Thousands of university students protested against the Criminal Code bill and the new KPK law in front of the House of Representatives building in Jakarta on Monday. (SP Photo/Joanito De Saojoao)

House Agrees to Postpone Criminal Code Deliberations Until Next Term


SEPTEMBER 24, 2019

Jakarta. The House of Representatives, or DPR, agrees to postpone deliberations on the controversial Criminal Code bill until lawmakers elected in the April legislative elections are sworn in on Oct. 1, a House commission overseeing legal affairs said on Tuesday.

The decision was made after a closed-door meeting between President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and DPR leaders earlier on Monday.

"The president wants the deliberations to be postponed until the next [2019-2024] period," deputy chairman of House Commission III Erma Suryani Ranik told reporters.

The Democratic Party politician will not join the deliberations as she lost her seat in West Kalimantan in April's legislative election.

The Golkar Party supported the decision, having seen massive opposition to the penal code bill from many elements of the communities.

"Given the current developments and President Jokowi's open stance to postponing the bill, the Golkar Party shares the view that the deliberations should be postponed," DPR's Golkar faction secretary Adies Kadir said.

Fellow party member Ace Hasan Syadzily said the House needs to increase public awareness about the content of the bill and include as many inputs from the communities as possible during its deliberations. 

"We want the Criminal Code bill to get positive responses from the communities because it will become the core of all criminal laws and the rule of law," Ace said.

The bill, which aims to replace century-old penal code inherited from the Dutch colonial rule, has sparked outrage among rights activists and legal experts as it contains many contentious articles that potentially overreach into the private lives of citizens. 

Among other things, the bill seeks to criminalize extramarital sex and adultery. Article 417 of the bill stipulates that extramarital sex and adultery could be punished by a jail sentence of up to one year. 

Another article in the proposed penal law bans unmarried couples from living together and prescribes a sentence of six months in jail.

Tuesday's House plenary session also agreed to postpone deliberations on three other bills on state penitentiary, land reform and mining.

Contrasting Views

While the president was quick to respond to public opposition to the Criminal Code bill, he has turned down requests to revoke the amended law on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Thousands of students staged rallies in various cities in the country – the largest being at the House compound on Tuesday – demanding that the new KPK law be revoked.

The law was passed by a House plenary session last week and only needs the president’s signature to come into force.

Presidential chief of staff Moeldoko said there were reasons to believe that the amendment of the KPK law has the public's support, despite ongoing nationwide rallies against it.

"A survey has shown that more people agree with revisions of the KPK law," the retired general said, referring to a survey by the country's largest media group Kompas.

"We should not see the KPK as God. No one is like God. No human can be God," Moeldoko said. 

President Jokowi himself has confirmed he would not change his mind, nor would he issue a presidential decree in lieu of the amended KPK law.

"No there won't be [a decree]," the president told reporters at the State Palace on Monday.

"The KPK law was initiated by the DPR, while the Criminal Code bill... that was prepared by the government," the president said. 

Several anti-graft groups have announced plans to request a judicial review to the Constitutional Court seeking the amended KPK law to be overturned.

They are disputing several key articles in the new law, including one ordering the establishment of a supervisory body. The KPK must get a warrant from the supervisory body before it can wiretap suspects.

The new law also grants the KPK the authority to halt graft cases midway through an investigation.

Critics say the president-appointed supervisory body and the requirement to obtain a warrant for wiretaps will make it hard for the KPK to remain independent. 

The agency's new authority to halt investigation in long-running cases is feared will only increase the chance of high-profile suspects escaping prosecution.

In the past, unlike police and prosecutors, KPK investigators had no authority to stop a case, meaning that any case they handle must go on to a trial.