Nov 12, 2012

Indonesia - RI’s disabled fight to remove political, rights barriers

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Indonesia is arguably one of the ASEAN countries with a good record in the implementation of political rights for its disabled citizens, as shown to some extent when it elected the late Abdurrahman Wahid, who was visually impaired, as president. The nation, however, still has a lot of homework to empower the disabled.

Only last year, Indonesia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), while it is also committed to ratifying the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, expected to be adopted at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia, Nov. 18-20.

“Now is the time to create synergy between the central government and local administrations, between ministries and with other stakeholders to concretely implement the ratified convention for wider access in civil and political life for persons with disabilities,” said Hasan Kleib, the Foreign Ministry’s director general for multilateral affairs.

He was speaking at the second regional dialogue on access to elections for persons with disabilities
in Nusa Dua on Nov. 10-11, hosted by the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA), which is supported by USAID. Envoys from ASEAN countries, as well as Australia, Ireland, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal and the US, attended the event.

Hasan highlighted that Indonesia urgently required a detailed national database on the numbers and types of disabilities in its population as data currently greatly differed from one source to another. According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), less than 5 percent of the 237,641,326 national population recorded in 2010 were categorized as disabled. Nonetheless, the World Health Organization has estimated that around 10-15 percent of the Indonesian population is disabled.

“Even if there’s only one disabled person, he/she still is the government’s responsibility because this is a matter of human rights. However, only with accurate data will the government be able to work more progressively and effectively, especially in terms of budget allocation,” said Hasan. “All regencies and municipalities must start collecting data on people with disabilities in their regions.”

Chairman of the Indonesian Disabled Peoples Association (PPCI) Gufroni Sakaril said that, as disability was yet to be used as an indicator in the national population census, many disabled citizens had not been recorded as such in the census.

Thus, he emphasized the urgency to conduct a parallel struggle for the implementation of both civil and political rights for disabled people.

Gufroni stated that Indonesia was relatively on par with countries like the Philippines and Thailand that even have had disabled representatives in their parliamentary houses.

“We don’t have envoys yet in our House of Representatives, but in the past 7-8 years, some disabled people have started actively running for political seats. Yes, we’ve seen some progress, although at an extremely slow pace,” said Gufroni.

Some examples of Indonesia’s well-noted progress in electoral accessibility for the disabled includes their active participation in recent mayoral elections in Singkawang, West Kalimantan and Bekasi, West Java, as well as the government’s efforts to provide accessible voting booths, ballots and voting boxes in the last two general elections.

Gufroni said that although Law No. 4/1997 on disabled people had already been in existence for over a decade, its contents, which cover not only political rights, but also health and employment rights for people with disabilities, had never been legally enforced.

For example, the law stipulates that disabled persons should account for one percent of staff in all companies in Indonesia, which is mostly ignored.

Agnes Winarti

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