That law, what is it good for?
The Australian Broadcasting Commission's ABC News website reported on 4 January 2013 that the town of Lhokseumawe has devised a new law about motor cycle riding. At first sight, this seems to be goods news – Indonesian legislators have good reason to focus on road safety.
All is not, however, what it seems. The report goes on:
“Women [...] will be told from Monday they cannot straddle a motorcycle or scooter, especially when sitting behind a man, and instead must ride side-saddle.
The mayor of the town, which is under strict Islamic sharia law, says the regulation is to protect woman's morals.”
There is room here to observe (as did the Ulema Council) that the Koran does not mention how to ride motor cycles. A lawyer might question whether it is prohibited or not – how can it be an offence to straddle a motorcycle “especially” when sitting behind a man? Is it an offence when the driver is female – or “not especially” an offence?
A more basic question arises about legislation, especially in a system which allows law-making by multiple governments under a power sharing arrangement: what is the objective to be achieved by a law? Is it an objective which that government can properly seek to achieve, consistently with the constitution? A law about motorcycle riding, if intended to achieve road safety objectives, would possibly be valid: but if it is intended to achieve religious objectives it is clearly invalid. It is not always easy to show that a law has been made for improper purposes - here the Mayor has given the game away.
Where to find Indonesia's laws
The Indonesian National Secretariat maintains a database of Indonesian laws - click here.
Public consultation and deliberative theory
We have commented in our Legislation Newsletter on section 53 of the Indonesian Law on Making Laws 2004, which provided for public consultation during the law making process. Provisions of this type are common for secondary legislation, but not for primary legislation. Section 53 provided—
“The public has the right to make submissions, orally or in writing, in the preparation of Bills for the Central Government and Local Government.”
The Law on Making Laws 2004 has gone the way of all laws – it has been repealed. Its successor is section 96 of the Law on Making Laws 2011, which provides—
“(1) Masyarakat berhak memberikan masukan secara lisan dan/atau tertulis dalam Pembentukan Peraturan Perundang-undangan.
(2) Masukan secara lisan dan/atau tertulis sebagaimana dimaksud pada ayat (1) dapat dilakukan melalui:
a. rapat dengar pendapat umum;
b. kunjungan kerja;
c. sosialisasi; dan/atau
d. seminar lokakarya, dan/atau diskusi.
(3) Masyarakat sebagaimana dimaksud pada ayat (1) adalah orang perseorangan atau kelompok orang yang mempunyai kepentingan atas substansi Rancangan Peraturan Perundang-undangan.
(4) Untuk memudahkan masyarakat dalam memberikan masukan secara lisan dan/atau tertulis sebagaimana dimaksud pada ayat (1), setiap Rancangan Peraturan Perundang-undangan harus dapat diakses dengan mudah oleh masyarakat.”