#BaliTidakDiam: Hundreds of university students rally in Denpasar protesting lawmakers and the government

Hundreds of university students in Bali took part in the rally on Sept. 24, 2019. Photo: Coconuts Media/Sheany
Hundreds of university students in Bali took part in the rally on Sept. 24, 2019. Photo: Coconuts Media/Sheany

Hundreds of university students held a rally in Denpasar today to protest a number of pressing issues that have troubled Indonesia in recent months. Under the rallying call of #BaliTidakDiam (Bali is not silent), the students voiced their opposition to the revision of the country’s criminal code that would criminalize sex outside marriage and demanded action to end forest fires ravaging Sumatra and Kalimantan as well as the ongoing human rights crisis in Papua. 

The rally echoed similar protests held in various cities across the archipelago yesterday and today — including ones held in Jakarta, Yogyakarta in Central Java and Samarinda in East Kalimantan —  to oppose the draft revisions to Indonesia’s criminal code (RKUHP) that activists fear would threaten democracy and violate human rights principles, as well as voice their concern on other issues. 

Read also: RKUHP Explainer: All the controversial articles in Indonesia’s criminal code overhaul

The rally in Bali echoed similar protests held in various cities across the archipelago yesterday and today. Photo: Coconuts Media/Sheany

“We are here to demand clarity from the government about the issues that have happened recently, including RKUHP, forest fires and the revised law governing the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). We want some explanation,” Daniel Winata, a 17-year-old law student from Udayana University, told Coconuts Bali on the sidelines of the protest. 

Students in Bali highlighted four main issues during the rally, calling on the government and House of Representatives (DPR) to solve the human rights crisis in Papua, the issuance of a government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) on the revised KPK law, a revision to the current draft of RKUHP, and the arrest of parties responsible for the forest fires ravaging parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

It remains to be seen whether or not the calls will fall on deaf ears or otherwise. Despite large student-led demonstrations that took place across Indonesia yesterday, for example, President Joko Widodo has declared that he would not fulfill the protesters’ demands to issue a Perppu on the revised KPK law, as reported by our sister site Coconuts Jakarta

The banner says: “Be careful the New Order may rise again.” Photo: Coconuts Media/Sheany

These issues have been making headlines in Indonesia in recent months, raising concerns about the state of Indonesia’s democracy. That seems to be in the minds of university students rallying in Indonesia as well, as illustrated by one banner seen in Denpasar today that read: “Be careful the New Order may rise again,” referring to more than three decades of authoritarian rule under former President Suharto. 

RKUHP in Bali

Bali’s official tourism promotion agency (BPPD Bali) yesterday announced its objection to the RKUHP, citing concerns over articles that it fears could affect tourism on the island. 

The expected passage of the bill, after all, has already elicited a response from neighboring Australia, which updated its official travel advice to its national last week to warn them about the possibility. 

That might lead Bali’s provincial government more proactive in opposing the controversial bill to officials in Jakarta, which would be in line with waht university students in Denpasar were calling for today. 

“I am here because something in my heart is moved by all that’s happening right now…” said Bakti Dwika, another law student from Udayana University. 

“This country is not doing fine, and that’s why we must move and urge the government to do better.”

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