TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo has dragged the image of President Joko Widodo`s government back to the past. His most recent decisions- appointing serving police generals as acting governors and regulating research permits- although subsequently revoked, are a return to the militarism of the New Order regime.
Tjahjo’s proposal to appoint two serving police generals as acting governors of North Sumatra and West Java broke several rules. The Indonesian National Police Law clearly states that police officers should be politically neutral and are barred from entering politics.
The Government Regulation on the Management of Civil Servants, which is based on the State Apparatus Law, also obliges serving police officers to resign before taking up official positions in government institutions at or above the middle-ranking madya grade. Minister Tjahjo’s proposal was rather contrived because there was no emergency clause that forced him to take this step.
The move by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician also made people suspicious, because in both provinces the party has an interest in winning the gubernatorial election. Unsurprisingly, the decision provoked harsh criticism. Minister Tjahjo then passed the buck to President Joko Widodo. Now, with only four months to go before the first round of the elections, the president has yet to decide whether to accept or reject the proposal from his minister.
The other decision on research permits reinforces the impression of militarism from the home affairs minister. On January 11, Tjahjo issued a Ministerial Regulation on the Publication of Research. Its contents included a new regulation on the "potential negative impact of research" that makes it possible for the government to refuse to issue a research permit.
Although this was later revoked after a political outcry, questions should be asked about Tjahjo’s action. Is there a need for a regulation that endangers research in this nation, without a properly thought-out process and an in-depth study, including input from the public? And why issue a regulation that has the potential to secretly restrict the freedom to publish?
Tjahjo should understand that even without this permit rule, research in Indonesia is in a sorry state. There is only a tiny number of researchers. According to a 2016 UNESCO report, Indonesia has fewer researchers than any of the nations grouped together in the G-20. The ratio of researchers in Indonesia, at 89 per one million people, is far below the figure in Singapore, which has 6,658 researchers per one million people.
President Joko Widodo should admonish Minister Tjahjo, because, in a presidential system, the President is responsible for all policies issued by his aides. Allowing a minister to take controversial decisions will only add to the accusations that Jokowi’s administration is nostalgic about the New Order era.
Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine