Indonesia Lawyers Get Fired Up by Smoking Ban, 21/01/11

Jakarta. A group of lawyers has mounted a bid to challenge the city’s new antismoking decree, saying it violated human rights.

Habiburokhman, a lawyer for the group, which calls itself the People’s Rights Advocacy Team (TAHR), said on Thursday that the decree was “very discriminatory against smokers.”

“It treats smokers like criminals, whereas cigarettes are legal products,” he said.

 

The gubernatorial decree, issued in October last year, reinforces a 2005 bylaw on air pollution control, which in turn was issued to enforce an earlier decree specifying certain public areas as smoke-free zones.

The new decree bans smoking in all public buildings, whereas the previous decree allowed smoking in designated rooms.

Habiburokhman claimed the measure was a violation of human rights and contravened prevailing laws on regional administration and regulations.

He said the group last week filed a judicial review with the Supreme Court challenging the latest decree.

He also said the group would file for an executive review of the decree with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono today.

Daru Supriyono, another lawyer for the team, said a third suit could be brought based on an official notification of protest filed with the city administration this month.

“We sent the notification on January 4, and if within 45 days they don’t issue a response, then we’ll file suit with the Central Jakarta District Court,” he said.

He added all the suits were being filed on behalf of private parties opposed to the decree.

The group accused the city and nongovernmental organizations that pushed for the decree of doing so in exchange for foreign funding, although it could not elaborate.

Ridwan Panjaitan, head of law enforcement at the Jakarta Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD), said his office had informed the city’s legal office of the pending suits. “We’re prepared to face any lawsuit in the supreme or district court,” he said.

He added his office had also been meeting with the TAHR, medical experts and antismoking groups to discuss the issue.

“This is a matter of health, and I’m sure more people back the decree than oppose it because more people want cleaner air in their offices and at restaurants,” Ridwan told the Jakarta Globe.

“It’s possible that those objecting to the decree are being backed by cigarette companies.”

Suroso, coordinator of the 100 Percent Love Indonesia group, said the decree was discriminatory because it hurt those who worked in the tobacco industry.

He also said the regulation threatened the city’s lucrative entertainment businesses by shutting out customers who smoked.

Aside from smokers, Suroso complained that the decree also impacted thousands of tobacco farmers around the country.

“The decree will hurt the income of many people,” he said. “Besides, kretek [clove] cigarettes are a uniquely Indonesian product that should be preserved.”

He said the old decree was “fairer” and provided a “win-win solution” for both smokers and nonsmokers alike.

“We want to encourage ethical smoking that doesn’t disturb nonsmokers, but we also want our rights to be considered and protected,” he said.

 

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