Dangerous Omnibus Law

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaPreventing public participation in the drawing up of the omnibus law is anti-democratic. There is no reason to continue with this unrealistic project.

    IN the midst of threats from the coronavirus, an oil war, a currency war and the drying up of demand and supply for goods and services around the world, the plan to pass an omnibus law should be halted. Not only has it lost relevancy, but this major regulation – uniting more than 1,000 regulations in 79 laws from a number of sectors into 11 clusters – has the potential to be in breach of the law, is full of tricks and has been forced through.

    Many legal experts have spoken out. Some have said that the omnibus law has no legal basis. Law No. 12/2011 on the passing of laws as revised by Law No. 15/2019, for example, makes no mention at all of the mechanism for drawing up an omnibus law. Forcing through this major regulation will put the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) in a position where they will be in breach of laws that they themselves made.

    The government is convinced that the omnibus law is a breakthrough that will shorten the process of passing laws – that it will save money and time and will make it easier to harmonize a number of laws at the same time. But the fact is, instead of speeding up the process, this omnibus law restricts people’s civil rights. Rolling out the red carpet to investors via this omnibus law will restrict the rights of workers, including those related to salaries and employment. The omnibus law also does away with a number of regulations on environmental protection and business permits.

    Furthermore, the omnibus law hands over a number of technical regulations to the government in the form of governmental regulations. This granting of the mandate to the government is foolish and misplaced. For example, the article on the press states that laws derived from the omnibus law are government regulations. It seems the drafters of this law forgot that the Indonesian press was given the mandate to regulate itself. The derivative Press Law No. 42/2003 is not government regulation, but a regulation of the Press Council – a body that was established by and for the press itself.

    The process of drawing up this omnibus law by not involving the public made matters worse. Written in secret, the law suddenly appeared just before it was handed over to the DPR. Its existence was unknown when it was still an academic paper. The officials concerned claimed that the law was drawn up behind closed doors to avoid creating a fuss. By handing over the drawing up of the omnibus law to the Chamber of Trade and Industry, the government clearly showed its bias towards a handful of businesses – not towards the larger public that it should be protecting.

    Efforts by the public to protest this law have been prevented. A number of laborers planning a demonstration against the law were detained by police. Officers claimed that the arrests were prompted by a complaint from another group of workers. However, the momentum with which these detentions were carried out at the same time as a planned demonstration against the omnibus law made people suspicious. Officers also arrested a number of students demonstrating against the Job Creation Bill in front of the DPR building.

    Preventing public participation in the drawing up of the omnibus law is an anti-democratic act. Forcing through a law that brings so many disadvantages is a betrayal of the people.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine