COVID-19 Op-ed

At the Brink of National Terror: Repressive State Apparatus in Indonesia’s Covid-19 Situation

James Reinaldo RumpiaMA. in Human Rights International Program, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University

The Covid-19 crisis had gotten worse in Indonesia, upon the government’s decision to resort to the Repressive State Apparatus in strengthening public order. The Repressive State Apparatus (RSA) term is borrowed from Louis Althusser to describe the existence of an apparatus that focuses on repression (physical or not) in the form of brutal physical force, orders, prohibitions, censorship of specific activities, etc (Althusser, 2014.)Claiming “Scientific” Role through OppressionThe Indonesian government has chosen to use RSA in managing data and predicting the Covid-19 peaks, rather than presenting the virologists’ studies based on sciences. This condition is in line with the anti-science regime that denies and underestimates risks. It was claimed by a number of Indonesian officials that country was “safe” because of the power of prayers; even this ‘faith’ led to the appointment of corona immunity ambassadors (Ahmad Arif, 2020). The spokesperson for the Indonesian Covid-19 Taskforce Ahmad Yurianto acknowledged that contract tracing from the first Covid-19 patient was the task of the Police and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) (Jakarta Globe, 2020).BIN, as the claim goes, had already demonstrated “accurate” predictions twice. The first prediction was about the Covid-19 peak that might occur in May 2020 (, 2020). The second prediction was revealed by Chair of the Covid-19 Doni Monardo as  will be happening in July (CNN Indonesia, 2020).Police began act arbitrarily since the announcement of the Head of Indonesian Police Proclamation Number Mak/2/III/2020. Provisions in the proclamation are related to police security roles during the Covid-19 pandemic. During the meeting with the Third Commission of the Indonesian Parliament on 31 March 2020, the Chief of Indonesian Police said that Police had cancelled 11,145 public activities (CNN Indonesia, 2020). This proclamation with power to dismiss gathering was deemed not enough to uphold order; therefore, the Police further issued a regulatory letter numbered ST/1098/IV/HUK.7.1/2020 on 4 April 2020. This letter contains the rules on the punishment for contempt against the President and State Officials during pandemic.These two “pseudo-laws” made by the Police are a result of arbitrary decision-making. Indonesian Police based on Law No. 12 of 2011 on the Formation of Legislation and the National Police Regulation No. 2 of 2018 on the Formation of Police Regulations state that the Police is only authorized to produce administrative instruments within the scope of its mandated authority. In this situation, Police had breached the Decision of the Indonesian Constitutional Court when it issued standards about contempt. The Indonesian Constitutional Court, through decision Number 013-022/PUU-IV/2006, had already dismissed the provision of contempt against President in the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP). After this decision of the Indonesian Constitutional Court, supposedly, there will be no more laws or regulations that pursue any standard related to contempt against the President.The Reign of Terror is Upon UsThe repressive character of RSA diverts our understanding of Covid-19 from it being a health issue into a matter of public order, which it is definitely not. Further, it aggravates vulnerabilities and threatens public safety even more. At the end of March 2020, for example, 51 had been accused of spreading false news (Tempo Magazine, 2020). Police had also began to arrest groups of people and confiscate books on charges of vandalism and riots (CNN, 2020). The standards that had been created by RSA tend to neglect and violate freedoms and human rights. Police and military interest revealed by Lindsey and Mann was only a manifestation of the Government’s political stabilization agenda (Jakarta Post, 2020).Indonesia does not need terror and brute force to solve Covid-19. The Police, BIN, as well as the security forces, must revert to their normal, mandated functions now. Indonesians are already felt chaos and fear as a consequence of RSA In the future, upholding public order should not be at the cost of neglecting millions of lives. Such crisis requires solutions that should support and empower national and local health systems, and, more importantly, restore a democratic and free society.BibliographyAhmad Arif, Kepemimpinan Antisains in, L., 2014. On the reproduction of capitalism: Ideology and ideological state apparatuses. Verso Trade.

About the author