The government is taking over the drafting of the long-awaited indigenous people’s rights protection (PPHMA) bill from the House of Representatives.
The move was made after the House failed to list the bill as a legislation priority (Prolegnas) this year despite it already being included in the 2015–2019 program.
“The House couldn’t put the bill on its priority list, so we will take over. But there is still a process to go through to move the bill from the House to the government,” said Arfan Faiz Muhlizi, head of the center for national law evaluation and analysis at the National Law Development Agency (BPHN), on Monday.
First step for the government will be deciding on which ministry will now handle the bill.
“There are several ministries that have the potential to take over the bill, such as the Environment and Forestry Ministry, the Home Ministry and the Law and Human Rights Ministry,” Arfan said.
Then, he continued, the government will have to ensure that ministries not specifically handed the bill still support the process, and that no overlapping ministerial authority disrupts the bill’s deliberation.
National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) member Sandrayati Moniaga supports the ministry’s plan to take over the bill.
“Because the bill is based on rights, [particularly] the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Therefore, it will be more appropriate for the bill to be handled by the Law and Human Rights Ministry,” she said.
The PPHMA bill had traveled a long and arduous journey, with multiple delays. The bill was initially proposed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction in 2012.
It was to be among the House’s priority bills in 2014, but was dropped from the list at the last minute.
As the House does not have a carry-over mechanism, which would have allowed the new intake of lawmakers to continue deliberating the bill in the 2014-2019 term, the current lawmakers would have had to start the deliberation process again.
Indigenous right activists have lambasted the House for postponing the ratification of the bill, saying that the postponement means ignoring the mandate of the Constitution and letting 70 million indigenous people in the country continue to have their rights ignored with no legal protections and face even more abuse.
Arfan said that the government did not have to start the deliberation process from scratch.
“The script of the bill exists, so there’s no need to start from zero. We just have to harmonize the academic script a bit,” he said. “The draft [made by the House] will be a starting point for us.”
The current PPHMA draft bill will cover, among other things, the definition of an indigenous community, their rights, a much-needed procedure to settle customary land disputes and a task force that will handle matters of indigenous people at the central-government and regional levels.
Looking ahead, Sandrayati said that the government had to fully commit to the bill.
“I don’t know [whether the bill takeover is a good thing or not]. We will have to listen to the commitments from ministers [involved in the coming deliberation process],” she said.