Jakarta – The government is considering whether or not to extend the mass organization permit for the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), a hard-line group with a controversial track record. Its permit expired last month.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto, who led a meeting to discuss various national security issues with relevant ministers on Friday, said officials were in the process of evaluating the organization.
"We are evaluating [FPI's] previous activities, the organization itself as well as its track record [to decide] whether or not the organization is worthy of a permit extension," Wiranto said after the meeting.
FPI's mass organization permit expired on June 20. The organization has reportedly submitted documents for a permit extension to the Home Ministry and is in the process of completing all administrative requirements.
The Home Ministry, however, said it would also take into account the opinion of the public and relevant ministries before deciding whether to issue a permit extension.
After its permit expired, calls from members of the public for FPI's disbandment resurfaced, as some highlighted the organization's controversial track record, such as regular raids, violent tendencies and anti-Pancasila sentiment.
An online petition urging Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo not to extend FPI's permit, which was created and published on Change.org by Ira Bisyir, has garnered widespread public support, with more than 485,000 petitioners signing up since it was created on May 6.
FPI leader and firebrand cleric Rizie Shihab, a staunch critic of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, is in self-exile in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, apparently overstaying his multiple-entry visa that expired last year.
According to the Indonesian Embassy in Saudi Arabia, Rizieq was staying in the Middle Eastern country with four other people. Each person is estimated to have incurred Rp 110 million (US$7,099) in fines for overstaying.
Wiranto said that overstaying was Rizieq's private affair and that the FPI leader should take responsibility and deal with it. The minister further rebuked some of Rizieq's supporters for accusing the government of orchestrating the situation so that the cleric could not return home. (dmy/afr)