Newsmaker Interview: Yasonna Laoly

Minister of Law and Human Rights discusses ease of doing business and reforming bureaucracy

By AmCham Correspondent
Thursday, December 6, 2018

Indonesia’s Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly is part of the inner circle of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP). He joined the cabinet on Oct. 27, 2014.

His political career stretches back to the fall of former President Suharto in 1998. The native of Nias has served as a lawmaker (1999-2003) and as a member of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) from 2004-2014.

As Minister of Law, Yasonna oversees the immigration authority, administration of the country's penal and penitentiary facilities, reconciling proposed laws, issuing licenses for intellectual property, legal approval to operate in the country as well as overseeing political organizations.

President Joko Widodo also gave him the important strategic position as the head of   the fourth working committee, known as Pokja IV, which is part of the government's Special Task Force with the mission to accelerate and review the effectiveness of the government’s economic policy packages.

It is not an easy job. He must lead a special team that handles legal obstacles that slow down investment by the private sector and state-owned enterprises. The task force is chaired by chief economics minister Darmin Nasution.

Improving the bureaucratic process

Yasonna spoke to AmCham Indonesia on the sidelines of the International Public Service Forum in Jakarta in November. He told us he is accelerating reform within the ministry to improve public services through digitalization and implementation of the Internet of Things in areas related to public services. 

“We just built a strong data center,” he said proudly, adding the facility will integrate all data processing and public requests in real time.

“By implementing what we call digital bureaucracy, we hope all services can be accelerated. Document approvals and notifications will be done online,” he said.

“The old mentality of bureaucrats who often think ‘why make things easy if they can be made difficult?’ must end. If we leverage the power of the digital system, it means there will be fewer meetings with government officials, and that means less complicity and less chance negotiations,” he said.

The Ministry of Law and Human Rights used to be among the most complained about government institutions, as stamps from the ministry are powerful and cater to many needs: from passports to establishing company deeds, copyright permits and remission requests. The ministry’s services go straight to the heart of the community.

Immigration office

Yasonna also noted the immigration office has taken a lot of heat over a much slower process to renew or obtain a new passport. “It is because we are upgrading the system,” he said, adding this is part of the ministry’s efforts to improve its services in the future.

The immigration office has made breakthroughs, including allowing people to apply for new passports or extend existing ones from any immigration office in the country. Previously, there was a restriction to apply only in the office in the same administrative area as a citizen’s residence.

Not all are negatively affected by the ministry’s modernization process. Up and ready are new services to apply for intellectual property rights. “If someone submits an application form to register intellectual property rights, we can give approval within a day,” he said. 

The ministry also has embedded QR Code technology within copyright documents that allows people to check their authenticity.

Digitalization, he said has also touched on the ministry’s role running prisons. Remission requests by prisoners can now be requested online and related authorities are obliged to process requests quickly. However, a big problem that cannot be resolved by digitalization is how the government addresses the overcrowding and poor conditions of prisons.

Accelerating investment

Of his role in Pokja IV, Yasonna said the government has helped smooth the investment process in a number of projects worth Rp 600 trillion in total.

“Our job is to help the private sector deal with any regulatory hurdles or disputes that affect their investment,” he said. As the Minister of Law and Human Rights, he helps review legal problems that are headaches for investors.

These include legal certainty – difficulties in executing court rulings, or conflicts that require settlement with international arbitration and legal contracts that cannot be executed.

Yasonna also supervises the legality of non-government organizations, and was involved in making the Law on Mass Organization, which allowed the government to disband the Pan-Islamic organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, which seeks to establish a caliphate in the country.

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