Jakarta to launch probe into non-govt bodies

Worries that some may pose a security risk.

THE Indonesian government will probe several non-governmental organisations here amid growing concerns that they are a threat to national security.

Justice Minister Oetojo Oesman said that it was necessary to launch the probe given that many of these “problematic” NGOs often strayed from official government positions on various matters.

“We will examine how deep they understand and adhere to government policies. We need to anticipate NGO activities as they can damage the nation’s image abroad,” he told reporters here on Monday.

He added that several of these groups, which were highly-critical of the government, received foreign funds.

Mr Oesman did not indicate the number of NGOs that were being investigated. But the Home Affairs Ministry last year handed a list of 32 NGOs to the Attorney-General’s office, accusing them of violating the state Pancasila ideology.

Action has yet to be taken against these groups.

Military sources contacted by The Straits Times yesterday said that 14 of these NGOs, in particular, had “deviated” from their original aims and were a national threat because of their links to foreign organisations.

Said a senior Abri intelligence officer: “They may claim to be supporters of campaigns to defend workers rights or even protect the environment but later involve themselves in political activities. That is not acceptable.”

The Straits Times understands that one of the NGOs included in the government list is the Forum for Democracy, a pro-democracy group that has projected itself as a think-tank and platform for communicating ideas and educating the public.

Its members include intellectuals, businessmen and government critics and is led by Muslim scholar Abdurrahman Wahid, who also heads the Nadhlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim group in the country.

There are currently more than 8,000 NGOs in Indonesia operating under the banners of environment, education, law, labour and human rights.

The more prominent ones include the Indonesian Prosperous Trade Union, the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment.

Political observers here believe that NGOs have grown rapidly over the last five years because Indonesians do not want to rely on the government alone to promote certain issues or programmes.

Former Home Affairs Minister Rudini, meanwhile, called on the government and NGOs to put aside their differences and work together in areas such as poverty alleviation, environmental conservation and promoting democracy.

“I hope the government and NGOs are not suspicious of each other,” The Indonesian Observer yesterday quoted him as saying.

“The government should treat NGOs as partners in national development, particularly in raising people’s participation in the process of democratisation. Developing nations need a system of checks and balances.”

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