10 November 2008

The Pornography Law -- A Dead Document?

The Jakarta Post recently reported that Constitutional Law Expert, Irman Putra Sidin, saying, "How can we expect the law to be implemented when people and officials oppose it? Who's going to enforce it? It will end up as merely a dead document," based on the fact that at least four provinces were going to actively oppose the law and refuse to enforce it. Those provinces are Bali, North Sulawesi, Yogyakarta, and West Papua.

The rationale for this position is that if the law is not implemented nationwide then can it be valid anywhere. I would have thought that once the law was passed by parliament and enacted as law then it was the law of the land. Therefore, in a republic like the Republic of Indonesia, the law would apply everywhere.

A more interesting argument would be does the refusal to implement the law amount to the beginning of an act of secession? How far do the provinces want to push this? What sanctions could the State impose on rogue provinces that refuse to enforce state laws and regulations.

In fact this should be read as a preliminary movement towards seeking independence from the Republic of Indonesia. Quite clearly the intent of West Papua is to secede from the Republic if they are required to enforce the law. Andrikus Mofu, spokesperson for the West Papuan delegation said the following, "We will inform the international community of our aspiration and our intention to separate from Indonesia." This seems to leave little doubt where the West Papuan intentions lay.

The most likely course of action will be a Constitutional Court challenge to test the binding nature and legality of the provisions. The definitions of pornography and the manner that pornography is to be determined is arguably loose. Nevertheless, this is an issue that the Court will be asked to determine.

The reality is the laws of the land are to be applied and all are to be equal before the law. Special dispensation in one province compared to another means that there is no equality before the law and this is more likely to lead to problems than the enforcement of the law.

Of all the things that could trigger the disintegration of the Republic it is interesting that it is the Pornography Law that is being talked about as being this trigger.


schmerly said...


This is scary if various provinces decided to break away from Indonesia, do you think it could develop into a civil war?

Rob Baiton said...


Nope. None of these provinces could raise an army that might be able to sustain a prolonged conflict or civil war.

I just cannot see them being able to do the logistics of a civil war.

There is a likelihood that the Constitutional Court will void parts of the law anyway. Even if the Constitutional Court voids none of the provisions, the questions of enforcement remain.

The police force is a national police force. So, if the orders came down from the top that certain provisions must be enforced then so they will be.

The courts are also a national institution. So, in a similar vein, if the orders come down from the top that matters must be dealt with according to the prevailing law, then so they will be.

The idea of wanting to secede is backing yourself into a corner where the only way out is to be as good as your word. Indonesia has a history of trying to crush secessionist / independence movements.

To be honest I just do not see a civil war over this.