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Indonesian rights group launches rule book for police

Guidelines seek to show law enforcement agents how to prevent problems caused by divisive, sectarian politics

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Indonesian rights group launches rule book for police

The book that the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace says aims to solve problems caused by identity politics (Photo: Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews)

A Jakarta-based rights group has launched a book to help Indonesian police promote freedom of religion and belief and curb problems caused by identity politics, particularly during the run-up to elections.

The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace says the 90-page book, titled Menangani Politisasi SARA (Tackling Politicization of Ethnicity, Religion, Race and Inter-Group Ties), is a result of divisive elections in recent years that have seen identity politics take over and society split along sectarian lines.

Identity politics is the tendency for people of a particular religion, race or social background to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.

The 2017 Jakarta governor election that saw Muslim voters oust the Christian incumbent and a bitter 2019 presidential election that sparked accusations of discrimination led to serious tensions, Halili, the rights group’s research director told ucanews.

“We have observed that elections have become events that threaten tolerance and freedom of religion and belief in Indonesia. Identity politics based on ethnicity, religion and race, and intergroup ties is a widespread phenomenon which obviously ruins social harmony and national integration,” he said.

“Identity politics also victimizes minority groups and prevents them from getting equal rights.” 

These sort of things are figuring highly in elections and have led to clashes, he added. 

He pointed to the recent presidential election in which President Joko Widodo ran with a conservative Islamic scholar as his vice-presidential candidate, while his rival Prabowo Subianto courted conservative Islamic scholars and Muslim activists.

The poll became so acrimonious that confrontations flared after the results were announced and disputed by the supporters of Prabowo, the losing candidate. 

According to Halili, the new book contains advice which can help police to tackle identity politics. “Police must play a more significant role in dealing with the issue. They must have the courage to take comprehensive measures,” he said.

The book gives a clear insight into what hate speech and hate crime are as well as measures police should take to prevent and deal with them, which does not necessarily involve using a heavy-handed approach, he said.

Police have yet to comment on the book. 

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