Maintaining Dignity

The defendants charged with insulting the President appeal at the Constitutional Court and demand that the article be abolished.LAST September at the Constitutional Court, Eggy Sudjana spoke up boldly: “I am puzzled. This article can be interpreted in different ways by the government. Pak Effendi regularly criticizes the government on the airwaves through a popular television satire called Republik BBM but he is not charged at all, while I, who merely asked for information from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), am indicted.”

Effendi Ghazali, responded: “Everyone who wants to see campaign promises implemented may criticize the President in their own way. We use factual data to criticize the government through Republik BBM. If that makes the ratings go up while you receive condemnation, well, that is fate.”

This dialog was not from a skit on Republik BBM, a recent popular television program, but from a session of the judicial review at the Constitutional Court last September. A case of presidential insult based on Article 134 and 136 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) was being reviewed. Ghazali’s remark broke the reserved atmosphere of the courtroom and the audience burst into laughter. Ghazali, a political expert, was presented as an expert witness in the case.

Eggy Sudjana was filing a petition for material examination following his indictment on the articles inherited from the Dutch colonial government. The lawyer was charged with insulting the President by the Central Jakarta District Court because he reported to the KPK last January that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had accepted a Jaguar car from an entrepreneur. Sudjana denies the accusation. “I just wanted clarification on the matter,” he said.

Pandapotan Lubis also faces similar charges. His lawyer, Irma Hattu, filed a lawsuit at the Constitutional Court on September 25. “We demand that the article be abolished because it can be potentially misused by the government for their own purposes,” said Irma Hattu.

This is the first judicial review of the articles, which in the past have condemned dozens of university students and activists. During President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government, the following five people were charged: Wayan Gendo Suardhana, Bay Harkat Firdaus, Fahrul Rohman, Eggy Sudjana, and Pandapotan Lubis. The list is much longer if it includes those charged before SBY’s term.

According to Hermawanto, a lawyer with the Jakarta Legal Aid Association (LBH), Sudjana and Lubis are able to sue against the articles in the Constitutional Court because now the regulations permit it. During the New Order era, according to defense lawyer Fahrul Rohman, there was no opportunity to petition for a judicial review on the articles of the KUHP. Hermawanto said that Jakarta LBH is planning to file lawsuits on those articles. “We are still investigating it,” said Hermawanto.

Firman Wijaya, Sudjana’s lawyer said that the lawsuit is not only for his client’s personal sake. “There were a lot of victims of those articles,” he said. Wijaya feels that Sudjana’s case illustrates how the people’s right to report corruption cases is eroded by articles like these.

In the lawsuit, Sudjana demands a material examination of articles 134 and 136 of the KUHP. The lawsuit adds Article 137, which deals with the prohibition to broadcast, show or install text or images in public that insult the President.

Sudjana believed that the articles inherited from the Dutch colonial government do not fit Indonesia’s democratic era. “In Holland those articles have expired,” said the former Indonesian Muslim Workers Brotherhood leader. Irma Hattu agrees with him. “Those articles contradict the Constitution which assures the freedom to state personal opinions.”

Not everybody has the same opinion as Sudjana. Rudy Satrio Mukantardjo, a Criminal Code expert, stated that those laws are still necessary to ensure the President’s and Vice President’s dignity. He denied Sudjana’s statement that those articles were no longer in use in Holland. “You are not allowed to humiliate the Queen,” said the university lecturer who is also a member of the KUHP draft planning team. Another law expert, Muzakkir agreed with Mukantardjo’s argument. According to him, the freedom to express your opinion does not mean that you can humiliate the President. “Protest must follow etiquette too,” he said.

The Constitutional Court will decide on this matter next month. Hermawanto still recalls a time when the articles were used to penalize activists and university students during the New Order era. Charges based on these articles could carry prison terms of up to six years in prison. However they were not used during the Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid administrations. They were back in operation during the term of President Megawati. “This indicates that the last two regimes have been extra-sensitive to critics,” he said.

From the Presidential Palace, the President’s spokesperson, Andi Mallarangeng, refused to comment. According to Mallarangeng, President Yudhoyono has no statement on the matter. “The President has only read about the case in the newspaper,” Mallarangeng told Badriah from Tempo.

Abdul Manan, Agoeng Widjaja

Box
From Disgrace to PrisonDuring the first two years of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s term, five presidential insult cases have appeared in court.

Bay Harkat Firdaus, 21, a student at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta

Case: Charged with burning pictures of President Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla during demonstrations over the increase of fuel prices on December 20, 2004 at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University.

Status: Found guilty of insulting the President and Vice President. On May 26, 2005, Tangerang District Court sentenced Harkat to five months and two days in jail.

Wayan Gendo Suardhana, 29, a student at Udayana University, DenpasarCase: Charged with insulting the President by parading a poster of President Yudhoyono painted like a vampire. The poster was set fire during the demonstration against the fuel price hike in front of the Bali Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) on December 30, 2005.

Status: Found guilty. Denpasar District Court sentenced Suardhana to 6 months in jail on June 10, 2005.

Fahrul Rohman, 22, a student at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in JakartaCase: Charged with insulting the President. During a demonstration led by the Alliance Movement of Citizens for the Prosecution of Suharto on June 16, 2006, pictures of President Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla were covered with anti-administration slogans.

Status: The court session is still in progress at South Jakarta District Court.

Pandapotan Lubis, 42, BusinessmanCase: Charged with insulting the President and Vice President by putting up their pictures scribbled with slogans at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout on May 16, 2006. Lubis was arrested three days after the incident at Ismali Marzuki Gardens in Jakarta.

Status: The court session is still in progress at South Jakarta District Court.

Eggy Sudjana, 46, LawyerCase: Charged with insulting the President in a statement made to journalists at the offices of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on January 3, 2006. In his statement, he declared that President Yudhoyono received a Jaguar car from entrepreneur Harry Tanoesoedibjo.

Status: The court session is still in progress at South Jakarta District Court.

Tempo Magazine, No. 06/VII/Oct 10 – 16, 2006

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