court's ruling, later it could be misunderstand as if I'm interfering in judicial authority", he said on the Presidential Secretariat YouTube channel on Tuesday October 17.

Meanwhile regarding the defamation report against Azhar and Maulidiyanti, Pandjaitan said it was related to his personal honor.

"Frankly for me the material losses don't need to be calculated, but morally, my children and grandchildren, I'm called a criminal, I'm called a Lord, how would it be if I accused you of being a criminal, a thief, right, you wouldn't be able to accept it either", said Pandjaitan on Thursday July 8 at the East Jakarta District Court where Azhar and Maulidiyanti are being tried.

According to Pandjaitan, there are no absolute freedoms. "We can do anything but it must be responsible. There are no absolute freedoms", he added. (rzr/arh)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Usman Hamid Ungkap Kekuasaan Sedang Resah, Buktinya Haris Hingga Butet".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20231209165451-12-1035124/usman-hamid-ungkap-kekuasaan-sedang-resah-buktinya-haris-hingga-bute