Dr Nina Markovic Khaze from Fairfield Local News recently interviewed one of Australia’s preeminent experts on Indonesia from ANU College of Asia & the Pacific, Emeritus Professor Greg Fealy.
Professor Fealy, do you think that Indonesia’s new “morality laws” are meant appease the hardliners in Jokowi’s government?
Yes, in part, the new criminal code’s ‘moral clauses’ are a response to pressure from not just Islamic parties but also Muslim politicians in some of the other non-Islamic parties. It’s not just an attempt to further Islamise society but also to respond to the high levels of community concern about perceived immorality related to supposed sexual promiscuity, rising rates of drug abuse and the like. But it should also be pointed out that non-Islamic parties have played a role in producing the politically repressive aspects of this criminal code, so not all the blame should be directed towards Islamists.
How are Indonesia’s ethnic minorities likely to respond to the new “morality laws” due to be implemented in 2025? And Balinese in Australia’s tourism hub – do you think they would fear from immediate repercussions from this new legislation, despite its delayed implementation date?
Indonesia is an ethnically highly diverse country, so it is difficult to generalise about ‘ethnic minority’ responses. Some ethnic minorities in strongly religious regions may welcome the moral clauses in the criminal code, while others are apprehensive. The Balinese have obvious reason to be concerned about the possible impact of this code on foreign tourism, and indeed, a lot of very negative headlines have been generated in the international press regarding the new code.
My sense is that most foreign tourists face little risk when this criminal code comes into effect. It’s not in Indonesia’s interests to stifle tourism and it would be surprising if the police were pro-active on these ‘moral’ offences in the future.
Does the passing of this legislation mean the failure of Australia’s further
democratisation efforts regarding Indonesian democracy? In other words,
is this a backslide in democracy?
The passing of this criminal code is a further setback for democracy but this should not necessarily be seen as Australia’s failure. It is internal political forces, particularly at the elite level, in Indonesia, that have produced this revised code and approved those provisions that reduce the scope for criticism of and opposition to the government. Freedom of speech and freedom of association are harmed by this code.
Professor Fealy, thank you very much for your time today.