Many indigenous people in Indonesia, especially those who are living in buffer zones or hamlets are still unaware of the role of the civil registry issue. Morra, an indigenous Dayak lady who knew nothing about the significance of the civil register issue, remained silent when one of her relatives in the suburbs informed her that Morra would be unable to vote in the 2024 general election because she lacked an identity card. Not only that, she was also unaware of the significance of having state acknowledgment through a legal certificate. Even when she was a newborn, her Dayak parents did not register her birth in the civil registration office. How can this issue be overcome when there are millions of indigenous people like Morra?
In Indonesia, the civil registration service is a huge phenomenon because it is inaccessible to poor and vulnerable communities, such as people with disabilities and indigenous groups. Despite the government’s numerous efforts to simplify the registration process and provide these services to all levels of the community, several issues have arisen, such as a lack of apparatus capacity, infrastructure, and supporting facilities that could not reach the isolated areas
According to Puskapa, one in every four Indonesian families is at risk of being denied various fundamental services such as education, social assistance schemes, health services, and political involvement due to a lack of civil registration documents. The problem of civil registry in Indonesia is not as simple as applying or registering for the documents. There are numerous reasons for this, and the major issue is not a lack of community motivation. It focuses on structural barriers to registering for civil registry documents. Those barriers are almost always associated with social and economic factors, or even the civil registration process itself.
Civil Registration and 2024 Indonesia’s General Election
Every citizen has the right to a legal identity or civil registry document because they are necessary to access public services. However, there are still vulnerable groups that are not accommodated, particularly indigenous people in Seruyan, a district of Central Kalimantan. Meanwhile, based on the study by AMAN (Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago) on the 2024 general election, about 1,5 million Indigenous people could not participate because they do not have electronic identity cards. Reflecting on the previous 2019 general election, for about 3 million of all indigenous groups in Indonesia, there are only 530.000 who can participate in that election. The biggest obstacle is collecting the data of indigenous people as voters which remains till today.
Indonesia’s current population is 281 million people, and about 56 percent or 154 million of the population live in urban. The 44 percent population are residents of rural and isolated areas. Regarding demographics, the large number of people in Indonesia may pose a challenge for civil registry issues. However, the size of the population is not the most pressing issue in the civil registry. There are several critical challenges, such as discrimination based on social identities (indigenous people always face this issue), unresponsive civil registry services in isolated areas, seasonal civil registration issues that mostly occur during the pre-general election period, and other challenges such as poverty and immobility.
Addressing This Issue Before The Election: Is it Too Late?
To address the challenges and barriers that exist in providing civil registry services to indigenous ethnic groups in Indonesia, especially during pre-election, the Indonesian government has to establish and fasten the registry office and its service in rural Indonesia. This local registry office should encourage simpler procedures for all levels of society, especially indigenous groups. However, to improve the government’s capacity for collecting civil registration, there should be collaboration between the government, civil society organizations (representatives of local or indigenous groups), and academics. Precisely, through this collaboration, the government could reach the locals who lived in the forests or buffer zones much more quickly. As a result, because they know the exact locations, local government personnel can concentrate on strengthening internal procedures (such as internet stability, document printing, and so on).
Furthermore, basic infrastructures such as electricity, electronic devices, and an internet connection are critical for the civil registration process. For example, in Seruyan, not all areas had access to electricity or a reliable internet connection. Also, local government personnel are required to work efficiently in collecting population data and accommodating all indigenous groups’ civil registration needs.
Morra and her generation may not be able to directly fit into this concrete strategy, especially with the general election approaching. This step, however, should be taken to assist the next generation of indigenous people in registering themselves for civil registration, so that they can participate actively in politics and enjoy the fundamental services provided by states.