Dewi Nurita and Yogi Eka, Jakarta – Human rights advocacy group Setara Institute deputy head Bonar Tigor Naipospos said his agency agreed with the decision of Batam 21 Junior High School to expel two students for declining to salute the red-and-white national flag during a ceremony. They allegedly had a particular belief.
According to Bonar, every citizen must honor the national flag as the state symbol. "No other option, even though certain religion restricts the act," Bonar told Tempo via a phone call, Wednesday, November 27.
He acknowledged that freedom of religion and belief is indeed the right of every people who must be respected by the state. But in public, all citizens must comply with state laws and regulations. "Exceptions are possible in a private space."
The head of the school committee, Dadang M.A, said the school had initially no intention to expel them. "If they are dropped out, they cannot be accepted in any school," he said.
After discussing with their guardians, they also insisted that they would not follow such rules. "Their parents say that saluting to the flag means they against and betray God," Dadang added.
"The school does not ban any belief, but [we] just asked them to implement the school rules," he remarked.
When being informed about the matter, Batam Education Agency formed coordination with several related institutions, including the Indonesian Military (TNI). Batam Barat 02 Military Rayon commander Capt. R. Sitinjak said his side had helped to train the students.
"In their belief, they are barred from saluting the national flag, singing the national anthem, and honoring teachers," said Sitinjak. He then concluded that what the two students did was treason.