When tens of thousands of demonstrators in Indonesia were arrested during protests against the contentious omnibus Legislation on Job Creation earlier this month, there was little wonder that organisation could be present to shield them.
For decades, the Legal Aid Institute (Lembaga Bantuan Hukum or LBH) has become the defence of alternative from the nation’s most controversial political circumstances.
Starting as one office in Jakarta, it currently has 16 offices around Indonesia, together with the Indonesian Foundation of Legal Aid Institutes (YLBHI) serving as the central umbrella body.
It’s taken on highly charged political scenarios, spoken out against abuses of state authority, and innovative notions of the rule of law, constitutional democracy and individual rights. In doing this it is now a star of civil society and also a staunch guardian of the general interest.
The Locomotive Of Democracy
Adnan Buyung Nasution founded LBH to present a free legal aid agency in Indonesia. Nevertheless, it was not entirely about expanding access to justice. Even in the early days, LBH saw the legal help movement as a crucial part of a larger struggle for constitutionalism and the rule of law.
Under Soeharto’s authoritarian New Order, LBH immediately realised providing pro bono help for individual cases wouldn’t influence the underlying causes of inequality and injustice.
Supplying conventional legal help under these conditions has been hopelessly beside the purpose, composed notable legal scholar Daniel Lev. LBH joint legal representation using a wide assortment of non-litigation pursuits.
LBH attorneys and team educated communities about their faith and assisted them to struggle for these rights. They also completed media campaigns and printed study.
During the last years of the New Order, LBH developed into a heart of civil society opposition to the Soeharto regime, a collecting point for students and activists.
Locating its own tower in democratic Indonesia Indonesia started its transition to democracy. The lifting of restrictions on civil society caused the development of a variety of specialised organisations, a few with similar efforts to LBH.
LBH was abruptly made to reflect on its own organisational identity and its function in a more democratic Indonesia. And a number of the newer businesses were very comfortable about participating with the authorities.
For some time, LBH fought to find its foundation. It had to determine whether to collaborate with state associations or maintain a confrontational strategy.
Along with needing to rethink its reason to be, YLBHI confronted major funding limits as foreign donors who had given assistance for its operations changed attention and put stronger emphasis on government programming.
YLBHI also undergone several debilitating disasters during direction changes, which diminished the organisation. Buyung’s contentious choice to signify General Wiranto in 2000, that had been accused of rights abuses in East Timor in 1999, did not help either.
It alienated his coworkers and wider civil society. Buyung could have been inspired by attempts to market an expert legal culture, but he moved too fast for his coworkers, who considered the legal system to become corrupt and unfair.
Defending The Marginalized
Despite all these struggles, LBH has continued to shield the many marginalised people and also the most famous causes of Indonesia.
When over 140 homosexual men were detained in a police raid on a Jakarta sauna in 2017, LBH was a crucial part of the civil society coalition which came into their citizenship.
That was shortly after the summit of a federal assault on LGBTIQ rights, in a time when 93 percent of the population said society shouldn’t accept homosexuality.
LBH has also been included in practically all of significant blasphemy instances of this democratic age. And even as it did under Soeharto, LBH has continued to shield the urban poor out of forced evictions, farmers who face losing their property for development jobs, employee’s rights and the rights of women and kids.
Since the fall of Soeharto, civil society organisations, such as LBH, happen to be in the forefront of attempts to establish a new tradition of public interest lawsuit in the Constitutional Court.
LBH attorneys were a important part of the coalition that successfully challenged the attorney general’s ability to prohibit books. From the democratic age, LBH has mostly maintained the adversarial method of engaging with the authorities it created under Soeharto.
Occasionally, other elements of civil society criticised it to get this. They believed LBH wasn’t taking up opportunities to play a part in strengthening the institutions of their newly democratic country.
However LBH is unapologetic. Since YLBHI’s Febi Yonesta explained, provided that community members are victims, we’ll be in resistance to authorities. Like activist attorneys in several areas around the globe, they’re a nuisance to the authorities, and they intend to be a hassle.
Due to this, LBH has regularly faced significant backlash. In 2017, as an instance, authorities broke up an academic dialogue in LBH about the 1965-66 anti-communist violence, after pressure from Islamist and anti-communist protesters.
Given LBH’s heritage and profile, that this was widely regarded as an assault on civil society. Because this occasion, democratic regression is now entrenched. Limits on freedom of association are increasing.
But while the government has become more repressive, LBH seems to have discovered a renewed clarity of attention. It continues to stand firmly on both sides of sufferers, while defending Indonesia’s democratic gains. The expression Reformasi Dikorupsi itself was filmed in a late-night assembly of dozens of civil society activists in the LBH office.
LBH is playing a major part from the #MosiTidakPercaya demonstrations which have emerged in reaction to this omnibus law.
Whilst LBH is not the sole powerful pro-democracy organisation, it appears to be relishing playing the convening, coalition-building function it failed under the New Order.
How Can We Evaluate LBH’s Sway After Half A Century?
Since the late prominent scholar of the legal profession, Daniel Lev, stated of LBH from the late 1980s: Its effect on social, political and legal affairs shouldn’t be exaggerated, but it cannot be dismissed
With outspoken government critics being detained dependent on trumped-up offenses, and homosexual men being detained for using a private party, and lawmakers violating legislative acts to pass exceptionally controversial laws with minimal public consultation, LBH hasn’t been as crucial to Indonesian democracy since it is right now.