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Habibie against initiating emergency law

Republika - February 16, 1999 (BBC summary)

Jakarta – The Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security, Faisal Tanjung, said that it was not inconceivable that civil emergency law would be instituted if rioting was to continue. Even so, according to Tanjung, President Habibie still refused to decide on initiating emergency law despite a number of his ministers supporting the idea.

"Indeed there has been a proposal to initiate civil emergency laws. Be that as it may, there is no need for them at this moment. But, it is possible that if rioting was to continue, the laws could be enacted," Tanjung told journalists at his office yesterday.

Tanjung said that during the Cabinet Meeting on Politics and Security held at the Presidential Palace on 27th January, a number of ministers, including himself and Justice Minister Muladi, had suggested that the president institute the Civil Emergency Laws. Republika sources state that the minister for transmigration, A.M. Hendropriyono, and the minister for defence and commander of the armed forces, Gen Wiranto, were among ministers with similar suggestions.

"A suggestion came from Mr Muladi and six other ministers, including me. But the president said: "It will not help for us to go there. We must first exhaust our options to ensure public order'," said Tanjung.

As a member of the cabinet, Tanjung accepted the president's decision, even though as a career soldier he understood that ABRI (Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia) would rather handle the situation armed with expanded authority. But "because that was President Habibie's opinion, we all answered: yes sir! [preceding two words received in English]" , he said while raising his hand to his forehead in salute.

Tanjung agreed that there were many reasons as to why a civil emergency had not been declared. "There are many factors, including the fact that the world would see Indonesia as an unsafe place. There are also domestic considerations supporting the need to persist with civil order. And we are working towards that end."

But the former armed forces commander continued by saying, "It is not inconceivable that should this current situation continue, the laws may be instituted because under a civil emergency we can take more immediate action. A civil emergency can be put in place locally in a certain place or across the whole nation for a brief time, then later withdrawn when the situation recovers."

The basis for the civil emergency laws valid in Indonesia is Law No 23/Prp/1959. According to this law, the president/supreme commander of the armed forces can declare part or all of Indonesia to be in a dangerous situation to the extent of civil emergency, including where security or public order in part or all of Indonesia is threatened by rebellion, unrest, or natural disaster sufficient to raise concern over the ability of the normal infrastructure to overcome the problem...