Jakarta. The government officially disbanded the hardline Islamic group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia for threatening national unity and the Pancasila state ideology, a senior level official at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights said on Wednesday (19/07).
The announcement came a week after President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo signed a government regulation in lieu of law, or Perppu, that expands the powers of the Justice Ministry to dismantle mass organizations deemed threats to national security and unity.
"With the revocation of its legal status, in accordance with Article 80A of the Perppu, we declare HTI disbanded," Freddy Harris, director general of law administration at the ministry, said during a press conference in Jakarta.
Freddy said HTI, the local chapter of Hizbut Tahrir, an international organization aimed at establishing a pan-Islamic theocracy in the Muslim world, is considered to have engaged in activities that promote ideologies not in line with Pancasila.
President Jokowi said the government decided to disband the hardline group after conducting a long-term observation and receiving suggestions from the ulema, or Muslim scholars, and community leaders.
"It has been said that the government conducted a long-term investigation and observation of the organization, and it has also received suggestions from many circles, including the ulema and the public. And the decision was made today," Jokowi told reporters at the Jakarta Convention Center on Wednesday.
HTI was involved in organizing several mass demonstrations against jailed former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, whom many believe was unfairly targeted.
However, HTI, unlike other Islamist groups such as the Guardians of the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwas (GNPF-MUI) and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), has had a presence in Indonesia since the 1980s. It has largely been a campus-based movement with well-attended meetings and rallies. HTI is known as non-violent mass organization.
HTI responded immediately to the announcement of its disbandment by saying that it plans to take the case to the State Administrative Court (PTUN).
Last week, it also sought to challenge the Perppu, which has sparked protests from human rights groups that said the measure could threaten Indonesia's hard-won democracy, because it could be misused to also take down other mass organizations.
"The revocation of HTI's legal status is a clear proof of arbitrary action by the government," HTI spokesman Ismail Yusanto said.
He added that in accordance with Perppu No 2/2017, the revocation of the legal status of a mass organization must first receive an administrative sanction that states the violations committed by the mass organization and before that, the government must also issue a warning letter.
"Until this day, HTI does not know what mistake it has made, because there has been no warning whatsoever, as required by the Perppu," Ismail said.
He accused the government of violating its self-made rules, saying that this is evidence of arbitrariness or tyranny, because the government abolished the judicial process in its move to disband the organization.
"HTI will not remain silent. HTI will take legal action," Ismail said.
Not Healthy for Indonesian Democracy
Vedi Hadiz, professor in Asian studies at the University of Melbourne, told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday that the measures authorized by the Perppu are not healthy for Indonesian democracy.
Vedi said the powers the government has given itself to ban organizations without judicial process can be easily misused.
"In the future, organizations may be considered 'too liberal' and therefore against Pancasila too. If the idea is to curb Islamic radicalism, the measure might backfire too because members of organizations that are banned may instead go underground," he said.
Banned organizations are difficult to monitor and may also be more likely to be involved in violent actions, Vedi added.