The MD3 law is the product of nervous politicians looking to escape the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK)’s net. In their escape, they are damaging Indonesian democracy.
In mid-February, Indonesia’s attention was on the efforts to criminalise homosexual acts. With a distracted public, the Indonesian house quietly passed an equally destructive law.
The revised Law on Representative Assemblies, also known as the MD3 law, passed through the House of Representatives (DPR). It received the backing of eight political parties, including Widodo’s own party.
Politicians are taking aim at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK)
The law will give politicians the power to take legal action against any individuals that “degrade the honour of the DPR or DPR members”. Politicians are seeking some respite from the KPK graft investigations.
In the process, politicians are damaging Indonesian democracy
By leaving the wording deliberately vague, politicians risk eroding Indonesia’s democracy. They are opening a channel by which legitimate government critics can be arrested. It leaves journalists, bloggers, and civilians on social media open to prosecution. The law was not created with them in mind. But the door is still open for politicians to silence critics in its implementation.
Yohanes Sulaiman is a defence lecturer at General Achmad Yani University. He spoke out against the bill, saying, “the House is just a bunch of people who are really proud and sure of themselves,” adding, “of course this will be a way for them to attack their critics.”
Can the bill be stopped?
President Joko Widodo has yet to ratify the bill. The bill will come into effect within 30 days unless the President cancels it. Jokowi has made it clear he will not cancel it.
The only way to defeat MD3 is through the Constitutional Court. There are grounds for arguing the MD3 bill is in breach of the Indonesian constitution. Article 73 of the bill allows police to forcibly summon individuals for questioning. This is unconstitutional.
The Constitutional Court is unlikely to reject it
The bill received the approval of eight out of the ten political parties. With such support across the political spectrum, the court is unlikely to reject it. Indonesia is also going into an election year. The court will not want to rock the political boat at such a critical juncture.
The bill comes at a prominent time. The KPK has implicated 37 lawmakers in the ongoing E-ID card corruption case. Its lead investigator in the case, Novel Baswedan, will soon return to work. He was injured in an acid attack last April.
The KPK is taking scalps. Baswedan’s return could signify more convictions on the horizon. The E-ID card case will return to the headlines. The MD3 bill has all the signs of a guilty House looking for an escape route. The House has no problem suffocating Indonesian society in its escape.