Indonesia bans sex, drug and graft convicts from polls

Election measure aims to improve governance and deter crimes, particularly against children
Indonesia bans sex, drug and graft convicts from polls

Two foreign tourists walk alongside the perimeter wall of Kerobokan Prison in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali. Indonesia’s Election Commission has banned sex, drug and graft convicts from contesting elections. (Photo by Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP)

The Catholic Church in Indonesia has welcomed the banning of sex, drug and graft convicts from contesting elections.

However, one Catholic politician has raised objections to the prohibition.

Those who qualify to contest simultaneous presidential, legislative and local elections next year have been invited to register as candidates with the General Election Commission from July 4-17.

But on July 1 the commission introduced the regulation, endorsed by President Joko Widodo, banning registration of people convicted for corruption as well as sex or drug offenses.

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the Commission for the Laity of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, praised what he regarded as a "bold action" by the election commission.

"I agree with the regulation because public figures must have moral integrity," Father Siswantoko told on July 3. "People want clean legislators."

The priest hoped that members of the public would check to make sure political parties do not ignore the new rules in order to endorse tainted candidates.

Matheus Sudarmo, 52, a teacher from St. Christopher Church in West Jakarta, said the ban could deter the committing of graft and drug offenses as well as sex crimes, especially those against children.

Retno Listyarti, a commissioner of Indonesia's Child Protection Commission, said sexual abuse convicts did not deserve to become election candidates because they had offended against human dignity.

The commission has reported that in the first part of 2018 there were 117 reported cases of children being sexually abused and that 393 children were reported as victims in 2017.

Hermawi Fransiskus Taslim, a Catholic politician from the National Democrat Party, said his party would consider allowing former prison inmates to be election candidates, but there would be a party survey to draw up eligibility criteria. All candidates would need to have a strong commitment to building society.

Taslim criticized the Election Commission's blanket banning of people convicted of particular offenses, arguing that voters could be made aware of any past convictions of candidates.

In April 2019, as well as the presidential election, about 20 political parties will field candidates for the national parliament along with provincial, district and municipal elections.

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