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Chapter: 

I. Background

Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago. It has 17,508 islands located between two continents   Asia and Australia/Oceania. This strategic position greatly influences the country's culture, social, politics, and economy. The population of Indonesia in 2011 was approximately 229,965,000 people.

The population of Indonesia can be divided into two major groups: in the western region most of the people are of Malay ethnicity while the eastern region is populated by Papuans, who originate from the Melanesian Islands. Indonesia also recognises specific ethnic groups that come from a particular province/area and speak a particular language. In addition, there are also minority ethnicities derived from Chinese, Indian, and Arabic descent. Many Indonesians speak their ethnic language as their mother tongue. However, the Indonesian language remains the official language, which is taught in all schools and in which most Indonesians can communicate proficiently.

Islam is the major religion of 85.2% of the population, making Indonesia the largest Muslim country in the world. The remaining population consists of Protestants (8.9%); Catholics (3%); Hindus (1.8%); Buddhists (0.8%) and other religions (0.3%).

Political System

Indonesia's political system is a representative democratic republic governed by a president; it is a unitary state with power concentrated in the national government. In the Indonesian government, power is vested in the executive, legislative power is vested in both the government and the two People's Representative Councils, and the judiciary is independent of both the executive and the legislature.

The Indonesia constitution was first written in July and August 1945 at the end of World War II, but it was abolished by the Federal Constitution of 1949 and the Provisional Constitution of 1950. Finally, on 5 July 1959 the constitution was restored. Between 1999 and 2002, after the fall of the New Order under the Suharto regime, Indonesia added four amendments to the 1945 Constitution.

Under the new administration, Indonesian people have had the chance to build a more democratic system the new governments have gradually become more committed to carrying out legal reform and to respect and protect human rights. This commitment was demonstrated by the abolition and revision of several oppressive laws and regulations. Among these were the law on Anti-Subversion and the law on Political Parties.1 The law on Anti-Subversion in particular was often used to take away the people's freedom of expression.

During this period the laws on human rights (Human Rights Act, Law No. 39/1999) and the human rights court (No. 26/2000) were introduced. Human rights law essentially adopted the existing provisions in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights as well as the relevant Conventions on women and children. The law also strengthened the legal basis of the position of the National Commission on Human Rights. The law of the Human Rights Court established the Human Rights Court in Indonesia. In addition to the National Commission on Human Rights, the Indonesian government established a State Minister on Human Rights Affairs in 1999, which in 2000 was merged with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. In 1998, the government also developed a five-year National Plan of Action on Human Rights, which has been implemented by a national committee consisting of the representatives of the relevant NGOs and government and civil society institutions that deal with human rights. These include the National Commission on Human Rights and the Ministry of Justice. Human Rights are the focal point of the implementation plan.

Executive Branch

The President of Indonesia is both head of state and head of a multi-party system of government. He is also the commander-in-chief of the Indonesian armed forces, and responsible for domestic governance, policy-making, and foreign affairs. The president and vice-president are both elected to terms of five years by popular vote. Prior to 2004, they were elected by the People's Consultative Assembly. The President also heads the United Indonesia Cabinet, and appoints the council of ministers.

Legislative Branch

In Indonesia's political system the highest representative body at the national level is the People's Consultative Assembly, or 'Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat' (MPR). MPR has the power to impeach the President. It has two lower houses or chambers; these are the People's Representative Council or 'Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat' (DPR), and the Regional Representatives Council or 'Dewan Perwakilan Daerah' (DPD). The DPR has 550 members, who are elected for a five-year term by proportional representation in multi-member constituencies, and the DPD has 168 members. All legislation is passed by the legislative body DPR, which also monitors the executive branch. In an effort to increase regional representation, after the 2004 election the MPR became a bicameral parliament, with the DPD as its second chamber.2

Judicial Branch

The highest level of the judicial branch in Indonesia is the Supreme Court and the candidate justice of the Supreme Court shall be proposed by Judicial Commission to the People's Representative Council for approval and shall subsequently be formally appointed to the office by the President.

Indonesia has different courts for different matters. All civil disputes appear first before a State Court before being heard in the High Court. The Commercial Court handles bankruptcy and insolvency; a State Administrative Court hears administrative law cases against the government; and a Religious Court deals with specific religious cases.3

The third amendment to the Constitution of Indonesia, which was ratified by the People's Consultative Assembly, provided for the Constitutional Court of Indonesia. It was established in 2001.  The Constitutional Court has jurisdiction over five areas: constitutional review of legislation; disputes about constitutional competence between state institutions; disputes about electoral results; dissolution of political parties; impeachment of the president or vice president.4

Civil Society

Civil society has played an important role in Indonesia. Under the New Order the development of civil society was seriously undermined, and civil society lacked any power to participate in decision-making. However, since the fall of the New Order, all citizens are entitled to form civil society organizations, and current conditions are far more welcoming to the development of civil society. Indonesians are enthusiastic for the potential of civil society to demand more transparency and accountability from government.5 Unfortunately, many Indonesian civil society organizations are faced with the problem of having limited financial and technical resources, and most do not yet have adequate self-supporting and sustainable resources and to achieve their stated goals effectively.6

A number of NGOs and media organisations are focused on privacy issues in Indonesia. For example, ELSAM, the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy, was established in 1993 for the purpose of encouraging the development of a democratic political order by means of strengthening civil society through advocacy and promotion of human rights. ELSAM has worked for more than five years on the promotion of a responsibility mechanism for gross human right violations in general, and civil and political rights in particular. In the few years ahead ELSAM will initiate more advocacy works to encourage the development of an accountability mechanism for economic, social and cultural rights violations. 7

The Press Council also advocates for privacy.8 The Press Council was first established in 1968 based on Law No.11/1966 of the Press Principal Provisions, signed into law by President Soekarno on December 12, 1966. At that time, according to Article 6 Paragraph (1) of Law No.11/1966, the Press Council's primary function was to assist the government in nurturing the growth and development of the national press in general. The Press Council was chaired by the Minister of Information under Article 7 Paragraph (1).

Subsequent amendments to the law have retained the existence, position, and functions of the Press Council. These include Law No.4 of 1967 and the New Order government's Act No.21/1982 to amend Law No.11/1966 on the Press Principal Provisions, signed by President Suharto on September 20th, 1982. The Press Council continues to be more of an advisor to the government, especially the Ministry of Information.

Article 6 Paragraph (2) of the 1982 amendments expanded the Council's makeup to add government and community representatives to the existing representatives of the press organisations and press experts.

The change of authority from the New Order Era to the Reform Order Era brought more fundamental change in the form of the Act No.40/1999 on Press, enacted on September 23, 1999 and signed into law by President Bacharudin Jusuf Habibie. Article 15 Paragraph (1) states "an independent Press Council was established in order to develop freedom of the press and improve the national press".

The now-independent Press Council is no longer a government advisor; instead, it works to protect the freedom of the press. The elimination of the structural relationship between the Press Council and the government was underscored when President Abdurrahman Wahid dissolved the Ministry of Information in 1999. The membership of the Press Council no longer includes government representatives, as it did during the New Order Era. The chair and vice-chair are no longer appointed by Presidential Decree, but elected by all members of the Press Council in its plenary meeting.9

Internet Connectivity

By 2010, the country had 30 million Internet users, about 13% of the total population. The following methods are available for Indonesians to connect to the Internet:

GSM Mobile Service:

  • PT. Telkomsel.
  • PT. Indonesia Satellite Corp.
  • PT. Excelcomindo Pratama
  • PT. Natrindo telephone Selluler-Lippo Telkom
  • Hutchison CP Telecom-HCPT

CDMA Mobile Service Provider:

  • PT Mobile   8 CDMA network
  • Bakrie Tel-Esia, Bakrie connectivity launches mobile broadband service using CDMA EVDO Rev. A platform
  • Telkomsel Flexi CDMA Network
  • Indosat-Star one CDMA Network
  • Smart Telecom, is the first mobile telecommunication company to provide mobile broadband service to subscribers using CDMA EVDO.

Footnotes