Abill being deliberated by the House of Representatives looks set to be stripped of contentious provisions that would have required halal certification of consumer products by the Religious Affairs Ministry, after strenuous protests by the business community and the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI).
Speaking to the Jakarta Globe, Hilman Rosyid, a member of Commission VIII on religious and social affairs and deputy chairman of the special committee deliberating the bill, said halal certification of consumer products would not be made compulsory.
“It will remain voluntary as it is under the present legislation,” he said. He added that certification powers would remain with the MUI’s Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Assessment Institute (LP-POM) and not be transferred to the Religious Affairs Ministry, as the bill would have required.
The House committee and the Religious Affairs Ministry planned to hold further talks on the bill with the business community, Hilman said.
The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) had earlier voiced strong opposition to the bill, which called for mandatory halal certification for all packaged foods, beverages, medicines and cosmetics produced or sold in the country, including imported goods.
Business leaders said this would raise their costs and slow import procedures.
According to a senior Industry Ministry official who declined to be named, it had been agreed at a pre-Idul Fitri meeting between the special committee and the government that the existing rules on voluntary halal certification, now provided for by presidential regulation, would remain in effect.
“It seems that Kadin’s and the MUI’s protests against the bill have changed the legislators’ minds and they have decided to be guided by the existing system,” the official said. “It becomes a very sensitive issue when a body like the MUI protests that someone is stepping on its authority.”
The MUI has vehemently opposed the bill, as the LP-POM would be stripped off its halal certification powers.
Responding to the developme nts, Hariyadi Sukamdani, Kadin’s deputy chairman for fiscal policy, taxation and customs, said on Thursday that it had always been Kadin’s position that there was no need for new halal legislation because it was adequately addressed by the existing presidential regulation.
“There is also legislation in place that governs halal requirements,” he said. “It is too much to enact more legislation regulating the same issue.”
If the bill is not passed before Oct. 1, it would have to be brought before the new House, which would likely significantly delay its passage.