Underneath cowl of COVID, Indonesia’s most revered public establishment is below assault

Regardless of Indonesia’s day by day variety of confirmed circumstances remaining excessive, the central authorities has as an alternative seen match to deal with a variety of different points. Whereas financial considerations are comprehensible given Indonesia’s previous expertise of the 1997 Asian Monetary Disaster, measures to handle them appear to be accompanied by opportunistic efforts to undermine democracy.


For instance, within the title of boosting jobs and facilitating enterprise, a proposed omnibus invoice would negatively have an effect on labor rights and calm down environmental protections. This matches with the federal government’s mantra of financial progress and would profit the enterprise pursuits that again the President.

As well as, the federal government has hurriedly amended the powers of probably the most revered and trusted public establishment in all Indonesia – the Constitutional Court docket.

The centrepiece of the democratic reform efforts post-1998, the institution of the Constitutional Court docket was a placing achievement. By no means earlier than had there been an impartial judicial physique in Indonesia with the facility of judicial evaluate to guard particular person rights. The facility of a court docket to guard rights was a long-held ambition lastly realised for authorized activists.

For greater than 18 years, the Constitutional Court docket has been the individuals’s court docket. It has opened its doorways to a variety of individuals and curiosity teams – non-government organisations, activists and advocates, spiritual teams and anxious residents. It has heard circumstances regarding a variety of rights protected within the Indonesian Structure on issues starting from the fitting to training to minority rights, the atmosphere and gender.

Positive, the court docket has had its ups and downs, and has not at all times determined in ways in which help the safety of the rights of these most weak. It has additionally been tarnished by the rampant corruption that infiltrates each establishment and company in Indonesia, with two of its judges being sentenced for main corruption offences.

But the court docket stays as one of many final public boards for the assertion of rights and constitutional complaints in opposition to the federal government. The liberty to convey constitutional complaints in an open public course of stays necessary to democracy in Indonesia. Particularly at a time when the federal government is focusing on civil society leaders and teachers in an try to silence critics of the federal government’s dealing with of the COVID-19 disaster.

The amendments to the Constitutional Court docket increase the minimal age of judges and extends their tenure on the bench. This favours sitting judges, together with the chief justice, who has been topic to judicial misconduct allegations. It probably predisposes them in direction of the federal government and its legal guidelines. The rushed nature of the change and lack of session has heightened suspicions across the amendments.

These adjustments come within the wake of many different worrying authorized and political developments. Final 12 months the parliament decreased the powers and compromised the independence of one other key trusted establishment – the Anti-Corruption Fee.


The weakening, if not seize, of those two institutional bastions of democracy is a crimson flag for the state of constitutional democracy.

Slowly however absolutely the erosion of constitutional democracy, already evident pre-COVID-19, has accelerated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indonesia is coping with twin crises of a pandemic and the decline of constitutional democracy, with one disaster feeding off the failings of the opposite.

These worrying tendencies matter to Australia. Australia should help and help Indonesia in its efforts to fight COVID19. However extra importantly, we should not overlook the opposite disaster, the disaster of democratic governance.

Melissa Crouch is an affiliate professor and affiliate dean analysis at UNSW Legislation Faculty.

Most Seen in World