New law to exile Indonesian critics


New law to exile Indonesian critics

By Norm Dixon

The Indonesian parliament has unanimously passed a new law that will allow the military-dominated government to revoke the right to return home of Indonesians overseas it considers "disloyal". New restrictions would be placed on the right of critics to travel abroad. Disloyalty is defined by the regime as criticism of the government or military.

The new law replaces a range of regulations and statutes imposed on Indonesia during the Dutch colonial period. The new provisions were introduced by the parliamentary representatives of the Indonesian armed forces. Under Indonesia's constitution, the military appoints 100 members of parliament.

The new law will prevent a citizen's re-entry if that person's return is likely to "disrupt development", "cause disunity", "threaten national stability" or "endanger the individual's or family's life".

MP Rusdy Thahjir, spokesperson on the new bill for the ruling GOLKAR party, explained that "we believe that the definition of human rights should be made within the Indonesian context, not through western eyes. We reject individualism, which puts too much emphasis on individual freedoms."

The aim is to isolate human rights and pro-democracy activists, as well as defenders of the rights of peoples in areas occupied by Indonesian troops, from contact with the mass of the Indonesian population. It is also designed to discourage activists from travelling overseas to put their case before international tribunals.

It is estimated in the Jakarta press that at least 17,000 people are already barred from leaving Indonesia, but human rights sources suspect that many thousands more are also blacklisted. Thousands of foreigners are believed to have been placed on a list barring entry into Indonesia.