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Home Worldwide Indonesia March, 2006 Anti-discrimination …
Anti-discrimination bill needs overhaul: Legislators, analysts

National News March 04, 2006 

Anti-discrimination bill needs overhaul: Legislators, analysts

Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The anti-discrimination bill currently before the House of Representatives is too narrow in scope and will do little to end unfavorable treatment against minority groups, say legislators, analysts and activists.

Nursyahbani Katjasungkana of the National Awakening Party and Sutradara Gintings of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said the draft law was “too shallow” because it didn’t address many of the underlying problems that triggered social conflicts.

Legislators needed to get down from their ivory towers to see what was going on in society and then redesign a more comprehensive bill, they said.

Nursyahbani said the bill only targeted racial and ethnic discrimination in the country.

“What about gender and religious discrimination? Socio-economic discrimination and many other forms of injustice?” she told a discussion organized by the PDI-P here on Thursday.

Many women were abused at home and in the workplace and were being deprived of their basic rights, but no protections were given to them in the bill, Nursyahbani said.

Neither would the bill do anything to stop the continuing religious discrimination in the country.

“(Under the new bill) could we bring Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni to court for his recent statement that the Ahmadiyah (sect) should abandon Islam and create a new religion?” she said.

Ahmadiyah is a small Islamic group that recognizes another prophet after Muhammad. Its followers have been attacked and arrested in many regions across the country after the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a fatwa that declared the group a heretical sect.

Harry Tjan Silalahi, a social analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said the bill made too much of the May 1998 riots.

This gave the impression the bill was aimed at compensating Chinese-Indonesians that suffered at the hands of their countrymen during the disorder, he said.

“There are too many other racial and sectarian conflicts which are not mentioned in the bill, ranging from the 1965 coup attempt to the sectarian conflicts in Ambon (Maluku) and Poso (Central Sulawesi). We need not only to eliminate the discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians but also many other forms of discrimination,” said Harry, who is of Chinese descent.

Discrimination continued to exist in the country because the process of nation-building was not yet complete, he said.

Some of the best laws against discrimination already existed in the nation’s revised 1945 Constitution.

“Our founding fathers were really aware of the importance of living in togetherness — which they saw as being part of a national consensus. Discrimination and social conflicts have emerged because the virtues of common sense and togetherness are now absent from society,” he said.

Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara, the chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights, said the government did not need another anti-discrimination law because all forms of discrimination were already dealt with in the 1999 Human Rights Law and many other United Nations covenants the government had signed.

Instead it should ensure the existing laws were properly enforced, he said.

“We already have the Constitution and many laws guaranteeing human rights and the equal treatment of citizens, but so far there is no legal certainty and the rules have not been properly or fully enforced,” Abdul said.

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