Tri Indah Oktavianti, Jakarta – The first year of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Vice President Ma'ruf Amin's administration was marked by continued democratic decline, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) reported on Monday.
"Kontras concludes that Indonesia is not only threatened by an economic recession but also a democratic recession," the human rights watchdog said in a report published Monday.
"If this continues, we fear a rightward shift toward an authoritarian government that will further become a threat to human rights."
In the report, Kontras highlighted five main factors that threatened democracy, including shrinking civil space, disregard of past human rights abuses and the growing role of military and security personnel in civilian matters.
Between Oct. 2019 and Sep. 2020, the group noted 157 cases of violence, attacks and/or limitations of civil rights in the country and 132 cases of violence involving the police.
Kontras also saw a surge of arrests in April and May made by the police against people accused of insulting the government.
"There is a drastic setback in democracy as the government legitimizes [the violence] through regulations," Kontras coordinator Rivanlee Anandar said during a webinar Monday.
He cited a telegram issued earlier this month by National Police chief Gen. Idham Azis as an example. The telegram instructed police to carry out "cyberpatrols" on social media and "media management" to propagate negative sentiment regarding workers' strikes and public protests against the omnibus law on job creation.
The fact that President Jokowi did not take any action against the telegram, Rivanlee said, showed that the government had tacitly approved of violence against freedom of expression by state authorities.
"The state not learned how to deal with social protest in the past year. It is always handled with repressive actions by state institutions and there has never been an assertiveness shown by the President on the matter," he added.
Kontras said the Jokowi-Ma'ruf administration had also shown a lack of political will to resolve past human rights violations. "It was only used as a political campaign commodity during the election," Fatia Maulidiyanti of Kontras said.
In fact, the administration appointed two former members of Tim Mawar (Rose Team) of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus), which was implicated in the kidnappings of prodemocracy activists in the late 1990s, to high-ranking positions in the Defense Ministry last month.
The absence of proper crisis communication as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic had also shown a lack of transparency inside the Jokowi-Ma'ruf administration, Kontras researcher Danu Pratama Aulia said.
"The government even delivered public messages that promoted tourism and economic recovery," said Danu Pratama Aulia of Kontras' research and documentation division.