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New Criminal Code Bill a Threat for Foreign Investments and Tourism

Jakarta. The proposed criminal code bill as it stands today will be a bane in Indonesia‘s effort to attract foreign investments and tourists, politicians and industry players warned over the weekend. 

Among other things, the bill extends the liability of limited companies to its managers and owners and also criminalizes consensual extramarital sex.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, whose administration proposed the bill in 2015, asked the House of Representatives (DPR) on Friday to delay the ratification of the bill, which was scheduled for next Tuesday, after students and activists rallied on the streets of Jakarta and on social media to oppose it.  

Jokowi said there were 14 articles in the bill that still need further consultations and careful considerations before they could be adopted, without indicating how they could be improved.

Still, some remain concerned that the delay would do little to alter the problematic articles in the bill that can undermine investment and tourism in Southeast Asia‘s largest economy. 

Surya Tjandra, the spokesperson of legal affairs at the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), said article 48 and 50 of the bill stipulate that managers or the ultimate controlling shareholder will be held criminally liable for their company. 

“The bill is bad news for businesses since what it creates is more legal uncertainty. Entrepreneurs or corporate managers will be afraid to take any action because if their judgment is wrong, they are vulnerable to being convicted,” Surya said. 

Surya said the two articles include a formula that was unclear and difficult to implement for law enforcers. 

“The articles should instead stipulate under what conditions corporations can face criminal charges and specify the limited conditions in which individuals or corporate officers, both structural and functional, can be held accountable,” he said.

“The articles as they stand now are very contrary to Jokowi’s policy to attract as much investment as possible,” Surya said. 

Another PSI politician, Rian Ernest, highlighted an article in the bill which regulates punishment based on living law or customary law.

“It makes people liable [to be charged with a criminal act] based on unwritten laws. [Furthermore] this ‘rubber’ article is applied subjectively; how it’s interpreted is up to the majority of the people who live in a specific area,” Rian said.

“If the leader of a company accidentally does something that violates local customs or laws, he or she could go straight to jail,” he said.

The bill could also make foreign tourists think twice before visiting Indonesia, Azril Azhari, the chairman of the Indonesian Tourism Intellectuals Association, said on Saturday. 

Article 417 and 419 of the bill stipulate that anyone in Indonesia, including foreigners, who is caught having sex or living together outside marriage can receive a jail sentence of up to one year. 

Since the controversy over the bill started to heat up, Australia has already issued a travel warning for its citizens traveling in Indonesia, calling for Australians to take extra precautions when visiting Bali.

Indonesia is already low in the tourism ranking, below Singapore and Malaysia according to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index. The controversy over this bill can send it plummeting even further. We might even struggle to reach our target of 17 million foreign tourists this year,” Azril said.