Indonesia’s most wacky draft laws

It’s easy to know when the elections are approaching in Indonesia: the foreigner has been picked out as the boogeyman. He may not be under the bed but he’s lurking somewhere. But no fear. The nation’s lawmakers know what to do. Stop him from infiltrating the nation’s music industry!

“In creating music, everyone is prohibited from […] bringing negative influences from foreign cultures or demeaning a human being’s dignity.”

(Article 5 of the draft law on music creation)

But although patently absurd, this draft law is not without precedent. In fact, the nation’s lawmakers can look back in pride in creating some really wacky draft laws over the years, my favorites being:

1. The draft law on citizenship which required foreigners to pay a Rp500 million ”bond” to marry an Indonesian women. And the government thought it was onto a good thing! Well at least until some bright spark told them mixed couples would either live in sin or simply go to Singapore and get married there instead!

2. The draft law on manpower which required expats to take a TOEFL proficiency test in the Indonesian language. I’m quite confident that I’d pass though. Berapa saya harus.....?

3. The draft law on pornografi and ponoaksi which would have made sunbathing in Bali illegal and even criminalized national dress such as the Javanese kebaya. Not to mention the inestimable magazine cum website Popular.

4. This one’s from the Suharto days: the draft law that banned the use of written English in public places. All signs, advertising and shop names had to use Indonesian. Indonesia grammar also had to be adopted rather than English grammar. The law, which was actually passed, cost Lippo Bank a small fortune as the bank had to rename itself Bank Lippo, thus requiring all its branch signs to be changed!!

5. The draft law making it a crime not to use the rupiah in transactions in Indonesia!!! (yes this bill was passed as well although I'm not sure it is always enforced)

The director general for law and legislation at the Human Rights and Justice Ministry, A.A. Oka Mahendra, said that those who refused to use the local currency when conducting transactions within the country would be subject to legal proceedings under the provisions of the bill:

"There will be sanctions and penalties for those who refuse to use the rupiah in Indonesia," Mahendra said during a seminar on the bill.

He said that the requirement to use rupiah would help strengthen the value of the local unit against other currencies.

"So, if people, including foreigners, wish to conduct transactions in Indonesia, they will have to change their hard currency first into rupiah," Mahendra said.

Hahaha! Can you think of anything more wacky?

Just picture this: a Japanese tourist in Bali sees a really nice painting he wants to buy, so he agrees to a price of US$500. He then hands over the dosh, but unknown to him he’s being watched by a plainclothes policeman who arrests him for conducting a transaction in a foreign currency. Charges are pressed and he faces the next three years of his life with a bunch of drug sellers and murderers in Kerobokan prison ….


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