Irrelevant and Dangerous Legislation

It seemed slightly clandestine to us, the president’s signing into law of the hotly contentious anti-porn law late last month, only to be announced this week. Was the popular leader hoping no one would notice?

A day after his spokesman announced the news, President Yudhoyono was in Bali meeting his Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd, in a place that, if action is taken over any public displays that may be deemed “arousing,” has most to lose from the newly lawful legislation.

It seems clear to us that one of the chief jobs of the country’s president is to protect the constitution and its stated maxim of Unity in Diversity – Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – which brings together all the great and varying peoples and cultures of Indonesia into one unified nationality.

Instead, it appears the president is only too willing to back a hardline majority that wants things their way, or no way, thereby trouncing the very creed upon which this nation was built and for which it is internationally renowned.

The new law is dangerous in that it may lay even more groundwork for possible alienation between the regions and Jakarta, at a time when the country needs to be solidly unified to face such urgent issues as terrorism, the floundering national economy and the global economic crisis.

Now – or ever – is a not a time to be causing grievances to provinces based on their centuries-old customs and traditions. But the new law seeks to do just that, attacks ways of life of peoples who may have little knowledge of the workings of the central government, or even care about the national seat of power at all.

President Yudhoyono’s office said he had studied the law and agreed with its provisions. “The president told me that he had carefully read the latest version of the law. He commented that it was appropriate,” said a spokesman.

At the very least, with a presidential election looming next year, it can hardly be appropriate for the incumbent to have made such a divisive move.

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