14 July 2011

Declaration says intelligence bill will revive New Order

Jakarta Post - July 11, 2011

Jakarta -- More than 70 noted experts and activists issued a declaration on Sunday condemning a House bill regulating the nation's intelligence agencies, saying it would return authoritarian rule to Indonesia.

The bill was premature and would lead to abuses of power similar to those that occurred under former president Soeharto's, according to the declaration.

"Lawmakers on the House of Representatives' Commission I overseeing defense must cancel deliberations of the bill, or possibly drop it," the statement said. "Lawmakers should first start collecting public opinion about an ideal bill before starting deliberations."

Critics said article 17 of the draft bill, which would give the President as the head of the National Security Council (DKN), the authority to determine "potential threats", evoked the practices of Soeharto's New Order.

"Does the House aim at bringing us back to the Soeharto era? We've experienced such a dictatorial government. This bill, I assume, will take us there again," high-profile attorney and human rights activist Adnan Buyung Nasution said.

Adnan highlighted article 54 of the draft, which stipulates that "national security agencies have the authority to tap a conversation, to investigate, to arrest and to take other authorized necessary measures".

Todung Mulya Lubis, another prominent lawyer, said that if the bill was enacted the House would effectively give a "blank check" to the nation's intelligence community "to do whatever it desired".

Article 24 of the bill defines intelligence information as information pertaining to national intelligence activities and operations, criminals and crime prevention and documents related to national security and intelligence personnel.

Unfortunately, Todung said, the bill did not demarcate the limits of the intelligence community's power.

"Big powers are in its hands -- without clear definitions of its responsibility," he said. "Even a super-powerful intelligence body should be held responsible if it makes mistakes."

The nation's intelligence agencies were ruthlessly used to stifle dissent in the 1990s. Soeharto, the "smiling" general authorized the nation's spies to maintain his grip on power by any means necessary. Hendrik Sirait, a victim of an intelligence operation in 1996, said the draft bill 
ignored his experiences. "I was kidnapped for six days. I was beaten. My case has never been clearly resolved."

"Years ago, they abused us in the absence of regulations. In the future, they will probably torture people using regulations," Hendrik said.

After Soeharto was ousted, the reputation of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) worsened following the alleged assassination of human rights activist Munir by a BIN agent on board a Garuda Indonesia flight to Amsterdam in 2004.

Former top BIN official Muchdi P.R. allegedly played a role in the murder. (lfr)

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