Misuse of Intelligence Data Has a Bad Impact on Democracy

Penyalahgunaan Data Intelijen Berdampak Buruk bagi Demokrasi
Image credit: rumahpemilu.org

On September 16, 2023, President Joko Widodo stated that he had received information from the intelligence community in Indonesia regarding data, surveys, and the direction of political parties. This statement, made during the Jokowi National Secretariat’s National Working Meeting (Rakernas) in Bogor, West Java, was viewed by activists as a suspected misuse of intelligence data. This stance of Indonesia's top official has had a negative impact on democracy.

"If the President obtains information from intelligence about political parties, it clearly violates the state intelligence law because political parties are not included in the target group for intelligence. The activities of political parties are also certainly based on the AD/ART (Memorandum and Article of Association) approved by the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, and they cannot contain anything that threatens national security," said Julis Ibrani, the chairperson of Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), representing the Civil Society Coalition for Security Sector Reform at the Imparsial office in South Jakarta on September 19th.

Julius Ibrani explained that according to Law Number 17 of 2011 on State Intelligence, the objects of state intelligence are anything or conditions related to threats to national security. He believes that political parties in a democratic state serve as the foundation and vehicle for human rights (HAM).

"This will be detrimental to our democracy; it's not only a step backward, but a path towards destruction," he expressed.

Julius emphasized that this should be a matter for the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat) to bring up through an interpellation process because the president's statement violates the law. Furthermore, Julius explained that this case falls under Article 7A of the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia (UUD NRI) regarding impeachment. According to him, the president's stance constitutes a form of legal violation that could render the president unfit to continue serving as the head of state and government.

The Head of Advocacy and Networking Division of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia or YLBHI), Zainal Arifin, believes that the failure of reform in the security sector is further reinforced when political activities are viewed as a national threat. In a democracy, political parties are considered the most crucial elements.

Referring to the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia (UUD NRI 1945), Zainal continued by stating that Indonesia is a rule of law state. The rule of law state concept implies limitations on the powers of the rulers to prevent abuse of power. Because of the necessity of these limitations on power, there are functions of control in place.

"Therefore, using intelligence information for the benefit of those in power should be seen as an abuse of power that needs to be held accountable," Zainal emphasized.

The Executive Director of Amnesty International, Usman Hamid believes that political party activities are legitimate political actions. Intelligence agencies should not interfere unless there is criminal activity involved.

"If you look at the latest statement and the president gives an indication that it is a political matter, perhaps it is not only the president who is abusing it for monitoring political parties, but his intelligence agency is carrying out actions that should have been left behind," said Usman.

Furthermore, Usman explained that during the Dutch colonial era, the Dutch colonial intelligence oversaw the political activities of organizations such as Boedi Oetomo, the Indonesian National Party (PNI), the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), and Sarekat Islam. During the Japanese occupation, the Japanese intelligence agency also monitored and incorporated political intelligence functions within the police force. In the early days of Indonesian governance, intelligence agencies were used for political battles against opposition led by figures like Tan Malaka. Even during the New Order era, it wasn't just political parties but all forms of political activities that were controlled by the government authorities.

"So, the backlash is not just towards the authoritarian New Order era but also towards much earlier periods. This kind of political intelligence heritage should be abandoned because it makes intelligence agencies incapable of detecting and providing early warnings regarding national security," Usman added.

According to Usman, intelligence agencies should adhere to the principles outlined in Article 2 of Law 17/2011. The principles of state intelligence operations should include professionalism and neutrality.

"Another ethos of intelligence agencies is to respect the constitution and human rights. We strongly hope that the House of Representatives (DPR) does not consider this as a trivial matter," Usman concluded.

Meanwhile, Kahfi Adlan Hafiz, a researcher at the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), believes that political parties are not relevant as subjects for monitoring by intelligence activities. According to him, as democratic institutions, political parties have already undergone two democratic and rule-of-law-based screenings. First, when political parties are established and gain legal status as political entities. Second, when political parties become election participants after undergoing verification by the election organizers.

"Even in the general provisions of the political party law, Article 1, political parties are required to elaborate on both Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia (UUD NRI 1945). So, when a political party registers with the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, it already has its articles of association, organizational structure, and so on. If there are any contradictions, the political party cannot be established," Kahfi explained.

Furthermore, Kahfi elaborated that political parties, as election participants, also undergo dual verification processes, both administrative and factual. Through these two stages, the General Election Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum) assesses the legal status issued by the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.

"So when a political party has successfully become a legal entity and has been approved as an election participant, these parties should no longer be considered a threat to national security, as they have adhered to Pancasila and comply with the 1945 Constitution," he explained.

Kahfi added that the President has the authority to mobilize state resources. Therefore, the neutrality of the President is crucial to ensure the integrity of elections, uphold democracy, and provide a political environment that is healthy, fair, and equitable.

"So, if the President is not neutral, those state resources can be channeled to benefit specific political groups," Kahfi concluded.

The Civil Society Coalition for Security Sector Reform is composed of several human rights, democracy, and anti-corruption organizations. Some of these organizations include Imparsial, Amnesty International, the Association for Election and Democracy [Perkumpulan untuk Pemilu dan Demokrasi or Perludem], Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association [Perhimpunan Bantuan Hukum dan Hak Asasi Manusia or PBHI], Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation [Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia or YLBHI], the Commission for Disappeared and Victims of Violence [Komisi untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan or Kontra-S), Centra Initiative, the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy [Lembaga Studi dan Advokasi Masyarakat or Elsam], the Indonesian Forum for the Environment [Wahana Lingkungan Hidup or Walhi], Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), Community Legal Aid Institute [LBH Masyarakat], and Setara Institute []


Translated by Catherine Natalia