In an unbelievably unreasonable sequence of legal process, a lecturer at the faculty of engineering of Syiah Kuala university in Aceh is in jail since Thursday for expressing his dissatisfaction in a WhatsApp group against the faculty’s recruitment process, which he alleged unfairly carried out, and then stated that the common sense of the faculty’s leadership has died.
It seems like each of the educated and trained people involved in the legal decision at every level of the system to send Saiful Mahdi, the lecturer, to jail have lost their common sense, if not their mind.
First, instead of accepting the criticism as an input for the process to get better, and instead of asking Saiful to meet to discuss the matter, the dean, who must be an intellectual and academic, could not accept the expression as a criticism but as an insult and personal attack. He filed a police report against Saiful for slander instead of making explanation that all rumors and accusation were not true.
Why was he so angry? Why did the dean behave like a dictator rather than a scientist and academic, who should treat criticism as part of healthy conversation for the betterment of all? There is only one possible answer: the criticism indicating that bribery was taking place in the recruitment process could be true.
Second, while the police are the usual suspect in what goes wrong in most of the legal cases in Indonesia, Saiful case again blatantly shows the absence of any conscience in the police force, something expected in them when people of Indonesia separated them from the military almost 20 years ago. And the fact that they were willing to process the case using the ITE Law, and quickly named Saiful as a suspect smelled like another bribery case.
Certainly, we can’t lose hope on the police to be better, but looking at the current development such a hope is just getting more of a mirage. Unfortunately, without police getting better, Indonesia will continue to be one of the world’s most corrupt nations.
Third, the prosecutors and the judges should have just thrown the case out of the court if they really had a little bit of common sense. How could you send people to jail for expressing their feeling? Does our constitution still guarantee freedom of expression? Isn’t it true that beyond formal law there exists humane consideration of basic human rights?
In court, we often hear the dictum that we can’t punish anybody unless we can be convinced that there is evidence and belief beyond reasonable doubt.
So again, it’s all about reason, common sense and conscience as a human being rather than just articles of laws.
But those are what absence in Indonesia as Saiful imprisonment is not unique. Those murals, voice of reasons from the very people that form Indonesia, and who were trying to help the authorities see and fix the problems of this nation, were shut down and repressed, and those artists, or probably just ordinary Indonesians, were hunted down and detained.
We have seen more than enough of similar cases.
The whole situation points to one direction: our authorities in every level are afraid of criticism. We boast ourselves as one of the biggest democracies in the world. But fear of criticism and state repressive acts only show that we are moving towards an authoritarian state.
There is no democracy without criticism, and thus Indonesia is a decaying democracy. If we don’t do anything about it, suddenly we will lose our freedom before we know it, and history tells us, it will be hard to get it back.