Subject: State secrecy bill, `a step back' for RI

The Jakarta Post Saturday, July 25, 2009 State secrecy bill, `a step back' for RI

Irawaty Wardany, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The state secrecy bill, set to be passed in October, has raised concern that Indonesia will step back and revert to a tyrannical state, a discussion concluded Friday.

"Should the bill be endorsed, Indonesia will be accused of being a country that opposes the UN Convention Against Corruption [UNCAC] that Indonesia ratified [in 2003]," said Teten Masduki, the secretary-general of Transparency International Indonesia (TII).

He said the convention was based on principles of transparency, while the bill would result in the opposite.

He also questioned President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's commitment to developing a clean and transparent administration, while at the same time drafting the bill.

"It is a proof that he has no blueprint on how his administration will be directed. Regulations under his administration have been contradictory," he said.

"Discussion of the bill should be dropped or articles of the bill should be limited to secrets related to state defense and sovereignty only," he said.

He added that Article 1, on the definition of state secrecy had a wide range of interpretations that could facilitate unaccountable state operations.

Article 1 of the government's version stipulates that state secrets include information, goods and or activities officially determined by the President as secret, on the grounds that state sovereignty, unity, safety, public order and national resources could be jeopardized.

"The definition of a state secret should be limited to information that could jeopardize sovereignty, unity and the safety of the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia," said Agus Sudiyo, the deputy director of the Science, Aesthetics and Technology Foundation (SET).

He said that labelling an activity as a state secret would open up opportunities for it to be abused. He also criticized the principles of the bill that include public and personal interests as a legitimate basis on which to withhold information.

"It's just irrational to include personal interest protection measures as a basis for withholding state secrets," Agus said.

The bill stipulates that it is also based on principles of openness that are limited by the Constitution.

"As far as I know the Constitution guarantees the freedom of information," Agus said.

Stanley Joseph Prasetyo, from the National Commission on Human Rights said that if the government insisted on passing the bill, it should also consider human rights.

"Human rights relate to state obligations, which include respecting, fulfilling and protecting its citizens' right to access information and voice their opinions," he said.

He also pointed to the article retention period of highly confidential information goods or activities that extended up to 30 years.

The article stipulates that state secrets could be released prior to the 30-year retention period for cases relating to human rights abuses, war crimes, corruption and other cases that had were specifically ruled on by the court.

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