Oleh: Agus Sudibyo | Mei 20, 2009

Ambiguous bill a `setback for democracy’

Dicky Christanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Wed, 05/20/2009 1:36 PM | National

The state secrecy bill being deliberated at the House of Representatives will prove to be nothing but a major setback for democracy in the country, by preventing citizens from monitoring the administration on a daily basis, activists say.

“That doesn’t mean we’re against the bill. Every country needs regulation concerning state secrecy, to prevent information misappropriation and theft that may imperil the country’s safety,” Ifdal Kasim of the National Committee of Human Rights said Tuesday at a press conference.

However, he went on, the bill did not distinguish clearly between information deemed state secrets and public information.

“If we fail to enforce the proposed state secrecy law that meets the qualifications, then it most likely will threaten many aspects of our lives,” he said.

Speakers at the conference lamented the bill’s definition of state secrecy, which they said was biased and lacked focus.

Oslan Purba, from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), expressed concerns about the bill, which authorizes the state to revoke any use of documents that could be presented in a court as evidence, if they are categorized as classified documents.

“Just imagine how many potential crimes orchestrated by state officials would remain undisclosed because of the state secrecy law,” he said.

Not only will the bill maintain impunity, said Agus Sunaryanto from Indonesian Corruption Watch, but it would also discourage the country’s efforts to eradicate corruption.

“There will be no need to conduct investigations into corruption cases anyway if the bill is passed into law, as key documents belonging to state institutions implicated in the graft cases could be considered state secrets and any attempt to access them would be classified as a violation of the law,” he said.

The bill is slated to be passed into law before the current House ends its term on Sept. 30. Observers say the bill contradicts the law on freedom of information.

Andreas Pareira from the House’s Commission I said he was aware of the dangers the bill posed to democracy and freedom of information.

“We intend to restrict the state secrecy bill to matters concerning the country’s strategic interests, such as the national defense and so forth,” he told The Jakarta Post.

He added legislators would avoid ambiguous articles that could justify obstruction of freedom of information.


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