Indonesia’s Freedom Kaleidoscope in 2015

466 made a summary on which issues of freedom throughout the year of 2015 gained the most public attention. Not only criticism and shortcomings that they obtained, but there were some issues that deserve appreciation. This article was not meant to rank the importance of the journey to freedom in Indonesia throughout 2015, but only to provide an annual snapshot for evaluation before entering the New Year.

1. Revocation of Fuel subsidies

In fact, efforts to reduce the fuel subsidies has been made since the end of 2014, but in 2015, the government was reversing their policy related to fuel prices in order to adjust with the market price.

Foto: Okezone

However, the decrease in fuel price subsidies was a breakthrough that needs to be appreciated. As we are aware of, over the past five years, Indonesia had spent Rp 1,300 trillion for fuel subsidies and this number was greater than the budget for development of infrastructure and health. Subsidies with a high level of consumption were inversely proportional to the needs of the Indonesian people who are still suffering from poverty and unemployment. Thus, the evaluation for the subsidies to be “on the right track” is deemed necessary.

Here are the changes of fuel prices throughout 2015:


The efforts to set the fuel price by adjusting with the state of the market is a form of state efforts in avoiding “legal plunder”, though we found a lot of satire and complaints for the President related to this policy. While getting complaints from the public, Jokowi was already successfully saved us from spending state budget on those who can actually afford the non-subsidized fuel, and divert the budget to more productive sectors. We are lucky to have a president who is not afraid to enact unpopular policies and is willing to his popularity, to solve important issues such as this fuel subsidies issue.

Subsidies are basically inefficiency of the budget, while the budget should be used to sustain and support priority and majority, such as SMEs. Although until today, we have not yet benefited greatly from the revocation of fuel subsidies, but time will tell.

2. Banning of Radical Islamic Websites

On 31 March 2015, banning of websites that contain elements of Islamic radicalism came to our attention, as done by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology on the recommendation of the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT). According to the Minister, it was one of the attempts to reduce the intensity of the spreading religious radicalism teachings that disrupt the peace and unity within the diverse Indonesian society. 19 websites were banned, as follows:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, and

Initially, the intention was good. However, if examined comprehensively, this policy was condemned because it was seen as a form of restrictions on the freedom of expression, and on the other hand was considered as an instant effort to de-radicalize religion. Even though these sites are blocked, it does not mean the creator of the websites will stop his actions. He will still find a way to spread the ideas which he considers the most appropriate, and banning the website will not break the chain of problems.

Of course we are hoping that the efforts to de-radicalize religion are conducted thoroughly, however it should also be accompanied by an appropriate method and have a sustained effect in the future. Therefore, more educative ways are still be the best method to go. The effective ways, for example, through discussions, teaching at boarding schools, as well as how we treat other people of other religions.

3. Prohibition of Distribution of Alcoholic Beverages

On 16 April 2015, the then Minister of Trade Rahmat Gobel began enforcing the policy to band the sale of alcohol at minimarkets. It was stated in the Minister of Trade Regulation No. 06/M-DAG/PER/1/2015 which was signed on 16January 2015 for the Control, Distribution, and Sale of Alcoholic Beverages.

This regulation prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages under type A or with alcohol content of 5 percent. According to the Minister, it was done to protect the consumers nationwide. However, instead of protecting, this ministerial policy gained protests from groups of people because the regulation does not contribute in the increase of economic growth and only lead to unproductive debates.

Sumber Ilustrasi: Berita Satu

I also believe that this policy is not productive. This regulation also directly harms those who consume alcohol because it would make it difficult for them to be able to buy, because not everyone would like to go to the café or bar to drink alcoholic beverages. There are other ways that can be used to prevent the consumption of alcohol by the minors (underaged children), such as requiring the buyer to provide Identity Card. Thus, the rules are not made unilaterally.

We should also learn from previous experiences. If we take a look on the Local Regulations, since 2013, there were already 147 new rules that prohibit and restrict the sale of alcoholic beverages. However, this does not reduce mortality due to the consumption of illegal alcoholic beverages, which according to the data reached 18 thousand deaths each year. This means that prevention cannot be done through a number of regulations. Trafficking of illegal alcoholic beverages at the same time also is getting higher and victims of alcohol abuse are increasing.

Therefore, rather than making more regulations, it would be better if the government could provide education in order to reduce the amount of excessive use and illegal alcoholic beverages, particularly for the minors.

4. Launching of Deregulation Package

Another one of President Jokowi’s policies that should be noted is the deregulation package, which was launched gradually in order increase investment of capital and the distribution of bank credit, and eventually leads to increased economic growth.

Since its launching in early September until the end of 2015, there has been VI economic policy packages launched with the issuance of 175 deregulations. Here are the details:

Of course this is good news in the business world, as this will trigger competition among the entrepreneurs therefore will continue to improve the quality of their products with minimal state barriers. However, it appears that Indonesia still needs time to obtain benefits from the deregulation policy. As mentioned by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Darmin Nasution, “The deregulation policy which was announced by the new government will have an impact on the national economy in the coming year, because it was issued in late 2015,” he concluded.

According to the Coordinating Minister, the deregulation policy has actually been increasing attracting more capital investment. Unfortunately it is not ideal and still relatively low. Of course we are hoping that this policy would obtain good results and is able to improve the investment climate and increase the trust from foreign investors.

5. Issues on Religious Radicalism

Throughout 2015, it seems that the issue of religious radicalism has not been solved. In some places, there were debates on the issue of diversity that continues to grow until now. Cases such as banning of Shia in Bogor, a case in Aceh Singkil, the refusal of the establishment of mosque in Manokwari, a case in Tolikara, the case of FPI’s sweeping in Taman Ismail Marzuki, not to mention the alleged involvement of the citizen in terror carried out by ISIS, and many similar cases related to different religious understanding.

Sumber Ilustrasi: CPPS UGM

Ironic! Internationally, Indonesia is claimed as a country with a high level of tolerance, but if we investigate further, it turns out that the inside does not look as good as the outside. As a pluralistic country, Indonesia should be more mature in dealing with these differences.

As we are aware of, radicalism is characterized by the assumption that considers one’s teaching the most appropriate and assumes that others are wrong. In its extremity, radicalism can lead to acts of violence. It would be worse if radical religious ideology is based on the plural understanding of a religion.

Moreover, in the globalization era that eliminates national boundaries, communications among individuals are made easy. We cannot limit ourselves simply because of the differences, because it will hold our progress. Therefore it is important to put in mind the importance of inter-religious tolerance. As mentioned by Michael Walzer, Professor of Political Science at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), tolerance makes differences possible and differences makes tolerance important.

There are still many problems related to religious radicalism that has yet to be solved. We cannot just rely on the government, but there should be cooperation between the government and initiative from the people, especially those who are actively engaged in interfaith-related issues.

6. The Debate on Trans-Pacific Partnership

Another interesting topic related to freedom is about whether or not Indonesia should join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). TPP is a new free trade bloc signed on 5 October 2015. This trading block consists of 12 countries, namely the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, and Vietnam. Indonesia is not yet included in the list of countries that participate in this trade cooperation. However, on 26 October 2015 there was a big debate on whether or not Indonesia should join in.


The debate arose after President Jokowi’s statement to President Barack Obama in October, which indicated that Indonesia will soon join in the trading bloc. It surprised us all, because the previous president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, seemed to keep a distance from this offer. This happens because there is an emerging stereotype that TPP was established by the United States, while Indonesia would like to politically maintain a good relationship with China. Such allegation will always influence the international politics policy and has become something we are always aware of.

For the record, the TPP also applies Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which allows the investor to file a lawsuit against the government, if the government presented a policy that inhibits their investment. It’s not a bad thing if it is understood through the logic of the market. Moreover, in reality, such constraints on investment often come from the government therefore the existence of this regulation will greatly eliminate inconveniences felt by investors in investing capital. However I believe that the progress of a country widely demonstrated by how much free trade intensity is applied. Because history has proven that freedom brings a faster growth.

7. Prohibition of Online Motorcycle Taxi

Towards the end of 2015, circular No. UM.3012/1/21/Phb/2015 signed by the Minister of Transport, Ignatius Jonan dated 9 November 2015 prohibiting the online-based motorcycle taxis to operate, shocked Indonesia. Shortly after the issuance of the letter, many people were rejecting reaction through social media. It could not be prevented, in a few minutes a lot of memes and satire addressed to this former President Director of PT KAI were out. Even the hashtag #SaveGojek quickly became a trending topic on Twitter.

According to the statement contained in the letter, online motorcycle taxis (including Go-Jek, Grab Bike, Blue-Jek, Lady-Jek, etc.) were deemed to have violated the Law No. 22 of 2009 on Traffic and Public Transport and considered as an illegal mode of transportation because it has got no permit from the relevant institutions. It angered the public and Jonan was invited by President Joko Widodo to the Presidential Palace to have a quick conversation on lifting the prohibition.

This phenomenon proves that freedom has become a necessity in our daily lives. We know that the beginning of online motorcycle taxis came from innovations that emerged from the freedom in economy. Furthermore, through freedom of speech, these online motorcycle taxis can be saved from such regulation that complicates our freedom.

At first glance, if we refer to the Law No. 22 of 2009, then we will find some rules that complicate an individual to innovate, such as rules regarding the obligation to use yellow license plates, license to become a mode of public transport, route permits and other rules, which would take a long time and high costs. Thus, it is important to encourage the law be revised in accordance with the current needs of the public.

As stated in the President Jokowi’s tweet, “I will immediately invite the Minister of Transport for a quick discussion. The people need online motorcycle taxis. A regulation should not become a burden for the people. It should be applied accordingly. –Jkw” on 18 December 2015 via @Jokowi Twitter account.

Outside of the regulatory aspects, in 2015, we also witnessed the immature attitudes from the conventional motorcycle taxis in responds to emerging online motorcycle taxis. In some places in Jakarta, there were intimidation, threats, and harms against online motorcycle taxi drivers, because the conventional motorcycle taxis drivers feel that online motorcycle taxi drivers’ existence has reduced their income. In the logic of market competition, it was ridiculous and embarrassing! Unfortunately, those who were clearly violating human rights were not fully investigated by law. We are hoping that this case does not happen again in the future and law enforcement officials can act more firmly.

8. Simultaneous Local Election

On 9 December 2015, for the first time Indonesia organized the Simultaneous local elections in 265 area. This was an achievement that should be appreciated, as its implementation did not trigger any conflicts such as the war between Sunni-Shia in the Middle East, or even conflicts between Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis as in Cikeusik, which claimed many lives. In terms of security, the Simultaneous elections in 2015 was very well organized and coordinated.

In addition, some of the most striking issues related to the implementation of the elections were the single candidates in four areas, namely Tasikmalaya District, Mataram City, North Central Timor District, and Blitar District. No doubt, it was drawing protests from some parties led to the postponement of the election in those regions until 2017.

This was unfortunate because it impacts on the loss of political rights of the people to choose their leaders once every 5 years. The emergence of the phenomenon of a single candidate was also included in the evaluation as to why it happened. Is this a sign that the public is increasingly sceptical about the election, or a failure to form a political party in an attempt to support a candidate?

Although in terms of the security, the election was well organized, but it did not necessarily mean it was held without any problems. Crucial matters such as the capabilities of prospective head of region were also often debated on social media, and also how the incumbent head of region as a candidate in the simultaneous elections would get more chance in winning the election.

9. Hate Speech

Towards the New Year, on 17 December 2015, the public was also shocked by the arrest of Julian Paonganan because of the allegations of hate speech against President Jokowi on Twitter by posting a picture of President Jokowi with Nikita Mirzani followed with the hashtag #PapaDoyanLonte (Daddy Desires a Prostitute).

The arrest of ‘Ongen’ (his nickname) was done by the Indonesian Criminal Investigation Police has not only come to a shock to the netizens, but also reminded us to be more cautious in using our freedom of expression, because there is the Law No. 11 Year 2008 on Electronic Transactions Information (ITE) that can ensnare anyone deemed offensive to any party.

However, did the arrest seem appropriate? What is the difference between criticism with hate speech or expression of satire? Do not let the rules confuse the public because there is no clear difference between those. As a result, ambiguity appeared and Ongen arrest also raised the pros and cons.

But let us discuss on this issue, according to activists Safanet Damar Juniarto, Article 28 paragraph 2 alleged to Ongen requires a complaint for prosecution that should refer to Article 156 of the Criminal Code. Therefore, there must be a complaint that does not stand-alone and must clearly be spreading hatred as its ground reason.

Then, refer to the hashtag #PapaDoyanLonte, what kind of hatred that made the issue? In the tweet, there was also no provocation or solicitation to initiate acts of violence or crime as how the Muslims are against Shia and Ahmadis. You know, in the era of social media as it is today, we will easily find taunts and insults made by one party against another party, and even then it was considered normal and is not considered a hate speech.

Going forward, there must be a rule and a clear definition of the legal difference between criticism and hate speech to avoid confusion. If it is a question of hate speech with an urge to conduct violence and criminal behavior, then as a preventive measure this action should be dealt with through legal channels. However, if it is only in the form of criticism then it is a freedom that must be maintained and should not have gone through legal process, unless the country is authoritarian.

10. Prohibition of Metro Mini Busses

On 21 December 2015, the residents of Jakarta were also shocked by the policy from Ahok in prohibiting and confiscated most of Metro Mini busses in Jakarta because they were not considered feasible as public transportation. Although they had long been warned by the government to improve their vehicles conditions, they did not do so in an appropriate manner. As we are aware of, referring to the Jakarta Regional Regulation No. 5 of 2014 on Transportation, all vehicles for public transportation in Jakarta should not be more than 10 years of age. However, the regulation also requires the duty of every public transport to carry out vehicle testing on a regular basis.

Prohibition is like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is injuring the freedom of everyone to do business, but it also relates to passenger safety, given many accidents involved any Mini Metro busses. Moreover, we frequently found reckless driver.

In the future, the management of Metro Mini should restructure themselves, both in terms of used vehicles as well as drivers who operate it, to avoid the government from banning them in the future. It’s true that everyone has the freedom to do business, but it should be followed by a good quality. The government should not be hesitate to impose banning, should also be followed with education, supervision, and law enforcement, as well as directing and participating in order to educate Metro Mini to improve its services, rather than directly prohibit its operations.

In addition, some notes should be taken for the Local Transport Organization (Organda), an organization for public transport managements companies. This organization, which was established in 1962, was originally directed to educate and develop the professionalism of its members, but it only generated cartels in the field of public transport.

Cartels generated to gain approvals from group of companies to control the prices. For example, there were many times where Organda made efforts to raise public transport fares as a whole as it desired. The Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPS) once questioned it.

In the perspective of freedom, every entrepreneur should be given independent authority to determine the tariff for consumers by itself along with many options to determine the goods and services with excellent quality and reasonable price.

What was shown by Organda clearly a violation of the business world and it must clearly defines its existence, because it does not bring any benefits for business competition. Organda is also unable to help improve the quality of public transport vehicles, but at the moment there is a desire to raise their rates, and the organization has been the most outspoken in support of this proposal. Ironic!

Looking forward, the government could be more decisive and bold in the efforts of a total change of mode of transportation in Jakarta, both from the quality of the vehicles to the ethics of the drivers. Rather than siding with Organda, modes of transportation such as Go-Jek, Grab Bike, Taxi Grab, Uber, and similar services, which are the breakthrough innovations for the people, need to be supported by the government. Thus, the people would gain more benefit from having many modes of transportation to choose from.

Note For 2016: Challenges and Opportunities

As can be seen from the above explanations, legal protection for freedom is still an unsolved problem in 2015. This is something that we should work on in the coming year. Therefore, it is important for us to continue to improve ourselves in order to resolve the unsolved problems for a better 2016.

In 2015, there were some unproductive issues and it lead to high amount of complaints from the public, such as the prohibition of online motorcycle taxis, prohibition of alcohol beverages sales at minimarkets, as well as the banning of websites. It also often rose as trending topic on social media as the public reaction was made based on the freedom of speech.

Other than that, in mid-2015, there were some irresponsible behaviors and violation of human rights by some conventional motorcycle taxi drivers to the online motorcycle taxi drivers. Another unproductive issue that has not been resolved was religious radicalism, such as the issue in Tolikara, Aceh Singkil, on Shia, and others. This makes an endless discussion on religious differences, although this has been going for years. Moreover, if we look carefully at some debates via Twitter, there were debates between the pros and cons of JIL (Liberal Islam Network), which was very outdated. Yes, those were the unproductive issues in 2015!

On the other hand, we must admit that throughout 2015, there were also some issues that should be appreciated such as the revocation of fuel subsidies, the launch of deregulation packages by Jokowi’s administration, and the implementation of simultaneous local elections that was well-managed and conducted without any violations. There were issues that should be appreciated, but there were also unproductive issues that need to be scrutinized and improved in the coming year. It needs cooperation from related parties to resolve.

We are also hoping that in the future, the ideas on freedom will continue to gain trust and be implemented in society and government. Freedom has become the basic human needs in order to carry out our lives. Freedom is a part of human rights. The freedom was not given by anyone and it cannot be seen, but it has a tremendous benefit for the journey of human life. Without freedom, we cannot innovate and grow faster. Gadgets that you are holding right now were the result of the freedom defended by Adam Smith who was then followed by Friedrich A. Hayek and his colleagues who are the members of The Mont Pelerin Society.

Freedom has triggered individuals to innovate and create gadgets. With a palm-sized gadget, you can explore and interact with the outside world without borders; you can do anything easily, from expressing opinions through social media online to booking taxis for travel. You can even order some food through the gadget. It is the result of freedom! We could all gain benefit out of it. Therefore, it is our time to continue the fight for freedom to be our main focus in human life and in policy making, because we have already obtained great benefit from the freedom. It is about time for us to fight together and to maintain the protection of freedom in order to support the next generation. Here’s to freedom!