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Controversy surrounding pornography bill intensifies in city council committee, Indonesian unity and individual rights at stake
Saturday, July 8, 2006
Jakarta --- Members of the Unity in Diversity Alliance came away disappointed Friday after trying to persuade the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) faction to stop the passage of the controversial pornography bill and enforcement of sharia bylaws.
The alliance, which consists of artists, lawyers, and religious scholars, told PKS members in the House of Representatives that the party was commonly perceived as pursuing the establishment of an Islamic state. They said the party should oppose the bill if it did not want the image to persist.
In a statement read by cultural observer Hudan Hidayat, the alliance said the pornography bill -- which had languished in the House for several years before the PKS and other parties revived interest in it recently -- had the potential to tear at the country's pluralistic foundation and diminish individual rights.
They also said sharia bylaws, which have been introduced in several regencies, would have a similar negative effect on Indonesia's multiethnic, religiously diverse society.
Zulkieflimansyah of PKS responded that the party was in a difficult position because of the public assumptions, but declared, "we support Indonesian unity and the 1945 Constitution".
But he also said the sharia bylaws were approved by members of city councils who were mostly from the leading Golkar and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
"Most people realize that we have only a few people on the city councils in Indonesia," he said.
Another PKS representative, Sunmanjaya, who is also a member of the special committee deliberating the bill, said that it would be possible to discontinue its discussion or have it withdrawn. However, he added that his party would have little influence on the decision because of only four representatives on the 56-member committee.
Sunmanjaya also said the party would have to meet to make a united decision.
"We have to accommodate all voices that come to our party. So far, from all the groups that we have received input from, only 15 rejected the pornography bill while 85 agreed to it."
Alliance spokeswoman Ratna Sarumpaet said she was disappointed by the party's refusal to take a firm stance against the porn bill, which she added was similar to the ambivalent viewpoints of other major parties such as Golkar and PDI-P.
The playwright and actress said the alliance was against pornography because of its harmful effects on society, particularly to minors, but believed the porn bill was dangerous because it regulated not only the production and distribution of obscene materials, but also encompassed moral, ethical and individual rights issues.
"Therefore, we demand that the committee immediately apologize to the public for insisting that the bill be passed into law. If it does not do this in two days, we will initiate a class action against it," Ratna said.
Date Posted: 7/8/2006
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