House to pass controversial halal certification bill ‘soon’
The government and lawmakers in the House of Representatives are speeding up the deliberation of a bill on halal certification amid complaints from local businesses who reckon the new rule will increase production costs.
Religious Affairs Ministry secretary-general Bahrul Hidayat was “optimistic”, after a closed meeting with House Commission VIII overseeing religious affairs on Monday, that the the bill would be passed in October.
“The [House] session will be over on Oct. 26 and therefore we are looking for conclusion of the draft a week before that,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Under the planned law, halal certificates and labels will be required for three sectors — food and beverages, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals — not only for all ingredients but also for all equipment used during the production process.
Up to now, legislators are still in disagreement on whether certification will be compulsory or voluntary.
A lawmaker with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamic-based party, Ledia Hanifa, said that her faction would push for the new law to be mandatory for local businesses who wish to sell their products to Muslim consumers.
She insisted that the new rule would boost Indonesia’s market overseas; citing that the Muslim community abroad would definitely prefer products with halal certificates.
In contrast, Democratic Party lawmaker Ingrid Kansil said the ruling party would insist the regulation be voluntarily, because it would “be more costly if the rule became compulsory”.
The government and legislators are still bickering over whether the new law requires a new compliance body.
Legislators want to establish a new body, the National Halal Products Certification Agency (BNP2H), to oversee certification under the rule.
The role of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), according to legislators, will be limited to setting the so-called “halal standards”.
The government, however, has proposed the task of supervision be undertaken by the Religious Affairs Ministry instead.
Bahrul said that his office had proposed a new commission comprised of the MUI, NGOs and officials of the ministry to oversee the process instead of establishing a new agency.
The bill, in discussion since 2004, has worried local businesses who expect the certification process to be lengthy, complicated and expensive.
Ina Primiana, a researcher with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), said that it was “unnecessary” to oblige local businesses to obtain halal certificates, expecting it to “become a burden for small businesses”.
“The government has a duty to protect consumers, who largely belong to the Muslim community. However, I do not think it is wise to make it compulsory for local businesses, especially small ones, to obtain halal certificates,” she said.
Consumers can decide on the products they prefer, which, according to her, would be “halal products”.
“Gradually, more businesses will obtain certification to woo consumers,” she said.
Deputy Trade Minister Bayu Krisnamurthi told reporters in Jakarta that he hoped the new halal certificates would be recognized internationally. (asa)