By Ross B. Taylor
By any measurement Indonesia has made an amazing transformation from a ruthless dictatorship to a vibrant and mostly open democracy within the past 19 years.
Even the much maligned police force has slowly begun to transform itself as evidenced by the outstanding relationship formed between the National Police (POLRI) and Australia’s Federal Police (AFP) on terrorism issues.
Indonesia’s judiciary however, continues to be a significant drag the image of this young nation as the world watches as case-after-case leaves many questions and doubts amongst leading legal experts.
The jailing today of the former governor of Jakarta, Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama for two years on a conviction of blasphemy, simply gets added to the list of very suspect decisions by Indonesia’s judiciary.
A combination of a poor legal framework- where for example the principle of ‘precedent’ does not exist leaving every case open to interpretation by the judges on the day – along with corruption, inexperience and intimidation raises serious concerns about Indonesia’s progress into becoming a legally fair and transparent society.
Clearly, the Islamic hardliners, lead by the FPI and groups such as now outlawed HTI, threatened a huge revolt should ‘Ahok’ have escaped punishment. The judges obviously understood the threat clearly, and were also in no doubt of the broader agenda.
‘Ahok’ will appeal his conviction, and life in Jakarta will go on, but in the meantime the court’s decision is a significant setback for minority groups in Indonesia and the indications are that these groups – including non-Muslim religions, ethnic communities and gay organisations for example – will need to proceed carefully as the 2019 election nears.
Furthermore, the Indonesian judiciary has once again demonstrated that it doesn’t matter whether you are a former City Governor or simply an Aussie tourist in Bali who has got into trouble, for now don’t assume that you would receive a fair and transparent court hearing should you be charged.
Ross B. Taylor AM is the president of the Indonesia Institute (Inc) that is based in Perth, Western Australia.
9th May 2017