UU MD3 in action: Police can’t question politician over car crash that killed motorcyclist without approval

The 18th Plenary Session of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) on February 14, 2018. Photo: @DPR_RI / Instagram
The 18th Plenary Session of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) on February 14, 2018. Photo: @DPR_RI / Instagram

Just two weeks since the UU MD3 bill — which contains controversial articles potentially criminalizing anybody who criticizes any of the country’s legislative bodies as well as requiring investigators to get permission from the president or the ethics council of a legislative body to question legislators about a criminal case — came into effect, the bill’s questionable protections for the “people’s representatives” have already hampered a police investigation into a case of vehicular manslaughter.

On Sunday, councilor Jimy G Sinatala of the Central Maluku Regional Council (DPRD) crashed his car into a motorcycle taxi driver, identified as 39-year-old FP, killing him on the spot. As of yesterday, the police say they have yet been able to question Sinatala as he is shielded by UU MD3. They said they need to file for a warrant with the Central Maluku DPRD’s Ethics Council (MKD) before they can proceed with questioning the councillor.

“We’re just following the new rules, that of UU MD3. But we will complete the gathering of evidence and question the two witnesses. When the evidence points to Jimy then we can name him a suspect and file a warrant to the MKD to ask for permission to investigate Jimy,” said AKP Bambang Surya Wiharga, head of the Traffic Unit at the Ambon and Lease Islands Police Department, as quoted by Detik yesterday.

Under Indonesian law, vehicular manslaughter is punishable by up to six years’ imprisonment.

On Feb. 2, the House of Representatives (DPR) ratified Bill No 17 of 2014 concerning the MPR (People’s Legislative Council), DPR, DPD (Regional Representatives Council) and DPRD (Regional House of Representatives), which has been shortened in the Indonesian media as UU MD3. The bill, which came into effect on Mar. 14, contains a plethora of new laws which covers every level of legislative body in the Indonesian government but there are several articles that critics say are especially dangerous.

One of those, article 122, gives a legislative body’s MKD the power to take legal action against individuals, groups or legal entities that “degrade the honor of the legislative body or its members”. As is typical in Indonesian legislation, what constitutes a “degradation” of honor is left undefined, leaving the door wide open for the law to be used to criminalize legitimate criticism of legislators.

In addition, article 73 allows a legislative body to order the police to forcibly summon individuals for questioning, as well as article 245, which requires investigators to get permission from either the president or the MKD in order to question legislators about criminal cases.

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