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Opposition mounts against social conflict bill

Jakarta Post - April 9, 2012

Jakarta – A coalition of NGOs called on the House of Representatives and the executive not to endorse the social conflict management bill, fearing that it would give the Indonesian Military (TNI) a free hand in politics.

The House is expected to endorse the bill on Tuesday after sending it back to committee for revisions last week. "The President should prevent the bill from being endorsed because it is his authority that is at stake," activist Al Araf from the coalition said.

Provisions in the bill stipulate that governors, regents and mayors, with the consent of local leaders, have the right to deploy the TNI to resolve social conflicts, taking away the privilege from the President, who is otherwise in charge in the deployment of TNI personnel.

A researcher of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam), Wahyudi Djafar, said that the bill, once approved, could pave the way for the military to enter politics, a throwback to the country's authoritarian past.

Lawmaker Helmy Fauzi of the House of Representatives Commission I overseeing defense, intelligence and foreign affairs said that the bill contradicted the Constitution, which gives the President the right to declare a state of emergency.

"Article 12 of the 1945 State Constitution gives the President the right to declare a state of emergency. This bill will contravene the law if endorsed," said Helmy of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

The chairperson of the bill's special committee, Eva Kusuma Sundari, said that the House has held public hearings to disseminate information about the bill and received complaints from some quarters, a claim that Al Araf and Wahyudi denied.

"We rejected the bill three months ago, but the House carried on with their deliberation," Al Araf said.

Contacted separately, Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said that the State Palace had yet to be briefed on the details of the bill. (fzm)