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Not a Magic Wand

The Anti-Discrimination Bill currently under deliberation still contains flaws.

IF approved, the Anti-Discrimination Bill could become the basis for amending existing regulations which discriminate between people of different races and ethnic groups. Pursuant to the bill, any person found guilty of discriminating against another due to their racial or ethnic background could face prison.

Containing 27 provisions arranged in 11 chapters, the bill defines discriminative behavior as, among others, "treating a person better or worse than other people because of their racial or ethnic background, or expressing racial hatred against another person".

Violation of the bill carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of Rp500 million. If the discriminative behavior results in the death of another person, the penalty is raised to seven years in prison and a Rp1 billion fine. The bill also appoints the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) responsible for monitoring and guaranteeing implementation of the law.

Originally proposed in 2003, the Anti-Discrimination Bill aims to eliminate the discriminative practices which are common in Indonesia. "At the very least, the bill will provide a legal basis for protection," said Alvien Lie, a member of the special committee deliberating the bill at the House of Representatives (DPR).

According to Confucian Religion Council Chairman, Budi Santoso Tanuwibowo, discrimination is still widespread throughout Indonesia. According to Budi, Chinese Indonesians living in Semarang are still required to hold a Proof of Indonesian Citizenship Letter (SBKRI). Budi, who is also Secretary-General of the Indonesia Tionghoa (Chinese Indonesian) Association, has called upon the government to set an example by eliminating discriminative practices from government departments. "The people would usually follow," he reasoned.

But the Mayor of Semarang, Sukawi Sutarip, rejected Budi's claim that Chinese Indonesians are still required to hold an SBKRI in Semarang. Sukawi claims that the Mayor Instructions of October 5, 2004 upheld previous regulations which called for the abolition of the SBKRI requirement for processing birth certificates and identity cards. "We had already abolished the discriminative SBKRI before the Anti-Discrimination Bill had been conceived," said Sukawi.

The SBKRI letter is just one example of discriminative government stipulations. Director of Homeland Solidarity, Sondang Priska, claims that there are many other discriminative laws and regulations in existence. According to Priska, there are approximately 70 such discriminative regulations in existence, 40 of which are linked to religion, while the remaining are linked to race and ethnicity.

Separately, Komnas HAM member, Candra Setiawan, has called for a reformulation of all existing laws and regulations. "All discriminative regulations should be revoked," Candra said, noting that Indonesia has already ratified the International Convention on Anti-Discrimination.

Candra criticized the Anti-Discrimination Bill for appointing Komnas HAM as guarantor for the implementation of the legislation. "This is the government's responsibility. The government shouldn't shirk its responsibility," he explained. Candra also criticized the bill for its lack of sanctions against government departments or institutions or government officials who commit discrimination.

According to Hamid Wahid, a member of the special committee deliberating the bill at the DPR, Indonesia needs to enact special laws to bring about the implementation of the International Convention on Anti-Discrimination. According to Hamid, the Anti-Discrimination Bill fulfills this need. "The Convention only contains general provisions, we need operational regulations," he explained.

However, Hamid rejected calls to revoke already existing legislation which could be considered discriminative. Sondang Priska, also a member of the special committee, corroborated this view claiming that it would take too long to revoke all the existing discriminative laws and regulations. According to Priska, only three discriminative regulations were revoked during the Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid presidencies. "The process would take a long time and would be very costly," he explained.

Sondang also revealed that special committee members are still discussing the possibility of establishing a separate commission to monitor the application of these laws. Such a commission would have broad powers "because discriminative practices are still widespread in the Indonesian Military (TNI), the police, government departments and corporations," reasoned Sondang.

Sondang also warned not to expect the legislation to be a magic wand that can eliminate of all forms of discrimination in an instant. However, Sondang noted the importance of such legislation in Indonesia. "At least, these laws could be used as a tool for victims to fight for their rights," said Sondang.

Unfortunately, certain members of the special committee have failed to turn up to the special sessions, resulting in the frequent postponement of deliberations. "This is because many of the members of the special committee deliberating the bill are also on other special committees," said special committee head, Elviana. However, Elviana promised to organize a formal schedule "so that all members participate in the deliberation process."

LBR, Abdul Manan, Mustafa Moses, Sohirin (Semarang)

TEMPO, FEBRUARY 27, 2006-025/P. 30 Heading Law

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