Sunday, October 18, 2009

The by-law in Aceh

Last Wednesday, a controversial bill that allow the stoning to death of adulterers has officially became a by-law in the Province of Aceh.

According to the bill, passed by Aceh's parliament on 14 September, the by-law called Qanun Jinayat Code will replace certain articles of the national Criminal Law with a Syariah Law for Muslims in Aceh, and valid 30 days later.

Enactment of the by-law has been protested in Aceh, whereby the Governor refused to sign the bill. But lawmakers insists that the by-law would still come into force even without the Governor's signature.

Further, the by-law has also been protested in Jakarta, by human rights activists who called the by-law as inhuman and therefore asked the central government to review the by-law.

Furthermore, the by-law has worried non Muslim businessmen who feared that growing conservatism in Aceh and some other provinces might frighten investors. They believe, if this conservatism process is not stopped there is a big possibility that existing investors might close their businesses here and move to another country. Due to which fact, they hope that the central government would take necessary action to stop the process. They also hope Indonesian Muslims who are mostly moderate to voice their objection on the growing influence of hardline minority but very vocal Muslims.

In reaction to the protests, the central government has promised to study the said by-law. If they find that it is against the national laws and constitution, the Minister of Internal Affairs shall request the Supreme Court to review the by-law.

For detailed media reports on the above, please click here, here, here, here and here.

Considering that news about the controversial by-law have spread worldwide, there is a big possibility that foreigners may think that such law is valid all over Indonesia for Muslims and non Muslims. If this happen, foreigners would be frighten to invest here, even Indonesian non Muslim businessmen would move their business to another country. In the end, Muslims who are majority in Indonesia, would loose jobs and suffer with their families.
In order to prevent that, I hope that the Minister of Internal Affairs & the Minister of Law would check whether the by-law in Aceh and other provinces are in-line with the provisions set forth by the higher national laws. If the by-laws are contradictory, they should request the Supreme Court to review them.


Anonymous said...

We have been looking at the same things Harry! I hope you are right and this law gets recinded quickly. I have been blogging on the My Telegraph site and have been hit with severe criticism because of the law in Aceh. Many believe it is a sign of sharia being introduced nationally. That is worrying for investment as you point out.

H. Nizam said...

It is important to voice what's actually happening so that people outside Indonesia i.e would not be worried to come here.

I have read your Telegraph site and comment. I tried to register so that I can leave comment but failed, will try again later.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the good things will come after the rain. Hope that everything will be ok soon. (:

H. Nizam said...

Yes, let's hope that the matter will work out fine

Rob Baiton said...


I might comment on the substance later. Although, you have done / written an excellent piece (as always).

I might translate Menteri Dalam Negeri as the Minister of Home Affairs. This is because translating it as Internal Affairs (although accurate) makes Indonesia sound like a police state.

And, I am pretty sure that you have much higher hopes for your country than it returning to an authoritarian regime such as those of the past.

colson said...

These bylaws of course are not favorable for Indonesia's pubic relations. But I'm pretty sure the economic damage will be not that serious.

First of all investors and tourists usually are smart enough to distinguish between the situation in Aceh and the quite different one in Jakarta or Bali.

Moreover businessmen/women have not been scared away in similar cases. Though it may not be the favorite place to go, retarded laws and practices in countries like Saudi Arabia didn't prevent foreigners doing business in that country for instance. Indonesia is not that scary by a long shot.

H. Nizam said...

I agree that the translation : 'Minister of Internal Affairs' makes Indonesia sounds like a police state.
I'll keep in mind. Thanks. I look forward to reading your opinion on the substance.

I am very glad to know that we should not be too 'paranoid' on the effect of the by-law.

George Polley said...

Interesting post. We've been dealing with very similar things in the U.S. with a very vocal hardline minority that I call the American Taliban. Best of luck there in Aceh. That kind of law & control by hardliners may well cost the Province business.

Jorge Tostada
(George Polley)

H. Nizam said...

It seems that minority fanatics are very vocal every where, and majority moderates are silent.

In Aceh's case, I think the new regional parliament, with majority non conservative party, will bring some changes there.

Rob Baiton said...


I do not think that this is an investment problem for Indonesia generally, or Aceh specifically.

It is an image issue. The law, particularly as it relates to stoning is so 7th Century. It is archaic, it is barbaric, and it is a clear violation of Indonesia's obligations under the 1945 Constitution to her citizens and to Indonesia's international legal obligations with respect to cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment.

Most of the companies doing business in Aceh are not in the adultery business. It would be made clear to all employees that the law was in place and if they needed to indulge in a little extra-marital activity then wait till the weekend and fly to Medan, Jakarta, Bali, or even Singapore.

In any event, if the business is exploiting natural resources or the like, then it is not quite as simple as upping the office and moving to somewhere less 7th Century. Besides, most businesses would have their Head Office somewhere else and most of the business would be a fly in / fly out management deal.

In a democracy it is not always the majority that has the loudest voice. quite often the minority gets to dictate the terms of the debate. For example, in Australia, if the surveys are to be believed, the majority of Australians are in favour of women's unfettered rights to have an abortion. However, next to nobody in government is prepared to pick up the ball and run with it in respect of decriminalizing and / or repealing legislation that makes abortion illegal.

Why? A very vocal minority!

The regional regulation has interesting constitutional implications, but it is not going to negatively impact on business.

H. Nizam said...


Although such by-law would not cause drastic decrease in investment, but it will sure give Aceh a bad name, as if it is a barbaric society.

Re: vocal minority, I wonder whether or not the 'silent majority' should be blamed for their ignorance, or failure to know, or confusion (?).

Existence of the Stoning & Caning by-law in Aceh show weakness in our legal system whereby such punishment are not regulated by the Criminal Law.
Whereas according to Aceh Autonomy Law No. 11/2006 a by-law should not be against the higher law, in this case the Criminal Law.