The House of Representatives’ endorsement of the mass organization bill is likely to happen today — July 2 — after a week of postponement to introduce the initiative bill to the public.

Controversy toward the bill has actually been around since the law on mass organizations was passed by the New Order regime 28 years ago. At that time, the law was part of the political law package and was based on political, rather than legal, considerations.

The New Order regime was direct about prioritizing political stability, which led to its understanding that the dynamics of civil society should be strictly controlled.

Within two years of the law on mass organization being enacted, on Dec. 10, 1987, the government, through Home Affairs Ministerial Decree No. 120/1987, disbanded the Indonesian Muslim Students (PII) and the nationalist-oriented Marhaen Youth Movement (GPM).

It is ironic when we reflect upon these efforts to revive the mass organization law in the era of reform.

The House’s special committee, which is deliberating the mass organization bill, and even the Home Ministry have never succeeded in explaining why the country needs the bill, let alone benefit from it.

The rhetoric is that the bill is required to resolve violence perpetrated by certain mass organizations.

This statement is most certainly exaggerating, if not true. The Criminal Code (KUHP) is more than enough to enforce the law against perpetrators and those who command acts of crime. It has become clear that the problem lies within the fairness and professionalism of law enforcement.

To be engaged in social activities one can choose to form an organization. In order to be organized, one can also choose to have a legal entity.

The right to associate, even without any legal entity status, has been sufficiently guaranteed in Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution.

If legal entity is chosen, then we are able to establish an association (membership based organization) or a foundation (non-membership based organization), both legal entity statuses are certified by the Law and Human Rights Ministry.

After being officially recognized as a legal entity, if the organization needs to partner with the government in a certain sector, then interaction with the relevant ministries such as the Health Ministry, Education and Culture Ministry, Social Affairs Ministry and Religious Affairs Ministry, is available.

So where do the mass organizations stand? Why does the Directorate General for National and Political Unity at the Home Ministry play a role in this?

As discussed earlier, the basic concept of the 1985 mass organization law is political, not legal. Mass organizations under the New Order were not a legal entity, but in fact only received Registered Certificate (SKT) issued by the Directorate General for National and Political Unity at the Home Ministry.

The benefit was vague and why did the Directorate General have to handle organizational activities in the social field?

One thing is certain that the New Order regime always intended to regulate the dynamics of social activities with a problematic political approach.

It is time to bid farewell to the wrong paradigm that views society as a threat. Let us not imitate Russia which since November 2012 has enacted repressive regulations on civil society. If the House-sponsored mass organization bill is passed, it is clear that the use of the problematic political approach on the social sector will be reinstated.

Article 11 of the bill (as of June 25) states that foundations and associations are forms of mass organizations with a legal entity status. If the bill is endorsed, confusion will arise as it mixes foundations and associations.

As we know, a foundation is a type of legal entity that mostly deals with social activities, including education, healthcare, etc.

The solution for these problems is clear: Do not pass the bill. The 1985 law on mass organizations should be revoked altogether, not merely revised. Do not revive such problematic political approach to social activities.

The country should instead implement the correct legal framework by amending the law and continuing the deliberation of the association bill that has been included in the 2010-2014 National Legislation Program (number 228).

The government must not consider the public sector a threat. It should provide facilities and incentives, rather than control, restriction or repression.

*The writer is executive director of the Centre for Indonesian Law and Policy Studies (PSHK), Jakarta

News Source: The Jakarta Post / Opinion, Eryanto Nugroho, Jakarta I Tuesday, 07/02/2013      link: